Are All Financial Planners Hopeless?

A big part of my work involves litigation about financial planning advice.  Recently, I was at a party (I know that this is a cliché but it did actually happen).  I was speaking to a friend who is familiar with my work who was telling me that, in her opinion, all financial planners were hopeless.

Whilst I have certainly seen some examples of very bad (catastrophic) advice given by financial planners I had to disagree with my friend.  I have worked with some financial planners who I would not hesitate to refer people to who were looking for financial advice – they are people who are ethical, professional and highly skilled.

Over the years, there have been many well documented cases of very poor financial advice being produced by financial planners who work for banks.  Some years ago I met with a bank financial planner and had an almost laughably bad experience – that person conformed to every negative stereotype – he seemed to view his sole function to be to work out how much the bank was willing to lend to me against my house and to get me to invest those funds in bank produced products.

I recently met with another bank financial planner.  Given my previous experience I wasn’t expecting a great deal.  However, this person was very knowledgeable and professional in his approach and he wasn’t trying to get me to borrow money or push products on to me.  I thought that his advice was very insightful and valuable.

He was a younger person.  It may well be (and I hope that it is) that my experience is indicative of new generation of financial planners that is emerging.  It may be that the many years worth of reform and regulatory action with respect to the financial planning industry have actually had a positive effect.

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