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The big question for financial advisors: ‘Are you worth it?’

How will you deliver the value your clients are paying for?
With everything evolving at such a rapid pace, it no longer makes sense to stick to a winning recipe. Image: Shutterstock

The way in which financial advice is delivered has to change. The industry is facing challenges from regulation and technology that will make old models of advice obsolete in the very near future.

Henry van Deventer, chief officer for advice model design at Liberty Group, points out that the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) will fundamentally change the way financial advisors are remunerated. If they continue to rely on commissions from selling products, their businesses will not be sustainable.

At the same time, internet-based robo advice is accessible, convenient and capable of providing accurate investment recommendations. There is no value in a human financial advisor charging more to do the same thing.

This reality, together with demand from clients for more meaningful financial advice, is defining the future of the profession.

Where’s the value?

“The reality is that today, more than ever before, sitting on a winning recipe does not guarantee success into the future, simply because what our clients want and what we can do, and should do, is evolving at such a rapid pace,” Van Deventer says. “It has become so important for us to appreciate that what has brought us this far is not necessarily guaranteed to take us forward.”

This means advisors have to engage in a large dose of self-reflection.

“What clients value and are prepared to pay for is, to my mind, without doubt the single most important question that we will face in the coming years,” Van Deventer says.

This is particularly relevant given how technology is able to offer many solutions that are more efficient and more accurate than human advisors. As venture capitalist Michael Jordaan noted at a Satrix event this week:

“I think the role of the advisor is becoming more and more that of a life coach. Robo advisors can already do many things, but unfortunately investors are all prone to well-established behavioural biases. Advisors can manage that better than machines ever will.”

What have you done for me?

After RDR, the ongoing fees that advisors charge will have to increase. That is the only way they will make up for the loss of commissions. If this is the case, advisors have to be clear on how they justify this to their clients.

“When remuneration changes in line with RDR and your clients ask themselves whether you are worth it, they won’t answer that question based on what you have promised to do from that point going forward,” argues Van Deventer. “They will answer it based on what you did for them over the last two or three years. And we are already in that period.”

And what clients value most is the ‘advice experience’.

This includes the service they receive and the returns they earn, but most importantly it is the ‘tailoring and teaching’ their advisor offers.

“As opposed to clients feeling like they are getting a product off the shelf – like they are going through a production line – does what the advisor is offering speak to what is important to the client and help them solve the problems that matter to them?” asks Van Deventer.

“When it comes to having meaningful conversations with our clients, it’s not about planning for the money – it’s about planning for the person and the things the person values and wants to achieve.”

Becoming good at having those conversations is the skill set he believes advisors should be focusing on.

The right questions

“We need to shift the focus away from talking about markets to equipping clients to answer the questions that keep them awake at two o’clock in the morning,” Van Deventer says. “I am yet to meet the client who lies awake at two in the morning wondering about whether their bond exposure is too aggressive now that we’ve seen an uptick in the economic growth cycle.

“Clients don’t worry about that,” he says. “They worry about what is going to happen if they have another kid. Can they afford that? What can they do with their time when they retire? Can they still afford to travel? The better we can help them to answer these questions, the more meaningful our advice becomes.”

He says research indicates that advisors who are good at this see two-and-a-half times more referrals from existing clients, and their funds under advice are one-and-a-half times more per client.

“So not only does this help clients to have conversations the internet won’t allow them to, it makes financial sense for the advisor,” Van Deventer says.

“The truth we have to realise, as financial advisors, is that the traditional way of thinking about investment advice doesn’t make as much sense as it used to.”

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The small answer ‘no’.

I can’t help thinking that this article fails to distinguish between product distribution which is the focus of insurance companies and banks who employ people called “financial advisers” but who are simply sales people and financial advisers who do much more than that. Robo advisers, in my opinion, also fall into the role of product distribution as it is unlikely these entities are there simply to give you advice without the option of making a purchase. Think about who is actually installing these robo advisers.. Yes! the owners of investment products that have to be sold.

Financial advice covers so much more then investment choices. You will know if you are” worth it” if your client listens to your advice though good times and bad.

And if the advice is coming from Libertu, the answer is a no no.

If financial advisors or institutions want to be trusted they should charge fees based solely on returns including the initial fees for depositing funds.
No profit – no fees, and deposits should immediately generate interest.

The world has changed. People have lost faith in historical methods of financial planning and the greedy “planners” behind the “products”.
RA’s, endowment policies and pension funds belong to our parent’s generation. We need something different and should not trust bloated beaurocrats in ill-fitting suits that do not have our best interests at heart.

RAs, endowments, pension funds – those are just legal wrappers providing tax advantages. These is no problem with these wrappers, only in the manner in which they are marketed, and the terms, costs and penalties imposed by some providers.

Also, linking fees to returns – which depend almost entirely on the market, not on the adviser’s ‘insight’ – shows that you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

My point exactly. Nobody can predict the future. So why should we be expected to pay an advisor for his “insights” if they are incorrect?
There’s no accountability.

I may not know what I’m talking about but I know who I can trust. Advisors, estate agents, politicians – bottom feeders.

It reminds me of a certain Horace Batchelor and his Infra Draw Method operating in the UK many years ago.
He would tell you which horse to back, which numbers to select on the pools etc etc. If you win, you pay him a portion of your winnings. If you lose you owe him nothing. He was simply gambling with other people’s money.
With on-going advice fees, you pay regardless of whether you win or lose.

@CV63…..Doc63 probably meant the financial industry as a whole

In this light, his layman assumption is actually correct

Going forward, it will be par for the course to have ‘Advisor’ fees linked to performance [ just like what is happening with CEO’s remuneration globally ]

The old days of financial advisors selling half baked products over a half hour coffee at Mugg&Bean to clients and then disappearing to collect comm for years is long over

And hallelujah to that !

A wonderful theory, but completely unrealistic. Advice is not a guarantee of performance and advisers have no control over the performance of the underlying investments they advise on, the world markets control that. In addition, massive investment in knowledge, skills, regulation and infrastructure made by advisers has to be paid for, whether the adviser does any business or not, so expecting any business to only charge for guaranteed success is as logical as putting a Rand coin on a table and expecting it to grow into a money tree.

I agree that the advisor has to be paid. The problem in my view is what is a fair reward. If a doctor treats me and I then pay him, the ongoing success of the treatment does not require ongoing fees paid to him (he too has massive knowledge investment costs as do many other professionals). The fees paid to a financial advisor and or his employer, should be predetermined as the doctor’s fees are, and can certainly be linked to performance to allow a spreading of the cost of this advice / consultation. The fee however should be determined up front (and capped). The choice of a lump sum or spread of the payment of the fee should be an option. If I choose to change or drop the advisor, I do not necessarily need to drop the investment nor continue to use advisors until death do us part. Success of the investment, as you point out, is largely a function of the market. The way most financial advice fees are currently set up, the advisor’s fees keep flowing regardless of the success of the investment. Administration costs should be fixed as well, subject to inflation adjustment – as most transactional banking fees are. The latter is yet another area where many investors are ripped off in my view.

@Robbiethegrape……..mmm…….have to disagree

Your analogy is rather simplistic to be honest, and you haven’t grasped the full extent of the situation at hand

Compare other industries – for eg, an airline captain is paid to land his passengers safely.

If he fails, there are consequences

Likewise with an electrician who’s installations need to be executed successfully, or a surgeon performing an operation… etc etc – they are all held to accountability !

In short, we pay, and get something back in return

So, why not a financial advisor.??…..if you are seeking only financial advice in the strictest term, ie, a general strategy consultation for an hours information, different story, charge by the hour then for your knowledge [ just as I would at a Doctor’s consultation ]

But any scenario where the financial advisor SELLS a product to a client, then you can bet your bottom dollar the game has just stepped up to a whole new level

In that case, performance linked fee’s are not only justifiably appropriate, but expected – If I’m handing over my hard earned money, damn right I expect returns !!

@Doc63……Doc wrote: “I may not know what I’m talking about but I know who I can trust. Advisors, estate agents, politicians – bottom feeders.”

100% agreed !

You left out Lawyers and car salesman

Soon maybe no need for advisors. Your beloved ANC government will Prescribe what you should invest in.

With these long retired freedom fighters being such financial experts it would be ill advised not to follow their advise with your discretionary investments as well.

With them having the SA citizen and in particular the pensioners wellbeing at heart their prescribed assets must be the best investment anyone can do with their money. Else it would mean that they are prescribing assets that are not the best investment for the pensioner.

Will they admit that what they prescribe is not the best? If they do why should it be accepted? If it is not the best investment why should it be forced on citizens to their detriment?

A friend of mine’s family paid an active fund manager R120,000 per annum over the last 5 years to achieve 2,2% growth on the JSE. A simple savings account at the bank could have yielded 8% growth p.a. I think the answer is “NO!!!”

They will tell you that you must accept this for ten years in case the market picks up.

Hindsight is not an exact science.

Actually, in this case it is.

And is a valid warning for the future.

They’re a bunch of sharks who should not be trusted.
Institutional and private “advisors” alike.


The best thing any one can do is get off their butt and LEARN and EDUCATE yourself

There is so much info out there [ YouTube has amazing channels to follow for free that are amazing, for eg, TheGoldandSilverClub, The Dollar Vigilante, RealVision etc ]

The old saying ” No one cares more about your money than you do” applies fully !!

And the best thing I ever did was learn the ropes myself, and thanks to a combination of futures trading, early Bitcoin and Gold/Silver investments etc I have seen approx 30% return on my portfolio to date in 15 months since starting on my own

RDR wasn’t all what it cracked up to be in U.K. From what I understand they have gone back to commission. I could be wrong but that’s what I hear.?
Insurance is sold not bought. People don’t wake up in the morning and decide today is the day I need that policy.
The well heeled will as always be fine because they will be given good advice because they have the money. Money goes where it’s welcome and treated well. I fear the people with little or no products will now have even less because it won’t pay anybody to go out and see them. That is the reality of the situation because I was 24 and was sold an RA I don’t think I knew what it was but I took it because I didn’t have one and it’s good for you. It started at R200 pm and there’s a few hundred thousand there now that wouldn’t have been there, no matter the costs or commissions paid. With more self employed self reliant people as well as job moving I don’t see a pretty picture for the average joe. Advice is passed on from seeing what mistakes other people make. Recommendations can be made it doesn’t mean they will be carried through and that is the job of the advisor.

No, the UK hasn’t gone back to commissions. As to your doom-mongering, perhaps we should assume that the average Joe or Jane is an adult who understands they will retire one day, and need to provide for a retirement income. They can then spend half an hour away from Instagram or YouTube to instead learn the retirement-investing basics (tax-incentivised products, asset allocation, the importance of fees, active or passive investment style), find a provider who allows then to invest direct, fill in a couple of forms online, and before you know, they’re back watching cat videos.

Not what the masses want to hear I am afraid. The DIY financial planning is being widely touted here by quite a few it would seem. Sort of like trying to give yourself your own haircut or dental examination and fillings -it’s cheaper isn’t it? Saving something somewhere is better than continuous griping about fees that would be well worth it had you started saving sooner? Ask my parents whom I now have to support each month if their delays were worth it? As far as my kids are concerned they still go to state schools for your info and that after 15 years of doing this for a living. I would also love to hear how the adviser is responsible for the abysmal returns RSA has ‘enjoyed’ over the past 5 years, should they then carry the can for this as well? No fees for no returns, kind of like saying ‘no 60 hour working week no pay for you buddy’

Maybe the answer is to charge a fee for an appointment,like lots of other professions.
But if you invest R1m and I invest R2m, I will be charged twice as much as you for basically the same service.

Sure, you can also pay an advisor a once-off fee to help you through this set-up process. No problem with that if they help you find the appropriate asset mix, and direct you to a sensible, low-cost solution.

I don’t agree with your dentist or barber analogy. For basic financial products such as retirement investing, using and paying for an advisor is more akin to using a dietician to help you figure out a healthy eating plan, or a personal trainer instructing you in the gym. You could choose to do your own research, or you can choose to pay someone to explain the basics to you.

The problem with investing/saving for retirement is that most people don’t realise that the basic considerations are actually very simple. But the industry likes to pretend it’s all very complicated, so they can conclude every article with the words “speak to an advisor”.

Yet to find one that is.

Hence why I do it myself and have infinitely more returns.

Why not ask Michael Jordaan about his NMRQL Balanced fund–where an algorithm manages the fun? Launched in October 2017 it has attracted a mere R49m in assets and is almost stone last when it comes to performance. In fact, it has not made any money for clients since launch.
You need a financial advisor to keep you away from this fund, for sure…

I am an advisor/planner and I met up with the NMRQL team to do my due diligence as an option for clients. Whilst I have a large amount of respect for the people involved, I punched holes in that solution off the bat. You can’t run a machine trading model (Robo) in SA with such little market liquidity – you restricted to the top 40 in terms of opportunities. It may work well offshore, but not a chance locally.

Also TIC’s of 7%…. not my nor my clients money.

NO!!! I got rid of mine 6 months ago.

I have not used financial advisers for a very long time. My limited experience has been that they are not trying to see that you can achieve good returns but rather what will yield the best commission for them. Be especially wary of those driving big expensive vehicles – they are obviously the most experienced in selling the products that yield the best returns for them. Maybe the fee based approach will change things but I have no desire to experiment.

On investments, the adviser gets 0.5% p.a. (or more) based on fund value, regardless of performance. So if there is a negative return, he just gets paid less.
If a fund performs well, the adviser will take all the credit. If it performs badly, how can you hold him responsible for what’s happening in the world ?
On-going advice fees should be based on growth.
But wait a minute. The fund managers are even more clever. They actually charge a performance fee based on easily achievable targets.
At the end of the day, insurance products are excellent vehicles to provide for school fees, retirement etc. I bet your adviser’s kids all go to private schools, and his trail fees provide a nice little nest egg, even after retirement.

The only financial advisors worth it are those that charge if they add value, measured yearly. Those that continue to charge between 0.5%-1.5% for continually loosing value are not worth it.

I suggest there are well qualified and regulated advisors that provide a great and client-focused service, and those that do not.

RDR remains firmly in place in the UK, and has led to significant advantages for the client – with enhanced professionalism, transparency of all fees (TER) and improved outcomes.

Based on the comments, it seems that comments are being left on the title of the article, as opposed to the content of the article.
The future FA will be remunerated for his skill in understanding tax law, financial environment, legislation, client circumstance and behaviour.
If an FA saves me thousands in tax by forming an educated and well planned portfolio structure, I’m prepared to pay him – same as I do with my Auditor.
The day of the “polis smous” is gone, but I see value in the Advisor I describe above.

They need to know what to type into the computer model. That spits out the proposal and the client will make the final decision.

Should changes be made the advisor needs to know where to change it on the computer. You then get a new proposal.

Risk profiles etc. computer.

If they don’t make typo’s should be worth something?

Sure…but there is a distinct difference between ADVICE for an hour, or your FA SELLING you a product, for which he collects monetary rewards on an ongoing basis, regardless of the PERFORMANCE of the product

Huge difference !!

Someone, whether FA or anybody other, that saves you thousands in tax, simply illustrates ignorance of the tax system. Actually tax is NOT that difficult, SARS makes all relevant documentation available and downloadable. All you have to do is read it and apply your mind.

I admit it took me some while, but now, no tax adviser can give me any saving greater than I do myself. It takes me no more than one day each year.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. Your money cannot be better spent than investing in your own knowledge.

Hugely ironic that such an article should focus on comment from Liberty Group.

Beware the sudden appearance of the cold-calling “financial advisor” in your affairs !

Any notion that these individuals are acting in “your” best interest is pure coincidence. And a fantasy.

Dealing with Liberty was an experience I will never allow to be repeated again in my family.

It was an eye-opening event that exposed me to how unethical and plain dishonest this industry is at every turn.

This behaviour does not come out of nowhere. It starts at executive level at the top.

Regardless of years of legislation to uplift the experience of clients and building a profession core of financial advisers, seems to be a waist of time and money. The public, or some of the commentators here, does not know the role played by the intermediary and comfortably use standards they will most probably not be able to comply with to bash intermediaries at will.
The market has got place for robo-advice, for the younger tech-savvy and intermediaries, especially the high end of the market.
Have seen many robo-supporters looking up the services of intermediaries for technical advice, which is given free of charge….

It is one of the few industries where their income is determined by legislation, regardless of how good you are at your job. Surely it is not the only industry, but is an industry where a lot of work is done in goodwill with the hope of getting business in the future, enabling the industry to work with those that cannot afford the normal fees, as determined by legislation.

Do not for one moment believe or be under the impression it is simply plain sailing, there is a lot of legislation involved and penalties, even if you have not done anything wrong, like policies that lapse, where you have to payback the commission you have received, among-st others.

So, we take a risk in doing business with anybody, and as in any game, the higher the risk, the higher the return, quite simple, is it not? Just remember intermediaries are nog fund managers who are higher up in the chain, against poor performance of funds.

There are many dedicated intermediaries, dedicated to their clients, who at all times would act solely in the interest of their clients, most of the times without compensation except a thank you, who loves the opportunity the industry gives us to interact with people, and all does not do it just for the money, surely we can expect some remuneration at some time, even if it is determined by legislation….. just my 2 cents worth opinion being 38 years in the industry , without a salary…

@execbrok….huh ???

Ok, besides your faulty grammar, lets tackle a few of your statements:

“Regardless of years of legislation to uplift the experience of clients and building a profession core of financial advisers, seems to be a waist of time and money.”

That’s because decades of abuse by FA’s and the resultant public uproar led to no choice but to introduce all these regulations to try do some damage control

However, the FSB being as toothless as it is, means the whole industry is still plagued by general malfeasance [ no doubt there are a few genuine FA’s out there, but just like honest politicians,they are few and far between ]

And thanks to the general poor performance history, the industry is tainted as a whole till further notice

“The market has got place for robo-advice, for the younger tech-savvy and intermediaries, especially the high end of the market.”

Ag please…..’robo-advice’..??…listen, if I want robo-advice I’ll buy a Star Wars collectable with voice capabilities, or use Siri

Get real..!.any FA worth his salt knows that every individual is unique and requires a ‘case by case’ approach to tailor a proper relevant strategy accordingly

And anyway, any ‘Tech-savvy, high end of the market’ individuals like this would never hand over their valuable portfolio to some AI bot

Neither would we, thank you

AI, for now, is like a generic toothpaste – one size fits all

Well, good luck with that !

“So, we take a risk in doing business with anybody, and as in any game, the higher the risk, the higher the return, quite simple, is it not?”

Oh…so are you special now ?….

Listen, all of us who venture into our own businesses etc ALSO face high risks – you not unique here

So why should you be treated any differently ?

Fact of the matter remains – you wanna SELL us something, then we are going to hold you accountable for it, and the answer here means it will have to be performance related

Otherwise,the reality is, if you cant stand the heat, get out the kitchen as they say

There should NEVER be any commission-thieving intermediary between anyone any their investments.

Not even the taxman.

It is often lost that the so-called “FA” is in fact nothing more that a commission salesperson. Nothing more than that.

They are not motivated to advise how an investor can get the best of their investment instrument, but exactly the opposite, because it’s the investment instrument company that sends them out to find and sell to “clients” meaning ” hand over your money to us, and we’ll take a percentage.”

Call it whatever pretty name you choose, but I consider this to be despicable exploitation.

Never if possible put some one between you and your money.

As it stands now, most are over-paid and don’t provide a service for what they are paid for. They only focus to feather their own nest and seldom, if ever, consider to give the best to client / customer!

Financial advisors have a lot to be thankful for, even if clients don’t want to pay them any more. Most farmers all over the country are working their boots off, taking enormous risks, face skirmishes with socialists who want to steal their land and stock and then, at the end of the year, they cannot repay their creditors because of a drought or low product prices. The consumers always have food on the table though.

You don’t need many degrees in order to become a financial advisor. Any farmer is qualified to do that job because they are used to work without getting paid.

@Sensei…..100% agreed !

These FA’s complaining on this thread here that they have a tough job/ not getting paid etc….

Cry me a river !

As you say, try farming – 90% of people wouldn’t be able to withstand the 7 day 4am till 7pm year in and year out back breaking work, while the thought of being hacked to death looms every day, your stock is continually under threat of disease, drought and theft….and then you got the cANCer threatening to take your farm away too !

All because you want to supply the country with food for a reasonable remuneration in return ?


To be honest, I am glad of the shakeup in the financial industry as we see taking place before our very eyes, with so many active fund managers being traded in for a handful of ETF’s which are achieving way better returns once you remove those fat fees, and shady FA’s getting squeezed out as the public slowly gains knowledge to their 2nd grade products scheme

Its long overdue.

Yup, as Bob Dylan crooned, ‘the times they are a changing’

The article notes how the industry needs to change. Life companies have historically contributed to giving “financial advisers” a bad name and thus tainted the industry to a large extent. “products” with penalties to exit and high upfront fees to the “adviser” who is taught to sell and not to give advice, will hopefully become a thing of the past. We also need to be cognisant of the fact that it’s the life companies who have been responsible for creating a sales force of so-called advisers, armed with products to be sold. holistic financial planning can’t be wrapped in a product or programmed into a robo-adviser algorithm.

Those who can manage their own investments should consider doing so, however most investors are not able to manage their own investments and they will often fall prey to their own emotions and biases which will hurt their long-term returns. These investors need a professional financial adviser and not a product sales person.

What the industry requires is professional financial advisers who are qualified to give financial advice in partnership with the investor based on the investors identified needs.

Investors should see this as a positive step in the right direction.

Would be nice to see some long term research comparing the investment returns of people with advisors to those without.

Seems that most of the commentators on this site prescribe to the belief that they are above average investors, a well known behavioral bias. In general, these investor’s portfolios will earn less than they think.

Lemon, we got news for you

Based on the absymal returns of all the Liberty/Old Mutual etc off the shelf products over the years to date, most of all those customers that got suckered there would have been better off even simply parking in a high yielding money market [ mine gives me +-8% alone ]

No need to be a rocket scientist to get that going

And thats just a start – take it to the next level by investing in a few good index tracking ETF’s and you doing better than the majority of these over paid active fund managers

The case for product selling FA’s and active fund managers is really getting thin

Excepting for a few ‘unicorns’ [ your Warren Buffets/Ray Dalio’s/Allan Grays etc ], and all of which made big in the ‘good ole days’ when you could basically throw a dart at the proverbial stock board and get double digit returns, well, those days are basically over

There is a fundamental shift happening, with people starting to wake up and learning to take control of their finances too

No doubt, many people are ignorant/or dont have the capability to manage their own affairs etc, and would rather hand it over to a FA

Do so, but make damn sure you know who you getting into bed with.

What a great conversation! I have coached financial planners for over 7 years and I happened to work with the person quoted in this article for most of that time.

The debate around fees is relative and subjective… what is largely considered to be fee-based is on assets under management, which is what most commentators here are complaining about. Yes, there are performance-value questions around that, most of which the investors are naive to.

To my mind, a purist financial planning offering is more about a planner charging for his advice, which comes in the form of a documented plan. The client can then implement that advice wherever he/she chooses and negotiate the implementation costs thereof.

The problem is that all the remuneration models that are currently adopted are either commission and/or fee-based, and not pure fee. I’m not going to go anywhere close to the commission discussion here, but the problem with the purist fee model – to the advisors – is that they aren’t then able to build a sustainable business with passive income. The result then is that they chase assets and build a book against which they earn a fee, irrespective of performance.

Someone made the comment around doctors charging for their consult and not making money thereafter, which was perfectly put, and that’s the client challenge in the financial planning space. The traditional models are based on insurance-type thinking, the newer ones are hybrids, but the ones that would serve the clients best are not attractive to advisors.

I personally direct the blame to the institutions that have held the traditional models and have been slow to change. Imagine advisors were paid salaries, like lawyers, and studied and did articles as they learn and grow. That would change everything.

The poor things. They can’t build a sustainable business with passive income ?
You mean they might have to work ?

Asset managers’ fees should be capped as well. How can you charge the same percentage for a R1000 and a R100 million investment when both are invested in the same fund?

Lately, I’ve started to think Robo advisers can play a more crucial part going forward. If programmed properly, it could be extremely effective as it will remove sentiment/emotion, base investment decisions on proper analyses of a very large data base,etc. The result should be much more effective what most financial advisers can do.

Definitely not….

It’s all about greed, sale and their pocket.
A person will put a 35 year old I a portforlio that is for 55year olds… no return whatsoever and you investment value doesn’t move whilst they still get their fees.

And poaching. Was with discovery, I dint know how many times was I contacted by other discovery advisors wanting to poach my profile.

Am now with 10x, have never seen such growth and am extremely happy… no more pestering phone calls…

Surely consumers should be asking this question of all service providers?

There’s an old saying in the financial services industry:

Any benefit to the client is merely coincidental.

Buyer beware.

End of comments.





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