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Editorial: Supporting independence

Non-aligned and boutique advisers are vital to competition in the industry and in need of a media ally.

‘Independent’ is one of the most ambiguous and misused adjectives in the English language. In the political sphere it can mean anything from cowboy hat-wearing, right-leaning Queenslanders to anti-gambling, left-leaning Tasmanians and everything in between, while in the United States it refers to a political class unto itself.

Whether it is grocery stores, rock music or nation states, the term ‘independent’ has a connotation of trustworthiness and self-sufficiency that consumers (and constituents) find naturally appealing.

For financial services providers – who have struggled worldwide since the global financial crisis with negative public perception and overzealous government regulation – exuding that sense of trustworthiness has never been more important. And yet, true independence has never been rarer.

The major financial institutions have undeniably continued their march towards market share, but at the same time, many commentators have tipped a long-term resurgence of non-aligned players as the dust settles on FOFA and business confidence returns under more stable federal governance. In addition, there are a growing number of authorised representatives of institutional licensees who are fully embracing the post-FOFA world and adhering to a philosophy of truly conflict-free financial advice.

ifa agrees that the best years for independent AFSL holders and their authorised reps are ahead of them, which is why we made the decision to go back to our roots and re-instate the publication’s original name and mission statement – independent financial adviser (ifa) – a term we firmly believe should not be extinguished from the Australian business vernacular.

Going forward, we intend to further this business-building objective for the whole industry, with a particular editorial commitment to self-licensed advisers and the authorised representatives of dealer groups not owned by the major financial institutions.

This is not to say that we think advice offered by bank-aligned financial planners is necessarily conflicted, but simply that competition, transparency and diversity are inherently good for consumers and the industry.

We value the readership of all advisers across the spectrum – regardless of licensing arrangements – and the work they do helping Australians meet their financial goals. However, we feel non-aligned and boutique advisers are particularly in need of a media ally and of a publication tailored to their specific triumphs and challenges. 

We embark more formally on that course as we approach 2014, as a voice for professionals passionate about independent, conflict-free advice – and we welcome your engagement and feedback.

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Aleks Vickovich was appointed editor of ifa in September, having driven content across the print and digital editions as features editor since late 2012.