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Planner public image bounces back

The public perception of financial planners has rebounded, with a greater number of consumers projecting a positive view of the profession than in 2013, according to Roy Morgan Research.

The latest Image of Professions Survey – based off interviews with more than 644 Australians last week – found that the number of respondents who rated financial planners “very high” or “high” for “ethics and honesty” has risen from 25 per cent in 2013 to 28 per cent in 2014.

The findings indicate that public perception of financial planners has returned to the highest level since the profession was included in the survey in 2009, having also previously received a 28 per cent response in 2011.

“FOFA hasn’t negatively impacted the public perception of financial planners at all since it has gone up since last year,” Morgan Poll manager Julian McCrann told ifa, reflecting on the findings.

“In part this growth might reflect the stock market hitting new highs; one would expect that personal wealth has generally risen over the past 12 months and that reflects well on financial planners.”

However, Association of Financial Advisers president Michael Nowak said the Roy Morgan findings are not necessarily a cause for celebration.

“It is encouraging to see a small improvement in the rating of financial advisers; however, this is well short of where we need it to be,” Mr Nowak told ifa

“The financial advice profession has a lot of work to do to achieve the level of trust within the Australian community that we seek. We need to ensure that a greater number of Australians can access great financial advice, but these results prove we still have a tough job ahead.”

Mr Nowak suggested that the “largely incorrect and ill-informed mainstream media coverage of the FOFA Amendments” has made the task of improving the industry’s standing with the community even more difficult.

The number of respondents rating accountants highly for ethics and honesty also increased three percentage points to 52 per cent, while "bank managers" were up five percentage points to 43 per cent and lawyers up three percentage points to 38 per cent.

Meanwhile, "public servants" were down two percentage points to 34 per cent, "union leaders" down three to 12 per cent and "newspaper journalists" were down one percentage point to 18 per cent. 

The findings follow Roy Morgan Research’s own foray into the FOFA debate, with the pollster’s chief executive Michele Levine coming out in support of the now-paused amendments.