Have you ever tried googling ‘independent financial advisor’?

Joe Stephan

Google estimates that every month around Australia 6,600 people on average are searching for an 'independent financial advisor'.

Joe Stephan

Google estimates that every month around Australia 6,600 people on average are searching for an 'independent financial advisor'.

Another 590 people, per month are also googling the exact phrase of 'independent financial adviser' (that's adviser with an 'e', just in case you missed it). That's a total of over 7,000 Google searches, per month!

However, less than one per cent of Australia's 18,000 financial advisers are truly independent. These are devoted financial planners that have the strength and conviction to entirely remove themselves from the conflicted eco-system and can legally call themselves independent. A legally independent adviser is not aligned with any product provider and does not receive commissions.

So, are all of the 7,000 discerning googlers finding the 'independent' adviser they are looking for?

Not always – the government restrictions placed on financial advisers using the term "independence" in their marketing does not extend to a restriction on purchasing specific words within the Google AdWords platform.

It is important at this juncture to explain that Google AdWords are paid for by businesses and are not based on the Google algorithm picking up sites that are similarly related to the search term.

Unfortunately, there is nothing to stop the major banks, with their seemingly limitless marketing budget, to exploit digital advertorial space and buy "independence" as an AdWord. This means, when "independence" is used with a Google search, the big players literally hijack unsuspecting searches to their site.

These organisations begin their relationship with clients via deception and misleading marketing strategies. Is this the best way to begin what should be a trusted relationship?

With under 90 advisers in Australia out of approximately 18,000 being truly independent, you would expect that the cost per Google AdWord click would be reasonably priced and the competition for the search term would be relatively mild. Not the case.

The most bewildering aspect of this sorry affair, is that unsuspecting Australians who begin their search for truly independent advice online, risk being lured into the arms of an adviser who may be neither truly, partially or even remotely independent and certainly don't meet the legal definition.

The one thing I have learnt, and continue to have faith in, is that Australians are a clever bunch. Nothing good can come of a fiduciary relationship which commences through deception and predatory tactics.

Source: some of the figures in this article were derived from SuperGuide.com.au

Joe Stephan is an independent financial adviser with Stephan Strategic.

This blog originally featured on www.beingindependent.com.au.

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