Industry fund warns its members against financial advisers

The $1.9 billion industry fund First Super has taken the unusual step of warning members in its annual report against seeing financial planners not aligned with the fund.

The $1.9 billion industry fund First Super has taken the unusual step of warning members in its annual report against seeing financial planners not aligned with the fund.

The fund's co-chairmen, CFMEU national secretary Michael O'Connor and Timber Trade Industrial Association president Allan Stewart, suggest to members that bank-aligned financial planners do not put their interests first - despite laws requiring all financial planners to act in their clients' best interests.

"One issue that most concerns is the market presence of financial planners who advise people to invest in superannuation and retirement products that are more expensive - and potentially less beneficial - than ours," Mr O'Connor and Mr Stewart write.

"If you're offered a session with a financial planner by your bank or other financial institution, be mindful of their possible motivations and payment structures.

"As a First Super member, you have access to reasonably priced financial planners who understand our products and put your interests first. The first session is free. You can also get limited financial advice about First Super's superannuation and insurance options via our contact centre."

The comments come after a tumultuous few years for the financial planning profession, as it weathered the fallout of the Storm Financial collapse and a crackdown by the previous Labor government on conflicted remuneration models.

Labor's Future of Financial Advice (FoFA) laws pared back certain payments to financial advisers, and required planners to act in their clients' best interests and sign a fresh contract with them every two years under the so-called "opt-in" requirement. The Coalition has signalled plans to tweak aspects of FoFA.

Fairfax Media this year also revealed evidence of misbehaviour in the Commonwealth Bank's financial planning arm, which resulted in many retirees losing their life savings, and a Senate inquiry into the corporate regulator's response to it.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission has recommended financial advisers be required to pass a national examination, and says firms should be forced to check the curriculum vitae of advisers before hiring, to stop "bad apples" in the industry circulating.

Industry, or not-for-profit, super funds charge fees of about 1 per cent, about half as much as retail funds, super research firm Rainmaker says.

First Super manages $1.9 billion in member funds for more than 72,000 members in the timber, pulp and paper, and furniture and joinery industries.

Its balanced fund returned 13.59 per cent over 2013, which is below the industry average return of 15.6 per cent, although First Super's balanced fund is more conservative than other balanced funds.

The fund said the outlook for next year was mixed, with weak global economic growth and an end to the mining boom in Australia balanced against some relief from the dip in the local dollar.

It said it would "continue to maintain a healthy scepticism towards investing in emerging markets due to concerns in regards to the level of governance and the availability of outperformance opportunities in a cooling market".

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