Helping financial advisers help investors

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Glenn Freeman: In this edition of "Ask the Expert" I'm speaking with Kunal Kapoor, the CEO of Morningstar.

Kunal, thanks very much for joining us today.

Kunal Kapoor: Thanks for having me.

Freeman: Kunal, should commissions in financial advice be outlawed?

Kapoor: I think the real question in my mind is whether investors can easily say what they're paying for and what the value of it is. So, I think the debate is less about should commissions be banned or not and are fees transparent and easily understandable. And I think much of what you're seeing, including in Australia with the royal commission, stems from the fact that there's a belief that fees are either not transparent enough, or they're being used for activities that don't deliver value. And that's something that we've seen around the world that the debate is really around what is the value of advice? And is the advice being delivered in a way that merits the fee?

Freeman: Yeah. And in comparing a situation here to in the US, how is the payment for advice evolving in the US?

Kapoor: It's not that different in the sense that you have started to see the unbundling of fees as it's known, which basically means fees aren't being lumped together in one category. You're seeing the different pieces broken up. The reality is, around the world, there's a movement to transparency, and firms and wealth managers that are embracing that level of transparency are doing well. The reality is that the cost of advice is coming down. There's just no doubt about it. Technology is making that possible; competition is making that possible; regulators are certainly doing that. And most importantly, investors understand and are asking more questions. So, it's not a bad thing. It's a good thing. The investor is winning. And I can only imagine that over time, even in Australia, that's going to drive more demand for advice, but how it's delivered and measured will obviously need to change going forward.

Freeman: Sure. And just finally, so in terms of the costs, how does the price of advice or financial advice compare to this price we pay for other services? Is it too expensive?

Kapoor: Well, it depends on your view of whether the other services are as valuable, equally valuable, not valuable at all. I worry less about comparing it to something else as really focusing on what you're paying relative to the value you're receiving. And I think one of the big opportunities for financial advisers and certainly something we're working on at Morningstar is to help financial advisers tell the story of where they're adding value. It may be in investment planning, it may be in financial planning, it may be in other things you're doing for an investor, including maybe hand holding during a tough time and making sure they stay in their portfolio or helping them with a nonfinancial situation, which a lot of advisers do. So, I think the opportunity is less around comparing things and just really being focused on for this activity in particular, is their true value being delivered. I'm a big believer that advice can deliver value, but that we need to do a better job of showing what that is and measuring it.

Freeman: Sure. And that's certainly something that we've spoken about just recently is the intangibles of financial advice. It's the things around the life insurance, the estate planning, things that aren't even linked to the assets, to the products.

Kapoor: Yeah, it's the whole package. They're all important. You know, investors certainly value the investment piece, which is why so many advisers lead with it. But you always want to remind the client you're doing multiple things for them. And you want to do that and make sure that you're delivering value, so the relationship is actually a meaningful one.

This report appeared on 2022 Morningstar Australasia Pty Limited

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