10 questions to ask during reference checks on your financial adviser.

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25 November 2022 Read time: 4 min


So you’ve had a great meeting with a new financial adviser. You really click. They’ve got a great firm and you’re feeling ready to sign on the dotted line. But before you do, there’s one important last step: reference checks. Yep. You read that correctly. We always recommend speaking with a couple of current or former clients before appointing a financial planner. And, to help you nail this important task, here are 10 questions to ask during reference checks on your financial adviser.

Read on for the details or download and save a copy of our referee questionnaire here.

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10 questions to ask a reference before appointing a financial adviser.


1. How long did you work / have you worked with the Financial Adviser?


Whilst speaking to a new client can be beneficial, you’re also going to want to chat with a referee who knows the adviser reasonably well. You’re looking for evidence that the adviser is able to form healthy, impactful and long-term client relationships.


2. What service did / does the financial adviser provide for you?


The ideal referee will be someone who is a bit like you – similar age, stage and/or financial aspirations. You’re looking for evidence that the adviser has the ability to support someone with similar goals and service needs.


3. How did / do you find their financial planning service?


Ask the referee to describe what’s great about the firm and their financial planning service. Moreover, what do they think could be improved?

Was the advice provided deep and strategic? Or, was it surface-level and heavily product focused?

How did implementation work? Was it systemised and scheduled or a little loose and ad hoc? Was it smooth and seamless or did it require a lot of effort on the client’s end?


4. How did / do you find their review / ongoing support?


How did the referee find ongoing support and ‘after care’ from the adviser and the firm? Did they feel the firm lived up to the brand promise? Or did they deliver the plan and move on to someone new (as often happens in advice, sadly)?

Is there a formal review service? And, is it systemised and scheduled or a little loose and ad-hoc?


5. Can you tell me about the financial adviser’s best skills or attributes?


What does the adviser do well? What makes them a stand-out amidst their peers in the profession?

You could also ask the referee what convinced them to engage the adviser at the outset of their relationship. Was there something special they noticed that you have yet to see?


6. What’s something they could do differently / better?


Everyone has things they can improve and your financial adviser will be no different. But to ensure your relationship is off to a good start, it’s important to be attuned to any possible warning signs.

Remember: your deal-breakers mightn’t be an issue for others, so don’t be scared to dive into the details that matter most to you. If you have a particular bug-bear, ask about it outright.

Hate when professionals run late for every appointment? Explicitly ask the referee if the adviser sticks to their schedule. Super busy and need a firm hand, with lots of friendly reminders? Make sure they offer a high-touch style service, with lots of support along the way.


7. Did you ever encounter any issues with the technical advice or service from the adviser or their firm?


Beyond the relationship piece and working style of your adviser, you’re going to want to know they have the technical skills to serve you well – now and into the future.

This question should unearth any issues in the quality and accuracy of advice, and/or the overall competency of the adviser and their firm.

You could also seize this opportunity to ask about other professionals the financial adviser partners with (like accountants, lending specialists, business advisers, bookkeepers, brokers etc). This is especially important if run a business or are looking for Integrated Advice.


8. Do you have any ethical concerns with the financial adviser?


This is a biggie! Don’t forget to ask this outright. Professional ethics and trust are the backbone of any advice relationship.

Some referees have difficulty speaking badly of others, but if you ask this question directly, you’re likely to get a straight answer in return.

Naturally, you want the answer to be unequivocally: “No. There are no ethical concerns with my adviser.”

You can also check the Financial Advice Register to confirm your adviser has not been banned, disqualified or faced disciplinary action.


9. Would you recommend the financial adviser to your best friend?


This is a ‘gently, gently’ way to sum up almost all of the above questions into a single answer.

Of the 10 questions to ask during reference checks on your financial adviser, this is perhaps the most telling.


10. Is there anything else I should know before I appoint them as my adviser?


When you ask this question, allow for some oxygen in the conversation. You may be surprised where the referee takes the discussion. If you find anything catches your attention, feel free to follow it up further.

If there’s nothing else to discuss, well done you! It’s on to the final stages of reference checking.


The final checks.


Following your reference check phone call(s), but before you make your final decision, there are a few last checks you should do.

Cross check ASIC’s Financial Advice Register (FAR).
  1. First obtain the adviser’s ASIC Authorised Representative (AR) Number.
  2. Go to the Financial Advice Register and then enter the adviser’s AR Number.
  3. Check that the information you’ve been provided matches the adviser’s details listed on the FAR.
Obtain the adviser’s Financial Services Guide (FSG) & Adviser Profile
  1. Obtain and carefully review the adviser’s FSG and Adviser Profile. By law, you must be provided an FSG before you can receive financial advice.


Appoint or decline.


The last step – but certainly not least important: deciding whether to accept or decline the engagement with your shortlisted adviser.

If you’ve accepted, well done you. Here’s to a long, happy and productive partnership ahead!

If you’ve yet to find the right match, don’t despair. We might just have a solution for you. If you’re looking to chat through your needs, just give Jen Purnell a ring on +61 3 9428 8822.

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