Before I started out in my own practice, I had two job interviews.

They both that left me thinking that maybe I wasn’t cut of quite the same cloth as the usual adviser of the time.

No Independent Thinkers!

In one, I was called “excessively dogmatic” when I expressed some opinions (about bosses mistreating workers, the commissions on now-discredited agri-business schemes, FUM-based targets).

I left that interview with all parties agreeing that I “probably wasn’t a good fit”. Incidentally, how boring it must be having a business staffed entirely with people that agree with you. To your face, anyway…

Just Not Smart Enough

In the other, I was told “I don’t think so, you have to be ‘pretty smart’ to run a business like this” by the owner of what seemed like an advisory chop shop – get ’em in, gear ’em, charge a percentage.

Of course, being patronised by a hairstyle unable to do up all of his shirt buttons irritated me no end. For it to happen in a room filled with dusty computers, ratty carpet and more than a hint of stale tobacco makes me laugh now.

I believe this bloke and his half-buttoned shirt have since been banned from the industry for blatant misconduct and poor advice so, in hindsight, it’s a good thing I didn’t get that job.


These meetings helped convince me to go out on my own. I came to learn that I probably was excessively dogmatic.

And opinionated.

And wary of the ‘way things have always been’.

And tired of the nonsense that characterised so much of the advice world back then.

It’s been 11 years, and I’ve always worked to give advice the way I wanted to – helpfully, clearly, without conflict – to people that needed it.



But I couldn’t ever call myself ‘independent’. Independent has a very strict meaning in our world of advice – it’s even defined in the Corporations Act.

To paraphrase the Act, you cannot call yourself independent if you – or anybody within the license you operate under – receives any commissions, at all.

And, over the years, I’ve always accepted commissions on insurance policies. Then, when I stopped back in 2019, the group I was in kept receiving them, so I still couldn’t use the “I” word.

It wasn’t until I went out and got my own Australian Financial Services License and implemented a complete commission ban across the board that I could, finally, accurately and legally claim to be an independent financial adviser.

So, now I can, and do! (Incessantly!)

Does It Matter?

Look, to be honest – probably not.

To the average person in the street, they probably either assume that their adviser is ‘independent’ in the more common meaning of the word, or they don’t really care.

But it matters to me and, it seems, to an increasing number of people seeking financial advice.

We all know the historical issues around financial advice. And we all know that most of them have grown out of the conflicts at the heart of the traditional system.

Independence eliminates those conflicts. There is no question around who’s paying the piper – it’s our clients. It’s only ever our clients.

I think it also represents a certain pig-headed dedication to a way of working as an adviser. You need to be mule-stubborn to take this path!

So to do so, you must have a good reason. And every independent adviser I’ve met has had the same reason at the core of their decision – it’s simply a better way for us to give the advice we want, to the people that need it.

Independence and Transitions

I love that it removes even the perception of a conflict in my advice.

And that’s incredibly important when helping people through the financial challenges of life’s big transitions.

Not to say other advice is inherently conflicted – the vast majority of financial advisers are diligent professionals, helping clients navigate their financial complexities.

But by being independent, I love that the conversation about conflict is simply removed: “we have no ties to any product provider, we don’t take commissions, and we work to simple, clear fixed fees based on what we’re doing for you.”

I just find it simpler – for us and our clients.

Not Quite a Movement – Yet.

And it seems more advisers are of the same mind.

Over the years, I’ve looked at the SuperGuide list of independent advisers. And I’m really excited to see that it’s up over 100 advisers as of today – it was under 50 only a few years ago. (I don’t think it’s a comprehensive list, but it’s a good place to start)

So I think independence is important – it shapes how I work, how I look at my practice and it’s also something I encourage other advisers to consider.

I believe that, for a growing collection of people, it’s important to them that the person advising them on their financial future be truly, properly independent too.

Luckily (for me anyway!), you don’t have to be “pretty smart” to be independent – just a bit different.

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