One of the unfortunate consequences of increased regulation of financial advisers is that some smaller investors now find themselves squeezed out of the market for personalized investment advice. There are two types of investment advisers who are able to give advice to the public: Authorised Financial Advisers (AFAs) and Qualifying Entity Advisers (QFE advisers). Whereas AFA’s can give investment advice on a wide range of investment products, QFE advisers can give investment advice only on products offered by the company they work for. QFE’s are generally large companies such as banks and insurance companies. There are less than 2000 AFA’s in New Zealand, and many who hold the designation do not give advice to the general public. Just to make it even more confusing, some of the AFA’s work for QFE’s such as banks. An AFA working for a QFE can give advice on a wide range of investment products from different providers.
With the limited number of AFA’s available, many advisers and QFE’s are now setting minimum limits on the size of investment portfolio they will advise on and manage. These limits can be anywhere from $100,000 to $1million or more. At the other end of the spectrum, QFE’s such as banks are using the large number of QFE advisers in their branches to sell KiwiSaver and savings and investment funds for small lump sums or regular contributions. It is increasingly difficult for investors with small to average portfolios to find advisers who can advise them on a wide range of investment products from different providers. Getting advice on whether to purchase shares in the proposed Government asset sell-down is a prime example of this, as advice will need to be obtained from an AFA, not a QFE adviser, many of whom will not be interested in smaller investors.