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What Independent Financial Advisors Struggle With?

For financial advisors representing only one financial institution, it means you have a limited range of financial products to choose from.  You might also struggle with poor product range, uncompetitive pricing and increasing revenue targets.

What if you could select financial products from a number of financial institutions, getting the optimal pricing and product features.

This is what Independent Financial Advisory (IFA) firms do:

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  • Offer financial products & solutions from multiple financial institutions
  • Select the optimal features and priced products
  • Flexible / Non-mandatory / No revenue target
  • Do not have to comply by financial institutions distribution policies (by not choosing them)

Keywords associated with Independent Financial Advisory:

  • Open architecture
  • Best-in-class
  • Independent & unbiased financial advice

However, life is not a bed of roses in becoming an Independent Financial Advisor.  We look at the struggles of an Independent Financial Advisor


No. 1 Being Independent

Despite the benefits of being independent, it might give you more problems than you imagine, especially in the early phase.

Why being Independent is tough:

  • You now have to do many things yourself, with little help
  • You likely have little support (sales) from any financial institutions
  • You have to understand the industry more than anyone else
  • You now have to learn more products

Being Independent means a lot more work.  After all, the benefits of being independent is to be able to value-add from looking at the financial industry and products without any bias.

To be unbiased means spending a lot more time doing research and studying many financial institutions and products.


No. 2 Industry Knowledge

Benefits Of Unit Trust
Benefits Of Unit Trust

Gaining industry knowledge is tougher than you think.  Some take years, while most take decades.

The financial market is fast-changing: fluctuating interest rates, foreign exchange rates, rising and falling stock prices.  And dd on the variety of financial products and range of products from different financial institution:

Financial Markets & Products:


Why building industry knowledge is tough:

  • Why are you independent?  Would government bail you out if you fold?
  • How well do you know the products, to know that you are providing independent, unbiased advice?
  • What are the benefits of using American, European or Asian originated products?  Is there a difference?
  • What happens when liquidity dries up, in the “optimal” product you have selected?

You will likely be questioned on the benefits of being independent, and why clients should not be going with a large financial institution – that is more stable and with strong regulatory standards to protect consumers.

You will also need to showcase your knowledge of the industry, and the financial products from multiple financial institutions.

  • Would going to them (financial institutions) directly be more inexpensive?
  • Would any future service requests be going to you or the financial institutions?


No. 3 Client Base

When you join a Bank, Private Bank or Insurance company, they have thousands, if not hundreds of thousands or millions of client base.  Their branding is great, with the size of annual budget they have.  Their natural large or potential client base, just make it easier for anyone to get started in the financial advisory career.

Why is it tough to build client base?

  • Low visibility on branding
  • Not many would know of your IFA brand
  • Would your client place much money with an unknown IFA?

Not having a recognised brand is already tough to get started.  With almost no client base, your sales effort, network and relationship building skills is put to the extreme test.


No. 4 Being Tiny

Reading, England - March 6, 2015: People in front of the HSBC Bank in Reading, England. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was founded in 1865 to finance trade between Asia and the West
HSBC Bank in Reading, England

Independent Financial Advisory firms are relatively small as compared to traditional financial institutions such as Banks, Private Banks and Insurance Companies.

These financial institutions such as JP Morgan, UBS, Citibank, Bank of China, AIA and Prudential employ a few hundred thousand employees, with vast financial businesses.  The most you have is a few hundreds of thousands of advisors – a mere fraction of the financial institutions.  Large financial institutions are also product originators, meaning they create the products, and thus have deeper understanding and insights than end-users.

Why being tiny is tough:

  • What if the IFA collapse? What will happen to the assets?
  • What if you leave or quit?
  • Is the money safe?
  • Is there safeguards to prevent frauds?

With the benefits of being small that you are able to offer dedicated and quality financial advice and service, it also means you are the most vulnerable compared to large financial institutions.  How do you gain the trust of clients that your firm is safe.  Is your firm really safe?


No. 5 Security

If your total financial assets are $200,000 or $2 Million, how much would you allocate to a bank, stock brokerage, insurance company or independent financial advisory firm?

Banks are naturally trusted due to ease of accessing the money, statutory protection & regulatory oversight on banks.  Insurance and Stock Brokerages are also more commonly used and seen, thus giving comfort and stability to clients.

On the end other, little is known about what happens to your assets in an Independent Financial Advisory firm when:

  • The IFA firm folds
  • When one is deceased, and no one knows I have assets in the IFA
  • Statements & reporting goes wrong


Are you an Independent Financial Advisor?  Is this what you are struggling with?  Or are you thinking of becoming an Independent Financial Advisor?  What do you think you will struggle with?  How would you overcome it?

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