Lower prices are just the beginning…

I spent many Saturday mornings at Harry’s Hardware on Whistler Street in downtown Manly after Anna and I bought our “renovator’s delight” on Manly flat.

Harry had an old-style cluttered store when hardware stores used to be as common as butchers, grocers, and milk bars.

He looked after his regulars, particularly hopeless DIY’ers like me who were out of their depth using sticky tape.

He dropped in at home several times to ensure I hadn’t managed to nail myself to the fence or to check if we were happy with his paint colours.

Unfortunately, Harry lost his hardware store.

He couldn’t compete when a super hardware store opened nearby in Balgowlah with plenty of parking and a Saturday morning sausage sizzle.

I still haven’t found anyone like Harry.

Lower prices are just the beginning.


In early December, the government announced (sorry, paywall) the introduction of legislation that will enact most of the recommendations made by the latest review into financial advice – The Quality of Advice Review.

The objective of the Review was to “ensure Australians have access to high quality, accessible and affordable financial advice”.

The Review recommended the banks, insurers and superannuation groups be re-enabled to provide financial advice. It also recommended a significant reduction in qualifications required to deliver advice. These and other recommendations aim to improve consumer outcomes with cheaper alternatives.

Contradicting their previous fears (sorry, paywall again), the government has about-faced and now believes the proposed legislation will not create new ‘scandalous’ practices that made shocking headlines during the 2018 Royal Commission – Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

Fundamentally, the government’s acceptance of The Quality of Advice Review is good news.

It will fast-track the delivery, the access and the choices of “over-the-counter advice”.

Over-the-counter advice is specific to a financial product transaction when the complexity, and therefore the price of the transaction, is low. It is a good approach for consumers frustrated by the current paperwork and costs required to make simple financial decisions.

As advice is ‘digital’ (i.e. nebulous), the promised legislation is also great news for AI-capable fintech providers whose creative destruction influence could turn today’s financial giants into yesteryear’s Kodak‘s.

Lower prices are just the beginning.


Introducing compulsory superannuation in 1992 ensured financial services would be a perennial agenda item on successive Australian governments’ reform agendas.

Since 1992, there has been the 1997 Wallis Review, followed by the 2002 Financial Services Reform, the 2007 Ripoll Review, the 2010 Cooper Review, the 2014 Murray Review, the 2015 Trowbridge Review, the 2017 Sedgewick Report, the 2019 Banking Royal Commission, last year’s Quality of Advice Review and the ongoing Australian Law Reform Commission enquiry to reform Section Seven of the Corporations Act (Financial Services).

Like climate, energy, health, social justice, housing, security and other essential sectors, managing the rise and rise of Australia’s trillions of superannuation while meeting the future expectations of every working Australian with a superannuation balance is tough.

There are possible reform lessons from the latest round of global climate negotiations (the COP28 Dubai summit), where after nearly three decades of climate negotiations to address global warming, climate activists remain sceptical that last week’s agreements will fail to produce necessary actions.

The only certainty for climate change and financial services is more reviews and uncertainty.

Lower prices are just the beginning.


I’ve written previously about the four financial advice models and how the Quality of Advice Review neatly satisfies at least one of these models.

In this regard, while last week’s decision by the government is great news for those Australians seeking over-the-counter product advice, it is not great news for those Australians concerned about the consequences of their advice decisions.

At best, they will remain confused.

At worst, their future hopes for retirement and security will have to trust someone or an algorithm incentivised by a product provider.

Travellers are not taking off in pilot-less planes because they are concerned about the consequences.

Similarly, trusting a pilotless product for a life’s financial journey will inevitably have consequences for consumers whose product providers do not have the skills, capabilities, leadership, empathy or incentive to manage.

After decades of Reviews, today’s policy direction does not provide advice-seeking Australians with a level marketplace to make fair, affordable and valuable financial decisions.

This is not good enough.

Australians deserve a better marketplace than today’s, still driven after thirty years by financial product selection.

Despite how much I miss Harry’s excellent service, he relied on product selection for success.

Don’t go there if you want to build enduring, profitable and valuable advisory firms.

Lower prices are just the beginning.

What do you reckon?




Photo credit: shutterstock_359156540


For over 30 years, Jim has influenced, coached, and consulted financial advisory firms across Australia. He founded a training firm, Certainty Advice Group, to coach, skill and build advisory firms delivering comprehensive, unconflicted advice with fees priced purely on client value. He is growing a collaborative community of advisory firms aligned to his firm’s comprehensive advice model – Certainty Advice – Australia’s only Certification Mark accredited by ACCC and IP Australia for impartial financial advice. He presents at conferences, has judged professional advice awards, written industry white papers, chaired practice management curriculums for tertiary institutions, and authored four books on financial advice – his latest released last year – What Price Value.


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