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Adviser-Client Relationships


An understanding of the attitudes, behaviours and expectations of consumers who have (or very likely to) purchased life insurance through an adviser.


An understanding of the attitudes, behaviours and expectations of consumers who have (or very likely to) purchased life insurance through an adviser.

Approximately 20% of Australians seek out financial advisers at vulnerable yet fortuitous moments in life, such as the birth of a child or coming into an inheritance.

Seeking advice

More than a third (39%) of consumers who have life insurance through an adviser originally initiated discussions in order to ‘protect their family’ or saw their adviser following a recommendation from a family member or friend.

For consumer potentials who indicated they would very likely see an adviser about life insurance in the next two years, 25% indicated cost was a barrier (up from 18% in 2018).

Not knowing how to start also prevents people from seeing an adviser (21%). Consumer potentials are also confused as to which adviser to choose (18%) as well as wanting to get their finances in order before seeing an adviser (16%).

Like in any relationship, the most important attributes consumers seek is that the adviser is honest and trustworthy (85%), transparent about fees and commissions (78%) and adviser experience (75%).

Approximately 20% of Australians seek out financial advisers at vulnerable yet fortuitous moments in life, such as the birth of a child or coming into an inheritance.

Important attributes when choosing a financial adviser

1. Honest and trustworthy


2. Transparent about fees and commissions


3. Adviser is experienced


4. Adviser is highly qualified


5. Genuinely cares about me


6. Independent advice/not tied to any particular financial institutions


Choosing cover

Confidence levels in consumers being able to explain various life insurance features have increased across the board in 2019.

The majority (81%) of consumers know their amount of cover, compared to 74% last year, while half (50%) of consumers could explain the difference between stepped and level premiums, compared to 43% last year.

When taking out their most recent insurance, three-quarters (75%) of consumers first worked out what cover they needed, then looked at whether they could pay for it. For those under 35 years of age, cost was a stronger factor – more than a third (36%) of consumers aged 18 to 35 say they first worked out what they could afford. 

Over 40% of consumers surveyed thought buying life insurance through an adviser (versus purchasing through super or directly online from an insurer) as more expensive but it is also perceived to be higher quality, likely due to the market knowledge of advisers. 

Advisers can help bridge this gap by demonstrating their market expertise to their clients and explaining in more detail as to why their particular plan is suited to the clients’ individual circumstances.

This is an opportunity for advisers to demonstrate value and show their client that whether their insurance sits within or outside of a superfund, the advice is tailored for a certain individual and therefore worth more.

The reasons people seek financial advice are varied – life insurance is seen to be complicated and the role of an adviser is to take on that complexity and craft tailored plans for the consumer, including recommendations of products that suit their needs. Consumers then can be confident that they are adequately insured in case of injury or illness. 

Close to half of the consumers appear to need this reassurance, as 46% have concerns about whether an insurance company would pay out in the event of a claim.

These concerns are somewhat unfounded, as ASIC* shows that almost all (96%) of death claims, 95% of income protection claims, and nearly nine in 10 (87%) of TPD claims were paid out in 2018 for policies bought through a financial adviser.

Advisers can be more transparent about what products they are recommending for their clients and why they are suited, so that these concerns can be put to rest. 

Although Australia’s economic and political climate has been particularly volatile in the last few years, with stagnant wages a feature of the modern workplace, life insurance is one area where consumers were least likely to cut discretionary spending, along with spending on children’s education and housing repayments.

This is potentially because life insurance is seen as ‘protecting family’, the top reason consumers see a financial adviser.

Confidence in explaining life insurance product features

  • 2018
  • 2019
Amount of cover ($)
Low Confidence
High Confidence

Premium amount ($)

Waiting period before benefits are paid

Length of time benefits are paid for

Difference between stepped and level premiums


46% of consumers with life insurance and 64% of SMEs with life insurance have concerns about whether their insurance company would payout in the event of a claim.

However, ASIC data* shows that in 2018 insurance companies paid out for policies bought through a financial adviser:

Death claims


Income protection claims


TPD claims


If under financial pressure, consumers are most likely to cut back on holidays, gym expenses and pay TV.

They are least likely to cut back on mortgage and rent and various insurance covers, including life insurance.

  • Consumer with life insurance
  • SME with life insurance
Holiday expenses
Gym or personal training expenses
Pay TV
Car or transport expenses
Mobile phone/data
Other children's expenses
Utility bills
Children's educational expenses
Health insurance
Life insurance
Car insurance
Home and contents insurance
Mortgage or rent
78% of consumers with life insurance through an adviser say they prefer to pay an upfront fee for advice with lower insurance premiums over the lifetime of the policy.

Fee and easy?

In line with consumers wanting more transparency, respondents to the survey indicated a preference to pay for their advice via an upfront fee rather than a commission.

But this needs to be viewed in the context of very low awareness around the commission advisers earned.

More than half (55%) of consumers say they are not aware of the amount of commission their financial adviser receives.

78% of consumers with life insurance through an adviser say they prefer to pay an upfront fee for advice with lower insurance premiums over the lifetime of the policy.

When asked if removing commissions would make consumers more or less willing to see their adviser, nearly half indicated they would not expect the removal of commissions to change their willingness to see an adviser, while one in five said it would make them more likely to see an adviser. 

With the Australian government considering the removal of commissions, it is important to understand how this may impact the degree to which consumers are insured. Nearly three quarters (72%) of consumers thought removing commissions would result in more people being underinsured.

While further research is needed to understand why, it could be that consumers believe the removal of commissions would lead to higher up-front fees resulting in people choosing lower levels of cover.

Advisers can seize this as an opportunity to be more transparent about their commissions and the way they communicate the benefits of tailored insurance products, so the consumer can be assured they are insured with the right products for the right reasons, not because of any benefits an adviser might receive.

The data suggests the issue is not whether an adviser receives commissions, but that the practice of receiving commissions is too opaque.

When asked what types of advice consumers would be willing to pay a fee for, the top drivers cited were building up investments (54%), saving for retirement (50%) and getting life insurance (46%).

3 in 5 people believe more Australians will be underinsured if commissions were removed

  • Consumer with life insurance
  • Consumer potential
Yes, more will be underinsured
No, will have no impact
Don't know

Perceived impact by consumers of removing insurance commissions on likelihood people will see an adviser

The price to pay

Consumers who expressed a preference to pay an upfront fee for insurance advice were willing to pay an average of $1,700.

This is much lower than the average cost to produce comprehensive insurance advice and indicates that significant education is required to help clients frame a realistic expectation around the value of the services advisers are providing. 

To offset not paying an upfront fee to advisers, 3 in 10 were willing to only pay between 1-5% extra in premiums over the lifetime of their policy, so advisers should be transparent about costs and take the time to explain both the benefits of the products they suggest for their clients and the need for any additional fees.

Extra amount consumers are willing to pay in insurance premiums to offset no upfront fee
  • Consumer with life insurance
  • Consumer potential
Zero, I prefer to pay an upfront fee
Don't know/unsure

A questioning client base

Around one in three consumers are thinking of changing advisers or stopping seeing their adviser altogether in the next 12 months, citing cost and lack of communication as the main reasons.


Advisers really need to recognise this as a serious call to nurture their relationships and show their expertise to their clients through regular contact and reviews.

There are two ways that advisers can easily improve client satisfaction. The first is around building a relationship that is more akin to a partnership, the second is by demonstrating their expertise and providing value on a regular basis.

One act that can have a big impact on their clients and be an opportunity for an adviser to demonstrate their care and expertise is a simple annual review.

Of the 60% of consumers with life insurance who undertook a review with their adviser in the last 12 months, 63% rated their experience as ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ and 49% modified their insurance cover in line with their stage of life.

For example, those aged under 35 increased their cover, while those who might be transitioning to retirement reduced theirs. The added value of this engagement with clients is clear.

Consumers who have had a review are more likely to be loyal and recommend their adviser to a third party.

Consumer intentions with regards to their current adviser
Why consumers are thinking of changing/no longer using their adviser
High fees/commissions
Don’t need the advice anymore
Can't afford it
Poor communication/lack of contact
Poor value for money
Generally poor service
Received poor advice
Adviser attached to large bank
Trust issues with adviser
Adviser not knowledgeable or competent
Don’t like adviser/hard to deal with

Client satisfaction is at its highest 2 years after establishing the relationship with their adviser.

There are two ways that advisers can easily improve client satisfaction:

The first

Building a relationship that is more akin to a partnership.

The second

Demonstrating their expertise and providing value on a regular basis.

Reasons for recommending their adviser

"Long term relationship and they care about us. Not cheap but cost is not always everything. The service we get is exceptional."

Consumer with life insurance, 50-54, Perth

"They are more like a friend these days, who always has my interests at heart."

Consumer with life insurance, 35-39, Adelaide

"She reviews my plan annually, talks in plain English, looks for savings if required, makes changes if necessary, is easy to talk to and available."

Consumer with life insurance, 60-64, Sydney

"Took the time to explain the policy, came to workplace to assist with completing the policy paperwork."

Consumer with life insurance, 50-54, Melbourne

Importance of integrity

The Royal Commission into Financial Services has fuelled negative sentiment around the operations of large financial organisations.

If looking for a new adviser, nearly 6 in 10 consumers would prefer an independent financial adviser. However, no matter which licensee advisers work under, this result highlights the importance clients are now placing on integrity, client centricity and transparency.

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Small to Medium Enterprises

An understanding of the attitudes, behaviours and expectations of SMEs who have purchased life insurance through an adviser

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*ASIC Life Insurance Comparison Tool. Available at: 

The Understanding the Adviser-Client Relationship 2019 Report has been prepared by MetLife Insurance Limited, ABN 75 004 274 882 AFSL 238 096 (MetLife) and should not be published or reproduced without the prior permission of MetLife. Whilst care has been taken in preparing this material, MetLife does not warrant or represent that the information, opinions or conclusions contained in this document (“information”) are accurate. The information provided in the report and on this website is general information only, current as at the time of production. 

It does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs and you should consider whether it is appropriate for you. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should not be relied upon as such. MetLife recommends that you obtain independent and specific advice from appropriate professionals before deciding whether to acquire, or continuing to hold, any of our products, or implementing a financial strategy, including reading any relevant Product Disclosure Statements, Financial Services Guides and/or terms and conditions, available upon request by calling 1300 555 625, before making any decision. Life insurance products are issued by MetLife Insurance Limited ABN 75 004 274 882, AFSL 238096.

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