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First impressions matter: forming trust in financial advisers

A large proportion of Australians are unable to tell the difference between good and bad financial advice and are unaware of techniques used by advisers to manipulate critical financial decisions, according to a recent study.

Professor Susan Thorp says that almost half of all Australians suffer from poor levels of financial literacy, resulting in many turning to financial advisers for help with decisions on such things as superannuation investments. Professor Thorp and a team of researchers sought to understand how ordinary people make financial decisions by unpacking the process by which trust is formed between clients and advisers.

The cross-university research project involved an experiment in which a series of videos were produced of a number of advisers offering good financial advice, while others in the videos provided bad advice. The videos were then shown to groups of people who were asked to identify which of the advisers they would trust.

The research found that trust in the advisers was easily manipulated, and Professor Thorp believes provides an indication of a need for higher qualifications and standards for financial advisers, as well as the advisery industry and regulators such as ASIC to more rigorously enforce laws protecting consumers.

Working with Professor Thorp on the research project were Professor Julie Agnew of the College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA; UNSW’s Professor Hazel Bateman; Dr Christine Eckert of the UTS Business School; the ANU’s Dr Fedor Iskhakov; and Professor Jordan Louviere of the University of South Australia.


Podcast

Listen to an interview about the study with Professor Susan Thorp to learn more.

Published work

Agnew J, Bateman H, Eckert C, Iskhakov F, Louviere J and Thorp S 2016 'First Impressions Matter: An Experimental Investigation of Online Financial Advice', Management Science

Bateman H, Geweke J, Louviere J, Eckert C, Satchell S and Thorp S, 2016 Risk Presentation and Portfolio Choice, Review of Finance, vol.20:1, pp. 201-29

Bateman H, Dobrescu LI, Newell BR, Ortmann A and Thorp S 2016 As easy as pie: How retirement savers use prescribed investment disclosures, Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization, vol.121, pp. 60-76