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Standard Life criticised over lax adviser removal process

Life and pensions and investments giant Standard Life has defended its “robust procedures” to prevent it from inadvertently ‘poaching’ advisers’ clients, after an IFA complained over a client that claimed she no longer had a relationship with his firm and it was removed from the policy.

According to a recording of a telephone call the client had with Standard Life, which FTAdviser has listened to, the client told Standard Life she had been advised that she could get 25 per cent of her pension fund tax free.

The firm asked her if she had an adviser, to which she responded she had not had a broker since 1997.

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The pension had been sold on an advised basis and IFA firm MLP was listed as the broker. Paolo Standerwick, managing director at the firm, said he had not advised the client since the policy was set up, but that the relationship was ‘active’ and he had spoken to her days before the call to tell her she was entitled to take her tax-free lump sum.

In a letter to Mr Standerwick in response to his complaint Standard Life said: “Having listened to a recording of the conversation, I’m satisfied it wasn’t our intention to ‘poach’ the client’s custom from you.

“It’s part of our process to ask each customer whether they’re taking financial advice when they’re considering taking their benefits. If they confirm they’re dealing with a financial advisers we’ll always refer them back before they make a decision.

“She [the client] was quite clear that she had not been using MLP - even referring to the last point of contact as taking place in 1997. We had no reason to doubt this comment and were acting in good faith.”

A spokesperson for Standard Life defended the firm’s procedure, saying it had sent a letter to the adviser and would reinstate the adviser if they contact the client and the relationship “resumes”.

Other providers have told FTAdviser that they have a “defined procedure” in place and they will notify the financial adviser on their records to ensure there is no breakdown in communication.

A spokesperson for Aegon told FTAdviser: “If we are speaking to a consumer we will ascertain if they have an IFA. If they say that they do not have one, we will advise them to get one. We are an intermediated brand, so we will always ask and if they do not, we will point them in that direction.”

A spokesperson for Skandia said: “We have a defined procedure that we follow if someone tells us they no longer use a financial adviser. We would always notify the financial adviser on our records to ensure there is no confusion or breakdown in communication.

“We would also make sure the customer fully understands the implications of not using a financial adviser and be clear that we think financial advice is in their best interests.”

The spokesperson for Standard Life said: “The customer had received advice on an initial commission basis in 1997 and she told us she hadn’t used the adviser since so with her agreement the adviser was removed from our records.