‘Poaching’ claims levelled at Openwork AR

An Openwork AR has launched “an orchestrated attack” in an apparent bid to poach at least 10 clients, an adviser has claimed.

Peter Edwards, adviser for Essex-based Blueprint Financial Services, said his sister, who suffers from severe depression, was among the clients contacted “out of the blue” by Essex-based Financialadvisers4u, an appointed representative of Openwork.

The letter, seen by Financial Adviser, states that Financialadvisers4u “represents Openwork” and that the firm is her “new adviser”.

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Blueprint Financial Services left the Openwork network on 21 March last year to join Intrinsic. After the transition, Mr Edwards said he had sent a signed letter of authority from his sister to Zurich, dated 28 May 2012, informing Zurich she would remain with him as his client.

But, more than a year later, on 19 July, Mr Edwards claimed he received “a very distressed phone call” from his sister after she read the letter from Financialadvisers4u.

It stated that Financialadvisers4u had received her personal details from Openwork and the firm “would be contacting her shortly”.

His sister has a whole-of-life policy with Zurich, which has a 25 per cent stake in Openwork.

Mr Edwards claimed nine of his clients, who also have various policies with Zurich or Zurich-owned Sterling, have been contacted in a similar fashion by Financialadvisers4u.

He claimed: “It seems that Openwork is treating clients like its chattels, to be handed out to all and sundry after the adviser leaves.

“This seems to put Openwork’s interest above the clients’ right to privacy.”

Mr Edwards claimed he called Zurich in relation to his sister’s letter, but was told he was not the authorised “servicing agent” on his sister’s contract. But when he drew attention to the letter of authority, the person answering the phone admitted an error had been made and, he said, would be “investigating”.

A spokesman for Zurich said it was investigating the matter.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Intrinsic said: “We’re aware that the adviser has raised the issue and we’re currently looking into this.”

A spokesman for Openwork said it was looking into the matter, when asked about the letter from Financialadvisers4u.

At Companies House, Stephen Philpot is listed as director of Financialadvisers4u, the trading name of Financial Advisor Ltd, which an FCA spokesman confirmed is registered with the regulator.

Mr Philpot’s apparent signature is on the bottom of the letter sent to Mr Edwards’ client. When called for a comment, Mr Philpot declined to speak to Financial Adviser.

Openwork’s right to reply

Philip Martin, proposition & marketing director at Openwork said: “This process is open and transparent and clients have the option of moving to an adviser outside the network if they choose to exercise it.

“We will ordinarily ensure customers have continuity of advice when an adviser leaves, but of course a customer is entirely free to choose the adviser they prefer.”