Mystery Shopper: Rochester

(Independent) Squirrel Financial Planning, 36 New Road, Chatham ME4 4QR

Speed of response: Time of call: 3.21pm. 14 rings and then a call back arranged. 3/5

Telephone manner: Professional. 3/5

Relevant qualifications: Level four. 5/5

Payment method: First meeting free and then any fee would depend on the exact requirements established during the initial meeting. 4/5

Guidance given: The adviser explained that the suitability of structured products depended on the shopper’s objectives. He said that these types of investments were often considered to be “high risk” and that the first port of call would be to set up a meeting to come up with a plan suited to the shopper’s individual needs. 3/5

Knowledge: He provided a very basic description of how structured products worked and was hesitant to discuss anything else ahead of a meeting. 3/5

Email/Web presence: 3/5

Verdict: The adviser initially seemed sceptical about the shopper’s interest in structured products and disclosed very little information over the phone about charges and other investments. Instead, he said he preferred to email some information and to meet in person. 24/35

(Restricted) Lighthouse Financial Advice, 7 Cagney Close, Wainscott, Rochester ME3 8AYSpeed of response: Time of call: 3.23pm. Five rings. 5/5Telephone manner: Friendly. 4/5Relevant qualifications: Level four. 5/5Payment method: Free initial consultation followed by a fixed fee, which is set at a minimum of £375 and then rises depending on the amount invested. 5/5Guidance given: The adviser explained that he did not advise on structured products because they were not fixed-risk products and came with “high fees”, which he said happened frequently when a product kicked out after just one or two years. Instead, he recommended “tax friendly” Isas, from which he could choose from 110 different funds, and for new investors UK investments, which were not affected by “exchange rate complications”. 4/5Knowledge: He seemed to have a relatively decent understanding of investment markets. 3/5Email/Web presence: / 5/5Verdict: Even though the adviser did not deal with structured products, he offered interesting alternatives and helpful explanations. 31/35(Independent) Direct Financial Planning, 2a Galleon Way, Lower Upnor, Rochester ME2 4GXSpeed of response: Time of call: 3.48pm. Two rings, through to a receptionist, and then straight through to an adviser. 5/5Telephone manner: Very friendly. 5/5Relevant qualifications: Level four. 5/5Payment method: Free initial meeting followed by a charge that can be taken as a percentage of the value of the investment – about 3 per cent for an investment of £40,000. 5/5Guidance given: First the adviser said it was pivotal to establish the shopper’s attitude to risk, objectives and time horizons. He also explained the importance of using the full Isa allowance and benefiting the shopper’s tax position, which would require a look across the entire market. Although “not a fan” of structured products, the adviser said they could fit the shopper’s needs, but warned that they generally tended to be more efficient during bear markets. 4/5Knowledge: The adviser displayed a very good understanding of structured products and other types of investment products. 4/5Email/Web presence: / 5/5Verdict: A full explanation was offered and all of the shopper’s questions were answered with clarity.33/35Investec (call centre)Speed of response: Time of call: 3.57pm. An overall wait of 30 seconds. 1/5Telephone manner: Rushed and uninterested. 1/5Qualification: Not disclosed. 0/5Payment method: No fee. 0/5Guidance given: The representative said he could only sell structured products through a financial adviser, which was a rule that had always been in place. When the shopper then asked him if he could discuss other investment products, the representative said the best thing to do would be to talk with someone else at Investec, although he was not sure who. 1/5Knowledge: Impossible to tell.0/5Email/Web presence: 3/5Verdict: Very disappointing. The shopper dialled a number specifically not for financial advisers, yet was met with a cold and uninterested response from the representative, who did not even offer to redirect his call.6/35