Opinion  

My experience of falling into the ‘advice gap’

Donia O’Loughlin

One of my new year’s resolutions is to save more money, so I made an appointment with a well-known high street account provider with the simple intention of getting some help to open an Isa with them.

I had done some research and found that they paid a good rate. I wanted someone to guide me through the limited options to get the product that best suited me so that I could begin using it immediately.

It was not a great experience. Seemingly afraid of giving me anything that vaguely constitutes advice, the branch manager (no less!) with whom I met refused to give me even the most basic information - and I’ve since found out that some of what he said is just plain wrong.

Article continues after advert

I wanted a two-year fixed-rate Isa to which I could make regular contributions. I was told that I cannot do this with a fixed-rate and would need an instant access Isa, a common restriction which applies across the industry apparently.

So my husband, who is a customer, decided to press ahead and open their own instant access ‘loyalty’ Isa at a lower rate to one we’d seen, which I was told is only for a lump sum contribution.

Throughout the meeting, he reiterated many times that he cannot give advice. I asked for several hypothetical examples to see what my tax savings would be, but even this was deemed ‘advice’ and was refused.

I told my colleagues about my experience, and they all agreed that not all fixed rate Isas operate like this. A quick Google search showed they were right.

Was the misinformation a ploy to get us to open their own Isa? There is a 14-day cooling off period so it hasn’t really achieved this. It also has made me not want to do business with this lender again.

I rather suspect it was poor understanding and an RDR-inspired reticence to give anything that could be construed as a ‘recommendation’. Even a newsletter can now be considered such, of course.

What I really need is someone to tell me ‘this is the Isa for you’. I don’t want to pay someone to open an Isa for me - it’s not because I do not rate advice or don’t think it’s worth paying, but the costs simply don’t stack up for so simple a process.

It looks like Google will have to suffice. A simplified, ‘focused’ solution which offers cost-effective advice would have been ideal but was not readily available.

I am a product of the ‘advice gap’.

donia.o’loughlin@ft.com