Opinion  

Advisers should mitigate against complaints

With regard to the challenges of preparing suitability reports, one rule I know is you cannot disclose yourself out of bad advice, so just having excessively long suitability letters will not make a jot of difference.

I have seen a lot of complaints (not mine) and dealt with Fos quite a lot, for various reasons, and it appears to me that, in hindsight, they have often had good reasons for the decisions they made.

That does not help advisers, as they tend to be trained to the standards of the day, and suffer the consequences of the world moving on to a different view. The world did eventually catch up with those who argued the world was round. The pension transfers review years ago was caused by us encouraging employees to leave schemes with poorly assessed ATRs, with little understanding of the benefits of leaving one scheme to join another, and even less understanding by the customer, and we did not even have to be trained or qualified.

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But it was the norm at the time. Now we all look back and think: How could we have done that as an industry?

Our best protection against complaints about poor advice is not a 40-page document full of risk warnings, but a highly-trained and qualified adviser (tick), a comprehensive understanding of the customer’s ambitions and plans rather than basic, focused fact-finding (tick), some well-considered advice about the options available (tick), and a well-informed customer who can clearly see what he has got and why (tick).

Jane Hodges

Chief operating officer, Alexander House Financial Services, London