A financial adviser is disgruntled that Hargreaves Lansdown refuses to accept copies of a ‘letter of authority’, stating the provider is not treating customers fairly.
Craig Palfrey, certified financial planner at Penguin Wealth, told FTAdviser the letter of authority was sent to request information on two investments a new client holds with Hargreaves Lansdown. The investment portfolio is worth around £475,000.
Last month, Mr Palfrey sent an original letter of authority to Hargreaves Lansdown, however it got lost in the post, as did a further two copies of the letter. Last week, Hargreaves finally received the letter, but is refusing to act as it is a copy and not an original.
As the client lives two hours away and has health issues, it is proving difficult to get another original letter of authority, Mr Palfrey said, arguing that most other providers accept copies. He added Hargreaves is not treating customers fairly by taking this stance.
Scottish Widows, Aviva, Prudential and Phoenix Life all confirmed to FTAdviser they accept copies.
Mr Palfrey said: “The Get Financial Advice business is a phone and internet-based business and having to re-contact this particular client, who is 86 and in and out of hospital currently having treatment on his sight, for another signature unnecessarily is a real burden, especially when so much time has already been lost due to the ones that apparently haven’t turned up.
“When they finally acknowledged receipt of one of the copies they have refused to accept this as authority – it appears to me they are suggesting that we could forge a copy but not an original. In today’s world of email copies and scanning documents is that the real concern?”
A spokesperson for Hargreaves Lansdown said: “A letter of authority is an important document which gives an adviser access to client information, therefore to protect our client’s data we require an original signature.”
Mr Palfrey said he found it strange that a business like Hargreaves Lansdown would make it difficult for financial advisers to obtain information on a prospect’s policies when an authority form is sent in.
“If a client asks a planner to review their overall position then we need information and, in the main, providers accept faxes or copies of a client’s signature – but not Hargreaves Lansdown.
“My real concern is why do they have to be different to the market – we don’t have these problems with Phoenix, Aviva, Standard Life and many others.”
The Financial Conduct Authority told FTAdviser this would be a decision for individual providers and not something it would specifically regulate.