Each week the mystery shopper seeks advice from independent advisers in the UK. The aim is to find out whether advisers are delivering the goods when it comes to the all-important initial telephone contact between client and adviser. It is only intended to evaluate this first interview, and it is understood that further meetings would be necessary before final decisions could be made. The purpose is not to expose poor selling practices, but to show constructively any weaknesses in the advice process.
This week, the mystery shopper visits Cheshire. The shopper wants advice on getting on a private pensions scheme. She is 27, unmarried and started contributing to her company’s pension scheme about five months ago. She has no outstanding loan, debt or mortgage.
Adviser: Arrow Financial Services (independent)
Address: 1 Grey Friars, Chester CH1 2NW
Speed of response: 12pm. One ring and put through to the adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Helpful and friendly. 5/5
Key qualifications: PFS Fellowship (CII). 5/5
Payment method: Fee would depend on work done or commission from the provider. 5/5
Guidance given: The adviser told the shopper to enquire first with her employer that if she increased her contributions they would match it. If they are not willing match it, then a meeting can be arranged between the shopper and the adviser. The shopper was advised that, in some cases, a workplace pension might be more beneficial to her, but this would also depend on details of the scheme. 5/5
Knowledge: The adviser seemed quite knowledgeable to the shopper, as he also broadly explained to her the benefits of both a workplace and private pension. 5/5
Email: email@example.com 5/5
Verdict: Shopper’s Choice. The shopper felt that the adviser was clued up on the topic. She liked that he impressed upon her to check whether her employer would match an increase in her contributions.
Adviser: Burton Financial Services (independent)
Address: Burton House, 2 Church Terrace, Handforth, Wilmslow SK9 3LW
Speed of response: 12.10pm. One ring and put through to the adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Polite and friendly. 5/5
Key qualifications: DipFA. 5/5
Payment method: Minimum fee of around £750 to set up new business, but this is only a guesstimate figure. 4/5
Guidance given: The shopper has been advised to contact her existing company to see if she can pay more into her workplace pension. After she has ascertained that information, a meeting can then be arranged to work out what her options are for a private pension. 4/5
Knowledge: The adviser displayed a strong knowledge in the topic area. 5/5
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 5/5
Verdict: The adviser provided a helpful overview on the topic, but the shopper would have liked a bit more detail.
Adviser: Phillip Bates and Co Financial Services (independent)
Address: 5 Chester Road, Neston CH64 9PA
Speed of response: 12.30pm. One ring and put through to the adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Friendly. 5/5
Key qualifications: Diploma qualified but not specific about what type. 4/5
Payment method: Normally a flat fee of £295 but this depends on the product chosen. 4/5
Guidance given: The shopper was advised to speak with her employer, as it is highly likely that being a large, well-known communications firm they will be able to match her contributions if she increases what she is paying into the scheme. The adviser told the shopper that if and when they have a meeting, she would need to bring detailed information about the scheme she is on. 4/5