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 Leeds. She is a 37-year-old insurance broking account executive with a £45,000-a-year salary. She has about £25,000 in savings and wants to make a tax-free investment. She has two children who will soon going to secondary school and she wants to put money away that could become useful to them when they are older.
Adviser (restricted): Tilney BestInvest
Address: 3rd floor, City Point, 29 King Street, Leeds, LS1 2HL (The shopper spoke to a new business representative in Liverpool.)
Speed (time of call): 12.20pm. One ring then connected to the new business team in Liverpool. 4/5
Telephone manner: Polite and friendly. 5/5
Key qualifications: Not a qualified adviser. Part of the new business team. 3/5
Payment method: After application, there is a typical annual charge of 0.4 per cent. 5/5
Guidance: The new business team rep told the shopper her options ranged from a general investment account, an Isa or a Sipp. With Isas and general investments, the money is more readily available; the Isa is more tax-efficient. He said the best option would be an Isa, especially as she wants to invest for the long term. The process could be done by email and via the web. Only when asked about the product did he explain about the restricted nature of the advice, saying the Isa was a Tilney product. 3/5
Knowledge: The rep could only recommend Tilney’s product because of the amount she wanted to invest. 3/5
Email: email@example.com 5/5
Verdict: The rep sounded knowledgeable,but for the level of investment the shopper had he was restricted to recommending Tilney’s own product, so the shopper was not able to compare it with other products on the market.
Adviser (independent): Integral Financial Planning
Address: 1 Aire St, Leeds, LS1 4PR
Speed (time of call): 12.46pm. One ring then put through to an adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Fairly helpful. 3/5
Key qualifications: DipFS – Personal Finance Society diploma. 5/5
Payment method: The fee would depend on whether the adviser was able to help the shopper. 3/5
Guidance: The adviser wanted to arrange a meeting with the shopper, but when she pressed a bit further he was able to provide her with a broad idea of her options. She was told that the starting point would be to look at stocks and shares options, while taking her end goal into consideration. She was told stocks and shares Isas are tax-free. The longer the period of investment, the riskier it is. He also explained that, in the long-term, cash Isas would be worth less, because of inflation. 4/5
Knowledge: The adviser seemed knowledgeable. He was keen to arrange a meeting to discuss her options in detail, but when she asked he offered more information over the phone. 4/5