It is difficult to say with any degree of certainty whether an adviser should or should not list themselves on various direct-to-consumer adviser directories, such as Unbiased and VouchedFor.
Any website that helps the consumer gain access to good independent financial advice is something that should be applauded.
In the age of online scams it is good to know there are platforms available that will endeavour to connect a consumer with a need to a professional who possesses the required knowledge in that area.
Every advice company has a slightly different business model, and so whether they should market themselves on these platforms will depend on whether they are a team of advisers who need a regular supply of leads – most established advisers do not but there may be companies that need to look at different marketing opportunities in order to keep teams busy.
Directories can also be a very useful tool for new advisers who might not yet have built up a big enough client bank.
As is well known, the bigger and more mature a client bank is, the more self-sufficient the adviser becomes.
We used Unbiased in the past and initially our experience was very positive.
We joined at the start of 2016 and 12 months later we had seen a significant return on our investment, generating income that was well over 10 times our investment outlay.
This continued through 2017, albeit at a slightly reduced rate. From 2018 we began to see a deterioration in the quality of the enquiries that were coming through.
We persevered but there did not seem to be a material improvement in the enquiries coming through, which, coupled with increasing costs and over-complicating the process, led us to cancel our subscription six months ago.
Unbiased increased the cost of enquires and tokens to £45 in 2019 and introduced a new subscription service in 2020, which offered advisers four options, suitable for companies at different stages of their development.
But I think where Unbiased went wrong was a general dumbing down of the enquiries being made.
More often than not the information we received via the website was of such poor quality as to make the purchasing of the lead academic.
For what is for all intents and purposes a technology website, they should have been able to stop pointless and unrealistic enquiries from coming through, thereby saving time and effort on everyone’s part.
Unbiased did offer a future credit for such enquiries, but that in isolation was never enough to keep us engaged with the platform.
I do think there is a place for directories such as these, but I would like to see them changed significantly in order to ensure the enquiries are of sufficient quality to justify staying alert to enquiry notifications as well as the financial outlay.