This week, the mystery shopper visits Sheffield.
The shopper is a freelance make-up artist. She usually earns around £9 per hour and works at retail stores for differing days each week. Because she is self-employed, she does not get a pension. She is exploring whether to invest in a self-invested personal pension or what her other options are, and is willing to contribute around £100 a month towards her pension.
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.
Adviser: The Money Map (independent)
Address: The Money Map, Unit 3, Twelve O'Clock Court, 21 Attercliffe Road, Sheffield, S4 7WW
Speed of response: 15:49. The shopper was transferred to an adviser immediately. 5/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was in no hurry to get off the phone and was friendly. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: Level 4 Dip PFS. 5/5
Payment method: The first meeting is free of charge. A 3 per cent fee will be levied for the initial pensions investment and a 0.75 per cent ongoing fee charge to manage the pension. The adviser said the 0.75 per cent fee charge is negotiable. 5/5
Guidance: The adviser said it would be better to remain self-employed as a sole trader rather than the shopper starting a company up for the purposes of getting a better pension. He said Sipps and personal pension plans have both disadvantages and benefits. He advised it may be better to stick with a personal pension due to its lower costs. 4/5
Knowledge: The adviser demonstrated an above adequate knowledge of both Sipps and self-employment rules. 4/5
Email: email@example.com 5/5
Verdict: The shopper thought this adviser was most helpful as he gave full transparency on fees, advised which product would suit the shopper’s self-employed status best and gave the shopper good reasons as to why she should invest in certain plans (Shopper's choice).
Adviser: The Pension Planner (independent)
Address: The Pension Planner, Courtwood House, Silver Street Head, Sheffield, S1 2DD
Speed of response: 16:26. The shopper is transferred to a receptionist after two rings, has to answer questions and then is transferred to a member of staff after two rings. 3/5
Telephone manner: The member of staff is polite and only discusses other options once all questions have been answered. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: The member said he was the manager of the team and not a financial adviser. He said he has previously given advice and worked in the industry but holds no qualifications. 1/5