The shopper, aged 32, has left her full-time job after 10 years and begun a new role as an IT contractor. She is no longer eligible for an occupational pension under her contract, and wants to know how to go about setting up a personal 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: BlacklerSnelling Financial Planning (independent)
Address: 5 South Street, Cornwall, St. Austell, PL25 5BH
Speed of response: At 10:29am, the shopper was connected to the switchboard after three rings. The shopper answered a few basic questions and waited another 40 seconds to speak to an adviser. 3/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was friendly. 4/5
Relevant qualifications: Level four Dip PFS. 4/5
Payment method: The adviser quoted a fee of £595. 5/5
Guidance: The adviser said he would need more details and suggested meeting face-to-face to understand the shopper’s objectives. 3/5
Knowledge: The adviser demonstrated an adequate knowledge of pensions. 3/5
Email: email@example.com. 5/5
Verdict: This adviser was helpful and answered the shopper’s questions.
Adviser: Aspire Financial Management (independent)
Address: 3 Wood Drive, St Mellion, Cornwall, PL12 6UR
Speed of response: 10:52am. The shopper was connected to an adviser after eight rings. 3/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was friendly throughout most of the call, but appeared a bit impatient at times. 3/5
Relevant qualifications: Level six chartered financial planner. 5/5
Payment method: The adviser said £500 will be charged in total throughout the first year. 5/5
Guidance: The adviser said the shopper will be required to do an investment questionnaire to find out what the shopper is trying to achieve. While the adviser did not give any recommendations over the phone, he provided more general details on personal pensions and tax relief. The adviser warned the shopper that pension savings cannot be accessed before the age of 55, and the shopper should think carefully of how much to contribute each month. 5/5
Knowledge: The adviser offered a great level of knowledge on personal pensions. 5/5
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 5/5
Verdict: Shopper’s choice. This adviser stood out the most to the shopper as he not only suggested a face-to-face meeting and asked for more details on her situation, but also highlighted some of the downsides of personal pensions.