Mystery Shopper  

Mystery Shopper: Brighton

Mystery Shopper: Brighton

This week the shopper visits Brighton. 

The shopper has been out of work and wants to know how divorce will impact her defined contribution pension pot of £35,000; specifically, whether it is more tax-efficient for her husband to transfer some of his pension to her, voluntarily contribute to her pot out of their combined savings, or whether she should invest some of the savings in an Isa.

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: North Laine Financial Management (Independent)

Address: West Wing, 47 Old Steine, Brighton BN1 1NW 

Speed: At 1pm a paraplanner answered the phone immediately. 5/5

Telephone manner: Friendly and professional. 5/5

Qualifications: Paraplanner, not an adviser. 4/5

Payment method: A minimum 1 per cent fee a year when dealing with assets in a pension, with a minimum pot of £100,000. He suggested it would not be cost-efficient to go ahead with advice as the cost would considerably eat into her savings. 5/5 

Guidance: The shopper was told she would be advised by a qualified adviser. She was told to seek a solicitor's advice first, to determine a pension sharing order and any other required financial assessment. 4/5

Knowledge: He explained an adviser can help facilitate the transfer of assets following an order agreed in court and that it was best to deal with financial affairs after the divorce. He noted that a pension sharing order can take up to two years and even if the couple agreed to split assets amicably it must be approved in the courts first. 5/5


Email: The paraplanner offered the general enquiries email: 4/5

Verdict: The paraplanner was friendly and professional and wanted to give the shopper an honest explanation of the cost versus the service they offer. The shopper's overall pension and savings value did not qualify her for advice.

Score: 32/35


Adviser: Flying Colours (Independent)

Address: Telecom House, 125-135 Preston Road, Brighton BN1 6AF

Speed: The shopper was connected to a client liaison within seconds. 5/5

Telephone manner: Friendly and professional. 5/5

Qualifications: Client coordinator, did not specify qualification. 3/5

Payment method: Minimum cost is £1,000, a fee out of the overall pot value, which he said would not be very cost-effective for the shopper given her circumstances. 5/5

Guidance: The shopper was told that she would have to go through a client coordinator first before speaking to an adviser. There would be consultation with an adviser, either face-to-face or over the phone, who had access to the whole of the market. Following the advice, there would be an annual review. 3/5