Pensions  

Angry advisers tally cost of provider service failures

Angry advisers tally cost of provider service failures

Advisers are losing money as a result of ever worsening customer service standards at providers across the board, they have said.

Their gripes involve long waiting times at provider helplines and client documents being returned incomplete or flawed.

A number of providers, such as Aegon and Aviva, have had major issues with replatforming in recent months, which caused severe disruption for advisers and their clients, and hour-long call waiting times for some.

The episodes led to both providers pledging they will compensate clients for any money lost.

But others have suffered problems too. One of Prudential’s customer service teams experienced an outage last week, which created a backlog of calls and led to the insurer asking advisers to call back the helpline the following week.

Paul Stocks, financial services director at Doncaster-based Dobson & Hodge, who was affected by the outage after he tried to contact Prudential for a valuation of a client’s pension plan, said it was just the latest in a string of problems, which ultimately cost him time and money.

He said: “Service levels are slipping across the board. At many providers the service standards are getting to the point where it’s just ridiculous.

“Significant volumes of our work is taking longer because providers don’t have the resources to turn stuff around.”

He said the situation gets exacerbated when information comes back incomplete or wrong and prompts another call, which again eats into an adviser’s time.

Prudential said its service levels and standards “are currently operating to plan”, though the provider had a particularly busy April and May when volumes pushed out the servicing times. All this has now been rectified, it said.

Scott Gallacher, of Rowley Turton Private Wealth Management, said the cost to his business from lacking provider services was “huge”.

He also felt more and more work was being pushed onto advisers as providers digitised their services.

He said: “They have shifted a lot of their admin work on the adviser but then at the same time they have slashed their support.

“The service standards from the mainstream providers is terrible. Essentially we are losing a lot of time, that means we are losing money and you end up with exasperated clients so that must mean over time you lose the odd client also.”

Martin Bamford of Informed Choice Financial Planning said he deals with Aviva from time-to-time to gather information on legacy products for clients. 

“Their service standards are appalling, with incredibly long waiting times to answer the telephone or respond to written enquiries,” he said.

An Aviva spokesperson said: “We always try to resolve queries from advisers as quickly as possible. There are occasions when call-waiting times can be longer but we need to ensure each adviser receives the appropriate amount of time to have their questions answered."

Responding to its digitalisation drive, Aviva said: “The use of digital to help advisers resolve their queries is important as it means advisers can interact with us when it suits them best and helps them provide a cost-effective service to their clients.”