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.
This week the mystery shopper visits Buckinghamshire. The shopper is looking for inheritance tax (IHT) advice on behalf of her aunt who is 75 years old and a widow. She has no children. She has two properties, which combined are worth over £700,000, as well as some cash savings.
Adviser: Richmond House Wealth Management (independent)
Address: Midsummer Court, 314 Midsummer Boulevard, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire MK9 2UB
Speed of response: 10.29am. One ring and put through to the receptionist and then passed on to a department head. 4/5
Telephone manner: Friendly. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: Diploma in financial planning. 5/5
Payment method: Fee would depend on the type of service the adviser undertakes on behalf of aunt. 4/5
Guidance: The adviser said that up to £325,000 of her aunt's estate is not subject to IHT. It is also possible for her to add the nil rate threshold of £325,000 from her late husband’s estate, while some gifts are not subject to IHT. Her aunt’s next course of action would depend on all the information the adviser obtains at the initial meeting. 4/5
Knowledge: Very good. The adviser provided a broad list of options, but he was not clear on why the adviser might charge for other services. 4/5
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 5/5
Verdict: The adviser sounded knowledgeable and was friendly on the phone, but the shopper wanted him to be clearer on some things.
Adviser: Austyn James Consulting (independent)
Address: Metropolitan House, 20 London End, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire HP9 2JH
Speed of response: 10.48am. One ring, spoke to receptionist who then put shopper on hold for about a minute before she was put through to someone. 4/5
Telephone manner: Very friendly. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: Diploma qualification in financial planning. 5/5
Payment method: Different types of fees including hourly rate or commission, but it depends on the service the adviser provides. 3/5
Guidance: Adviser said aunt’s nil rate band is £325,000 and it could be more if she also uses her late husband’s nil rate band, which she is now entitled to. The next process now would be for the adviser to meet the aunt to get more information about her circumstances and work out the best course of action. 5/5
Knowledge: Adviser was quite knowledgeable about IHT. The caller liked the fact that he took the time to give examples of calculations to help her understand better how her aunt’s IHT might be worked out. 5/5
Email: email@example.com 5/5
Verdict: The caller was knowledgeable and was very helpful.
Adviser: Milton Keynes Financial Advice (independent)
Address: Town Hall, Creed St, Wolverton, Milton Keynes MK12 5LY
Speed of response: 11.09am. One ring and put through to the adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: Polite and friendly. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: Diploma in Financial Advice. 5/5