This week, the mystery shopper visits Leicester.
The shopper has an annual salary of £49,000. She is wondering whether she is better off after the Budget 2018, in which it was announced the higher rate threshold for taxation has increased to £50,000, but she also has to pay higher national insurance contributions under the lower tax bracket.
She is exploring whether she can now afford to take out a protection policy.
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: TM Asset Management (independent)
Address: West Walk Building, 110 Regent Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 7LT
Speed of response: 15.44pm. The shopper is transferred to an adviser immediately. 5/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was cheerful and friendly. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: Level 6 Chartered Financial Planner. 5/5
Payment method: The adviser said the shopper would be given a free 45-minute consultation. He said it is likely the provider would cover the commission fees , but was unable to say whether the shopper would be charged something additional. 2/5
Guidance: The adviser said a full cover policy may be too expensive for the shopper who is trying to reduce her costs. He said it may make more sense for the shopper to take out a two-year plan, which would usually be substantially cheaper and priced within the £10-20 a month range. He said critical illness cover is usually the best option as, according to him, should the shopper fall ill, the cover is likely to include one of those illnesses. 5/5
Knowledge: The adviser demonstrated good knowledge of the various national insurance tax brackets as well as of different types of cover and their consequences. 5/5
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 5/5
Verdict: The adviser was helpful and gave good protection advice, but the shopper would have liked a bit more clarity on fees.
Adviser: Fairstone Financial Management (independent)
Address: 35 Leicester Road, Blaby, Leicester, LE8 4GR
Speed of response: 16.05pm. The shopper is immediately transferred to a trainee adviser. 5/5
Telephone manner: The trainee was friendly and polite. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: The trainee is not a qualified adviser yet and is currently completing the rest of the Level 4 DipPFS qualification. 2/5
Payment method: The shopper would not be charged anything, as the provider will pay the advice firm the commission. Additional transactions may be charged. 5/5
Guidance: The trainee was not able to provide any clarity on national insurance tax bands. He spoke about different protection products, but said he could not advise which one would be most appropriate. 2/5