This week the shopper visits Camden. She is a single 45-year old parent who owns a house valued at £4m in Swiss Cottage.
She has two children who are non-UK residents and the shopper is looking to take out a life assurance policy that would cover inheritance tax liabilities should she pass away.
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: Facts & Figures Chartered Financial Planners (independent)
Address: The Podium, 1 Eversholt Street, London, NW1 2DN
Speed of response: The shopper is transferred to a switchboard at 11:44 after two rings, then asked for her name and purpose of call and then was transferred to an adviser after two rings. 4/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was friendly. 4/5
Relevant qualifications: CeMap, Level 6 Chartered Financial Planner. 5/5
Payment method: The adviser said she could not give any rough estimate on what the prices may be. She said the shopper could choose whether to pay lower premiums and an upfront fee to the adviser, or higher premiums and a percentage fee paid by the provider to the adviser. 2/5
Guidance: The adviser said that a face-to-face meeting would be required to assess the full situation. She said typically the shopper would have to choose between a Whole of Life plan and a fixed term policy. She said a fixed term with a renewable policy often works cheaper. 3/5
Knowledge: The adviser demonstrated adequate knowledge of protection policies and the UK regulatory landscape. 3/5
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. 5/5
Verdict: The shopper found this call useful but would have preferred to discuss more detail on the telephone before meeting the adviser.
Adviser: Rose & North (independent)
Address: 142 Gloucester Avenue, Greater London, London, NW1 8JA
Speed of response: 12:02. The shopper waited two rings to be connected to the switchboard, answered short basic questions and then had to wait seven rings to be connected to an adviser. 3/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was a bit curt and appeared unenthusiastic to speak. 2/5
Relevant qualifications: Level 4 Dip PFS. 5/5
Payment method: The adviser said the shopper can either pay up front and a lower premium, or pay a higher premium and no up front fee. The adviser had to be prompted to give more information but he cited an estimate of £2,500-3,500 of fees if the shopper pays the adviser up front. 4/5
Guidance: The adviser said a Whole of Life policy will be very expensive but will guarantee a payout and the shopper may outlive a fixed term policy. He proposed a face-to-face meeting to discuss the finer details. 4/5