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
Knowledge: The adviser demonstrated an adequate knowledge of life assurance. 3/5
Email: email@example.com 5/5
Verdict: The shopper felt the adviser sounded a bit curt but gave sufficient information to the shopper.
Adviser: Lighthouse Financial Initiatives (independent)
Address: 25 Belsize Crescent, London, NW3 5Q
Speed of response: At 12:18 the shopper was transferred to the switchboard after two rings and then was connected to an adviser after two rings. 4/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was extremely enthusiastic and friendly. 5/5
Relevant qualifications: Level 6 Chartered Financial Planner. 5/5
Payment method: The adviser said the shopper had a choice of paying roughly £2000 as an upfront fee to the adviser or higher premiums through commission paid by the provider. 5/5
Guidance: The adviser flagged up a few points which the others did not. He told the shopper that passing the house on to children independent of the life assurance policy was not a feasible option unless the shopper is prepared to pay rent to the new owners (that is, the children) or move out of the property. He also warned of the seven year rule that the property would still be taxed as part of her estate if it is given away less than seven years after the death. He said the whole of life policy may be best as it is the only one that would guarantee the IHT liabilities would be paid. 5/5
Knowledge: The adviser demonstrated outstanding knowledge of IHT and wider regulations surrounding inheritance and of protection products. 5/5
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The adviser gave a generic email address and kept asking for the shopper’s email address so he could email her and share contact details that way instead 5/5
Verdict: This adviser at Lighthouse Financial Incentives appeared most helpful to the shopper. He was enthusiastic, gave the most detailed information over the phone, and of the consequences if the shopper doesn’t take out a life assurance policy and opts for gifting the flat instead. He also openly spoke about fees without having to be prompted to do so (Shopper’s choice).
Adviser: Gale & Phillipson (independent)
Address: Railway House, 1 Whittlebury Mews East, Greater London, London, NW1 8EQ
Speed of response: 12:42. The shopper is connected straight away to an IFA directly, albeit after four rings. 5/5
Telephone manner: The adviser was polite. 4/5
Relevant qualifications:Level 4 Dip PFS. 5/5
Payment method: The adviser said the shopper will have to choose which payment method works best and said the upfront fee could cost around £3,000. 4/5
Guidance: The adviser said to check whether the shopper gets life assurance with her current work employer and depending and to adjust the amount of cover she should purchase with the life assurance policy. He said the rest depends on whether the shopper wants to pay less for a fixed term policy or purchase a Whole of Life policy. 4/5
Knowledge: The adviser appeared to have a sound understanding and awareness of life assurance. 5/5
Email: email@example.com. 5/5
Verdict: The shopper found this adviser helpful as he gave a very useful tip to check what she already gets to reduce the cost of her policy.