Mystery Shopper: Oxford

This week the shopper visits the internationally famous University town Oxford. With £30,000 to spare in equity from the sale of his father’s company, the shopper needs to know if a managed fund investment portfolio or a tracker fund is best, and what are the benefits and pitfalls of both, and if there other options that will make more money?  

Each week the mystery shopper seeks advice from independent and tied 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. 

Herbert & Webster

(Independent Adviser)

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John Eccles House, Oxford Science Park, Robert Robinson Avenue, Oxfordshire, OX4 4GP

Speed of response (time of call) 3.50pm. Answered after two rings. 5/5

Telephone manner Very friendly, knowledgeable and professional. 5/5

Relevant qualifications Level four diploma 5/5

Payment method Four per cent for full advice plus 1.4 per cent for ongoing advice. Also 'robo-advice' was offered through the Vanguard platform at 0.9 per cent. 5/5

Guidance given  The adviser explained that tracker funds were “lower costing” and would “replicate what their index is” but that actively managed funds would attract a higher fee as they involved supervision. The shopper might be more comfortable with the Vanguard LifeStrategy offering the adviser suggested and he then explained in detail and made sure the shopper knew that this was an online platform offering that would not involve an active adviser. 5/5

Knowledge Very good, as the adviser was quick to offer a workable alternative. 5/5

Email/web 5/5


The shopper was impressed with the solution the adviser recommended, however, he was urged to look on the company website and told product information was “coming soon”. 

Total Score 35/35  


Focus Oxford LLP

(Independent Adviser) 

Seacourt Tower, West Way, Oxford, OX2 0JL

Speed of response 2.45pm. Answered after five rings. Then put on hold by receptionist who “went to talk” to an unnamed partner/adviser that was in a group meeting. 5/5

Telephone manner Polite but very unhelpful. 2/5

Relevant qualifications Impossible to tell as shopper was not put through to an adviser to check. Although, on researching the website, all partners are qualified at level four diploma and above. 3/5

Payment method Not specified 0/5 

Guidance given The shopper was told that “all the partners were in a meeting” by a woman who at first, described herself as a “receptionist” and a few seconds later as “dealing with insurance” for the firm. No callback was offered by either the receptionist or the partner for further details. The shopper was then told by the receptionist/insurance handler that the answer had come back from the partners – who had been interrupted in their meeting – and the advice was to “go to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau” or consult the shopper’s own bank. 2/5

Knowledge Unless you count being told to go to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or consult you bank manager – very little given. 1/5

Email/web presence

No email given. 3/5 


As the shopper made it clear at the outset that he was a “personal investor” the response by the company – even if busy – was not appreciated. 

Total Score 16/35


Nigel Grice & Associates 

(Independent Adviser)

Charterford House, 75 London Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9AA

Speed of response (time of call) 5.18pm. Answered after two rings. Five second wait and transferred to principal/owner 5/5