Consumer campaign group Which has claimed to have uncovered transparency failings at St James’s Place.
An undercover investigation by Which – involving 12 meetings with advisers from SJP – also found potential customers were being misled about the nature of their service.
In the latest issue of Which magazine, the consumer group revealed it approached 12 arbitrarily chosen SJP advisers, said it was looking for independent financial advice, asked how much it would cost and what they would get in return.
Which claimed that four of these advisers “failed to talk in detail about the likely costs” of advice.
Where advisers did provide information, Which found discrepancies with some advisers saying there were initial charges of 4.5 per cent while others said it was 5 per cent.
Which stated: “On top of that, SJP levies annual fees, which pay for both the advice and the cost of the investments it recommends.
“Only seven of the 12 advisers mentioned these – and their estimates ranged from 1.25 per cent to 2.3 per cent– a difference of £525 a year on a £50,000 investment.
“There are legitimate reasons why costs might vary – SJP’s recommended funds have different charges, so the actual fees will depend on which funds you end up with.
“But we found that even where SJP did disclose these charges, estimates tended to be on the low side.”
Which also found that one in four of the SJP advisers its investigators met didn’t explain whether they offered restricted or independent advice, despite the initial inquiry being for the latter.
David Bellamy, chief executive of SJP, said: “St James’s Place offers high quality, face to face, financial advice, evidenced by 98 per cent of clients who said our services represent reasonable, good or excellent value-for-money – with 81 per cent good or excellent.
“Our advisers are committed to putting clients’ interests first and we will continue to provide the excellent service to clients that has underpinned our growth over the past 25 years.”