Mystery Shopper  

Mystery Shopper: County Durham

Mystery Shopper: County Durham

This week, the mystery shopper visits the county of Durham. 

The shopper has held a cash Isa since 2014 that is giving her low returns. She recently inherited £50,000 that she would like to use to buy a house within the next seven years. The shopper is considering what options are available to her to earn higher returns on the money.

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: Sterling Trust Professional (North East) (Independent) 

Address: 12 Parsons Court, Newton Aycliffe, DL5 6ZE

Speed of response: The shopper was connected to the switchboard first at 12:40pm, answered a few questions and then, after six rings, was connected to an adviser. 3/5

Telephone manner: The adviser was friendly throughout most of the call, but curt in his responses at some other points. 3/5

Relevant qualifications: Level four Dip PFS. 5/5 

Payment method: The adviser quoted a minimum advice fee of £750. 4/5

Guidance: The adviser said he would get another adviser who looks more closely at Isas to call the shopper back. But he said it would make more sense for the shopper to keep her money in a cash Isa, given she may need access to her money in a timeframe as short as two years. 4/5

Knowledge: The adviser demonstrated good knowledge of investing. 4/5


Email: The adviser had to be prompted a little to give his email. 4/5

Verdict: The adviser gave straightforward answers and was helpful. 



Adviser: Three Counties (Independent)

Address: Hedworths One, Bowes Offices, Lambton Park Estate, Bournmoor, County Durham, DH3 4AN

Speed of response: At 12:52pm the shopper was connected to the switchboard after two rings, and after two more rings to the adviser. 5/5

Telephone manner: The adviser was extremely talkative and friendly. 5/5

Relevant qualifications: Level four Dip PFS. 5/5

Payment method: The adviser said the first meeting was free of charge, and no fee may be charged depending on whether or not the shopper opted for a cash Isa. He said the company would be happy to help even if that was the case. 5/5

Guidance: The adviser said it was definitely worth meeting up even if the shopper wants to just stay saving into a cash Isa. The adviser also suggested that the shopper looks at Lifetime Isas, Junior Isas or even fixed deposit accounts to ensure that the shopper has liquidity to access cash if she needs it soon, but earns better interest than she is currently earning. 5/5