Warning of 'highly disparate' advice service

Warning of 'highly disparate' advice service

Advisers have been warned of "highly disparate" levels of service after it emerged a quarter of clients claimed they had not heard from their adviser during the recent market downturn.  

The latest advice report published by researcher Boring Money found satisfaction levels remained high among advised clients, with 90 per cent saying they were pleased with their adviser, but levels of service were not equal across the market.

The report included a survey of 6,520 adults, an online survey of 2,000 fund investors and detailed insights from 316 investors who either invest through a DIY platform or have a financial adviser.

It found only 9 per cent of British adults had a financial adviser, with half of those that did aged over 65 years old. 

Of the advised customers 26 per cent claimed they had not been contacted by their adviser since the coronavirus lockdown began in March, including during the significant market downturn of recent months.  

Holly Mackay, managing director of Boring Money, warned the results were a "tale of two cities". 

She said: "There are firms which have embraced technology and got clients set up online, able to see valuations, make top-ups and access content - and there are those which are still largely paper-based.

"If you are a client getting valuations from a quarterly paper statement, this exacerbates the sudden shock and also keeps you out of the loop on any recovery.

"Nerves will be on edge and you will need reassurance. Obviously there will be more demand for phone calls and contact from these customers."

Markets endured weeks of turmoil in March as countries closed borders and imposed lockdowns in a bid to stop the spread of the coronavirus and curb its death toll. 

Ms Mackay warned those who had not received any contact may be questioning the value they get from advice, with some clients reporting their adviser had not sent a single email during the downturn. 

Ms Mackay added: "I think it’s also really important to reiterate what people value from their financial adviser. It’s not technical stuff or trailblazing modelling or amazingly clever portfolio management.

"It’s trust, communication and engagement, reassurance and dialogue."

Under normal circumstances rules under Mifid II require advisers to inform a client, before the end of that business day, if their portfolio has dropped by 10 per cent or more compared to its valuation at the beginning of the quarterly reporting period.

But the FCA moved to relax this requirement in April by allowing a more flexible approach until later this year, in response to warnings the rule was adding to "workload pressure and anxiety" in a market hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.  

One advised client told Boring Money they had requested specific advice from their adviser in a face-to-face meeting at the beginning of March, and had not heard anything since.