Firing line  

Why I'm setting up an emergency financial advice service

“People might be worried about getting their financial affairs in order if they were to catch the virus.”

Practical help

He acknowledges there are some similar advice lines and telephone services available to individuals, including the government’s Pension Wise service, which offers specialist pension guidance over the phone to the over 50s.

But he says emergencyfinancialadvice.org differs from Pension Wise by providing direct access to advisers who can go on to recommend a solution should the individual wish to move into advice.

“I think what a financial adviser can do is really get to the heart of the matter more quickly,” he says.

Mr Burrows adds: “Pension Wise is brilliant and the quality of the people managing the telephone lines is amazing.

“With Pension Wise people can go through quite a long process, but at the end of it they’re still on their own.

“We’re saying that if you talk to an adviser first, at least an adviser is able to help you in a more practical way if need be.”

Asked whether he can see the Emergency Financial Advice website and phone line remaining once the current crisis has passed, Mr Burrows says that, for now, they want to keep it “simple and focused”.

He adds: “We want to address the current financial crisis. We’ll just review it as it goes along.”

Value of advice

He warns that individuals over the age of 50 face making potentially poor decisions as a result of behavioural biases if they are left to follow their instincts.

“When markets are doing well – when people can just dip into their pension pots – it’s understandable why people think they can make their own decisions,” he points out.

“But as we all know, converting a pension pot into cash and income, or thinking about long-term care, are some of the most difficult questions in personal finance.

“People owe it to themselves to try and make the right decisions. When things go wrong, the value of advice is really more apparent.”

He says that the advice industry has responded to the current financial crisis by spending more time communicating with existing clients.

“I think the really important thing – and certainly the advice that I’m giving my clients – is that it doesn’t make sense to make wholesale changes to your investment portfolios at the moment,” he notes.

“But as and when the markets improve, we should start derisking and building up more cash or low-risk buffers, so if this ever happens again people have got the comfort of knowing they have a proportion of their funds that won’t be affected.”