Advisers have said they are battling a declining level of service from providers, which leaves them scrambling for answers from “faceless” companies, often resulting in frustrated clients and lengthy delays.
Their gripes include blunders that leave the adviser looking incompetent or as if they are “passing the buck” in front of the clients, and call centre staff with insufficient knowledge to deal with problems effectively.
Advisers pinned the blame on a falling number of “reps” who can develop a relationship with them. While advisers attributed this to cost cutting, providers said this was due to the rising use of technology.
Julian Pruggmayer, director at Financial Risk Management, said: “This industry is a complete mess and it does not seem to be getting any better. It seems some providers do not even want to do business with IFAs anymore.
“There’s been a drastic decline over the past 10 years, and it’s really because the amount of business we’re generating is shrinking.”
Paul Gibson, director at Granite Financial Planning, agreed service standards from providers had slipped, adding: “The service from large providers seemed to deteriorate every year. If you are not giving a firm new business, they generally are not interested in you.”
He said it was a battle to get information from certain providers as call centre staff had insufficient knowledge of products and that while he tried to manage client expectations, the time delay spent on queries was understandably frustrating for them.
Mr Pruggmayer said he was currently struggling with two providers over issues for his clients which stemmed from miscommunication or poor service.
With one major life company Mr Pruggmayer had sent a letter of authority to the firm — which held the client’s pensions — but the company said it could not find a trace of the client within its system.
Elsewhere, a provider had taken 22 days to respond to Mr Pruggmayer to tell him they required information which had previously been sent over two pages in a single page, adding more than three weeks onto what should have been a simple transaction.
Alan Lakey — who recently battled with Aviva after it subjected a client to lengthy delays and falsely assumed he did not hold the correct regulatory permissions to arrange a pension switch — said trying to get through to some companies was “extremely slow and irritating”.
He added: “Many clients cannot believe the poor levels of service and I am sure that many think we are at fault and are trying to pass the buck. The reliance on online systems that frequently do not work is one of the prime causes.”
Advisers struggling with poor service from providers is nothing new. Back in 2018 advisers were complaining of long waiting times and incomplete client documents, arguing they were losing money as a result of ever worsening customer service standards.
Blunders from Aviva included leaving an IFA out of pocket and then taking weeks to respond to his queries as well as taking too long to resolve a pension error which meant a client’s pension payments were not processed correctly.