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Advisers face uphill struggle in access to client data

Advisers face uphill struggle in access to client data

Advice firms are finding it increasingly difficult to access their clients’ data from providers, with a number of firms making fresh moves to block information requests.

Advisers have raised concerns that providers are placing “additional and unnecessary” delays to the information gathering process for advisers and that the “ultimate burden” falls on the client, who has to wait longer for an advice conclusion or, in some cases, cannot access advice at all.

Peter Chadborn, director at Plan Money, has struggled to access the withdrawal history of his client’s legacy L&G bond as ReAssure — who took over the administration of said bond — has stopped accepting withdrawal history requests.

Mr Chadborn said that without the history, it was “near impossible” to provide advice on the client’s bond.

As clients can withdraw a certain amount from such a bond without any tax implications, Mr Chadborn said he needed to understand the withdrawal history of the bond to calculate whether there was a “knock-on effect” with tax.

He said: “This is everyday, key information that is needed. It’s not like we’re after some obscure or unusual thing, or something that’s not that important.

“This data could change the advice on whether to withdraw it or not, or which way we go about it.”

ReAssure suggested the client look at the historic annual statements for the bond policy or check the bank statements for the account the money was paid into at the time to find out this information.

Mr Chadborn said: “This plan started in 2005. Who keeps bank statements and historic statements that long? They don’t have it, so what does the client do in this situation?

“We now can’t advise them on the policy. No adviser would without knowing the tax implications.”

A spokesperson from ReAssure said withdrawal history requests were “very time consuming”. They added: “As historic information about withdrawals can be found elsewhere, for the benefit of the majority of our customers our teams are focussing on other requests during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“To date we do not believe that this position has proven to be a barrier to advice for our customers.”

ReAssure said they would look to provide the information as soon as practical if it was "impossible" to find elsewhere. Mr Chadborn described the service as “shocking” and a “new low” from providers.

The trend of stopping adviser access to client data is not restricted to older, legacy firms either.

Direct to consumer platform Interactive Investor has recently stopped accepting letters of authority from advisers on behalf of clients.

Martin Bamford, head of client education at Informed Choice, requested data on his client’s self-invested personal pension, held on the Interactive Investor platform, in mid-October to no response.

After chasing, the advice firm was told Interactive Investor was no longer accepting letters of authority from advisers and would only talk to the client instead.