Five steps to finding a good financial adviser
Finding an independent financial adviser you can trust goes a long way to helping you get to grips with financial decisions.
So make sure you know what to look for with our five-step process:
One: Be clear what you're looking for. For example, is it specialist investment advice or more general financial planning? This will help you narrow down the advisers you might use, because advisers tend to specialise in different areas as they develop their career.
Two: Look for advisers using sites such as unbiased.co.uk. You can search for one based on locality, gender, qualifications or even specialist areas. Also ask friends and family for their recommendations.
If you want quick advice on a topic with the opportunity to call for more specific advice too, try ifa.net.
Four: Talk to prospective advisers. Find out what type of adviser they are, how they are remunerated, what qualifications they hold and how much they may charge.
Five: Finally, ensure you both like and trust them. IFAs can help you through some difficult life stages like bereavement or divorce, so it's essential you get along.
What to do if you have a problem with your adviser:
One: Complain to the adviser in writing Write 'complaint' clearly at the top and be brief and to the point. Remember to include details such as policy numbers. Explain your grievance and what you want to happen. Keep copies of everything you send.
Two: Get help from the ombudsman If you're not satisfied with the response, go to the Financial Ombudsman Service, the independent body whose job it is to help settle disputes. If it finds in your favour it can tell the business to put you back in the position you would have been had the problem not occurred, pay you compensation for inconvenience, and direct the firm to take action to put right what has gone wrong, or simply apologise.
Three: Need more help? In the vast majority of cases, the businesses concerned will comply with the ruling made by the Ombudsman. In the case of a rare exception, you can take the case to court. You can also go to court if the Ombudsman finds in favour of the adviser. However, a court is likely to reach the same decision.
A financial adviser who is not tied to any financial services company (such as a bank or insurance company) and is authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA). They can advise on financial products to suit your circumstances. All IFAs have to give consumers the choice of paying by fees or commission and have to explain which would best suit the customer in that particular instance. Also, if commission is paid either by the client or the financial service provider recommended by the IFA, the IFA must disclose what that commission is.
The Financial Services Authority is an independent non-governmental body, given a wide range of rule-making, investigatory and enforcement powers in order to meet its four statutory objectives: market confidence (maintaining confidence in the UK financial system), financial stability, consumer protection and the reduction of financial crime. The FSA receives no government funding and is funded entirely by the firms it regulates, but is accountable to the Treasury and, ultimately, parliament.
If you’ve have a complaint about a financial service product you have bought but the company you bought it from refuses to resolve your problem after eight weeks, the Ombudsman can help. The Ombudsman will investigate and resolve the matter. The Ombudsman is independent and its service is free to consumers. The Ombudsman may find in the company’s favour but consumers don’t have accept its decision and are always free to go to court instead. But if they do accept an Ombudsman’s decision, it is binding both on them and on the business.