We think this is a good question and one that you could ask yourself about any business, not just Independent Financial Advisers.
Treating Customers Fairly “TCF”, is one of the fundamental business principles laid down by the Financial Conduct Authority who regulate Independent Financial Advisers. There are six primary outcomes which clients can expect from us, which we already list in detail on our website. But, how do you know that we abide by these? Here are some practical examples of how we believe we deliver fair TCF outcomes to our clients:
TCF Outcome 1 – CONFIDENT CONSUMERS – We keep the customer at the heart of all we do.
This is fundamental to our business philosophy and really does define our approach to TCF and starts with one of the most important things that clients can be concerned about – price. Our website already contains clear and transparent information about our pricing structure, as does our Client Fee Agreement of course. We aren’t afraid to tell you what it will cost to you for us to provide you with Financial Advice, but most importantly, in our view, we charge Fixed Fees.
This is a very different charging approach to most Financial Advisor firms in the market, who charge their fees as a percentage of your investment. Our Fixed Fees will vary according to the amount of work we do for you, but NOT according to the amount of money you have, which is why believe that charging Fixed Fees is a clear demonstration of how we Treat Customers Fairly.
For example, we would charge a £6,500 Fixed Fee for a client who we were advising on a Defined Benefit Pension Transfer with no other advice required. Most other firms would charge a percentage fee of between say 3% and 5% (sometimes higher!). On a £250,000 pension that would be between £7,500 and £12,500, but on a £500,000 pension, that fee would be between £15,000 and £25,000. The time spent, and the work required is exactly the same for both pensions (the value doesn’t matter), so how is the higher fee justified?
You can find more information about our Fees and How to Compare on IFAs in our Help Topics section.
It’s not just our charging structure which shows how we keep customers at the heart of what we do, we believe that our website does that as well. As you’ve probably seen, our website is not just a list of our products and services, in fact that’s a fairly concise list. What we’ve tried to do in the website is provide helpful, and hopeful fairly impartial pages about Independent Financial Advisers and how they work. We appreciate that not everyone has dealt with an IFA before and it can seem quite daunting, So, we’ve got lots of helpful information pages including: What is an IFA?, How much does an IFA cost?, How to compare IFAs, and our Help Topics page which covers lots of questions that we have been asked by clients. Please feel free to browse these pages at your leisure.
We hope that our website uses clear and simple language which meets TCF Outcome 3 – CLEAR INFORMATION – All communications are written in plain English.
One of the things we very rarely do either, is chase up your enquiry after we’ve spoken to you. Our philosophy has always been to let clients decide themselves. We are professional Independent Financial Advisers, not sales people. As we say on the website, you are provided with Advice and potentially Recommendations, you are NOT sold products. This is a key part of TCF Outcome 4 – ADVICE IS SUITABLE.
TCF Outcome 1 – CONFIDENT CONSUMERS – We ask our customers for feedback – and – TCF Outcome 3 – CLEAR INFORMATION – We ask our customers for feedback on our service – and – TCF Outcome 4 – ADVICE IS SUITABLE – We ask our customers for feedback – and – TCF Outcome 5 – MEETING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS – We ask our customers for feedback.
You get the idea! Asking customers for feedback is an integral part of all aspects of TCF, because it allows a firm to gauge how well they are performing in meeting client expectations, both in terms of advice and service. Don’t forget, negative feedback is just as important as positive feedback, because it allows a firm to learn from its mistakes and address this through training.
Do we love feedback! Christina herself now has over 100 verified Client Reviews on the Vouched For website, that’s almost twice as many as any other Financial Adviser in the Burnley, Pendle, Accrington, Blackburn, Ribble Valley area. In fact, you’d have to go all to way to Bury to find another Adviser on Vouched For with as many reviews.
We also encourage our clients to leave feedback on our Google Reviews page and on Facebook.
Every single client is sent a TCF Questionnaire once we’ve completed the advice process and this asks clients to rank all aspects our service and also leads to written Testimonials which we publish on our website, so we think it’s clear to see that we view Client Feedback as an integral part of the way in which we Treat Customers Fairly.
You can also apply our love of feedback to TCF Outcome 5 – MEETING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS – We deliver on the agreed service with customers.
In fact, the number of recommendations we receive shows just how well we do in terms of delivering high levels of customer service. At a recent Financial Services Industry conference, we were presented with research which showed that on average IFA’s received 15% of their business through recommendations. We monitor the number of recommendations carefully every month and our current rate is 34% of all enquiries come from recommendations. That’s double the financial services industry average.
TCF Outcome 4 – ADVICE IS SUITABLE – We carry out research on provider, product, funds and suitability.
We appreciate that this TCF Outcome applies to all Financial Advisers, but we believe that being Independent Financial Advisers is a really important way to meet this TCF Outcome. Independent Financial Advisers are exactly that, we’re independent. We are not restricted to particular product providers, who may have a restricted range of products available to advise on. We are able to research the whole of the market for both products and product providers, researching for the solution which meets your requirements in the best possible way, not the solution that suits us because it’s all we can offer.
Please check whether your Financial Adviser is Independent. If they are restricted to a particular product provider, or set of funds (usually their own), ask yourself a couple of questions. Firstly, have they made it clear to you that they are restricted, and secondly have they given you a compelling reason to deal with them on the basis that they are restricted? In our view, being independent is a clear demonstration that we Treat Customers Fairly by ensuring that advice is suitable and researching a wide range of providers, products, funds and suitability, not just a selected few.
TCF Outcome 3 – CLEAR INFORMATION – Our advisers have their skills and knowledge assessed.
It’s important for clients to know and be confident that the financial advisers they are dealing with have the skills and qualifications necessary to provide a competent service, but how do you know that? We’ve taken the time to provide full details of all our financial advisers qualifications on our website, including copies of their Statements of Professional Standing Certificates (SPS), which is the Certificate issues annually which allows a financial adviser to continue to provide advice. We’ve also included details of the qualifications held by other members of our team. We’ve provided this information as part of our transparent approach to TCF, so you can be confident that you are dealing with fully qualified advisers.
TCF 4 – ADVICE IS SUITABLE – We fact find our customers – We establish what their objectives are.
We check this on a regular basis by having a selection of our client files reviewed by external Compliance Specialists to ensure that the advice we are providing is both suitable and compliant.
We are also very clear with clients from the first point of contact, that in order to receive proper advice, we will require a full disclosure of circumstances and requirements. This came to light recently when a prospective client contacted us for validation of an investment decision they had made themselves. When we explained that we would need to go through the whole advice process, they felt that wasn’t clear on our our website and thought that we provided Free Advice. In response, we added a new page top our website in the Help Topics section, to explain – What Free advice do we provide? We think this also demonstrates a TCF 1 Principal – When we identify issues we change and improve our processes.