Online adviser directories are a vital resource at a time when low interest rates, volatile markets and the prospect of a poor retirement have bolstered the need for financial help. They are like the financial advice version of the Yellow Pages for the internet age.
The main players are Unbiased and VouchedFor, but there are others from the Personal Finance Society and the government-backed Money Advice Service, as well as more specialist lists from the Society of Later Life Advisers and findawealthmanager.com. Services are free for consumers, but advisers can pay to receive referrals.
All advisers listed are checked against the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) register, but Which?, the consumer watchdog, has raised concerns that qualifications and accreditations entered on some sites have not been verified.
What is an adviser directory?
It’s a search engine of qualified advisers based on location and product type. Phil Bray, of the adviser support network Sense, says consumers should use recognisable brands. “Directories such as VouchedFor and Unbiased add to financial services and make it easier to match the right client to the right adviser, but watch out for clones,” he says. “There are some services that are just marketing brands collecting user data.” Here are some of the best services:
Running in various forms since 1989, it holds details of 16,000 independent financial advisers (IFAs) and 7,000 mortgage advisers, as well as solicitors and accountants. The site publishes blogs on financial topics and tips on choosing an adviser, and users can search by product type as well as by postcode and payment method. You can find out about an adviser’s qualifications, experience and fees and read client testimonials.
It is free for advisers to sign up, but they have to pay a subscription to add pictures and contact details and an extra fee to appear in a wider area. Many offer free financial reviews of pensions, mortgages or investments.
Watch out for clones: some services are just collecting user data
There is an alternative option to match you automatically with an adviser based on your location and product type. Karen Barrett, the chief executive of Unbiased, says: “Every financial and mortgage adviser will offer truly unbiased advice, and we conduct weekly checks against the FCA register. We also ensure that advisers are responsible for listing up-to-date qualifications.”
Similar to Unbiased, VouchedFor lets users search for advisers, accountants and solicitors by product type and location, and check qualifications and fees, but there is also a star rating system based on client feedback. There are 4,705 IFAs registered on the site. Advisers can join without charge, but need to pay to have their contact details included and to receive referrals.
VouchedFor offers users a free financial plan that matches them with advisers, based on their goals. A spokesman said: “All the advisers on our site are independent, regulated by the FCA and backed up by verified reviews.”
This caters more for investments and tax planning and has a hand-picked panel of 35 FCA-authorised companies offering wealth management. Users answer a questionnaire that matches them with three wealth managers they can speak to at an agreed time. Speaking to more than one, the website argues, enables users to compare fees, investment style, business culture and customer care, and negotiate a better deal. Wealth managers pay an annual membership subscription and a fee for any leads.
Gemma Godfrey, the founder of this easy-to-use investment and savings service that has been trialled around the country, this week learnt that her company has been fully authorised by the FCA. From the new year, Moo.la will work with independent financial advisers to offer investment services. Ms Godfrey says: “We aim to offer an easily-accessible service that will improve people’s financial lives.”
Money Advice Service
In April 2015 the government-backed Money Advice Service launched a Retirement Adviser Directory (directory.moneyadviceservice.org.uk) to coincide with pension freedom changes. The directory can also be accessed through the Pension Wise guidance website. You can search by adviser accreditation or the type of retirement advice you need, such as investments or care planning. Users can also find advisers based on pension pot size and whether they want help online, in person or on the phone.
There are 6,530 advisers in the directory, all FCA regulated, and Money Advice Service does a monthly audit to ensure the accreditations are correct.
The Society of Later Life Advisers is a specialist directory for those seeking help with long-term care planning. The free directory lists only those advisers who have achieved the Later Life Adviser Accreditation. You can search by postcode and filter independent and restricted advisers. Go to: societyoflaterlifeadvisers.co.uk/find-an-adviser
Personal Finance Society
All financial advisers need to get an annual Statement of Professional Standing to confirm that they meet regulatory requirements. One of the awarding bodies is the Chartered Insurance Institute. It has more than 22,000 accredited people, and they can be searched for by specialism through the Personal Finance Society’s Find an Adviser tool at findanadviser.org
Beyond the directories
Some advisers choose not to list or pay for premium services and won’t be on all directories, so it is worth comparing reviews across other sites and also seeking recommendations from friends and family and comparing the results.
Joshua Gerstler, an adviser for The Orchard Practice, says: “The majority of our clients come from recommendations. We do our best to take care of everyone we meet as we know that they are the best source of new clients.”