Adding Insult To Injury … the Pandemic’s Negligent Advisers

by Julie Wilson
Published: Last Updated on

We can all agree that the pandemic was an unexpected blow to everyone across the globe. However, the silver lining saw communities joining together to support each other. Some may think that the pandemic has made them realise the importance of good relationships.

But what about business relationships in the finance industry?

There’s been some good and bad behaviour over the past year—some businesses have supported their clients more than ever, others didn’t seem to have the presence their clients needed them to have at such an uncertain time. We’ve heard of businesses that temporarily closed without informing clients, and clients missing out on vital discussions to help utilise their allowances around the tax year end, all of which could have been prevented by simple communication explaining closures, or by switching to telephone meetings. A few people have contacted us recently explaining that although they previously had an adviser, they no longer want to stay with them due to how they have handled client relationships during the pandemic. Their previous IFA hasn’t kept them updated, with very little to no communication. They’ve been left feeling confused, with no reassurance or information regarding their investments.

What exactly is the extent of this problem?

In 2020, the Financial Ombudsman Service received over 3,500 COVID-related complaints, some of which concerned the lack of communication between consumers and businesses. We’re more than aware that businesses have struggled, but in our opinion, it’s not an excuse to be distant from clients. Some businesses really need to up their game.
It’s not just complaints about communication. More worryingly, there has been an increase in unregulated activity, with The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) receiving over 30,000 instances of unregulated activity. The risk of this is that the advice is not covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), meaning there is no safety net in cases of mis-selling. Unfortunately, people are trying to take advantage of others during the pandemic. A popular example would be stealing dogs and breeding or re-selling them at extortionate prices. These types of people also exist within the financial services industry.

The pandemic has shown that we are not immortal and has highlighted the importance of seeking financial advice. These cowboy advisers are preying on those who are in a rush to organise their finances, and those who perhaps haven’t done their research. In turn, these people could be left uncompensated if the advice was proven to be unsuitable.

Who should you be turning to?

Well, as we’ve said, recent events have really highlighted how important relationships are and that’s what you should be actively seeking. Your adviser should be straight-talking and your relationship should be built on trust. You need to be able to trust that their advice is bespoke and completely unbiased to help you achieve your personal and financial goals. A good way to filter down firms is by looking for firms who are Chartered and independent, and by looking at accreditations and reviews.

At PenLife, we knew that that it was vital to stay in touch with our clients, so we got on board with virtual meetings and continue to send out regular updates via email. One of our core values is going the extra mile, and this still stands even during a pandemic. We’ve tried to help out where we can by contacting our shielding or more vulnerable clients to offer them support with deliveries of food and supplies.

“At a time like a global pandemic it has been hugely reassuring to know that I have such a professional company safeguarding my financial position. What’s more, everyone that I have dealt with has been extremely friendly and helpful.”

Our relationships with clients will always be at the forefront of everything we do, even when the unexpected happens. Our ability to adapt and move our services to digital has ensured that our clients have been kept well informed and we have been able to provide the high standard of service we pride ourselves on. We understand that these are unprecedented times and like to believe that firms have tried their best to provide a fair service in difficult circumstances. The pandemic is not over yet, and if you don’t have faith that your money is being managed as effectively as it could be (which will likely impact your long-term goals), there’s nothing wrong with seeking more value for your money. If your car stopped running properly and starting costing you significant money, even if it had been good to you for years, you’d get to the point where you had no choice but to look at other options. You’re spending money as a means to an end, and if it’s not being met, you shouldn’t sit back and do nothing. That’s just sense!

Is the grass really greener though?

As a comparison tool, let us give you some examples of how we adapted to keep delivering a high-quality service to our clients:

• Check in calls and emails
• Investments updates
• Webinars
• Meetings and annual reviews over phone, Zoom, Skype or Teams
• Lists of local food delivery services for those shielding
• Monthly newsletters
• Someone is always in the office, which helps keep on top of post
• Team are fully set up to work from home
• Began the creation of our portal for secure messaging

Having seen what else is available to you, can you proudly say that your financial adviser has gone above and beyond to keep you informed and help you through the pandemic?

Julie Wilson

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