Retirees warned over online IFA directories crammed with bogus advisors

Published:  28 Nov at 6 PM
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Tagged: UK, Money, England
A respected consumer watchdog’s survey of financial advisor directory websites has revealed many are listing unqualified, bogus IFAs.

An investigation by the magazine Which's Money section has resulted in warnings to expats and UK residents not to take for granted qualifications listed on online financial portals. The watchdog scrutinised several advisor directory sites with listings of IFA firms, including Unbiased, the Money Advice Service and Vouched For, with shocking results.

The Unbiased website, which matches clients with IFAs, claims all its listed advisers are qualified, regulated by the FCA and acting independently of product providers. Investigators' focus on 43 listed IFA companies claiming their advisers were qualified revealed 63 per cent (27) had no qualified staff. Of a further 72 companies claiming chartered financial planner status, 19 per cent had no chartered financial advisors. Out of 24 firms stating they were accredited by the Society of Later Life Advisors (SLLA), seven had no such accreditation.

A similar result was achieved via checks on advisors listed with the Vouched For and Money Advice Service websites. The Money Advice Service’s listings contained 16 per cent of IFAs falsely claiming certification, nine per cent falsely claiming chartered status and five per cent falsely claiming SLLA accreditation. Unbiased’s CEO Karen Barrett’s reply to Which was to insist the website is still ‘the UK’s most thoroughly-checked adviser database’, adding they’ve checked many of their advisers and are continuing to verify the remainder. Sadly, her efforts may have come too late for consumers who relied on the site for accuracy as regards IFA qualifications.

Which’s money editor Harry Rose told it like it is, saying the findings raise crucial questions about the trustworthiness of online IFAs as well as promotional sites such as those checked. He added if potential clients are unable to trust information found in the public domain, they won’t be able to confidently compare advisers and make the right decisions as regards their financial futures.
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