So, you have made the decision that it is time to get serious about saving and investing. Perhaps you are new to the world of finance and want a helping hand? Maybe you have been involved with finance for a while but don’t have the time to do it all yourself or you are someone who wants the whole headache taken away from you?
Whoever you are, you now face a key challenge – who to approach for help. With a myriad of financial advisors out there, watch or read below the six questions we’ve identified that should steer you towards the right one for you.
What is their background?
Start with some basic checks – find out whether an advisor is FCA regulated (you can search the register at fca.org.uk), then establish what qualifications they hold. Ask around amongst colleagues, friends and neighbours to gauge how long they have been in business and how well they are regarded.
What range of services do they offer?
Find out whether you can get advice on investments, broader financial planning or both. Also, ask about their client base and profile to see how well they are aligned to your position and needs. Then ask about the sorts of problems they are regularly solving for their clients to help you judge their suitability for you. For example, can they help you with tax-efficient investing solutions such as Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) and Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs)?
Do they put their clients’ interests first?
Firms that are tied to other financial organisations are more likely to face conflicts of interest than fully independent ones. The same is true of firms that offer related products and services – say investment houses that offer their own funds or advisors that are incentivised to sell a specific firm’s long-term savings products. Ask about how your advisor is incentivised and by whom and don’t accept vague answers.
What is their investment approach?
You need to know how an advisor will decide where to allocate your money. For example, be wary of exotic-sounding products, those with heavily front-end loaded charges or any deal which ties you in and is expensive to subsequently cancel. Also find out how much input you will have in the investment and planning process if that is important to you.
How much do they charge?
You’ll need a clear picture of the total cost of any product or service and a detailed breakdown of that cost. Ask about how your advisor is paid, for example via a percentage of assets being managed, fixed fees or regular commission.
How will you kept up to date?
Find out how often you will receive updates and in what format. You should also know who will be managing your investments and any related financial plan and how often you will be in contact with them. Finally, you should find out how they plan to deal with any complaints you may have in the future. If they struggle to answer, consider going elsewhere.