This blog is for financial advisers, though anyone, including BSPS members, may find it useful.
Financial advisers are urgently required by these members who are in their “time to choose”.
There are two self-help groups for BSPS members. One is for all members and the other specifically for the 42,000 people in the scheme who have not drawn their pension. It is the latter group who have most need of financial advice
Along with Al Rush, Angie Brooks and John Ralfe, I have the opportunity to see the questions , hear the moans and provide input to the online self-help communities that have been created by two British Steelworkers from Teeside (who deserve a lot of praise).
Surprisingly, no-one has creating a self-help group for advisers to get up to speed with the issues that members are facing. There are very specific issues surrounding the scheme and its peculiarities which need to be understood if advisers are to properly understand the problem.
Depending on the response to this blog and to work I do this week, I may set up such a group. In the meantime, should you be saying “yes” to the answer posed in the title this blog, please read on and take some action.
Getting up to speed
As a first place to learn about these peculiar matters, I would recommend that you- as financial advisers – thoroughly read all the pages of this website.
If you want to really understand the scheme, you can go to BSPS scheme site, which contains the answers to almost all questions (and a good search facility).
If there is demand, we (Al Rush and I) may run an “advisers webinar” to help with the frequently asked questions you will get when advising.
We intend to provide specific help to the groups and this blog is part of that process. As I and Al develop these plans, we will share them.
At the bottom of this page, I’ve pasted a checklist on how to choose a financial adviser. Nobody quite knows where it came from or who wrote it. It is being used by BSPS members who are having to make tough choices about their pension benefits. (If you claim it as your work- I’ll credit you).
If you are giving advice, why don’t you check that you can properly answer each of these questions in not more than 50 words?
If you want to help BSPS members. You might want to go a step further and write your answers down and send them to me at email@example.com.
These are the towns where BSPS members are congregated and BSPS are meeting their members. You might like to think about towns to which you could help members.
So here are the questions we’d like you to think about and respond to (please no more than 50 words per answer – preferably less!)
How to Choose a Financial Adviser
Where to start.
When you decide to see a financial adviser, especially if it is your first contact with them, you should plan in advance by pulling together your relevant paperwork, thinking about your financial goals and preparing a list of questions to ask.
Your adviser will firstly want to understand which products you have, your current financial position, your goals and how you feel about taking risks with your money.
This will help them to recommend a financial plan and products that are right for you now and in the future.
Here are some questions that you might want to ask us before deciding whether to proceed:
Q1: Are you approved by the FCA?
The adviser should be regulated and approved by the FCA with pension transfer permissions.
Q2: Type of advice offered?
Financial advisers can offer ‘independent’ advice, where they can consider products and providers from the whole market or ‘restricted’ advice, which is limited to certain products, providers or both.
Your adviser has to clearly explain if they specialise in certain areas, such as shares, funds, units, insurance products or anything else, and the providers they look at.
Q3: What experience and qualifications do you have?
The FCA has increased the minimum standards of qualification that financial advisers have to meet to ensure their knowledge is up to date.
Advisers now have to be qualified at Level 4 or above of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (equivalent to the first year of a university degree). Level 6 is pension transfer exam for example.
Professional advisers also need to obtain an annual Statement of Professional Standing (SPS).
Ask to see proof of the above if you need proof.
Q4: What are your charges?
It is important to understand what fees and charges you will pay for advice and when you will be expected to pay.
Q5: Do you offer an ongoing service and how much does it cost?
This might be an annual review to check the value of your investments and consider any changes to your circumstances, checking your risk profile, make sure you are not missing tax saving opportunities, improving the tax effectiveness of your portfolio etc.
Q6: How do you assess my financial needs?
Financial questionnaire, your goals and planning etc.
Q7: How will I receive the advice?
Your adviser should send you an outline of their recommendations which is usually called a ‘suitability report’. Check this carefully to ensure it reflects the discussion you had with the adviser and that you understand why they recommended a particular plan or product.
Q8: How often should I review my investments?
You should ask the adviser how often they recommend reviewing your investments based on your circumstances.
Most experts suggest that at least once a year is sensible to ensure your investments are in line with your risk profile.
There are often budget changes that will add or remove tax allowances – it is important to review these regularly to make sure you don’t miss out.
Q9: Who will look after my advice?
Will the adviser continue to see you or another member of the firm? Points of contact if the adviser is off sick, on holidays, leaves the firm or retires.
Q10: How do I know I am getting the right advice?
Does the adviser have external compliance to check their work?
Q11: How do you assess whether a product or investment has the right level of risk for me?
Examples – risk profiling, client experience, timescales and capacity for loss.
Remember – There is no such thing as a dumb question when it comes to looking after your money or loved ones.