Find a pension financial advisor: 6 key questions to ask

Looking for a pension financial advisor? Make sure you find one that is the right fit for you.

When looking to find a pension financial advisor to help you with pension advice, it can be overwhelming. We’ll run through 6 key questions you need to ask when looking for help.

Whether you have just started out, or you are approaching retirement, it is worth considering these six key questions. These will help you find a pension financial advisor in the UK that offers unbiased financial advice. From looking for help with consolidating pensions, to finding the best performing drawdown pensions, finding an unbiased pension financial advisor can help you avoid any expensive mistakes.

Why do I need a financial advisor?

That’s a good question.  Financial Advisors are trained professionals that operate within what is perceived by many to be a complex, jargonistic-filled industry.  With so many interested parties in the mix, knowing where to start when looking for unbiased pension advice can often put off all but the most tenacious, prospective retiree.

Finding the right unbiased pension financial advisor can help you navigate your way to a more prosperous retirement. But beware. Not all financial advisors are the same and finding the right financial advisor could make all the difference.

Are all financial advisors the same?

No. To be able to give you regulated financial advice, a UK financial advisor needs to legitimately operate within a regulated organisation.  The UK’s regulator of financial services is the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The FCA oversees financial services and authorises firms and individuals to provide advice. In doing so, people seeking unbiased pension advice in the UK are afforded protection from organisations including the Financial Ombudsman Service as well as redress via the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, should things go wrong.

The FCA provides access to a register of approved organisations and individuals via its Financial Services Register where you can check the status of a person or firm to confirm whether they have been approved.

If you fail to find a person or firm on the register then it is more than likely they are not authorised to provide you with financial advice in the UK.

Independent versus Restricted Financial Advice

The chances are, if you are looking for the best place to find unbiased pension advice, it is either because your financial affairs are relatively complicated or the risks of not seeking professional financial advice could prove quite costly.

Broadly speaking, financial advisors fall into two categories – independent and restricted.

Independent Financial Advisor: An independent financial advisor (IFA) is not restricted in terms of what financial matters they can advise you on or the providers they can consider when searching for appropriate solutions to your needs.  This is known as unbiased financial advice and these advisors are often considered the best pension advisors given that they are not restricted regarding the providers or products they can advise you on.

Whether you are looking for pension advice for over 50s, or simple pension guidance, you can consider advice from an IFA to be impartial and most appropriate for your needs.

This statement above needs to be caveated however as some IFAs work for large, shareholder-owned firms.  Such advisors should provide you with a Conflict of Interest Statement (or equivalent) early on in any relationship with them, which is important should they ever propose any solutions from their parent company or network.

Restricted Financial Advisor: A restricted Financial Advisor is only able to offer you solutions from a restricted range of products or providers.

Which is better? Independent or Restricted?

As widely-respected financial journalist and broadcaster Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert-fame says in his article  Financial Advisers – Picking & paying for an IFA

“If you’re using an adviser, always always make sure it’s an independent financial adviser.”

– Martin Lewis, MoneySavingExpert

How to find a great financial advisor

Whether you want to know the best performing drawdown pensions or are looking for the best place to find pension advice for over 50s, when looking to find a financial advisor suitable for your needs, ask the following 6 questions of any prospective candidates:

  1. Are you Independent or Restricted?
  2. Are you part of a larger network of companies, with significant shareholders?
  3. Are your fees clear and transparent?
  4. Do you charge a retainer or ongoing fee?
  5. Do you offer Defined Benefit or Final Salary pension transfer advice?
  6. Do my financial circumstances match those of a typical client of yours?

Let’s face it, there are many financial advisors out there but if you are looking for the best pension advisor for you and are unable to obtain a word-of-mouth recommendation from a close friend or relative, asking these questions of a financial advisor should help you find the best pension advisor for you:

Here are our Assured 6 questions you need to ask when looking for a financial advisor:

  • Are you Independent or Restricted?

If you are wondering what are the advantages of an independent financial advisor over a restricted advisor, there are several points to bear in mind.  Regardless of whether it is an independent financial advisor or restricted financial advisor, they should be qualified to at least a Level 4 Diploma and should be equally capable of providing a service that is responsive, personal, and attentive to your needs.

Regardless of whether they are an independent financial advisor or restricted financial advisors, they should both offer fee structures that are clear and transparent and should be able to offer a high level of expertise required to support your financial needs.

Yet, perhaps the key difference is the range of products and providers an IFA has access to. An IFA has access to the whole of the market and can therefore search the market without limitation.

A restricted financial advisor, on the other hand, will only offer products or services from a limited range of providers, and whilst they should be able to find a solution to your needs from the providers available to them, assuming they have a broad enough panel or providers, there is always the chance that there is a more suitable provider not available to them – and therefore not available to you.

  • Are you part of a larger network of companies, with significant shareholders?

With size often comes scale.  Many financial advisors, be they independent or restricted, are part of a larger organisation, often referred to as a network.  Networks offer advisors access to sometimes cheaper propositions, as well as back-office support, access to training, and large-scale social events that bring them together as a community.

In return, financial advisors that are part of a network often pay a percentage of their fees to the network in return for their services.

The larger networks tend to be shareholder-owned, with one of the UK’s largest networks being a constituent of the UK’s largest index, the FTSE100, with profits of over £900m for 2020.

What does this mean to you, the client? Well, the shareholders of these networks get used to their dividends that come from the network’s profits, paid for by their clients.  With their shareholders’ objectives of growing dividends year in, year out, there can be pressure to extract as much value out of their clients which, if not managed appropriately, can introduce conflicts of interest between advisors and their clients’ money.  Significant controls are in place to mitigate this risk to protect those seeking financial advice.

In the interests of balance, advisors that are not part of networks could have similar interests in their clients’ funds but how an advisor’s business is structured is worth considering when choosing a financial advisor in the UK.

  • Are your fees clear and transparent?

Expect to discuss how a financial advisor charges within the first meeting.  Although you may not know exactly what you need, and the advisor may not have a complete picture of your current personal and financial circumstances, a financial advisor should be able to explain their various means of charging to give you an idea of what the potential cost of financial advice may be.

Different ways of charging for financial advice include:

  • A fixed percentage of the total funds being considered. For example, to receive advice on a £100,000 pension, you could pay up to 3%, that’s £3000.
  • An hourly rate – some advisers may charge an hourly rate, regardless of the sums under consideration
  • Fixed-fee – some advisers charge a fixed fee regardless of the sums under consideration

Whichever way a financial adviser charges, it is equally important to understand what you will be getting, and not getting, as part of the service.  This way, you should be able to determine the value of the advice in the context of how much it may cost.

The charges can often be deducted from your investments or paid directly by you.

Contingent vs. non-contingent charging

Contingent charging is the process by which a financial adviser’s remuneration is contingent upon a client accepting their advice. If the client doesn’t accept the advice, the adviser doesn’t get paid.

This could mean that, for an adviser charging on a contingent basis, they could conduct many hours of planning on behalf of a client only for the client to not accept the advice and therefore the adviser would not get paid for the work that they have put in.

It has not escaped the FCA’s attention that contingent charging could create a conflict of interest when a financial adviser only gets paid if a client accepts their advice.  Most businesses will have policies and procedures in place to provide oversight in this area to mitigate any risk of detrimental client outcomes.

Non-contingent charging – as the name suggests – is the charging basis on which a client agrees to pay for the advice, regardless of whether they should choose to accept it.

  • Do you charge a retainer or ongoing fee for advice?

Whether you are looking for one-off financial advice or to establish a long-term relationship with a financial adviser it is important to consider whether your financial planning requires a ‘one off’ round of planning or if it will require ongoing oversight.

People looking for free pension advice would do well to start with speaking to Pension Wise. Pension Wise provides free and impartial government guidance about defined contribution pensions.

This useful and free pension service provides users with useful, generic hints and tips.  Pension Wise does not provide regulated, financial advice and their guidance should not be considered advice.

Pension advice can only be provided by UK-regulated financial advisors such as those from Assured Life Advisers.

Many financial advisors operating a funds under management business model charge their clients ongoing fees, often referred to as an ‘on-going advisor charge’ or ‘retainer’ for the provision of ongoing financial advice. This is often paid directly by a deduction from the client’s pension fund.

In return for paying the financial advisor ongoing fees, the client should receive, where practicable, annual meetings with their advisor in which they will discuss any ongoing financial planning and will often include an update regarding:

  • how a financial plan is performing
  • whether any changes in the client’s circumstances may have changed that could affect the appropriateness of the current plan
  • how any regulatory or other such industry changes, may have affected the plan
  • whether the current plan remains on track to meet its current objectives

Some advice firms prefer not to charge ongoing financial advisor fees and, whilst they do not necessarily offer free pension advice, they prefer to charge on a needs-basis, that is, when work needs to be done rather than the default imposition of an annual retainer.

Such a charging structure can mean that the client’s funds are left unfettered and are not held back by the possible imposition of an unnecessary payment of a retainer.

Financial advisors operating such a model often do so based on trust.  If the advisor becomes aware of any factors that may affect their client, they will do their utmost to bring this to their attention.

Similarly, the clients are made aware from the outset that should anything change in their personal or financial circumstances that they believe could affect their financial plan, they are to get in touch with the financial advisor to bring this to their attention.  Then, a meeting can be held and the client charged for any resulting work with fees often being discussed and agreed upfront.

So, if you are asking “Do I need a financial advisor for my pension?”, or perhaps looking for fixed fee pension advice, it is worth asking if the advisor charges ongoing financial advisor fees in the UK.

  • Do you offer Defined Benefit or Final Salary pension transfer advice?

In 2014, the UK government announced in its budget the introduction of Pension Freedoms.  These new rules, which came into force in April 2015, introduced new ways in which people could access the funds within their pensions.

At the time, the then Pensions Minister Steve Webb said that people could access their pensions however they choose and could go out and “…buy a Lamborghini”.  As attractive a proposition as this may be to some, very few people would agree that this would be a suitable thing to do with money accumulated within a pension over many years to provide a sustainable income in retirement.

However, what it did mean is that people have new ways in which they could access the money within their pensions, the likes of which had never been seen before.

However, for those with final salary or defined benefit pension schemes, these opportunities were not quite so close to hand.

A defined benefit pension does not have a predefined pot of money set aside for its plan holder. What it does have is a promise to pay the plan holder a sum of money in retirement, often index-linked, that relates to the length of time they were a member of the scheme and their salary at the time of leaving it.

For a member of a defined benefit pension scheme to be able to access it under Pension Freedoms, they would have to transfer their benefits from the defined benefit (final salary) pension scheme to a defined contribution scheme.

The subject of final salary pension transfers or defined benefit pension transfers and access to such advice is deemed suitably important as to merit an additional qualification that advisors must hold if they wish to provide advice in this area.  Today, it is an area of specialism reserved for an increasingly diminishing number of advisors as the cost of providing this advice is becoming increasingly expensive.

Given the costs, together with relatively healthy demand from those seeking such specialist final salary pension transfer advice, the costs can be expensive.

So, it is worth asking a financial advisor if you are looking for final salary pension transfer advice whether they can offer such advice.

Here at Assured Life Advisors we can offer final salary pension transfer advice for 1% of the cash equivalent transfer value, capped at £3,000, which we believe is amongst the most competitive in the market.  To learn more about our final salary pension transfer advice proposition, get in touch today.

  • Do my financial circumstances match those of a typical client of yours?

Whether you are looking for help with various workplace pensions or perhaps you are looking for pension advice in the UK from an unbiased retirement advisor, it is worth asking whether any prospective financial advisor works with people like yourself.

Those financial advisors that have a vested interest in the amount of your money that they oversee, may only seek to work with people that have funds over a particular amount, say £75,000 or £125,0000.

Alternatively, some pension advisors may not be as interested in how much money you have but more interested in outcomes tailored towards their clients’ personal and financial needs. It is worth trying to work out where your financial advisor’s interests lie – be that in your money or your personal and financial circumstances.

So, ask them whether they have other clients similar to yourself and the financial position you are in.  Ask them what their circumstances were and how they managed to help improve their financial wellbeing.

Where is the best place to find a financial advisor in 2021?

There are several authoritative websites that you can reliably turn to when looking for unbiased financial advice in the UK. These include:

Unbiased.co.uk

Unbiased helps individuals find professionals they can trust and that are experts in their field and unbiased. Whether you are looking for an independent financial advisor, accountant, or legal advisor, Unbiased puts people in touch with exactly who they need, using their smart search functionality.

Unbiased has a robust onboarding process for professionals looking to market their services through unbiased.co.uk and currently has over 27,000 registered professionals.

The site includes many tips and guides including a beginner’s guide to pensions and help with drawing your pensions.

The Financial Conduct Authority

In the UK, nearly all financial service activities must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. You can search their Register for details of firms and individuals and the activities they have permissions for.

When looking for a financial advisor, always check the register to ensure they are authorised and to confirm they have the relevant permissions for the regulated activities you need.  Lastly, to avoid scammers, only use the contact details from the Register particularly if the advisor has contacted you initially.

The Personal Finance Society

The Personal Finance Society (PFS) is a professional body dedicated to building trust in the financial planning profession and is part of the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) group.

The PFS is the professional body for the financial planning profession in the UK. Their remit is to lead the financial planning community towards higher levels of professionalism exhibited through technical knowledge, client service, and ethical practice.  Being a part of the CII and aligned with its Royal Charter, they are required to secure and justify the confidence of the public.

To search for a financial advisor local to you, try their Personal Finance Society search tool.

VouchedFor.co.uk

VouchedFor is home to the UK’s most trusted financial advisors. VouchedFor is like Trustpilot, but for finding professional services. Clients can review their advisors, helping others choose the right one.

They say that VouchedFor’s advisors are checked more thoroughly than any other and assure that:

  1. Advisors are rated and reviewed by people like you

To maintain trust in their service, VouchedFor verify the identity of all reviewers, and never remove or edit negative reviews

  1. Advisors are independently vetted

You can have confidence in the advisors found using VouchedFor. VouchedFor check every advisor is authorised by the appropriate governing body and confirm key details including their fees and qualifications

  1. Continuous monitoring

VouchedFor continuously monitors their advisor base and seek feedback from those using the site to ensure they get the great advice that they are seeking.

Joel Wood of Assured Life Advisers was included within VouchedFor’s 2021 Top Rated Financial Adviser Guide as distributed in The Times newspaper.

Moneyadviceservice.org.uk

The Money Advice Service is the UK Government’s free and impartial money advice service, set up by the government. It offers advice and guides to help improve your finances; tools and calculators to help keep track and plan as well as support over the phone and online.

Their handy Retirement Adviser Directory enables site visitors to find a financial advisor as well as offering handy guides when it comes to pensions and retirement.

Summary

Whatever you decide to do, just remember – you’ve worked hard for your money. Now make your money (and your advisor) work hard for you.

If you would like to speak to an independent financial advisor, that:

  • is not a part of a larger network of companies, with significant shareholders
  • has fees that are clear and transparent
  • does not automatically charge a retainer or ongoing fee in all but the most exceptional of circumstances
  • does offer Defined Benefit (Final Salary) pension transfer advice, charging just 1% and capped at £3,000
  • has a varied range of clients covering all ages and most circumstances

then arrange to speak to an advisor today.

Summary
Service Type
Independent Pension review
Provider Name
Assured Life Advisers,
2 Holes Lane,Woolston,Warrington-WA1 4LZ,
Telephone No.01925 594 519
Area
North West, UK
Description
Looking for a financial adviser but unsure where to start. This handy guide will point you in the right direction so you can find a financial adviser that is a good fit.

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