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Report finds financial advisers may be misleading public over qualifications

Cherry Reynard
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Cherry Reynard

Almost two-thirds of the financial advisers investigated on the most widely used online directory could be misleading the public with false claims about their qualifications, a Which? investigation reveals.

Of the 43 advice firms listed on unbiased.co.uk investigated by the consumer group, 27 that claimed to employ certified financial planners did not have a single adviser with the relevant Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments (CISI) certification.

Seven out of 24 firms (29%) falsely claimed Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA) accreditation and 14 out of 72 firms (19%) claimed to have advisers with chartered financial planner status, despite not employing anyone with such credentials.

Which? first raised the issue in March 2016 exposing a near identical level of poor practice. Unbiased said it had been checking the advisers listed on its site and was actively working with the qualification bodies to verify the entries. However, it added many of the inaccuracies were to be found on the free-to-access ‘basic’ listings on the site.

Which? found that Unbiased had a higher rate of inaccurate information than other directories, VouchedFor and the Money Advice Service’s (MAS) Retirement Adviser listings, but these two also contained significant numbers of misleading records. On VouchedFor, Which? found two of the 21 advisers claiming to be Chartered Financial Planners were not actually chartered.

VouchedFor has recently introduced a ‘Checks’ tab on each adviser’s profile, which shows the date VouchedFor most recently checked the nature of the services the adviser offers. VouchedFor also said it plans to require advisers to upload scans of their qualification certificates.

On the MAS directory, 16% of those claiming they were certified, 9% of those claiming they were chartered and 5% of those who claimed they were accredited by SOLLA did not appear to actually hold such accreditation at all. Nevertheless, there has been a marked improvement since September 2016, when those rates were up at 56%, 11%, and 33% respectively.

Which? recommended that consumers cross-check against the providers themselves to see whether advisers have the credentials they claim. Harry Rose, Which? money editor, said: “Our findings raise serious questions for the advice sector. If potential customers can’t trust the information in the public domain about prospective advisers, how can they reliably shop around for the right one?

“Adviser directories, accrediting bodies and advisers themselves must ensure listings are correct, so consumers can confidently compare different advisers.”