Your financial 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 important questions you should put to a financial adviser to make certain that first, they are bona fide and secondly that you get the most out of them.
The financial adviser should be approved and regulated by the FCA and you should check the ‘FCA Register’ online to ensure that they are.
For your information, Sutherland IFA Limited is approved and regulated by the FCA and the firm registration number is 587707.
If you use a financial adviser that is not approved by the FCA, you will not have access to the Financial Ombudsman (FOS) or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) if things go wrong.
The FCA has increased the minimum standards of qualification that financial advisers have to meet in order to ensure their knowledge is up to date.
Financial advisers now have to be qualified at Level 4 or above of the Qualifications and Credit Framework; this is equivalent to the first year of a university degree.
They also need to obtain an annual Statement of Professional Standing (SPS).
You should check that your financial adviser has these qualifications.
For your information, Neil Sutherland at Sutherland IFA has an annual SPS and my FCA individual registration number that may be verified is NGS00009.
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 financial adviser has to clearly explain if they specialise in certain areas, such as shares, funds, units, insurance products or anything else as well as the providers they look at.
For your information, Sutherland IFA offers independent advice and considers products and providers from the whole market.
It is important to understand what fees and charges you will pay for advice and when you will be expected to pay. Start by finding out if there is a fee for an initial consultation.
For your information, the first consultation is at Sutherland IFA’s expense. Details of charges are given at this first meeting in writing.
You should have the option to pay a one-off fee or you may pay a regular fee if the advice is ongoing. You may also be able to negotiate the price depending on what sort of advice you need.
Following changes made by the FCA, financial advisers will no longer be paid commission from your investment by product providers and will have to tell you upfront how much their service costs. This means you can now be sure how much advice is costing you.
You will need to agree with your financial adviser how you will pay for the advice you receive. You will also have to agree whether the fee can be taken from your initial investment rather than being paid upfront.
Your financial adviser may also accept payment in instalments if you have a regular contribution contract with them, but this is not allowed with lump sum investments.
Asking the financial adviser this question will help you understand the process being used to advise you and what will be recommended to you.
It may also clarify why your financial adviser needs certain information or asks particular questions to gain a better understanding of what you want.
Your financial adviser should explain what they consider your risk profile to be and how each recommendation or product fits in with this.
If you think that you are prepared to take more or less risk than your financial adviser suggests, ask them to explain how they decided your risk profile and whether it should be changed.
To ensure your financial adviser’s advice continues to suit your needs, you should also find out how you can contact your adviser if your circumstances change.
For your information, Sutherland IFA will consider your risk profile at least once a year at an annual review.
You should ask whether the advice will be given to you face to face, by telephone, via email or Skype or in a report.
Tell your financial adviser if you prefer one way or another and ask if there are different prices for each.
Your financial adviser should send you an outline of their recommendations that is normally called a ‘suitability report’. Check this carefully to ensure it reflects the discussion you had with the financial adviser and that you understand why they recommended a particular plan or product.
As well as providing an initial recommendation, some financial advisers also offer an ongoing service.
For example, this might be an annual review to check the value of your investments and consider any changes to your circumstances.
You do not necessarily have to use an ongoing service when it is offered but if you decide to, it is important to important to ask exactly that the financial adviser will do and the fee involved, as the service and cost can vary between advisers.
You should ask the financial adviser how often they recommend reviewing your investments.
Some financial advisers offer an ongoing service (see Q9) but this may not be the most suitable option for your circumstances. For example, you may have a type of investment that can be reviewed less often or when your circumstances change.
Your financial adviser should explain what the best approach is for you.
You should ask if your money will be managed only by the financial adviser you are meeting or if other financial advisers may advise you in future.You could also ask what will happen if the financial adviser leaves the company, retires or dies.