I asked an Independent Financial Advisor - how does one choose an IFA?
22nd March 2011
... Comments

1 - Qualifications - if you need just a mortgage or a simple bit of life assurance than seeing a GP IFA is fine. With the new level of qualifications that all advisors are having to achieve (level 4), this should be more than sufficient to handle these issues. However, if you have more complex matters such as Inheritance Tax planning, Investment Portfolio planning or other tax planning, I would run a mile away from a level 4 qualified IFA. You need to see as a minimum a level 6 qualified IFA which is either a Chartered or Certified Financial Planner. The Certified Financial Planner is an Internationally recognised qualification of the highest standard all over the world whereas the Chartered is UK based only. However, both are very rigorous qualifications.

2 - If seeking advice for Investments - ensure that they have either the higher qualification for investment or an Investment Management Certificate (IMC) and preferably an understanding of economics to degree level.

3 - Ask them if they have a process in selecting investments or do they just choose funds that are flavour of the month or worse, the investment house has taken them to lunch the previous month so they push that investment.

4 - If they have a process ask them to explain it to you. Do you understand it, if you don't understand it, don't do it.

5 - Ask them what research software they use. Is it purely research on an historic basis of funds with data or does it mesh risk questionnaires which lead you to certain portfolios. If it does the latter, this could lead to a wrong selection of iinvestments because it is the computer that decides not the advisor.

6 - Do they use model portfolios. In other words if all clients who are low risk get the same portfolio that ought to make sense. But what happens if you don't like one of the funds in the portfolio, are they flexible to change it?

7 - For a true assessment of your financial needs without product or commission bias be prepared to pay a fee. The fee has to cover the advisor's time and I would suggest that a Certified or Chartered planner will look to charge a minimum of three to five hundred pounds for a consultation. This is the only true way of getting independent advice that is not product biased. Spend a little money up front can save you a lot cost and heart ache in the future.

8 - Ensure that after you have made the investment, there is a periodic review depending on how much you have invested. Obviously, the more invested the more often you will need it reviewed. if they don't offer this than you will eventually be left with products, funds and strategies that have gone past their sell by date as things change, taxes and laws change, investment markets change etc.

9 - Look for someone who thinks laterally - sometimes to solve a problem it is better to avoid financial products and think about it differently.

10 - Obtain personal references from the IFA - not from any old client but request references from professional people, particularly accountants and lawyers who understand the law and tax. If he can't produce those you have to ask yourself why he can't. Is that he is not good enough or experienced enough etc

About the Author

Kesh M

Member since: 30th July 2011

Locally known as the best connected person in NW London. Kesh is an Advocate of the best local businesses and recommends who are highly regarded by their clients. He also is having the time of his life...

Popular Categories