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&#39Banks and societies the worst on pension advice&#39

Stakeholder advice varies greatly between different distribution channels, with bank and building society advisers giving the worst advice, according to undercover research by the Cons-umers&#39 Association.

Four mystery shoppers from Which? visited 38 advi-sers and discovered that while the majority recommended the appropriate product, given the circumstances, the quality and amount of advice varied.

The best advice came from 13 IFAs, who looked at customers&#39 attitude towards risk. However, four of the seven advisers who did not recommend stakeholder were IFAs and some dismissed them as “bare bones” products.

Of the 12 bank and society salespeople visited, there was little or no discussion about the investment options or about the consumers&#39 attitude to risk.

Which? said this was especially the case with two NatWest advisers who were confused about state benefits and in one case recommended that the customer should do nothing about pension provision.

Barclays advisers relied heavily on decision trees, a tool designed for consumers to use on their own instead of offering advice.

Life office representatives were difficult to get hold of, with researchers having problems getting past call centre staff. When they did, many sold stakeholder on an execution-only basis.

Which? editor Helen Parker says: “If advisers say they offer advice, that is what they should do, irrespective of the product. If they cannot afford to sell stakeholder and offer advice, they should sell them on an execution-only basis. It is not acceptable to dumb down the advice process because product charges are low. Either you are in the advice game or not.”

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