Wouldn't it be a good idea if someone put together a comprehensive
directory of all the financial services websites relevant to
IFAs? And wouldn't it be great if this directory listed all the features
and functionality of each site so wasted and frustrated visits became a
thing of the past?
One site, which gets close, is the aptly named www.find.co.uk. The
Financial Information Net Directory has content galore. It is a great
starting place for IFAs looking for anything financial services-related. It
is simple to use and provides numerous lists of sites to click on to visit.
Content is neatly organised into a series of centres.
Visit the IFA centre first and choose from a list of product providers.
The directory entries are fairly basic and some inconsistent. Those who
have taken time to differentiate their offerings for IFAs score more
points. If it is your first visit to your chosen site, you may not know
what is in store, so be prepared. Find could make the whole offering even
more valuable by standardising the way that directory entries are
The IFA centre is complemented with other, very useful, content. Click on
information providers for access to the corporate reports of UK quoted
companies, which can be downloaded online. The IFA centre also has a fairly
decent list of insurance and fund management companies as well as mortgage
lenders. You will be spoilt for choice in the investment performance
section, with strong representation from Hindsight, Micropal and Lipper
among others. Find's other centres are for consumers but IFAs should find
them a useful resource. The investment centre, for instance, allows you to
check out Isas, Peps, unit trusts, Oeics, investment trusts, offshore
funds, derivatives and foreign exchange suppliers. The handy calculator
section makes short work of difficult calculations.
The insurance centre more or less offers the same list of providers
accessed via the IFA centre. Content is categorised across life protection
and savings, personal and company pensions, motor, health, travel and pet
insurance. Again, calculators can be accessed such as the one in the
Tunbridge Wells Equitable Friendly Society's baby bond site, which is
simple and effective.
Make sure you visit the information centre, which is crammed full of
excellent content, from sites offering market prices and savings rates to
newsletters and financial publications. A great site worth a look at is the
source from the Government Statistics Office and epo.com, which gives you
the lowdown on forthcoming IPOs.
There is also a list of financial publications, ranging from the
Electronic Telegraph and the FT, to obscure sites such as IslamiQ Daily for
financial news from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia plus a list of institutions
and exchanges while the Government's GoGet Pensions site gives a wealth of
content on pension matters and allows downloading of leaflets. Here you can
also visit the FSA, SIB, Sofa, Aifa, the CML, Imro and the Inland Revenue.
If that's not enough, the compliance exchange is great for compliance
If you are into share dealing, then check out advice and dealing for
online share sites. It also covers stockbrokers, portfolio managers, IFAs,
accountant and tax services. If you want to know who is offering what at
the bank then step into the banking and savings centre for personal and
business banking, building societies, merchant and offshore banking.
Mortgages and loans, meanwhile, are well covered by the mortgages and
loans centre, including handy sites offering rate and product comparisons
and more calculators. You can also request brochures from a list of
suppliers and check out the websites of the week to see what's new.
As far as appearances go, screen design is functional and not flashy,
although, on the downside, banner ads can get in the way. But full marks
for the company quick-search facility. To sum up, in my view, the
find.co.uk site is a must to be added to your favourites and is the closest
so far to a working financial services directory.
From our visit to find.co.uk, we accessed two other financial services
websites, which demonstrate good and not so good uses of the internet.
This is a customer site specialising in providing mortgage and insurance
product information online. There is no content specific to IFAs, nor are
there any help facilities geared to increase an IFA's ability to transact
business offline and online.
There are definitions of products but links to product providers are
buried in text. The calculators are clumsy and it is not clear which bits
are for the customers to fill out and which bits supply the reply.
For IFAs trying to organise mortgages, the mortgage wizard is potentially
useful but suffers from the same faults as the calculator. For IFAs, the
inability to bypass the front end of the site and get to the core product
information makes this site tedious and time-consuming. The best buys
section offers a list of mortgage lenders and the deals currently on offer
but the flat pages, which offer no links to the lenders' sites, are
disappointing as further details are not readily available.
On consulting the helpline, a very courteous operator advised the help was
for navigating the website, not helping with understanding the products
offered. And yes, she gets a lot of calls from disappointed users. She then
offered me the phone numbers of the lenders or their URLs so I could look
them up one by one. Not, in my view, good use of the web.
While the news bulletins on the first page are timely and interesting, the
real value lies in the content. This is easily set out, downloads quickly
and is a cinch to navigate. Online key features, documents, product and
fund information can be printed. The sales tools and list of links are
This is a genuine business aid and well worth the time to read online or
download. The technology section makes the medium very accessible with
helpful “hand-holding” guides for even confirmed technophobes.
The online guide to digital TV is clear and informative and a real star is
the build your own site feature which is easy to understand and offers
invaluable guidance to anyone wanting to use the internet as a business
On the downside, IFAs cannot transact business online at present. To
access the online comparison and modelling tools, as additional offline
registration process is required which may put some people off initially.
Other than that, one for the favourites' list.