Advisers question PFS plan for free financial healthcheck

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Advisers have questioned whether they have the capacity to take on free financial healthcheck sessions and whether they would attract any valuable enquiries.

In its response to the Government’s public financial guidance consultation, the Personal Finance Society proposed every working adult in the UK be given a voucher for a financial healthcheck session with an adviser, the cost of which could be partially deducted from the adviser’s next FCA levy.

The “qualified guidance” session could either be face-to-face or over the telephone and would result in a summary of options that might include full advice.

Chartered Insurance Institute policy and research head Laurence Baxter says: “There are a lot of advisers who already give an introductory session to customers. Perhaps the new financial guidance body could play a role in helping connect customers with those advisers who are willing to give that initial consultation, and do it in a way that would provide not just a signpost, but a filtering service.”

While many advisers like the idea in principle, there are concerns about whether firms would be interested in signing up for it.

Plan Money director Peter Chadborn says: “We are very busy, we do not need new enquiries but they happen anyway and we can just about deal with what we are getting. We wouldn’t be inclined to sign up for something like this, not because we wouldn’t want to support it but because we don’t have
the capacity.”

Chadborn predicts large advice firms would be more likely to have the resources to handle increased demand for guidance sessions.

Aspect8 chartered financial planner Claire Walsh says making sessions free may not attract many new clients to advisers.

She says: “I just see it as a marketing exercise because it is not dissimilar to what Unbiased do. I don’t think people will suddenly think, ‘I’ve got this voucher, I can get free advice’. Most people expect a free initial consultation with an adviser, that is not what is stopping people.”

Both Walsh and Chadborn also question if the service would attract customers that are usually in advisers’ target market.

Chadborn says: “It is also the type of enquiries. It is true most advisers will offer their first meeting at no cost to the client. You also position your services to attract a certain demographic of client, typically.”

Baxter says the idea of a voucher and a potential rebate for advisers that provide the service is still in its infancy and there could be other options outside reducing FCA levies.

He says: “Wouldn’t it be efficient if those advisers who spent 45 minutes on that session got remunerated for that session? They might not get back the full value but they should get something for what they are doing.

“We have pencilled in the suggestion of taking some proportion of the levy due and getting it rebated somehow but that is detail that could be easily agreed at a later point. The point we are trying to make is it should be considered and we should have a debate about it.”

Chadborn, and other advisers on Money Marketing’s website are keen to know what might happen to advisers’ regulatory fees if they do not take part in the service.

He says: “If x per cent of FCA levies comes from the adviser comm-unity and those that participate in the scheme get a discount, does that mean the rest of us that don’t participate have to make up that shortfall?

“I would like to see it continue to be debated because it is a good initiative in principle but there would need to be a lot more clarity around these points.”