Ambassadors for advice: Unbiased award winners on moving the profession forwards


Red Circle Financial Planning director Darren Cooke was among the adviser winners at the Unbiased Media Awards last week for his work to stamp out pension scams.

Cooke started a Government petition in September calling for a ban on pension cold-calls to stop vulnerable people being sold unregulated investments or getting taken in by scammers. He was given the judges award at the ceremony. The Treasury later moved to ban pension cold-calling in the Autumn Statement.

Cooke did not rule out the possibility of leading future similar campaigns. Speaking to Money Marketing, he says: “I would like to see this into the legislation first because we are not there yet.

“Would I do anything in the future? There are plenty of things that need fixing in our industry, though I don’t know whether or not I can get involved in fixing them because most of it is bigger stuff and it is not a case of affecting the public.”

While Cooke says the petition received a lot of positive reaction from advisers and the industry, there was also negative commentary from some advisers who were concerned the cold-call ban would stop genuine business referrals.

Manufacturing for millennials

DFP Wealth Management IFA Sean Irwin took home the award for young financial adviser of the year.

He says providers must create more products that appeal to the millennial audience to keep younger investors engaged in financial planning.

Irwin says his approach has been to engage millennials as clients and to use social media platforms to build a client network. He says: “Helping millennials out as early as possible in their financial life cycle is great – such as  helping with their first mortgage – because then they will come back to you. If I am helping more millennials, then the industry needs to help with making more products that are appealing to them. Providers need to wake up and realise it is a missed opportunity. Innovation for new products is vital in that area.”

An ambassador for advice

Chase de Vere financial planner and communications head Patrick Connolly swept the board at the awards, winning financial adviser of the year, investment adviser of the year, at retirement adviser of the year, and Unbiased’s value of advice ambassador. Connolly attributes the secret of his success to giving “sensible” financial planning advice.

He says: “I am not trying to be too clever, I don’t try to predict markets or recommend high-risk funds. I deal with a whole range of media and you need to tailor what you are saying to that audience. With all these media, a key message is getting across that planning is important, it is easy to get wrong and many people do need independent financial advice.”

Connolly believes the value of advice award relates to the quantity of press coverage throughout the year and that Chase de Vere are strong advocates of independent financial advice.

He says: “We don’t have an execution-only service, we don’t have our own products, platforms, or investment funds so the only thing we do is give advice. Across what I am doing, what I am mostly talking about is that people need to be giving independent financial advice. It is those two factors combined – there is a lot of coverage and the message is not mixed at all.”

The full list of adviser winners

  • Financial adviser of the year: Patrick Connolly, Chase de Vere
  • Investment adviser of the year: Patrick Connolly, Chase de Vere
  • Pension adviser of the year: Alistair Cunningham, Wingate Financial Planning
  • At retirement adviser of the year: Patrick Connolly, Chase de Vere
  • Mortgage adviser of the year: Daniel Bailey, Middleton Finance
  • Protection adviser of the year: Alan Lakey, Highclere Financial Services
  • Estate planning adviser of the year: Craig Palfrey, Penguin Wealth Management
  • Tax planning adviser of the year: Jonothan McColgan, Combined Financial Strategies
  • Value of advice ambassador: Patrick Connolly, Chase de Vere
  • Young financial adviser of the year: Sean Irwin, DFP Wealth Managemnt
  • The Bluebook adviser of the year: Jason Hollands, Tilney Bestinvest
  • Social media adviser of the year: Chris Daems, Cervello Financial Planning
  • Responsible investment adviser of the year: John Ditchfield, Castlefield
  • Judges award: Darren Cooke, Red Circle Financial Planning
  • Unbiased award: Anna Sofat, Addidi Wealth