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False qualifications on adviser directories exposed again

Two thirds of financial advisers could be misleading the public over their qualifications on online directories such as Unbiased and the Money Advice Service, an investigation has found.

Research by Which? found that across 43 firms on Unbiased, over 63 per cent of these didn’t have advisers holding the relevant qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investments despite stating they had them.

Similarly, the consumer research website looked at 72 firms claiming to have advisers with chartered financial planner status, finding nearly 20 per cent didn’t employ any chartered advisers.

On MAS, 16 per cent of firms were uncertified, 9 per cent claimed they held chartered status when they didn’t, and 5 per cent falsely reported a Society of Later Life Advisers accreditation.

Similarly, on directory VouchedFor, Which? found two of the 21 advisers claiming to have a chartered status did not hold the qualification.

CISI director of global business Kevin Moore told Which? “We are extremely concerned to see the results of this report”.

Which? Money editor Harry Rose says: “Our findings raise serious questions for the advice sector. If potential customers can’t trust the information in the public domain about prospective advisers, how can they reliably shop around for the right one?

“Adviser directories, accrediting bodies and advisers themselves must ensure listings are correct, so consumers can confidently compare different advisers.”

VouchedFor said it plans to require advisers to upload scans of their certificates. The company has recently updated its website adding a “checks” link on advisers’ profiles that will show the last time Vouchedfor looked at the services the adviser offered.

Unbiased chief executive Karen Barrett said most of the false listings Which? found came from “free profiles” on the directory. However she said the company is actively working with accrediting bodies to check the accuracy of its listings.

She says:”Currently we are still querying over 2,000 outstanding qualifications and accreditations held by 27,000 professionals, and we are working to find a good solution to check them more efficiently.

“Of the inaccuracies that do remain, the vast majority are to be found in ‘basic’ profiles that advisers can open free of charge.”

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Comments

There are 8 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. If true this is utterly outrageous!
    A clear breach of FCA Principles – not only should the directory service providers take immediate and decisive action but they and Which? should also hand the evidence to the Regulator – who should also act decisively!
    This is supposed to be a long-regulated sector in the UK in 2017 not the Costas in the seventies!

  2. I too saw this rep[ort and it reflects very poorly on ‘Unbiased’, which as I have said on several occasions is far from unbiased. I used to willingly donate when it was IFAP, although I really never wanted their referrals. I just regarded them as good PR.

    This is hardly the case with their successor who now lets in all sorts and it would seem including a fair few cowboys as well. This is just sloppy management from an organisation that seems to be more concerned with their income than providing a decent service to the public.

    The Regulator too cannot escape criticism. They never listed the status (Independent or otherwise) or qualifications of regulated forms appearing on their web site and still don’t. I wonder what use the general public put on either of these listings.

  3. As I have been saying, ‘Vouchedfor’ do not vouch for much, breathing, I think and Unbiased are NOT, the more you pay the higher up the referral chain you go.

  4. Two questions here. Firstly, if the authorised individuals and/or advisers are found to have done this then presumably they cannot be considered fit and proper when taking into account their honesty and integrity. The promotion of their services also fails the requirement to be ‘clear, fair and not misleading’.

    Will the FCA take any action other than a telling off? Doubtful. Which is a kind of endorsement of bad behaviour and a spit in the eye of those making the effort to comply.

    Secondly, what are the professional bodies doing about this? Presumably this is a breach of their ethics code and rules of behaviour for members. Will they take public disciplinary action and/or strike them off? Doubtful. Which sends a poor message also.

    I agree with Ian Lowes, it is outrageous. I’m not sure about the seventies but it certainly doesn’t progress any further than the eighties…

  5. One of the big problems is that providers and other bodies that don’t provide advice have referred clients to unbiased for years without realising that the unbiased directory has become a biased lead generation service. Maybe insurers should be referring clients to one of the professional body directories (e.g. http://www.thepfs.org/yourmoney/) or encourage unbiased to get back to its roots.

  6. Remember………people RESPECT what you INSPECT and not what you EXPECT!!

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