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.”