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FOS reveals most complained about adviser firms

Sesame was the most complained about advice firm to the Financial Ombudsman Service in the second half of 2014, the latest data reveals.

The FOS has today published a breakdown of the complaints it received between 1 July and 31 December last year.

It received 142 complaints about Sesame, down from 213 complaints in the second half of 2013. Around a quarter of the complaints were upheld.

Openwork was the second most complained about adviser business, with 82 complaints lodged against the firm in the second half of 2014, of which 16 per cent were upheld. This is down from 101 complaints a year ago.

St James’s Place received 47 complaints, of which 45 per cent were upheld. This is down from 96 complaints in the second half of 2013.

Personal Touch Financial Services was the next most complained about advice firm with 35 complaints, of which 13 per cent were upheld. This compares to 78 complaints against the business a year ago.

The FOS only publishes data where it has received at least 30 new complaints and resolved at least 30 complaints over a six month period.

The firm it received the most investment complaints against during the second half of 2014 was Barclays. It received 175 investment-related complaints against the bank, of which around half were upheld.

The second highest number of investment complaints was made against Lloyds Bank at 133, followed by Yorkshire Building Society at 105 complaints.

For life and pensions complaints, Prudential topped the list with 280 complaints.

This was followed by Phoenix Life with 232 pensions-related complaints, and Aviva with 212 complaints.


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There are 12 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. I have said this elsewhere but the alarming aspect of this is the inefficiency of it all. 16% upheld rates yet how much time, effort and money has been spent getting to this point?

  2. Interesting that such a high % of SJP are upheld, should the FCA not be looking into why such a well established business has a 96% claims up held record, means that they get it wrong nearly all the time, so how much of their advice is actually correct??? Makes you wonder

  3. I don’t get your point, what is the link between upheld complaints and efficiency?

  4. Sam Caunt: so the point is.. What? The right to complain and then to take it to a higher level (FOS) should be banned as an efficient complaint is the one that gets upheld? Or should we ban close the FOS and just make providers uphold 16% of the complaints that would have otherwise been rejected? Sorry, I don’t get it.

    On another note: 35 complaints of which 13% upheld. That’s 4.55 complaints. Is that a partial uphold?

  5. SJP; out of 47 complaints 45 were up held ?

    Tells a story do you think ?

  6. Well I get what Sam Caunt means even if others don’t and I have never had a complaint about my firm go to FOS. Funnily enough I had 3 apparently shortly after I left NatWest as a tied adviser, one was because of the direct debit (out of my control) the second was because of an FSAVC where as a tied adviser and money purchase arrangements, you could NOT recommend an in house MP scheme as you were tied and the third I know not. All logged against ME as they had no one else to log the case against, when as I say the DD was nothing to do with advice and the FSAVC advice was as per the NWL requirements and compliance at the time otherwise it would not have got through said compliance department.
    To be fair to Pru, it is highly likely to be a similar situation as per when I left NW in that when they laid off their advsiers, the lack of a handholder INCREASED the likelihood of a complaint, simply due to the client not being reminded why they had done something. The reason why you’ve still got something is more important for reducing complaint potential than the original why it was done in the first place (now known as a suitability report)
    Who doesn’t change the oil, tyres, windscreen wipers etc so they can pass an MOT? Is it just so you can pass the MOT, or so that the car can at least be safe at a given point every year?
    Any product needs servicing, it is simply the frequency that varies and until a longstop is linked to the last service interval (as per a car warranty, Gas Safe for a Boiler or NHBC for a building), advice will continue to be something that no big business will invest in other than one who wants to secure distribution.

  7. I understand what Sam is saying. If the uphold rate is so low a number of these complaints are no more than fishing exercises on the part of unethical clients and claims management companies. They know what the costs are to the adviser so they threaten FOS in the hope that they will just pay up. This wastes adviser firm time and FOS time, for which we pay. Therefore the whole situation is inefficient and cases are being investigated which shouldn’t even get through the door.

    These figures are pretty meaningless though. It’s hardly a surprise that the largest firms with the most advisers and clients get the highest number of complaints. Can MM work out the ratio of complaints to advisers? They must have a note of how many advisers were employed at these firms. I’m no fan of Sesame but I suspect 142 complaints is quite low compared to the number of cases they process.

  8. The simple answer to the number of “fishing” complaints is to simply impose the £500 FOS fee onto the client/claims management firm until the claim is upheld, at which point the IFA/insurance firm would foot the bill for that on top of any award.

    While ever the situation is as it is you are going to have people throwing mud at a wall until something sticks…. it is inevitable, especially in today’s culture.

  9. At a minimum, referral to an Ombudsman needs to incur a case fee. This does not have to be punitive, but just enough to deter time wasters and chancers from dragging out spurious complaints.

    Personally, I agree in principle with a free assessment by an adjudicator. However, it is grossly inefficient for to have a far more costly and resource-intensive assessment by an Ombudsman which is available free of charge without any requirement to provide new evidence and which takes no account of how “cut and dry” a case may be.

    The Ombudsman referral needs to be limited to cases where the complainant pays a fee. The majority of adjudications are not overturned, and a big layer of costs can be eliminated simply by applying commonsense rules to the second (or third) bite of the cherry.

  10. Well it seems that it is the usual suspects. In terms of upheld complaints – if you look at actual numbers rather than percentages – Sesame are again the champions. What is really shocking is that apart from Barclays they even had more complaints than the banks. It is no secret that I have always thought that the big networks were hardly the incubators of quality. What’s the betting that Aviva dumps them?

    The second largest number of upheld complaints is from SJP – no surprise there either – not with their charges. Again, in my unasked for opinion, SJP proves that the ethos of Trevor Deaves and Allied Crowbar still lives. However one wonders how many complaints were fielded by the companies concerned and the complainants bribed to go away? The actual size of compensation would also be illuminating.

  11. Typical useless statistics to prove FOS have role and to justify the months it takes to get through an enquiry. Without market share/client statistics they have no value at all. Pru topped with 280 v 232 Phoenix – as Pru is one of the major market providers it is quite obvious they may well achieve that rating due to their pure size.
    Attended a CII meeting yesterday when a whole host of statistics were flashed up to prove how things were improving under current FCA rule. Considering IFA’s accounted for about 4% of complaints and only 50% were upheld and as the majority of providers who were responsible for the other 96% of the complaints have withdrawn from the advice market I am surprised FCA and FOS have anything worthwhile to do.
    The upheld complaint statistics may still be including MPPI and Endowment statistics as it takes so long for FOS to finalise rulings so I would not place a great deal of faith in how accurate they are either.
    Just figure out how much the whole FCA/FOS and compliance function is actually costing THE CLIENTS of Openworks for the 13 upheld complaints in a 6 month trading period and then judge whether it represents value for money to THE CLIENTS.
    I think this is a very important question that the industry asks the FCA and FOS on behalf of it’s clients – How do we protect the public at a reasonable cost to the public ? I haven’t seen anyone ask that question or seen a response from the regulators

  12. Mick Hudson

    I think you are wrong – why would so few so called chancers take cases to the Ombudsman. All those letters, pages and pages of details etc . I would hold that they do it because some advisors were too keen to take money and adopt a one size fits all. If a case is so ‘cut & dried’ as you claim then the Ombudsman would only spend 2 minutes on it – and of course that is his/her job – adjudicate.

    If everytime you went into the doctors you had a 16% chance of dying from the medicine you’d worry and for some companies it is a 45% adjudication against them. Perhaps if the advisors (in stead of the companies) were penalised severely them they would be more careful.

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