Adviser opinion is divided over a new website that allows clients to rate and review the financial advice they have received.
Former Barclays Wealth head of digital proposition Adam Price set up VouchedFor. co.uk last month. The website asks clients to award individual IFAs a rating out of five stars and leave feedback about the service they received.
IFAs can post details of their services on the website for free but they have to be either exclusively or predominantly fee-based and offer an independent, whole of market service. There is no minimum qualification requirement but advisers who already have QCF level four will be differentiated on the website.
In order to leave a review, clients must have found the IFA through the website, although IFAs can provide three references from their existing client bank when they register.
Advisers pay between £99 and £299 for the service, depending on net worth of client they are looking to attract. The charge is levied after an introductory phone call setting up an initial meeting.
If clients post reviews that are not favourable, IFAs can reply via the website. Abusive comments will be removed.
Price says: “We want to help consumers find the best financial advisers. We will not feature all IFAs, this is where you come for the better ones and those who are comfortable to have reviews written about them. Therefore, consumers will find IFAs that they can be a lot more confident in.
“If you look at the marketing spend in comparison with the size of the advice industry, it is tiny. Our charging structure means we can reinvest a lot of money into marketing and drive a lot more consumers to the industry that otherwise would be going to the banks.”
Price says he does not see unbiased.co.uk, which lists IFAs by area, as a direct competitor. He says: “We are different websites doing different things. I see unbiased. co.uk’s role as promoting the whole industry and giving each adviser a level playing field when people are searching for an IFA by area.”
Baronworth Investment Services director Colin Jackson says: “By restricting the service to fee-based advisers only, it leaves out a lot of good IFAs who are not fee-based. The consumers who log on to this website are not getting the full picture. The suggestion that fee-based advice is better is garbage.”
Axxis Financial Planning director Owen Wintersgill says: “Just because an adviser is fee-based, it does not follow that he or she represents the hallmark of professionalism.”
But West Riding Personal Financial Solutions managing director Neil Liversidge says: “I have signed up because I believe the more independent client recommendations an IFA has, the better it is for the IFA.”