For fairly obvious reasons, we recently embarked on a trawl through all our low-cost endowment files to establish on just how many of them the insurance companies have been failing to send us copies of their annual reprojection packages.
The results have been alarming, to say the least. The two that really raised our eye-brows, though, were a pair on which one of the lives assured had died two years ago. Amazingly, neither Prudential nor Scottish Life had considered it appropriate to let us know.
Apart from the IHT planning implications, one has to wonder just what investment opportunities may have been lost to us.
Before anyone raises the question of why the widow had not thought to contact us, I should point out that on these cases, the clients had never transacted any business through us. They had appointed us to these two policies for future service and guidance as and when required.
We complained, only to be told that, as far as Prudential and Scottish Life are concerned, our right to any further involvement with these policies is automatically and immediately terminated upon the death of either life assured.
But, we protested, these are our clients. How can you possibly justify simply cutting us out of the picture if one of them dies? Standard practice, was the answer.
We thought it strange that two different life companies should, independently, give the same response to the same question so we checked with our network's technical department. They know nothing about such practices. If nothing else, it would, at the very least, have been a simple courtesy to inform us that one of our clients had died.
We already have a fairly good measure of how the Prudential treats IFAs but the same stance from Scottish Life is more surprising. It would be interesting to know if any other IFAs have had similar experiences. Needless to say, the next phone call we receive from either company will not receive a very warm welcome.
On a different note, it beggars belief that Scottish Equitable have won some sort of award for service standards. As far as Scottish Equitable Protect is concerned, their standards of service are consistently abysmal. They quote turn-round times of 12 working days for the most basic of tasks. Yet when you phone them to ask why nothing has happened within this quoted timeframe (after an interminable wait to be put through to anyone), they tell you they have extended it to 18 days, so that now they are still within their stated timescale for doing what they originally promised to get done within 12 working days. Is that rubbish or what? Just what is the point of defining turn-round times (and hardly impressive ones at that) but then simply extending them when the original one has been breached? It is just a joke. Service awards? I take not the slightest notice of them. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Julian Stevens WDS IFAs, Bristol