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Independent view

Administration is an interesting word. It means different things to

different people. Of course, it is generally preceded by another

word, such as good or poor (or variations on that theme).

After 30 years in financial services, I can honestly say that

administration by product providers is worse than at any previous


Why? Put simply, it is because product providers have been squeezed

so hard by a number of factors that they can no longer afford to

deliver quality service to IFAs. The following example proves my


We want to meet up with members of a group stakeholder pension plan

to encourage them to put more money aside for their retirement and to

answer any questions they may have. You know the kind of thing – it

used to be called service. We have taken over servicing of the plan

so are keen to make a good impression.

In February, we receive a letter from the product provider telling us

that it has issued a pre-renewal pack. As you can see from the email

correspondence below, it all goes downhill from that point.

2/02: Good morning. This really is quite simple. I want COPIES of the

pre-review packs and COPIES of the post-review packs. How difficult

do you want to make this? Some person in your firm keeps talking

about the Pensions Act. Can you tell me what part of the Act says you

cannot send me COPIES of these documents?

21/2/03: Receive your letter telling us that the pre-review pack has

been sent out.

26/2/03: We request a copy of this, we are told to get a copy from

the client. Quite frankly, this is rubbish service.

26/2/03: We write to you pointing out that we want a copy and that

telling us to get a copy from the client is poor behaviour on your


3/3/03: We send a reminder by fax because you can&#39t be bothered to reply to us.

3/3/03: Peter responds by email stating that he has requested the

review pack be sent to us as soon as possible (this is a joke, isn&#39t

it?). Also that your HO has been asked to let us have COPIES of all

renewal statements.

10/3/03: We remind Peter by phone. He will get back to us.

11/3/03: Peter tells us that what was issued was a pre-review pack

asking for salaries, etc, but still we have no COPY of this.

Apparently, you have no facility for producing a copy of this. Oh

dear, what kind of office do you have? It doesn&#39t have photocopiers

or printers attached to computers?

11/3/03: We ask for this stuff again by email.

25/3/03: Still nothing.

1/4/03: Email from us. Hello, still not had a copy of anything.

1/4/03: Email from Peter told us you would be in touch urgently.

9/4/03: Not sure what your definition of urgently is, so we call you.

You say that you will speak to Peter and get straight back to us.

11/4/03: We call to be told you are still battling with HO, who are

saying what they said 26/2/03, which is get the copy from the

clients. You will get back later with a response.

11/4/03. You come back and tell us that Peter is sending an email to

the head of department responsible and he will call us on Monday.

15/4/03: You call and tell us that you are still trying to get the

packs and now you want a letter from us confirming all packs are to

come to us and we will take full responsibility for sending them on

to the client. All I want are COPIES.

16/4/03: You called for a response to your request for the letter.

16/04/03: You speak to Andrea and we are told that you need a letter

to get the original post-review packs sent to us. We do not want the

originals, we want a COPY.

I appreciate that you and Peter are doing the best you can. Please do

not treat this as any kind of complaint against you guys. This is

bordering on the ridiculous. All I want your HO to do is to copy this

to me. Am I really asking for too much?

We do not receive commission for this case. We want to get face to

face with members to encourage them to put more money into the plan.

I guess that you would want that too? We can&#39t do this because we

don&#39t have copies of the documentation. Can you see why I am so


You and Peter are trying your hardest to get business from us and we

are trying our hardest to look after the clients. Surely we can sort

this out?

What on earth is going on in our industry? I am told by the

consultant who looks after us that: “It&#39s a 1 per cent world.” Gosh,

I didn&#39t know that. Of course, what the product providers want to do

is to pass on the cost of that 1 per cent world to the IFA.

Seriously, the biggest financial threat to this business is this kind

of poor service. It ratchets up our costs like you wouldn&#39t believe.

PS: Any IFA who wants to know the name of the product provider can call me.

Nick Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice


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