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't 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't
it?). Also that your HO has been asked to let us have COPIES of all
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't 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't do this because we
don't 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
What on earth is going on in our industry? I am told by the
consultant who looks after us that: “It's a 1 per cent world.” Gosh,
I didn't 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't 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