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Independent view – Len Warwick

You know life is not perfect when you go to the bathroom and the plumber has fitted the new WC so that the seat will not stay up.

You go downstairs and the kids have got in late (that is early in the morning to you and me). They have left out the butter and milk and the latter has gone off.

You get dressed and find your sock drawer has been raided. Then you motor to work. A bus pulls out, forcing you to brake. You recall that when you were taught to drive, you were told not to emerge on to a road causing someone to brake or slow down. Bus drivers plainly ripped that page out of the code.

You are now at work and can relax. Some hope. The first call of the day is to check why your letter to an insurance company for the renewal premiums of an expiring ren-ewable term insurance, which you asked for two months ago, has not materialised in spite of three letters and two calls. Incidentally, why don’t companies send out such reminders?

You are told they cannot find the file so you ask for someone to call you back. They don’t, so you call again and are greeted with something like: “We have a five-day to seven-day turn-round”, to which I reply: “Fine but it has been seven weeks.” Then it is the inevitable: “I’ll hurry it along for you, Mr Warwick.”

The following day you get a form to be completed for the renewal but you have to call again to ask what the premium will be. “I didn’t know that’s what you wanted” comes the reply. I ask: “Which part of my letter asking for the premium didn’t you understand?”

The next call is to an insurance company which says it cannot act on our instructions or the forms completed by a client on his existing policy because it does not have a letter of authority. “It was sent in November and you have been corresponding with us up to this point.” They say: “We can’t find it. Can you get another?” I reply: “Yes by email, the client is abroad.”

A few days later, there is another call from the same insurance company: “Are you sending us the forms?” I tell them they have the forms, that we have spoken about them and they have written to us about them.

Sadly, I suspect my experience is no different from any reader of Money Marketing. Misselling is a word which fills us with dread but what of maladministration, which is rife in our industry? We are long overdue for an industry-wide service charter incorporating financial penalties.

Nobody is perfect. Admin delays and errors occur throughout all businesses but with product providers it is the lack of ownership of a problem I find so offensive.

Errors are made in figures which they will not stand by even after being presented to a client. It is a fight to get financial compensation for the extra time caused by such errors and if you are succ- essful, they will knock you down to a third of your published hourly rate. You can rarely speak with the person who wrote a letter. No one owns up.

Little goes smoothly. If it is capable of being done either well or badly, the odds are stacked in favour of the latter. “It is the wrong form Mr Warwick.” “But it is the one you sent me.” “You’ve sent us a death claim cheque made payable to our administrator.” “Whoops!” “You’ve written to ‘Dear Mr Deceased’, that’s not funny.” “You’ve sent us correspondence for another IFA.” “How did that happen?” “I don’t know – you did it.” “You have sent out an over-due premium notice but we told you five weeks ago that the client died.” You end the day exhausted.

The following morning, you go out in odd socks, honk your horn at the bus driver and by 10am you are slamming the phone down on piped music while being instructed: “If you are an IFA, press one…”

You do wonder whether providers know or care about the strength of feeling on this issue among the IFA industry. You also consider whether your clients should be made aware of this inc-reasing frustration or whe-ther you should continue to shield them from it. Answers on a postcard to…

Len Warwick is managing director of Warwick Butchart Associates

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