The Money Advice Service’s directory of at-retirement advisers has been branded “not fit for purpose” after it launched with a number of technical issues.
The directory is in beta mode and features 4,500 advisers from 1,200 firms.
Those using the Government’s Pension Wise guidance service will be pointed to the directory if they wish to seek advice.
Users enter their postcode and can choose to search for face-to-face, telephone or online advice.
They can also tick one or more of the following areas that they wish to receive advice on: pension pot(s)/other savings or investments, paying for care, equity release, inheritance tax planning, and wills and probate.
The results are ordered by a combination of location and – if the customer selects an advice area – by the firm’s business mix. Advisers are asked what proportion of their business is in each of the five areas.
But FCA Consumer Panel member Teresa Fritz, who has led the work on the directory, says there are some “anomolies” in the results which need to be ironed out.
She says: “Some advice firms will have a head office location but advisers who work from home and travel to see clients. There is an issue where the top result could say the firm has an adviser 160 miles away, but what we mean is the firm has an adviser which will travel to them. We need to change the message to explain that.
“In an ideal world the directory would not be going live to the public yet and we would have at least another month to work with advisers to get everything right. But we have had to work to very tight timescales.”
Pilot Financial Planning managing director Ian Thomas says the postcode search is “not fit for purpose”.
He says: “We have registered for the directory, but when I type in our office postcode and tick the pension pot box, the first adviser is 200 miles away and our firm is not on the first page of results.
“That is not good enough and it is a bit late in the day to be having such fundamental issues. The directory is user friendly but the advice areas seem to be extending the brief as the guidance service will not cover areas like equity release.”
For each advice firm, the directory lists its minimum fee, whether the initial meeting is free and the firm’s minimum pot size, if applicable. It also lists whether the firm has advisers with specialist qualifications.
MAS says it aims to match consumers to firms by their pot size.
But Fritz says where firms have left the minimum fee blank on the form they submitted, no minimum fee information shows on their profile. She says this will be changed to “no minimum fee”.
She says: “I cannot stress enough how early in the directory’s development this is. We want to introduce additional filters so that consumers can search by qualification or search for an independent adviser.
“We want to capture more details on fees but we would have to be careful with any feature that allowed users to search by price, as we don’t want to be a price comparison site.”
Almary Green managing director Carl Lamb says: “The directory is basic in the extreme and has a long way to go. The results list does not tell you much about the firms and I would like to see more information included.
“Pension freedom is now a reality and it seems we are still putting sticky plasters over the gaps.”