The Money Advice Service has launched its directory of at-retirement advisers, but admits it features “anomalies” and needs further testing.
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.
“The other issue that has come up is a local firm might be way down the list because they have said they do less business in a particular area than other firms.
“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.”
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 say ‘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.”