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Providers must respond quicker to avoid frenzy

I am an IFA who is particularly interested in complying with our industry regulations and at the same time providing an excellent level of service and advice to our clients.

In order to know my client, it is almost always necessary to write to my clients’ existing pension providers to get correct and up-to-date information about their policy details, values, premium levels, projected benefits and charges.

Without access to this information, it is not usually possible to give proper independent advice.

However, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the time it takes for providers to generate correct replies to simple questions about basic policy information. Frequently, we are quoted more than 30 working days even before the query can be addressed, let alone properly answered.

Often the answers, when we do eventually get them, are inaccurate or incomplete. This necessitates starting all over again and is a waste of everyone’s time.

If this situation is not remedied soon, I anticipate a wave of customer complaints being sent to an already beleaguered industry, whose public reputations are somewhat tarnished.

Doubtless, in due course, the media will initiate yet another feeding frenzy about “lack of customer care and providers focusing only on new business and ignoring the needs of their existing policyholders.”

We do not want any more of that, as we have had enough already.

With the advent of the accelerated need for proper pension advice, both before and after A-Day, we are already experiencing an unprecedented demand for more existing pension policy information that is absolutely necessary to support professional advice. This demand is coming from both existing and new clients.

Providers need to recognise that requests for accurate existing policy information from IFAs on behalf of their clients are going to escalate and unless providers are prepared for it, we could easily suffer an almighty jam that will result in even more complaints and claims for losses from disgruntled policyholders.

If, for example, a policy-holder is unable to take advice about, say, enhanced protection because his pension provider will not or cannot provide existing policy details, then I can see the compen-sation claims becoming very big indeed. This is a disaster in waiting.

As an IFA, I am in the hands of the providers and can do little except make this warning and hope someone listens. I urge you to recognise this problem now as the potential consequences of failure to act could be considerable. Please contact the providers at the earliest opportunity and encourage them to understand the need to address this issue before it is too late.

Douglas Baillie
Scone, Perthshire

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