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Good Advice Awards 2010

Encouraging excellence in financial advice

Inside the winner’s circle

Sponsors:


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Good Advice Awards 2010

Encouraging excellence in financial advice

Leading by example The 2010 Good Advice Awards were fiercely contested, but which IFA firms eventually triumphed? We reveal this year’s leading lights

Confidence in the financial services industry remains decidedly fragile, with many consumers understandably concerned about the financial challenges and potential hardships they face. Volatile stock markets have made investors increasingly nervous, the pensions crisis shows no sign of relenting, whilst the protection gap has continued to widen. The only consolation is that the media’s ongoing fascination with consumer finance has led to a remarkable level of interest in financial planning. Indeed, the need for truly independent financial advice has never been greater. As a result, advisers have a huge responsibility to ensure that clients can trust the advice they provide. This means delivering a client centric service, building long term relationships and making suitable decisions based on an individual’s circumstances. The public also has a right to expect a high degree of professionalism, knowledge and expertise in those who provide them with financial advice. With this in mind, our Good Advice Awards, now in their second year, are designed to reward the very best adviser organisations and promote excellence in financial advice. We hope that they will provide a useful gauge for consumers when seeking out those companies delivering high quality advice from the thousands of firms potentially available to them. The process So how do the Good Advice Awards work? Entries were invited from the adviser community throughout Spring 2010, with awards on offer in five categories: Best Protection Adviser, Best Retirement Adviser, Best Investment Adviser, Best Tax and Estate Planner and Best Equity Release Adviser. Advisers were asked to provide us with details of their organisation, the level of expertise on offer and why they felt they should win the category entered. We also asked them to support their nomination with client testimonials and evidence of their ability to deliver award winning service. From the initial entries, a shortlist was drawn up, based on the quality of the submissions. Those shortlisted companies were then judged by a panel of industry experts. Judging criteria Each of the shortlisted entries was assessed against four key areas: 1. Understanding client needs This is arguably the most important criteria and will usually form the backbone of any financial orientated relationship. Without a

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The Good Advice Awards 2010

clear understanding of a client’s goals, the advice that follows could be wholly inappropriate. Consequently, the judges were looking for evidence that the adviser firms displayed a commitment to getting to know their client and a desire to establish a long term relationship. Judges were also looking for a strong focus on research when making recommendations and for any signs of innovative problem solving for the benefit of their clients. 2. Customer service In many respects, client service is just as important as financial expertise. Once a client has adopted a recommended plan, it is vital that they are kept fully informed of any actions and the performance of their policies in relation to their agreed goals. Here judges were looking for evidence of client satisfaction and a commitment to treating clients fairly at every opportunity. 3. Commitment to professionalism The Retail Distribution Review promises to bring a new level of professionalism to the financial advice sector when it is implemented in 2012. In the meantime, it is important that adviser firms demonstrate continued growth in their knowledge and skills base, particularly as the financial environment in which they operate is constantly changing. Judges were asked to assess the extent to which the firms displayed a commitment towards professionalism and raising standards, either through implementing training programmes or gaining higher qualifications. 4. Client communication Understandable, jargon-free literature, clear informative newsletters and educational seminars all add to the overall client experience. Judges were required to assess the quality of the organisation’s literature and client correspondence, and consider its overall willingness to communicate with clients on an ongoing basis. The chosen few Those firms which eventually emerged as winners across the five specialist advice categories are showcased over the next few pages. The winners were presented with their trophies at the Investment Life & Pensions Moneyfacts Awards luncheon on 17 September 2010 at the Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, London, in front of over 400 industry professionals. The winners are also able to use the Good Advice Awards logo on their website and business literature - a clear message to clients that they have come to the right adviser.

October 2010


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Best Protection Adviser sponsored by:

Winner: Highclere Financial Services Highly commended: CBK Colchester Commended: Proactive Medical & Life

The winner Highclere Financial Services is a partnership with Alan Lakey as the senior partner and the only authorised adviser. It was formed in May 1991 with a focus on protection and mortgages. Prior to forming Highclere Financial Services, Mr Lakey worked for thirteen years within other advisory firms and insurance companies. The judges’ verdict Although Highclere Financial Services transacts lower business volumes than many multi-adviser firms, it represents a classic example of “quality over quantity”. Its submission demonstrated a real desire to understand and analyse the needs of a wide spectrum of clients, ranging from the modest requirements of single parents to the complex issues relating to commercial protection. However, it was Highclere’s innovative product research which really set it apart from other advisory firms. The judges were impressed with the quality of its critical illness advice, where it has spent the past two years untangling the statistical jungle that underpins the value of critical illness plans.

Alan Lakey of Highclere Financial Services (centre) collects the Best Protection Adviser award from Lutine’s Martin Tyler and Sylvia Waycot, Publishing Director at Moneyfacts Group

October 2010

“Protection advisers are often focused on premiums, on counting the number of critical conditions covered and league tables of claim payouts,” said Alan Lakey, Senior Partner at Highclere Financial Services. “Our methodology has been to emulate the pricing basis used by reinsurers but to take it to an enhanced level using data to place a value on the claims wordings used by the different insurers. The end result being a system which enables an evaluation of the most beneficial plan for each individual client.”

The Good Advice Awards 2010

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Good Advice Awards 2010

Encouraging excellence in financial advice

Best Investment Adviser sponsored by:

Winner: Lowes Financial Management Highly commended: AWD Chase de Vere Commended: Whitechurch Securities

The winner Established in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1971, Lowes Financial Management is one of the largest privately owned IFAs in the UK, managing in excess of £350 million for its clients nationwide. It was one of the first advisers in the country to achieve the accreditation Chartered Financial Planners and is ranked within the Top 100 Independent Financial Advisers according to the annual Plimsol Publishing analysis. The judges’ verdict The judges were particularly impressed with Lowes’ commitment to professional qualifications and the company’s investment expertise. A key area of investment advice where the judges felt Lowes truly excelled was with regards to structured products. Whilst some advisers have only occasionally dabbled in this market, Lowes has become a renowned expert in this field, having identified and avoided problem areas well in advance. This year the company relaunched its web based structured products review service, which gives clients the opportunity to learn more about the sector, offering articles and guidance, along with access to an extensive library of structured products.

Ian Lowes of Lowes Financial Management (centre) collects the Best Investment Adviser award from Canada Life’s Matt Logan and Sylvia Waycot, Publishing Director at Moneyfacts Group

Best Retirement Adviser sponsored by:

Winner: Informed Choice Highly commended: Concept Financial Planning Commended: Lift-Financial

“We believe in investing in well diversified portfolios with a view to achieving the best possible returns without exposing the client to undue risk,” said Ian Lowes, Managing Director at Lowes Financial Management. “Although the majority of client portfolios are invested in managed funds, the structured products that complement these have been fundamental in achieving the client satisfaction we are justly proud of.”

The winner Informed Choice is a privately owned and managed firm of Chartered Financial Planners. It was established in 1994 by husband and wife Nick and Andrea Bamford, with their son Martin becoming the second generation to join the business in 2002. Over the past sixteen years, the business has grown to a team of ten Financial Planners and five individuals in the client support team. The judges’ verdict The judges felt that communications strategy was a key differentiator between Informed Choice and other IFA firms. Every client receives an annual review, consisting of a comprehensive review report and meeting with their Financial Planner. Clients with more complex needs or higher levels of assets under management receive more frequent reviews, with a number receiving a quarterly review report to support a proactive investment management service. The judges praised the wide range of information available to clients through the company’s website, weekly email newsletters and quarterly investment outlook report, as well as its use of social media as a way of ensuring ongoing and regular communication.

Philip Sullivan of Informed Choice (centre) collects the Best Retirement Adviser award from MGM Advantage’s Aston Goodey and Sylvia Waycot, Publishing Director at Moneyfacts Group

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The Good Advice Awards 2010

“We are continually looking to enhance our client proposition as technological, economic and legislative circumstances provide new opportunities,” said Martin Bamford, Managing Director at Informed Choice. “We embraced the fee charging approach long before the RDR was announced, because we passionately believed that remuneration solely as a result of product implementation did not engender a client centric approach to providing independent advice.”

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Best Tax and Estate Planner sponsored by:

Winner: Dickinson Dees Highly commended: IFS (Professional Connections) Commended: Affluent Financial Planning

The winner Dickinson Dees is one of the top 50 law firms in the UK and provides a full range of services to corporate, public sector and private clients. The Investments & Pensions Team within Dickinson Dees was established in 1999. The team is part of the Wealth Management Department which offers clients financial, legal, trust, tax and estate planning advice. The judges’ verdict The judges felt that Dickinson Dees demonstrated a true desire to deliver quality, independent, fee based advice, tailored specifically to meet clients’ needs. Particular praise was reserved for the high level of technical expertise the firm is able to draw on, with IFAs working closely with chartered accountants and qualified solicitors who specialise in trust, tax and estate planning. Indeed, the Wealth Management Department within Dickinson Dees boasts an impressive nine STEP registered Trust and Estate Practitioners. Its team members also frequently present and attend seminars, both in-house and externally, to intermediaries and clients, covering investment, pension, legal, taxation and trust issues.

Simon Patterson of Dickinson Dees (centre) collects the Best Tax and Estate Planner award from Octopus Investment’s Neil Buckland and Sylvia Waycot, Publishing Director at Moneyfacts Group

Best Equity Release Adviser sponsored by:

Winner: Cavendish Equity Release Highly commended: LaterLiving Commended: Almary Green Investments

“Our typical clients include high net worth individuals, business owners, company directors, lottery winners, trustees, charities and family dynasties,” said Simon Patterson, Manager of the Investments & Pensions Team at Dickinson Dees. “The team currently has over £1 billion of assets under influence, and continues to win new client instructions on a regular basis. Our clients legal, financial and tax affairs are therefore often complex, but thanks to our expertise we are able to offer an integrated service to meet all these needs.”

The winner Based in Leeds, Cavendish Equity Release is a whole of market broker of lifetime mortgages and home reversion plans, employing 21 staff. Owned by the CGA Group, it is the longest established UK equity release specialist, recently celebrating 25 years. The judges’ verdict It was clear to the judges that Cavendish is a company committed to going the extra mile for its customers, with its advice processes and paperwork going far beyond what is recommended by the FSA. Even though the products Cavendish recommend are meant to be lifelong products, its advisers regularly re-visit clients to check if they can negotiate a better deal on their behalf. The exemplary service delivered by Cavendish was evidenced by the multitude of positive client testimonials and letters it was able to supply.

Charlotte Bartlett of Cavendish Equity Release (centre) collects the Best Equity Release Adviser award from Bridgewater’s Peter Welch and Sylvia Waycot, Publishing Director at Moneyfacts Group

October 2010

“The result of our hard work is clear - the compliance department has had a landmark year with no complaints made against Cavendish, and the implemented Treating Customer’s Fairly protocols have borne fruit with a glowing assessment from the FSA in June,” said Charlotte Bartlett, Marketing Manager at Cavendish Equity Release. “Almost daily we receive thank you notes, postcards and phone calls congratulating our staff on their hard work and customer service. These arrive not just for the advisers but for the initial appointment bookers, the administration team and everybody that helps keep the operation smooth.”

The Good Advice Awards 2010

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Good Advice Awards 2010 Winners Supplement  

Profiles of the winners in the 2010 Good Advice Awards

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