The value of independent advice

By April 4, 2024Financial Planning

Whilst it is a topic we have covered previously, we make no apology using this week’s Wealth Matters to reinforce the benefits of independent financial advice, and potential pitfalls when using a restricted adviser.

Understanding the difference

Financial advice can be provided on either an independent or restricted basis; however, many people may not immediately understand the difference between the two. Firms need to clearly inform clients whether they offer independent or restricted advice when engaging with a client; however, many restricted firms do not do this, and thus mislead clients.

Independent financial advisers (IFAs) are not tied to any specific financial products, providers or investment institution, so they can offer impartial advice tailored to their client’s needs. In contrast, restricted advisers can only recommend certain products and solutions from a very limited range of options, and in some cases, will only be able to recommend products from a single provider.

Using a restricted financial adviser doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be getting ‘bad’ advice, as all financial advisers must have a similar minimum level of qualifications and meet the same standards. It does, however, mean that the choices available as a client of a restricted firm may well be limited, which may lead to missed opportunities, or a sub-optimal solution.

At FAS, we choose to be completely independent so that we can research and recommend financial products spanning the whole of the market. In doing so, our advice is unbiased and unrestricted. We are very proud of our independence, and our ability to recommend the most appropriate product or service from across the marketplace helps us to achieve our aim of providing the best advice to clients.

Value for money

Some may make the mistake of assuming a restricted adviser will offer better value for money, as they perceive the amount of work undertaken in recommending a product from a limited range will prove more cost effective; however, this is not the case, and in our experience, the opposite is found to be true. We often meet new clients who have received advice from a restricted firm, and when undertaking unbiased cost comparisons, the restricted firm prove to be expensive compared to the cost of independent advice. One factor is our ability to look across the whole of the investment market and potentially access more cost-effective options that may not be offered through a restricted adviser.

What independence means to FAS

To help demonstrate the importance we place on our independent status, we look at three key areas where our day-to-day advice is enhanced by our independence.

1. Independence in fund selection

The UK fund management industry continues to grow in size with around 3000 funds being available to UK retail investors, covering both active and passively managed fund solutions across the widest range of asset classes, sectors and geographies.

Being an independent firm affords us complete freedom in the investments and funds we recommend are held within client portfolios. The FAS Investment Committee always take a wholly unbiased view when it comes to fund selection, selecting the most appropriate funds from across the whole of the market, without restriction. Comprehensive research and analysis is undertaken on all investment funds available to UK retail investors every quarter, and where funds pass our filters, we engage with fund managers to carry out more detailed analysis.

Funds that we currently recommend to clients need to fight for their place on our recommended list at each quarterly review. In the event that a fund underperforms, we discuss performance with fund managers, and have no hesitation in removing a fund from our recommended list if we feel better prospects lie elsewhere. Our focus on strong fund performance, together with our desire to access competitively priced solutions, can help our clients meet their financial goals, such as saving for retirement, more quickly.

2. Independence in product selection

As an independent firm, we always look to recommend the most appropriate product provider from across the whole of the marketplace. We undertake a regular whole of market review of platforms and product providers, considering factors such as platform cost, service levels received and changes in product features. This whole of market approach means that we can feel confident that the recommendations made to our clients are based on a comprehensive review of the full range of options available.

In a similar manner, we monitor and regularly review platforms that have been recommended to clients, and should a more appropriate solution become available, we have the ability to recommend that the client moves to a platform that provides lower costs, or improved levels of service.

3. Independence in financial solutions

A key benefit of our independent status is the ability to take a totally unrestricted view as to the solutions that would best fit an individual client’s circumstances. This is a particularly important element that supports our holistic approach to financial planning. For example, for those in later life, we are able to recommend esoteric investments, such as business relief solutions for inheritance tax planning, and for individuals who are seeking a high degree of tax efficiency, we can look across the range of Venture Capital Trust, and Enterprise Investment Schemes, if appropriate, given a client’s attitude to risk and objectives.

Why independence matters

We are very proud of our independent status, which we feel allows us to provide the best advice by being able to recommend products and solutions from across the whole of the market. If you currently receive advice from a restricted adviser, you may not be receiving poor advice; however, it may well be sensible to consider the limitations under which the adviser is working.

For example, the limited range of fund options offered by a restricted adviser could lead to underperformance, when compared to recognised benchmarks and peers. Given our experience, it may also be wise to review costs and charges, to see whether the restricted adviser is offering good value for money. Speak to one of our independent advisers, who are happy to take an unbiased and impartial review of your existing financial arrangements.