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What to expect of advisers – insider tips from Liberty

17 June 2008 Liberty Group

CONSUMERS should raise the bar when it comes to their expectations of financial advisers.

So says Liberty Group, a life assurer and integrated wealth company that distributes a wide range of financial products via thousands of intermediaries nationwide.

Liberty believes a new, highly skilled and objective adviser is moving to the forefront of the financial services industry and deserves to be treated as a thorough professional.

As a basic minimum, the consumer is entitled to expect three things; honesty, knowledge and quality service, says Jay Naidoo, Divisional Director of Learning at Liberty.

She believes the Financial Advisory & Intermediary Services (FAIS) Act, market place pressures and voluntary initiatives by industry leaders have been the catalyst for a revolution in ethical and service standards.

Naidoo adds: “We encourage the public to ask searching questions in any interaction with advisers. True professionals welcome the chance to make a credentials presentation and demonstrate their knowledge.

“In cases where an intermediary does not withstand scrutiny, we are delighted that an alert consumer has avoided potential pitfalls by asking pertinent questions rather than making hasty commitments.”

Liberty provides an insider’s perspective on the factors that indicate a ‘pass mark’ in the areas of honesty, knowledge and service.

Honesty: One yardstick is open disclosure of remuneration. Professionals are not ashamed to be rewarded for good work and expert advice. The consumer is entitled to ask about fees and commission and how they are calculated. A consumer is also entitled to ask about alternatives and how these fees compare with those for the recommended products. Intermediaries must give suitable advice that is not influenced by the potential reward. Professionals give full names, company affiliations and a Financial Service Provider licence number.

Knowledge: Product knowledge was always good. Today it is complemented by a broader market view and a needs focus. All top advisers are trained to conduct a thorough financial needs analysis. They develop a balanced view and make recommendations that meet customer needs. If objective analysis indicates a need in an area in which an adviser has incomplete knowledge, he will make arrangements to introduce a specialist colleague. Consumers should not be afraid to ask about an adviser’s industry experience and educational attainments, including degrees, diplomas and training.

Service quality: Advisers aligned to well-resourced companies use mobility tools. They can see consumers at their homes or places of work. They should be able to call up all necessary information. A professional will arrive promptly and be fully equipped to conduct a full financial needs analysis. A solution might be suggested at the end of a consultation. Alternatively, a follow-up presentation may be necessary or additional options and information may have to be provided. Set a time frame. True professionals respect deadlines. A medical examination may be necessary. In many cases, a mobile health professional can be called in at a time and place suitable to the consumer. Members of the public should feel their needs are paramount.

“Consumers should not accept anything less than ethical, knowledgeable and service-driven advisers,” says Naidoo.

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