Ahead of the General Election next month, financial advice firm Wealth Horizon has launched its own ‘manifesto’ outlining where it would like to see changes in the financial advice industry over the coming years.
The company believes that a fundamental step-change is required in order to make financial advice more accessible to the majority of people in the UK, and that significant changes are required in the industry if this is to be accomplished.
Chris Williams, CEO of Wealth Horizon, says: “Financial advice has a more vital role than ever to play following changes to pensions rules, but accessibility remains poor.
The traditional ways of accessing advice are now looking strained, with a need to access advice online and over the phone increasingly vital in this digital age we live in. However, at the core of the problem is a lack of education. Investors know they need to save for their retirement, but they don’t know how to go about doing so.
Many therefore go it alone, but DIY investing has many pitfalls and without detailed knowledge about investments many consumers end up losing out and investing in unsuitable products, or not investing at all.
“Our manifesto reflects the principles upon which Wealth Horizon was created, namely that investing should be made more accessible and affordable to all,” says Williams. “These are real issues that need to be addressed and rectified, especially in light of the new pension freedoms. If everyone has greater access to pension pots, they also need greater access to advice, and the industry’s job is to highlight the increasing breadth of routes they can now take.”
The five-point manifesto includes:
Advice should be more widely accessible than it is now. Williams, says: “Financial advice has become the preserve of the affluent, with an advice gap forming between the financial elite who can afford what many consider to be extortionate fees, and those that cannot. The industry has pandered to the wealthy to such an extent that now investors with less than GBP100,000 in the bank simply don’t know where to turn. If financial advice is to be regarded as vital in managing consumers’ personal finances, then the industry needs to adapt and become more accessible to the average investor.”
Advice should be responsible and stood by. Williams, says: “There is a widespread epidemic of firms offering 'guidance' rather than advice. The simple truth is that some investors do not understand the difference and assume that all information and guidance is given with their best interests at heart. This isn’t always the case and yet there are those out there that will play to this weakness in the system. The industry and the regulator need to come together to ensure clients understand the benefits of receiving regulated and responsible advice.”
Advice should be good value. Williams, says: “Part of the issue facing the industry is that most financial advice is offered in the same way as a package bank account. Whether people need all the services or not, they are charged for everything rather than what is required. Again, this makes advice more expensive and less accessible to those with lower budgets. Advisers should not work to one set fee, but adapt their costs according to the service that they provide. It should be a right for people to access sound financial advice at a decent price – if it’s not affordable, this only serves to widen the advice gap”
Advice should be simple and easy to understand. Williams, says: “It’s time to get back to basics. The industry needs to make a commitment to reintroduce plain English into the way in which it communicates with clients. If it doesn’t, it will continue to alienate those people that need our help and support the most.
Allow for greater freedom to evolve the industry. Williams, says: “Advice has become tangled in red tape and legal disclaimers as the industry attempts to protect consumers from being stung by the poor practices of a few.
“While understandable, the past cannot, and should not, be used as an excuse for slowing down the evolution of our industry. If financial advice does not evolve with the changing needs of its clients then it might as well pack up shop now. Yes there is a need for strong regulation, but not at the expense of being able to move with the times.”