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09 November 2021

10 questions to ask a financial adviser

Looking for a good professional, financial adviser? Here’s how to choose the best one for your needs.

Many of us could benefit from professional, financial advice at times. But, in an uncertain financial world that often appears to be full of scammers, it can be difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys – never mind finding a genuine financial adviser who fits our needs.

You are free to choose your own Independent Financial Adviser (IFA). You can find an IFA in your area at MoneyHelper


10 questions that you should ask a financial adviser BEFORE you sign them up

Their answers should make it easier for you to choose a trustworthy adviser who is best suited to you.

1. Who are you regulated by?

All UK independent financial advisers should be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You should always double check them and their firm on the FCA website and not just via the details or website the adviser gives you. Using an FCA regulated adviser means they have been professionally assessed and that you will be protected by UK law if anything goes wrong.  


2. What qualifications do you have and are you authorised by the FCA to provide financial advice? 

You can also call the FCA on 0800 111 6768 to double-check they are actually authorised to give you financial advice. Proven qualifications will show the adviser is legitimate and competent, and that they have the specialist knowledge that you may need. Financial advisers must be qualified at a minimum QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework) Level 4 or above (equivalent to the first year of a university degree). They also need to have an annual Statement of Professional Standing (SPS).


3. How much do you charge for providing advice and when do I pay? 

A financial adviser has a legal duty to tell you how they charge, and how much, before they start working with you. Some advisers will offer a free initial consultation, but others charge.  A ‘suitability report’ - a document where some advisers will make their financial recommendations for you - is usually chargeable, so find out if this adviser provides one, and how much this would be, beforehand.

Some advisers charge hourly, others charge a fixed fee or percentage of the value of your pension, or it can be deducted from your ongoing investments. It also depends on the service you want, but it should be agreed in advance. Advisers should not be paid commission from your investment by product providers. 


4. What specific financial services do you offer? 

Look for an adviser with proven knowledge, qualifications and experience in the areas where you need help.  Some advisers will just focus on certain fields, such as investments and taxes, while others are experienced in pensions, retirement planning, or complete financial plans, where all your financial needs are covered. Most advisers also offer an ongoing service which should include a regular meeting and review of your investments.


5. How independent are you? 

To be called “independent”, a financial adviser must offer a range of products and providers from across the whole market and offer unrestricted and impartial advice. An adviser is called ‘restricted’ if they are only permitted to recommend certain types of investment products from a limited number of providers.  A truly independent adviser will have access to a much broader range of products.


6. What experience do you have advising people in my particular situation? 

You need to make sure this is not the first time the adviser is dealing with someone in your situation. If they have worked with people like you regularly, and can give you some examples, that’s ideal. Remember they can only answer this accurately if they know enough about your circumstances and what you’re looking for. 


7. How would an ongoing service work? 

As well as providing a one-off recommendation, some advisers offer an ongoing service. This might include an annual review to check the value of your investments and to consider possible changes. If you decide this arrangement is suitable for you, you should establish how you would work together, and what it will cost you. 


8. Will you carefully consider my financial position when it comes to taking risks? 

You should find out if the investments or actions this financial adviser recommends for you, are suitable for your ‘risk profile’.  The adviser should ask you questions beforehand about your own attitude to risk and how long you wish to invest for. The investments chosen for your financial plan should be carefully selected and discussed with you, so they suit your own personal needs.


9. Would I work just with you, or with a team? 

Many financial advisers will remain your point of contact throughout. However, advisers who work for large organisations may sometimes get a colleague to deal with some of their work. You need to know what to expect, and decide if this suits you.


10. How would I receive the advice? 

Ask if the potential advice will be given face to face, on the phone, via email, via a report or through an online portal.  Any advice given over the phone should be confirmed in writing afterwards. Find out if you can choose one way over another and if there are different prices for each.


Once you've received answers to all of these questions, and checked out any credentials, you should be able to tell if your potential adviser is reliable, trustworthy and a perfect fit for your needs, or whether you should start searching again.