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Difficult questions your financial adviser may not want to answer

By Mark Quinn
This article is published on: 30th March 2022

I like being asked tough questions –

It shows that clients have a real grasp of the key issues involved, which is great. It forces me to regularly reconsider the advice I give, and to make sure it continues to be the very best and most cost-effective solution. Also, and speaking from bitter personal experience of poor, disjointed advice I received in an area on which I am not au fait (renovating my property), I truly believe that clients are in a much more powerful position if they are aware of all the salient facts and issues.

With that in mind, and to put you in the most powerful position in your existing adviser relationship, I would start by getting the answers to the following:

  • Are you truly impartial or are you restricted to only recommending certain structures and funds? I come across many clients with the same structure managed by the same investment manager. How can one structure and fund be the most appropriate for all clients with a wide variety of issues and situations?
  • What qualifications do you have to advise? When you visit a professional one assumes they are qualified and good at what they do. It is remarkable therefore that many ‘advisers’ operate in Portugal without qualifications, and some even purport themselves to be tax advisers who do not have any formal tax qualifications. Those coming from the UK may be aware that ‘Chartered Financial Planner’ is the gold standard for advising clients, and ‘level 4’ is the minimum level of qualification required to advise.
  • How much am I being charged? One of the most damaging issues to the performance of your portfolio are the charges that are being taken from your policy. Many times, these are ‘bundled’ or paid discreetly out of the back end of the product. Ask for an explicit breakdown in writing between each fund’s ‘Ongoing Fund Charge’, product/structure charges and the fees or commissions your adviser is taking, and from where.
  • Have you disclosed the full charges to me? If not, why not? This is a contentious issue for some firms at present as, due to an EU directive, they now have to inform clients if they have not disclosed the true costs of the investments that they have set up and managed for them; obviously leading to many disgruntled people and tainted trust in the advisory relationship.
  • What is my number? Does your adviser tell you how long your money will currently last and under what conditions? Do they paint of picture of different scenarios and how these would impact this projection? Or how you can tweak your planning to achieve your goals?
  • How much risk am I taking? People often focus and compare the returns they might achieve but neglect to consider the level of risk their adviser is taking with their money. For example, two portfolios can achieve 5% a year return, but fund 1 may be down 50% at any point during the year, and fund 2 just 10% – clearly these two are very different investments, with fund 2 being superior.
  • Is my fund outperforming a tracker fund? One chooses to invest in a fund if the manager has a proven ability to deliver attractive returns relative to the market, and for this you pay the fund manager a fee, typically around 1% per annum. But are they doing their job and is it worth the cost? A 0.5% reduction in fees may sound trivial, but I recently showed a client they could save in excess of £200,000 in fees over time.

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Article by Mark Quinn

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