IFAs continue to mislead public on credentialsWhich? investigates Money Advice Service directory

24 September 2016

Additional qualifications give financial advisers a competitive edge

Which? Money has uncovered more evidence of IFAs claiming special accreditations they don’t have.

Following our investigation earlier this year that called into question the accuracy of financial advisers’ credentials on Unbiased.co.uk, we have identified the same problem on the Money Advice Service’s (MAS) Retirement Adviser Directory. 

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Worrying discrepancies

The MAS Retirement Adviser Directory is a searchable online database of advisers, which allows you to filter results by postcode and additional certifications.

Using three postcodes – from London, Sheffield and Edinburgh – we compiled a database of 240 advisers who were listed as possessing at least one of the following five certifications in addition to those required by the Financial Conduct Authority: Chartered, Certified, ISO 22222, Later Life Academy and Society of Later Life Advisers.

We then asked providers of the certifications to compare our findings with their own official lists, and found some worrying discrepancies.

For three of the five credentials we looked at (Later Life Academy, ISO 22222 and Certified), fewer than half the advisers claiming to hold them were present on the provider’s official list. 

A third of advisers claiming to hold a Society of Later Life Advisers qualification were unrecognised. When firms join the MAS Retirement Adviser Directory they can self-certify their details, including any additional qualifications their advisers hold.

The table below shows the proportion of advisers we looked at who didn’t hold the qualifications they claimed to have.

Questionable claims
AccreditationNumber claiming qualificationNumber unrecognised by qualification body% unrecognised
Later Life Academy201785%
ISO 22222a171059%
Society of Later Life Advisers401333%

Table notes:
Figures correct as of 24 September 2016. a During our investigation MAS pulled all ISO 22222 listing from its website after a complaint from Standards International, which then told us of its own findings.

Find out more: 10 questions to ask your financial adviser - see our checklist

The Money Advice Service responds

When we asked the providers about our findings, they told us that in some cases the adviser’s qualification had lapsed, while in others advisers were in the process of attaining the qualification but had not yet completed the requirements.

The MAS told us it had been in the process of carrying out an audit of adviser details. It said that the discrepancies it had discovered so far were apparently due to technical or administrative errors – and that it had not found evidence of firms deliberately falsifying information.

The MAS will continue in its present form until April 2018, when a new government body for money guidance will launch.

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