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How to choose an independent financial adviser

An independent financial adviser can help you get your finances in shape but, with more than 8,000 IFA firms in the UK, how do you choose one? A chartered financial planner explains.

Why choose an independent financial adviser?

An independent financial adviser (IFA) can help you find the right financial products for your needs.

They can be especially useful for investments, pensions, tax and estate planning.

Financial advisers can offer you products from the whole market, not just one or a few providers. They must charge you a fee rather than receive commission from a product provider.

They must also agree a fee with you for the services they will provide. Ask about the fee structure and service you will receive up front.

Qualifications and expertise

Trader tip

Some IFAs specialise in one area such as mortgages or pensions. You'll find this information on their website.

Check that any IFA you're considering has at least a 'Level 4' qualification. This is the minimum qualification that industry regulator the Financial Services Authority (FCA) says all IFAs in Britain must hold.

Chartered or certified advisers will have a 'Level 6' qualification – you may pay more for advice from someone eductaed to this level.

You could also look for an adviser certified to the Quality Standard ISO2222 and firms that hold a British Standard in Financial Planning BS8577.

The globally recognised Certified Financial Planner qualification is also gaining wider acceptance as a sign of quality.

Get an adviser with who is certified by the Institute of Financial Planning, chartered by the Chartered Insurance Institute and holds the International Standard ISO2222 and you can be assured they have been examined to a high level and are subject to ongoing external assessment.

Life planning

Why do you want this help with your finances? Often it'll be to attain or secure goals in other areas of your life.

Financial life planning recognises this link between money and the rest of your life. It takes a holistic look at what you truly value, helps you identify your life goals and plan financially to achieve them.

If this chimes with you, consider an IFA who's had advanced financial life planning training.

Speak to existing clients

Finding out what clients think of an IFA can help you decide if they're the right person to help you make important financial decisions.

Ask friends, family and check Which? Local for recommended IFAs.

Arrange to meet with your shortlist of at least three IFAs

You need to feel confident asking questions if there's anything you don't understand. An initial meeting can help you see how happy you'd be working with that person.


Justin suggests you go compare fees from adviser to adviser and really understand the value of those services along with the cost.

The FSA removed commission from investment products from the end of 2012 but they are still available for some protection policies such as income protection and life assurance.

Think about the impact that on-going fees may have on the value of your investment.

Don't feel pressured into signing up for something that you feel even slightly uncomfortable with. Feel free to go away and have a think about it before deciding. A good adviser always makes sure the product suits you and you're happy with it.

Do you really understand the advice given to you by your IFA? A great way to test this is to try and explain the advice and why you want to act on it to a friend or family member.

If you have questions at any stage or want a second opinion on some advice you've been given, all Which? members can call the free Which? Money Helpline.

About our expert trader

Financial planner Justin King

Our expert: Justin King

Which? Local-recommended chartered financial planner Justin King of works at MPF Wealth Management.

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