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Big is best?

20.07.2009

What’s the biggest problem advisers face on SIPPs? Well, one of our top adviser contacts reckons it’s poor service from SIPP providers. Most advisers with involvement in the SIPP market know that there are providers giving poor service, and when I talk to them the same names keep coming up, it’s a sort of unwritten secret. Advisers are fed up with slow turnround times, a “computer says no” mentality when they ring up, and constant mistakes.

The recent Defaqto annual report suggested something different, that the main search now being carried out by advisers on SIPP providers is to confirm if they are regulated. A bit odd that, as all SIPP providers have to be regulated anyway, but an indication of how cautious we have all become. We are seeing some SIPP providers selling themselves on the basis that they are big, as if that’s all that counts these days.

A comment from another IFA on their (fairly large) SIPP provider perhaps sums it up: “I’m going to carry on using them – they’ve gone downhill but they haven’t cocked anything up yet”. Understandable, but at what stage do you decide that enough is enough? Do you wait for the cock-up and the damage done to one of your clients?

Some advisers will wait, put up with poor service, and hope that things turn round. Others will get fed up and move on. One thing is certain: the business environment will recover, the “big is safe” argument will have less significance and factors like good service will become more important.

Where does Curtis Banks stand in this? Well, we’re hugely experienced and committed to good service, but we need to get this across. Our Defaqto 5 star rating confirms the strength of our product and the recent Money Marketing review of our SIPP came up with the conclusion “This SIPP should tick all the right boxes for advisers and their clients”, a very welcome piece of unsolicited praise. Money Marketing also added the words “but its success may depend on the service it provides to advisers”. My only argument with that is that I would change “may” to “will”, good service is vital if we are to be successful.

I would be interested in your views, whether you attach more importance to size or service.

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