Earlier in the year, VouchedFor published their Top Rated Adviser Guide in The Times. If you still haven’t seen it (or were featured in it), you can download a copy by clicking here.
The guide was very well received by most financial advisers, planners and mortgage advisers, although a handful expressed reservations. So, we thought we’d catch up with Alex Whitson, VouchedFor’s Managing Director, to understand how he felt the launch went and look forward to the rest of the year.
We started by asking…
Are you pleased with the response to the Guide so far?
Alex: “Yes, the response has been overwhelming! 2020’s Guide is the biggest yet, in terms of advisers who qualified (1,325) and their 2019 client reviews (25,334).
We’re very grateful to all the advisers and clients who made it happen. Particularly Emily Turgoose, Dominic McLoughney, Paul Ross and their clients, who provided the three brilliant case studies. It’s typically the advice horror stories that make it into the national press. So, we were delighted to share these powerful examples of the value of great financial advice.”
How did advisers qualify as Top Rated?
“There were 3 criteria to qualify as a Top Rated Adviser:
- Being a verified VouchedFor member, which means advisers have passed our checks and monitoring. This costs £45+VAT per month
- 10 or more 2019 client reviews with an average rating of 4.5 or higher out of 5
- An all-time client-rating on VouchedFor of 4.5 or higher out of 5.
In total, 1,325 advisers qualified, which represents around 60% of our verified members.
We also launched a new Top Rated Firm award. At its core is a commitment from firms to invite all their advisers’ clients to review them now and into the future. They then needed a high response rate (min. 20%) and rating (minimum of 4.5 out of 5).
Firms had to notify us when they believed they’d met the qualification criteria so we could investigate.
In total, 16 firms qualified as Top Rated in the award’s inaugural year. These ranged from smaller firms such as Jones Hill to nationals such as Sandringham.”
How should advisers make the most of being in the Guide?
“The Guide, together with the associated tools such as the Certificate and Email Badge, shows advisers’ prospects, clients and professional contacts that their clients rate them highly. It’s worth using these tools at every interaction.
Yardstick’s blog, 13 ways to publicise that you’re a VouchedFor ‘Top Rated’ Adviser, gives some great pointers!”
What about advisers who are too busy to take on new clients?
“Many VouchedFor members are close to (or even, at) client capacity. They typically use VouchedFor to show clients they value their feedback and are committed to delivering excellent service. And to generate more of the best kind of enquiries – client referrals – for when they do have the capacity.
Of course, the key to generating client referrals is to deliver an excellent service. But it’s clear that independently-verified client reviews help encourage existing clients to refer. As well as encouraging those they refer to become clients.
Our research with 26,215 clients since March 2019, shows that 83% of clients are more likely to refer to their adviser having read their VouchedFor reviews. And 1 in 3 new clients found and read their advisers’ VouchedFor reviews before deciding to work with them.”
Is there anything you would change for next year’s Guide?
“We are always looking for ways to improve.
I’d change the title of the Guide to something like ‘VouchedFor’s Top Rated Adviser Guide.’ The Guide was clearly labelled as being a ‘VouchedFor Guide’ and the Top Rated qualification criteria, including the need for featured advisers to be VouchedFor members, were clear throughout. But this title would be clearer, as well as fairer to advisers who are not VouchedFor members.
While I love seeing advisers celebrating their excellent client feedback, I’d also issue further guidance on Top Rated advisers’ social media posts. We did issue some guidance, as you can see on point 5 here. But we need to do more, as I saw a few misleading posts.”
How do you respond to advisers complaining that they have to pay VouchedFor membership to be able to feature in the Guide?
“This is increasingly rare, but advisers who complain about this typically fall into one of two categories. Those who felt the title of the Guide wasn’t clear enough. I sympathise and, as above, propose we change it slightly. And those who think we are primarily about lead generation. This is a legacy perception, of our own making, and we’re working hard to raise awareness of our more holistic value proposition and the various quality measures we have in place.
The fact is that verified membership fees largely go towards our independent checks, monitoring and review system. Without advisers going through this process, we could not, in good conscience, include them on VouchedFor or in the Guide.
To be clear, we’d never assert that advisers who aren’t VouchedFor members aren’t doing a good job for their clients. We just don’t know.”
Do you remove advisers from the platform?
“Yes. We regularly remove advisers who fall short of our standards. As well as reporting them to their firm, network or the regulator where appropriate.
An unavoidable side-effect of this is that we attract criticism from some of these advisers. Last week I noticed an adviser had added a negative reaction to a Facebook ad of ours. This was ironic given that the ad was about the importance of verified reviews and the adviser had been removed from our platform for review fraud!”
How many advisers would you like to see qualify for the 2021 Guide?
“The more, robust evidence we can give the public to inform their decisions, the better.
As mentioned, being Top Rated means advisers are checked and monitored, as well as receiving recent, excellent reviews from their clients. So, I’d like to see all good advisers and firms qualify as Top Rated!
It’s then on us to give people as much, correct information about these advisers as possible. A responsibility we take very seriously.
It’s important to note that being Top Rated is not an absolute standard. The more, recent reviews and transparent information there are on a Top Rated Adviser’s VouchedFor profile, the easier they will find it to win public trust.”
Do you have any changes planned to the qualification criteria for 2021?
“We’re in the process of reviewing the qualification criteria to ensure that the ‘bar’ is set at the right level.
The industry needs new blood, so we need to accommodate newer advisers who have excellent reviews from their small number of clients, as well as more established advisers with excellent reviews from their larger client books.”
What does VouchedFor have planned for 2020?
How long have you got? Most importantly, we’re continually adding to our checks and review system.
Imminent changes include:
- Ensuring that every verified VouchedFor member has the necessary permissions under the Senior Managers and Certification Regime (SM&CR)
- Launching a better whistleblowing facility, which makes it even easier for advisers and members of the public to raise any issues with our members (anonymously if they wish)
- Making it easier for advisers to be regularly reviewed. For instance, clients can now leave annual ‘follow-up’ reviews, but we have more to do here
- Integrating reviews into the core systems of certain firms to help embed a truly client-led culture. This could see internal league tables being driven by review data celebrating brilliant client outcomes (rather than product sales)
- Adding filters that enable users of VouchedFor.co.uk to filter search results by independent status, advanced qualifications (e.g. Chartered) and fee structure
We’re also trying to do a better job of sharing all the great advice stories we hear every day!
A key point here is that the adviser community provides vital fuel to our efforts and we welcome all suggestions.
How can advisers contact you?
People can reach us via email at [email protected] or by calling 0203 111 0580.
Alternatively, if they don’t have one already, advisers can get a feel for our platform and receive updates by applying for a free ‘Starter’ profile.