DentonsMartin Tilley, Director of Technical Services at Dentons, looks at how you can assess the quality of service they can expect to receive if they move SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension) provider.

How do you know you’re not jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?

When entering a restaurant, and selecting a dish, a patron will have some idea of what should be served to up to them by reference to the menu, but their satisfaction will only be confirmed once they have sampled the dish and experienced the quality of the ingredients and how they have been put together. Unless the patron has previously visited, they are placing their faith in the menu alone and this is the same situation if you are looking to use a new SIPP provider for the first time but unsure of the service proposition.

Martin Tilley, Director of Technical Services at Dentons

Martin Tilley

 Contact Martin Tilley:

01483 521 521

martin.tilley@dentonspensions.co.uk

Service is not quantifiable in the same way as a SIPP feature, such as a fixed fee or acceptance of a defined list of assets, and the only way of determining if it is good or bad is to experience it.

All the more reason not to rely on the marketing literature alone. But what other tools are available to them?

Published services standards

These sound like a good idea but they need to be understood. Comments such as “we aim to achieve 95% of correspondence turnaround within five workings days” actually provide little if any comfort.

An “aim” is not a commitment and what happens if your correspondence is within the 5% that doesn’t make the five day turnaround?

Also a five day turnaround might reasonably be expected to be the minimum service requirement particularly where transfers, investment or benefits are involved.

If the published achievements are not independently audited, what credibility can be placed on them?

Instead I’d suggest that advisers and SIPP members might like to consider:

External service accreditation Firms exists such as IIC which take an unfiltered list of the existing client bank (introducers as well as clients) and surveys them on their real life experience of using the provider.

The results are collated and an award given. Feedback is also provided, both positive and negative.

However the result of the award is only part of the process. It is the actual decision made by the provider to ask for feedback that shows a clear intent to listen to client experience and adjust their service proposition. We found this to be hugely rewarding in terms of adjusting our service proposition to what it is now. This is a key pointer for me.

SIPP ChatForums Several forums exist through the trade publications and social networking groups, as examples of the latter those through LinkedIn, Motley Fool or professional bodies such as the PFS.

With these, advisers and SIPP members are able to reach out to their pier group to ask for experience of service actual experienced.

Of course SIPP Chat is also available through Investment Sense.

Awards Some publications provide for service standard awards. These are most usually voted for by advisers themselves and not SIPP members, again giving an indication of actual service received.

Bland awards, where no voting has been involved and awards are at the discretion of the publisher, are less, if at all credible.

Defaqto rating Defaqto, another independent ratings agency offers opinion after visiting the provider and gauging their own opinion of processes and procedures, although it would appear that no experience of service is verified.

Appearance in regulator/ombudsman findings Firms appearing consistently in these publications may not be providing the service suggesting the need for complaints to be escalated to the highest mediator.

Narrow down the choice

With these tools advisers and members might be able to narrow down the range of prospective SIPP operators.

After that, it will be down to their own first contact experience and their assessment of the SIPP operator’s attitude to satisfying their own and their client’s needs.

About the author

Martin Tilley Martin joined Dentons in 1988 having spent time with Sun Alliance and Crown Financial Management and is responsible for pension technical support to intermediaries and media relations at Dentons. He qualified as an Associate of the Pensions Management Institute in 1994 and is an authorised and regulated individual with over 30 years experience in the self invested pensions market. Martin is a regular commentator on self invested pensions and industry issues and spends much of his time presenting to advisers about key industry changes and opportunities in the pensions market.

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