Are Unbiased or VouchedFor treating advisers as cash cows?

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Our survey comparing Unbiased and VouchedFor has only been running for 48 hours, but it is already highlighting some interesting issues and very strong opinions.

I’m afraid you will have to wait until September for the full results, but there is one topic I thought was worth investigating straightaway.

A number of respondents, particularly those who use neither directory, have suggested that both Unbiased and VouchedFor increase their turnover, and reduce adviser’s potential conversion rates, by either recommending enquirers contact multiple advisers or selling the same enquiry to more than one adviser.

Of course consumers have an absolute right to shop around for the right adviser, but I believe most advisers would find such practices unacceptable.

So, are these accusations myth or reality?

To find out, I became a mystery shopper and submitted a request to both directories as a potential investor would do. I then asked both Unbiased and VouchedFor for their comments.

Here’s what I found and please note: No advisers were harmed, or indeed charged for spurious enquiries, as a result of this blog!

Tweet: Are Unbiased & VouchedFor using advisers as cash cows? @Sense_Advisory investigates http://ctt.ec/Yfze3+

Unbiased

From the test:

After inputting my criteria, a list of potential advisers was shown to me based on geographical proximity to the postcode I entered. I selected my adviser of choice and a message was fired off to them. I was then shown a page with the following text:

“Your message was sent successfully. You should receive a response soon.

To find other advisers who may be able to help you, click to return to your search results page. Don’t forget to refine your search with our search filters.”

I also received an email, confirming my enquiry had been sent, which read:

“Dear Phillip,

Thank you for using unbiased.co.uk. We have sent your enquiry to Company Name.

You can expect a response within 48 hours. However, if you don’t hear back feel free to follow up with the adviser, search for another or send us feedback. Remember you can customise your search to find advisers who offer exactly what you’re looking for.”

In their own words:

Michael Ossei of Unbiased said: “The Unbiased platform only allows the enquirer to contact up to three advisers within a given time frame and that the system stops the user submitting the same enquiry to the same adviser twice.”

He went on to say “The system also makes it impossible for one enquiry to be sold to more than one adviser, as the enquiry vanishes from the system as soon as it is accepted.”

My conclusion:

It is clear to me that Unbiased do not sell the same enquiry to multiple advisers. I would also suggest that at no point do they actively encourage the enquirer to submit the same request to additional advisers.

Whilst I acknowledge the results page, which says: “To find other advisers who may be able to help you, click to return to your search results page.” I don’t believe this is an active attempt to increase revenues and could actually be useful to the enquirer if the original adviser fails to get in touch; which, I’m lead to believe, happens all too often.

VouchedFor

From the test:

Again, after inputting my criteria I was shown a list of advisers based on VouchedFor’s ‘best match’ algorithm. I selected the adviser who had agreed to take part in this test, answered some additional questions and fired off a message to him.

I was then shown a page with the following text:

“Your information has been sent to Stuart. He will review your information and contact you shortly.

Other Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) near Nottingham who are well matched to you:

Contacting more than one IFA gives you an opportunity to compare their services and fees

The following Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) are well rated in your area and are able to advise people like you.”

Below this message, the picture of two advisers along with some very basic information about them was displayed, along with the ability to click to learn more or send an enquiry to them.

Again, I received a confirmation email, which said:

“We have sent your request to the Financial adviser, Stuart. They should be in touch within 24 hours, and if unsuccessful on the first attempt will try to contact you again over the next 3 working days.

If you have requested a financial plan directly or through one of our partners, this adviser will be in touch to discuss your plan with you.

If you do not hear from them in this time frame, you can contact them on stuart@abc.co.uk or let us know by emailing consumer_support@vouchedfor.co.uk so that we can follow this up.”

In their words:

Adam Price, Managing Director of VouchedFor, told me: “VouchedFor offers a strong consumer proposition, giving a great choice of well-rated advisers. We do allow, and even make it easy for, consumers to contact more than one professional, as is their right and expectation. However, we do not encourage it excessively, with less than 20% of consumers contacting multiple advisers. We account for this when setting our prices, and continue to deliver great ROIs for advisers.”

Adam went on to tell me that in practice enquirers contact an average of 1.2 advisers through their platform and also confirmed that: “If the potential client submits one enquiry to one adviser, it will only be passed to the selected adviser, it is not sold on to additional, extra, advisers.”

My conclusion:

In common with Unbiased, it’s clear VouchedFor do not sell the same enquiry to multiple advisers.

However, by showing two additional adviser profiles they do take a more proactive stance than Unbiased when suggesting advisers contact additional advisers.

In practice this means that that one in five enquirers contact more than one adviser. But, that’s probably only in line with other methods of attracting new enquiries, after all, an investor may ask two or three friends for adviser recommendations, and is not something I believe advisers should be concerned about.

Cash cows?

Back to the original question: Are Unbiased or VouchedFor treating advisers as cash cows?

No, I don’t believe they are.

It is clear neither directory engages in the practice of selling the same enquiry to multiple advisers.

As for suggesting an enquirer contacts more than one adviser to increase the directory’s revenue, again, I don’t believe this happens in any meaningful way.

It is the consumer’s absolute right to contact multiple advisers. But, there is no evidence to suggest the actions of either directory is causing this to happen to any greater extent than may occur in the normal scheme of things.

In conclusion, you will have your own reasons for not using one or both directories as part of your marketing strategy, but don’t let that decision be based on a myth.

Our survey

We want to find out which directory, Unbiased or VouchedFor, advisers believe is the most effective.

Whether you use one, both or neither directory, we want to hear from you, please take a couple of minutes to complete our online survey, which can be found by clicking here.

Thank you for your time, it is appreciated, the results will help you make better decisions about your marketing strategy and will be published in September.

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