How long is a piece of string? There are good and bad.
There are basically two types of regulated advisers:
1: Those that Rep for a company or a group of companies (often refered to as a panel)
2: Those that are independant of any of the financial product providors (often referred to as brokers) In this section you have two types, those that work on commission only and those that can offer fee based advice, be paid commission or a mixture of both.
Its entirely up to personal choice who you take your advice from. If you want to find an Independant in your area there is a web site that will give you three firms in your geographical area.
If you want to take advice from a Rep then thats a perfectly acceptable route as long as you remember two things:
1. They are employed to sell the company product
2. They are working with a limited product range, and financial services is exactly the same as every other industry in that No one company can or will offer the best products across the board.
Whom ever you choose to take advice from, they are subject to one of the harshest regulatory regimes in the world so you can be assured that if they do give inapropriate advice you have redress.
Babies, hope I'm not too late for your appointment with this....
Financial advisers are useful if you need your finances overhauling or have a particular issue which needs sorting out such as pension or what to do with a lump sum (although I have never struggled with the latter). They are trained to look at your overall financial position and advise you on products which would be best for your particular circumstances. So this adviser should ask you a lot of questions about your income and every aspect of how you manage your money (debts, life insurance, mortgage, pension, savings etc) before he can understand what your next steps should be. For exmple, he might say that there is no point setting up a savings plan if you have a big credit card bill as the interest you pay will negate any returns you make etc etc. He may also look for gaps in your financial plan so if you are married and/or have children but have no life cover don't be surprised if he recommends that you buy some, even if you booked the appointment to discuss savings plans.
Things to watch out for....
As biscuits points out it is well worth checking that he is independent and not tied to one or a panel of companies. That way he can review the entire marketplace for the best deals. You should also be clear up front about whether he works on a commission basis or flat fee or if you have a choice of either.
Make sure his firm is regulated by the Financial Services Authority. It should be on his card and letterhead. This is crucial. If he works as an associate of a regulated firm (could be part of an IFA network with only the parent company being regulated) then it should still state this on his cards etc. Check out the FSA website for more info: http://www.fsa.gov.uk/consumer/fcs/index.html
Don't be afraid to ask how long he has been an IFA and speak up if he mentions things you don't understand. With the best will in the world even the most user-friendly experts can slip into jargon and it's easy to feel too embarrassed for an explanation.
Any advice and recommendations of products should be supported by a 'reasons why' letter setting out in plain language the thought process behind them.
If the adviser is leading you down a route but asking you to make the choice between products then he could be selling to you on an 'execution-only' basis. This is where the adviser presents information but you choose the product/course of action. Because he has not advised you there is no come back if the choice you make turns out to be duff. Execution-only is a perfectly legitimate way to do business providing everyone knows that is what's happening. It only becomes a problem if the adviser tries to slip it in as a way to cover his own back. Having said this, most advisers will play it straight and you should not be overly worried.
If you don't feel comfortable for any reason then walk away. You have to place a lot of trust in this person so it's important you feel comfortable.
Hope this helps. Do come back if you have any specific questions, either in here or on PM.
Execution only business is very rare. In plain English execution only is when the Client tells the advisor What product they want, exactly how they want the product set up,and which company to use how much cover they want or how much premium they want to spend or invest. Basically its a no Advice situation. And the only time ive ever written execution only business is on my own Life. Ive never had a client tell me exactly what they want, they have always had at least a couple of questions. And I and any other advsor worth there salt would check and double check a potential clients understanding if they approached me with a piece of execution only business.
So as Forces Sweetheart says if you feel that you are being "steered" into a course of action and the phrase Execution only is mentioned. Stand up walk out and say no-thanks.
It is extremely unlikely to happen though, the Regime that controls Financial services is very strict and one of the things that is checked on are advisors business levels and within that the amount of execution only business.
Best thing to do is go by personal referal if someone you know uses an advisor and they are happy with the service they get, then try them. Or if you pick someone yourself ask them if you can speak to some of their clients to see how they feel.
My meeting was supposed to be this morning, however, when I arrived at his office I was told the IFA was running 1 hour late! Not good enough considering the fact that I had taken the morning off work to see him.
All the above info is extremely useful and whilst I do not have a large lump sum to invest I do have some savings which could probably be put to better use so will do a bit of searching and arrange a visit to another, more professional adviser.