There is endless debate about what’s fair and best for the client. Is SJP, for example, ripping off its clients monstrously on fees? Do some advisers fill their boots with weighty portfolio percentage charges and offer little in return. Are some funds weighed down with excessive fees?
These are all good questions and I’m not planning to answer them in under 500 words but I will put on my consumer hat for a moment to share what I believe is fair when it comes to fees, at least for me as a client of several financial firms.
Most important to me is what I am paying in fees in total per annum for a particular financial service and I’m not bothered how I pay; an annual fee, per annum fee or whatever. That's at least is partly down to the provider or adviser.
What is crucial is that I believe the fees to be decent value and not excessive and when I compare them with the marketplace they are not out of line. I will avoid firms with opaque fees or fees that seem high for no reason.
I make a point of regularly checking the fees I pay and look at what others in the market charge. Shopping around for the best deal is a key part of being an investor in my book.
When working with a Financial Planner, however, I think it’s the quality of advice, the wise counsel and the care that’s most important. Annual returns, while important, come second.
If I was asked to define what I consider to be fair then fees should be at the lowest possible level that allows a sustainable, reliable professional service to be delivered to me.
As a client I understand that fund firms and advisers need to charge for their services. I do not expect something for nothing.
I have some misgivings about planners and advisers charging fees based on a percentage of assets under advice but as long as they are not excessive, they allow more people to access at least some kind of Financial Planning advice.
Few clients can pay hourly Financial Planning fees of £200 or more or annual fees of £10,000 or more and it’s unrealistic to expect most people to move away from a percentage charge of Assets Under Advice however ‘pure’ hourly fees may be (and they are by no means above perfect).
I want my fees to be as low but I also want the firms I work with to still be around in 10 years. I suspect most clients share the same view. Fairness and reasonableness must be the driving forces with any fees, above all else.
Kevin O’Donnell is editor of Financial Planning Today and a financial journalist with 30 years experience. This topical comment on the Financial Planning news appears most weeks.