5 Steps To Find An IFA You Can Trust

Understand the differences between financial advisers and how you can find the best IFA for your personal needs by reading our helpful guide.

Updated: June 5, 2024
Matt Crabtree

Written By

Matt Crabtree

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Whether you're trying to plan your retirement, have investments you need to manage, or generally would just like some unbiased advice on your personal financial future, there's no denying how useful a good financial adviser can be in gaining a bit of clarity.

Having said that, these are people that you're ultimately going to be devoting a lot of time and personal information with, so it's naturally pretty important to find someone that you're going to be able to confide in without any kinds of qualms or issues.

So, throughout this article, we'll be walking you through our top five steps to follow so you're able to find a trustworthy IFA to help with all of your personal finances.

1. Understanding the Landscape of Financial Advisers

First things first, though we're probably the most familiar with independent financial advisers, the broader financial advisory world is actually composed of a bunch of different professionals — all of which come with their own specific qualifications and specialities.

Obviously, some of these professionals will specialise in a particular area that the next one might not, so understanding the differences between people like independent financial advisers, restricted advisers, and chartered financial planners is essential if you want to find the right person for the job.

Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs)

Starting off with the most popular option, an independent financial adviser is basically just a professional who's able to give you unbiased/independent advice across a range of different financial products.

Now, what makes independent financial advisers so sought after is partially due to the fact that they aren't tied down to any specific financial institution — they work for you, and as such, they're only ever providing tailored advice to any of your individual circumstances.

Restricted Financial Advisers

On the other hand, we've also got some professionals known as restricted advisers. These people largely work in the same kind of way as independent financial advisers (in that they're here to provide you with support for your personal finances), but you'll generally see that they focus on a much more limited range of products or services; only really offering restricted advice.

That's not at all to say that they're unimportant or don't have the same skills as an independent financial adviser — they're just more focused on one specific field, which can actually be slightly more useful if you come to them with an issue that's in their niche.

Just keep in mind that the fact that they're more specialised generally means there could be a few restrictions impacting the breadth of their advice.

Chartered Financial Planners

Lastly, it's worth mentioning chartered financial planners, too, as these are possible to most highly qualified advisers out of the lot.

Though you'll tend to find that they're a little bit more expensive, choosing a chartered financial planner can definitely give you an extra layer of assurance if you have any kinds of doubts regarding the adviser's expertise and professionalism.

Just as a final point on this matter, you'd always want to ensure that whichever adviser that you ultimately settle on has some sort of affiliation with professional bodies in the UK like the Personal Finance Society — not to mention that they would happily adhere to any interactions with the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, should it come to that.

2. Assessing Your Financial Needs

Now that we've got some of the basic fundamentals out of the way, let's look at some practical ways you can find the right IFA, which generally tends to start by identifying what exactly your financial goals and needs even are in the first place.

For instance, are you looking for someone who'll help you with investing, retirement planning, or do you just want some basic mortgage advice?

Naturally, it's important to have this in the back of your mind when communicating with them, as it's the specific requirements that you provide that'll help narrow down the fairly vast pool of advisers out there.

As an example, if you decided that you needed some sort of advice on retail investment products, you'd want to seek out a particular IFA who has expertise in that kind of area, not someone whose forte is mortgages.

This might sound like fairly obvious advice, but with the range of different independent financial advisers out there, you shouldn't ever need to settle with someone who doesn't have a wholly clear understanding of what it is you need help with.

Just make sure to evaluate what your current financial circumstances and future aspirations are — remember that a good quality financial adviser should always be able to give you a customised approach when working with you.

3. Researching and Shortlisting Advisers

Once you've defined your financial needs, it's time to research a bunch of different potential advisers so you can find the right one for your needs.

In general, the best way to do this is really just by getting recommendations from friends, family, or even colleagues/online reviews, but you should always just try to find an adviser who has a strong track record in any of the areas relevant to your financial goals.

Consider the qualifications and credentials of the advisers on your list. Look for independent advisers who can provide unbiased advice, taking into account your unique financial situation. Verify their affiliation with professional bodies like the Personal Finance Society, too, as this ensures a commitment to ethical and professional standards.

4. Meeting and Interviewing Potential Advisers

Meeting potential advisers is a crucial step in finding the best fit for your financial planning.

During these meetings, ask about their experience, areas of expertise, and approach to financial advice. Inquire about their understanding of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and their commitment to unbiased advice.

A quality financial adviser will take the time to understand your financial situation, listen to your goals, and talk to you about how they can help you achieve them. Beware of advisers who provide generic advice without tailoring it to your specific circumstances.

5. Assessing the Quality of Advice

Lastly, let's wrap up by covering what you should be looking for after you've had your first meeting with a potential adviser.

Naturally, whoever you speak to is going to provide some kinds of recommendations that they think would be best for you, so you'd always want to ensure that whatever they sign broadly aligns with your financial goals and you know that they have properly evaluated your situation.

Expenses are obviously unavoidable whenever you're looking to find an independent financial adviser, so you should also be on the lookout for anyone who's not particularly transparent about their fees, as you'd never want to discover a bunch of previously undisclosed costs at the end.

Finally, it's always worth checking that there aren't any potential conflicts of interest in the financial advice that you're receiving — especially if you're dealing with a restricted adviser.

Generally speaking, some financial advisers out there might receive a commission based on any of the financial products they recommend or sell, and this tends to create a conflict of interest since your adviser might be a bit more incentivised to recommend something that offers them higher commissions over something that's best suited to you.

Fortunately, though, this isn't really something you should be too worried about if you work with an independent financial adviser since they usually work on more of a fee-for-service basis, which makes them a bit less prone to this type of conflict.

Just try to ensure that whichever adviser you've ultimately settled on is always proactive in keeping you in the loop when it comes to any kinds of changes in the financial landscape and what sort of impact that might have on your portfolio.

Related Guides:


Can I Trust a Financial Adviser Who Has a Few Negative Reviews?

Should I Prioritise Local Advisers, or Is It Beneficial to Consider Advisers From Outside My Immediate Area?

Can I Switch Financial Advisers If I Am Dissatisfied With the Service or Advice Provided?

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