How to get good financial advice.

31 Aug 2011 13:52 | admin newsletter (Administrator)

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How to get good financial advice.
By Melanie Barker, Senior Adviser at Fulcra International Financial Planning

Ms.Melanie Barker, Senior Adviser at Fulcra International Financial Planning.

In these somewhat uncertain times it is vital to make the best financial decisions for your future.

Many of us have  complex financial lives as we have worked in, and have connections to, more than one  country.  We need to make informed financial decisions to take full advantage of the opportunities that this can afford.  By informed, I mean making the most of what is available – for example, tax credits for personal and company pensions, tax efficient savings and investments – but also taking the time to work out what are your financial objectives. 

Despite the positions that women hold in the corporate world and in running their own businesses, many do not take control and ownership of their extended financial future.   In this expat environment it can seem difficult to know where to turn for good comprehensive professional advice, rather than just the hard sell. 

With that in mind I have put together a checklist of what to look for in a financial adviser which I hope will help guide you towards quality advice.  With good information you will be able to make better decisions.

10 things to look for in your Financial Adviser

 1.    Regulated & professionally qualified Both the company and the individual Financial Adviser should be regulated in Belgium.  All investment and savings policies must also be regulated for sale in Belgium. 
Note: a company can be regulated in Belgium but be selling unregulated products.
Qualifications are required to legally provide financial advice in Belgium.

 2.    Independent, with appropriate experience Your adviser will be able to look at all possible investment and savings opportunities and should not be contractually linked to any particular bank or insurance company. 
They should have the necessary local and international knowledge to fully understand your financial planning and investment needs.  This may also require linking to a network of professionals, both national and international, within the tax and accountancy fields.

 3.    Comprehensive financial planning and Investment advice
Look for companies and advisers that don’t just sell but also offer a strong element of planning and a good overview of your overall financial objectives.  Advice should be in writing and should clearly set our why a specific investment or saving is appropriate for your circumstances.

 4.    Transparency of fees and charges
The way that your adviser will be remunerated should be clearly explained to you and this should be in writing.  There will also be charges made by the company providing the investment and these should be clearly explained along with any possible exit costs.

 5.    Well established with good administrative support
Confirm that the company has a track record of providing quality advice.  Alongside this you should be able to expect that the advisers that you work with will be based in Belgium for the long term.  You should expect good administrative support with timely responses to enquiries and access to reports and information.

 6.    Accessible    
You should expect to be able to contact your adviser whenever you have any questions.  Your adviser should also proactively contact you at least on an annual basis.  Any investments should receive regular reviews and valuations.
 7.    Informative  A Financial Adviser should provide a good flow of information keeping you up to date with the financial markets and general investment issues.  This may be either electronically or by way of seminars.

 8.    Testimonial availability You should be able to look at testimonials from a range of past and current clients.

 9.    Quantifies clients’ risk  
Your adviser should take time to explain to you the risks that are associated with investing.  You should make your investment choices on the basis of identifying the appropriate level of risk which takes into account your investment horizon – the length of time you plan to save or leave your investment.

 10.    Web Visibility
A clear website showing the office address, full contact details and with the advisers names listed, preferably with a short biography.  This supports the facts that the company is well established and fully regulated and the advisers are based in Belgium for the long term.  The website should also give clear information about complaints procedures.

Melanie Barker
Senior Adviser, Fulcra International Financial Planning
Phone: +32 2 639 4560

 Short Biography
Melanie joined Fulcra in early 2010, previously having been the Belgium Co-ordinator for The Open University in Brussels.  A law graduate, she has worked for a UK stock broker, the last to be based in the Stock Exchange building in London, and then specialised in mutual management for the marine insurance industry, based in London and the USA.

Melanie has successfully completed the Award in Financial Planning (formerly Financial Advisers' International Qualification).  She has lived in Belgium since 1997.

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