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So many financial planners – which should you choose?

By | Financial Planning | No Comments

There are generally two steps people go through when it comes to financial advice.

First, they ask themselves whether they need a financial planner or adviser. Once they realise that they do, however, next comes the question: which financial planner should I choose?

If you are at this stage in your thinking, then our team here at Castlegate would point out two areas you need to be aware of when picking a financial planner:

Competence and chemistry.

In other words, when deciding which financial planner to work with, you not only need to determine that the person in question can actually do the job.

You need to “click” with them too. This company or professional needs to “get” you, and it needs to feel like a mutually comfortable fit for both of you.

In this article, we’re going to cover these two areas of competence and chemistry to help you along your journey of finding the right financial planner. So let’s dive in.


How do you determine whether a self-professed “financial planner” is actually qualified, experienced and knowledgeable enough to help you organise your finances?

After all, what’s to stop anyone from calling themselves a financial planner or adviser?

A good place to start is to look at their qualifications. For instance, here at Castlegate, we are registered as Chartered Financial Planners by the Chartered Insurance Institute – a qualification which is widely recognised as the “gold standard” in the UK’s financial planning sector.

Indeed, out of the 30,000 or so financial advisers across the UK, only a small handful have this status. So if you can find a firm with this qualification, that’s normally a very good sign!

However, there are other financial planner qualifications you should look out for as well – as a kind of “minimum standard”. To comply with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), financial advisers and planners need a minimum qualification of the CII level 4 Diploma in Financial Planning to advise clients on their financial affairs.

So checking that the adviser in question has these qualifications is a strong place to start when weighing up your different options. You should also check that the financial adviser/planner is employed by a company which is on the FCA Register, to ensure they are properly authorised.

Please be aware that certain areas of financial advice require a financial adviser/planner to have a specific qualification before they can advise you.

In particular, to provide mortgage advice they should have a minimum of the level 3 Certificate in Mortgage Advice. To advise on pension transfers, the adviser needs to at least hold the level 4 Certificate in Pension Transfer Advice.

Do not assume that just because a financial adviser is Chartered and authorised by the FCA that they can help you with a pension transfer, or help you with finding a mortgage.

Beyond qualifications, of course, is hands-on experience. How many years has the financial planner in question been in business? How many clients have they dealt with and successfully helped, who have been in a similar situation to the one you are facing?

A good place to look here is at Google Reviews, Trust Pilot reviews and other sources of information which provide “social proof” of the financial planner’s competence. Another good way to attain this information is to read client stories, testimonials and case studies. Quite often, you will be able to find these on the financial adviser’s website or company brochure.

Some final areas are important to factor into your decision before we move onto chemistry:

First of all, make sure that the financial adviser/planner is “whole of market” (sometimes called an “independent financial adviser” or IFA), and that they are not “restricted”.

The former will be able to help you survey all appropriate financial products and options on the market, which might be the best fit for your financial situation and goals. The latter, however, will typically be “tied” to particular financial products and so recommend those to you, rather than the ones which might suit you best.

Secondly, make sure that you understand the financial adviser’s/planner’s fee structure from the very beginning. Since 2013, financial firms have been banned from taking a commission when offering advice on pensions, investments and retirement income products (e.g. annuities).

However, in other areas (e.g. insurance and mortgages) the financial firm might take a commission from the products they recommend to you. Bear in mind that this might mean that you might not necessarily be presented with something which best suits your needs and goals, but rather helps the financial adviser’s bank balance!


This area is not really easily expressed in terms of “qualifications”, “experience”, “skills”, “competencies” or “fee structure”. You can only really know if you “click” with a financial adviser or planner if you take that bold step to phone them up, email them and ultimately meet them!

Luckily, most financial planners will be very happy to offer you a free initial meeting, to get to know you and understand your financial goal.

After you have “sampled” a few financial planners through meetings such as these, you should hopefully then be in a much stronger, more confident position to make a decision about who you would like to work with on your finances.

If you are ready to take that step with our team here Castlegate, or if you know someone who might be, then we would love for you to get in touch or for you to refer us. Please call our office using the number on our website, or reach out via our contact form and we’ll be in touch within the next 24 hours to have a friendly, informal chat with you.