Nic Cicutti column

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Wonderful things, surveys are. Every week this section receives scores of pieces of independent research from a variety of financial institutions giving us the low-down on an absolutely unmissable piece of information.

So for instance, this week I learn that 62 per cent of financial decision makers are "very likely" to see an independent financial adviser in the future.

The source of this astonishing news? Well, blow me, it just happens to be a body which promotes independent financial advice.

Elsewhere, I read that IFA Promotion, as the outfit which published this bilge is called, is about to cut its membership fees for the thousands of advisers who pay it to sing their praises. After this latest effort, I'm not surprised.

More shoddy research comes from Abbey National. Its survey claimed this week that 16 million non-interest paying current accounts may be losing their users more than pounds 130m a year.

The bank based this claim on the assumption that each of these 16 million accounts would have a monthly current account balance of pounds 750, on which Abbey National customers might receive pounds 8.37 a year after tax while the others get nothing.

Abbey's survey is flawed. First, the bank admits there are 61 million current accounts in the UK. Many of them must be dormant, with little or nothing in them. The chances are the most likely account to be dormant is the one that pays no interest.

As it happens, I know what I am talking about, for a change, because I have a dormant account - with Abbey National.

THIS week, we publish a piece on what to do about investments that turn out to be "dogs". You will have to make up your own mind about claims that M&G (page 24) is not up to the job.

What is true, however, is that in the past few years, many fund managers have tended to rely on investor inertia rather than their stock-picking skills to retain their clients. The notion that poor performance of one or more funds must be taken as part of an overall investment strategy - "it's called spreading risk, don't you know" - appears to have taken hold.

Make it your mid-summer resolution to talk to a good adviser about all your investments. Be wary of unnecessary recycling. But if a fund has been a dud performer for years and shows no sign of improving, switch to something else.

EARLIER this year we carried out a free financial makeover on Paula Charlton, a graphic artist. Her financial adviser, Roddy Kohn, diagnosed problems with several pensions she had been wrongly sold instead of being advised to join her company pension scheme. The providers involved were informed about this.

This week, Paula heard she will receive compensation worth more than pounds 23,000, thanks to The Independent. We can't promise such astonishing results every time. But if you want to be considered for a financial health check, write to: Nic Cicutti, Free Financial Makeover, The Independent, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. You must be prepared for your name and picture to appear in the paper. It could be you.

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