As financial advice industry is shaken up, more consumers head online


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The Independent Online

Paul Atkins, 37, from Norwich is typical of millions of Britons. He wants to do what's best for his partner and two daughters but isn't sure of where to get the right advice.

"I have always tried to do my own finances but feel that I need a second pair of eyes to look over my plans. Standard financial advice seems so expensive and I'm worried about being mis-sold." With the financial advice industry's long track record of pensions, endowments and investment mis-selling, Mr Atkins's reticence is understandable.

"I don't like the idea that advisers are paid by banks and insurers for products they sell to me, but on the other hand up-front fees for advice can be very high."

He sees the benefit of advice but doesn't want the expense that goes with it. With the paying of commission to advisers to be banned by the end of 2012, choice is about to get a whole lot worse for people like Mr Atkins.

"The banning of commission will mean that lots of financial advice firms are migrating up to target high-net-worth individuals, leaving an advice gap of potentially millions of disenfranchised people, the squeezed middle," said Martin Peterlechner, the head of marketing at new launch financial advice site

Mr Atkins, as a production manager in the food industry, is part of this squeezed middle. He has signed up to Moneyvista's new service, which promises to help consumers plot how they fund future financial goals.

"My daughters are only six and eight but already I am concerned over how to fund them through university. Moneyvista helps me plan my finances to put enough aside while also laying out how my retirement pot is going. I like the fact that it doesn't try to sell me a product."

Moneyvista is a new breed of website designed to offer users a clearer view of their finances and focus them on their goals but are backed by professional advisers. No commissions are collected from product providers but subscribers, after an initial 30-day free trial, pay from £8 a month or £75 for a year.

"Users can enter information about their personal finances into one place and we show customers where they are now and what there financial future is likely to be," said Mr Peterlechner. "Although we are not offering a regulated advice service, we monitor the value of investments and keep customers alerted to tax changes and if their investments aren't performing sufficiently to pay for their long-term goals."

But some aren't convinced that the Moneyvista model will work.

"The difficulty will be getting people to commit to paying £8 monthly or £75 a year for this online service. Some of the calculators and guides on the site are available elsewhere for free," said Andrew Hagger from financial comparison service Moneynet. "I think it will appeal to those who are more hands on with their own financial affairs, but I still think many people will prefer to sit down with a professional adviser to discuss their options face to face – even if it ends up costing them more."

Mr Hagger did point out, though, that it was "refreshing" that Moneyvista was free from advertising and wasn't trying to push people on to a particular product.

As the banning of commission selling approaches, more sites like Moneyvista will go live, and the Financial Services Authority money advice service has been up and running since April.

"The FSA's service gives people a good grounding and services like ours and those which will come into this space is the next step up from this," Mr Peterlechner said.

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