Using the Internet to search, find and choose a financial adviser to help with your financial planning, financial products (e.g. pensions, investments, life assurance etc) and other personal finance questions can sometimes be a bit ‘hit and miss’. You often end up in an online directory of financial advisers, with little to differentiate one from another. "They all look the same - how do I choose someone and how do I know that I'll get on with them?" is all too common a comment.
We launched Ask LifeTalk as a new way to find, assess and, if you wish, make contact with professional financial advisers. Call us old fashioned, but it’s based on the idea that ‘people buy people’.
Consumers can use the site to ask a question (in confidence) about personal finances, and financial advisers from the LifeTalk network of 9,000 professionals will answer it by offering you generic observations, remarks and comments – entirely free. And although people regularly use open forums on well-known money websites to ask personal finance questions, our research suggested that a lot of people would like to use the Internet but would rather have a layer of privacy. So we built that in too.
It’s likely that you’ll personally prefer one or more answers over the others, so you may then want to find out more about a particular adviser by checking out their profile page on the LifeTalk website. That way you’ll get to know them a little better and discover more about them, their experience, qualifications and expertise. We're also giving advisers a website badge which shows how many questions they've answered and how many of them have been 'Liked'.
If you feel that you’ll ‘click’ with a particular financial adviser, you’ll probably want to make contact to see how their services work and how they can help you.
We're encouraging people to 'Like' and favourite particular answers to their questions, and when they do, a tweet goes out on Twitter. It's a public recognition of the effort the adviser put in to helping - plus the tweet will also attract other financial advisers to make use of the site. A tweet also goes out when someone asks a question - again encouraging more advisers to sign up.
We're very excited about the project, because although the Internet is the place we all go to find service providers, it's vital that the 'people buy people' element is included if we are to really gel with service professionals and ultimately build trust.
By Philip Calvert