Research by consumer group Which? has raised concerns about the information financial advisory firms are providing to online trade directories.

Which? examined data on Unbiased.co.uk, the UK’s largest online directory of financial advisers, and has found widespread evidence of firms falsely claiming to hold accreditation from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investments (CISI), and to hold BS 8577 and ISO 22222, professional accreditations that are issued by Standards International.

The research only involved firms based in ten UK postcodes. In these areas, Which? found 92 firms claiming to be accredited by the CISI, but only 36 of these (39%) appeared on a list of accredited firms that it obtained from the CISI.

Regarding BS 8577, 21 firms claimed to possess this on Unbiased, yet Standards International could confirm that only six of these firms (29%) actually possessed this accreditation.

39 firms in the ten postcode areas claimed to hold ISO 22222, and here the accreditation was indeed held by every listed adviser at 20 of these firms. However, at a further six firms, only some of the advisers held the certificate, while at 13 firms there appeared to be no listed advisers who held the accreditation.

Standards International says it is working with Unbiased to address the issue.

A CISI spokesperson said:

“We are concerned by the findings and our professional standards team are investigating further.”

However, Lydia Romero, the CISI’s global director of learning, suggested the data obtained by Which? may not be entirely accurate. She commented:

“I don’t think it’s true but we need to check against the list of our members as well as who’s been approached by them. We haven’t looked in great detail or formulated a plan to move forward, it’s all very new to us.”

The consumer body’s press release offers two possible explanations for the apparent errors on firms’ profiles – firstly that firms have held BS 8577 and/or ISO 22222 in the past, but have failed to renew these certificates annually, as required; and also that firms are claiming to hold a particular accreditation when in fact they are merely working towards attaining it.

Michelle Hoskin, director and founder of Standards International, said:

“There are so many amazing firms working really hard to obtain and maintain such high international standards, it’s heartbreaking to us that some firms and individuals are misrepresenting their qualifications.”

The findings serve as a reminder to firms to check their entries on online directories, and to ensure that any inaccurate or misleading information is corrected or amended as a matter of priority.

The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.