Solicitors

Who they are They are not generally investment specialists but many either offer investment services as an adjunct to their normal business or can refer you to an investment specialist. All solicitors who offer such services give independent advice.

What they offer Varies - for example, advice on ways of passing money on, tax planning, advice on general investment strategy, sometimes an investment management service, links with specialists such as stockbrokers. They might also be able to help with mortgages, and some general insurance such as house buildings insurance, as a corollary to a conveyancing service. The Law Societies have arranged a special financial advice service (appropriately authorised under the Financial Services Act) which solicitors can join and use to obtain advice for their clients.

What they charge Usually a fee which will depend on the time spent on your case. If they arrange life insurance, unit trusts or share purchases for you, they'll usually get commission. They must pass this on to you and, in practice, this will usually be done by offsetting commissions against the fees you would otherwise pay - unless you specifically agree that the solicitor may keep all or part of the commission. But if the solicitor uses the financial advice service set up by the Law Society, part of any commission is paid to the advice service.

Who they are authorised by Usually by their professional bodies - the Law Society of England and Wales, the Law Society of Scotland, or the Law Society of Northern Ireland - which are Recognised Professional Bodies. Solicitors with substantial investment business may belong to FIMBRA.

Note In most cases, solicitors must be authorised by an SRO if more than 20 to 25 per cent of their work comes from investment advice. But the Law Society of Scotland has defined the limit as the maximum allowed under SIB rules, which is 49.9 per cent.

TIP - Check that a solicitor has the particular expertise that you need before asking them to handle your investment business. They may use the financial advice service set up by the Law Society (see above).


Stockbrokers

Who they are Members of The International Stock Exchange of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, and bound by that body's rules to ensure fair dealing.

What they offer Advice on buying and selling shares and British Government stocks. Advice on buying and selling some other more specialist investments, such as traded options and corporate bonds. Some also offer advice about unit trusts, their own unit trust and Personal Equity Plan schemes, investment research, and general investment advice.

What they charge Commission when they buy and sell on your behalf - usually between... see: Stockbrokers


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