Ever heard of Blakemore Wealth Management (BWM)? If not, count yourself lucky.
Directed by Gerard Blakemore, BWM was a pension advisory firm based in Wolverhampton. It opened its doors in April 2012 and invested funds on behalf of 34 clients in total. However, since entering into creditors voluntary liquidation in 2018, serious wrongdoing has been uncovered.
An unscrupulous pension adviser
In a recent investigation by the Insolvency Service, it was discovered that Blakemore invested a large chunk of his clients’ funds into a high-risk and unregulated overseas scheme. £8.4 million, to be exact. He failed to carry out essential due diligence on the scheme and kept his clients completely in the dark about the nature of the investments. Even worse, he did not seek his clients’ approval before going ahead. It was pension mis-selling at its very worst.
Following further enquiries, it was revealed that Blakemore was, in fact, a director of the overseas scheme. He personally benefitted from the unsuitable investments – paying himself more than £247,000 in remuneration and dividends. Yet his clients were only repaid £607,500 in total.
Blakemore also caused the pension advisory firm to transfer client funds into a second overseas company – of which, again, he was a director and consequently received a staggering £1.7 million.
Such poor pension advice and deception hasn’t been taken lightly.
In the words of the Chief Investigator of the Insolvency Service, Dave Elliot: “Blakemore was entrusted with millions of pounds to invest in legitimate pension schemes. Yet, he totally disregarded his clients’ interest and caused substantial losses when he invested £8m in unsuitable products”.
Therefore, on the 24th February 2020, he was asked to sign a disqualification undertaking – which stated he had breached his duties as an adviser – and was given a significant eight-year ban.
Can you trust your pension adviser?
Blakemore’s clients had no reason to believe he was a bad pension adviser.
After all, he was fully-qualified and accredited. The company was also authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). At first, he was even up-front with clients regarding where their funds were invested. It was only later down the line that he moved their money without them knowing.
However, such cases do highlight the importance of checking a pension adviser’s credentials carefully. As stated in our guide ‘How to find a financial advisor you can trust’, it’s always worth looking them up using an official online directory. You should also check the FCA’s Financial Services Register, to see if they’re authorised to work and have the correct qualifications.
When you meet with a pension adviser for the first time, keep an eye out for some of the key warning signs. For example, are they using high-pressure selling tactics? Or being vague about the nature of the investment? Did they ask questions about your current financial circumstances?
Certain schemes have now also been flagged as high-risk, with some even under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. These include forestry, hotel rooms, storage pods, green investments and overseas property, to name just a few. Therefore, if you’re offered an investment in one of these schemes, be very cautious and perhaps seek a second opinion before you proceed.
Think you’ve been deceived by a pension adviser?
If you recognise one of the red flags outlined above and believe you have fallen victim to poor pension advice, try not to worry. There are things that can be done to help.
As long as you have proof that you were given poor advice (or kept in the dark about the nature of the investment), you can claim for free to the Financial Ombudsman Service, the Pensions Ombudsman, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), or directly to the person that your claim relates. It’s also possible to claim on personal insurance for financial mis-selling if you have it.
Alternatively, you can recruit the help of a claims management company, such as Money and Me Claims. Over the years, we have dealt with many unscrupulous pension advisers – just like Gerard Blakemore – helping to mitigate losses incurred as a result of their malpractice. We’re knowledgeable in this field and can both advise on your eligibility to claim and take care of the full claims process on your behalf.