Whistleblower: Chloe Meley was told to be called Sarah and to be vague about the origin of personal details

Rogue partners at wealth manager St James’s Place employed student labor in a cold-calling operation to snag wealthy clients, a whistleblower has revealed. Chloe Meley, who reported on her time as a cold caller to the Mail on Sunday, was one of those employed for £10 an hour to try to entice wealthy individuals to invest.

The use of the telemarketing business, run from a lounge in Guildford, breached SJP’s ban on cold calling and belies the high class image the company projects.

Meley’s revelations will spark further controversy over the methods used by the FTSE100 company, which has already been criticized for charging high fees and offering lavish incentives to its sellers. SJP said a handful of its advisers have now been disciplined for using the telemarketing firm’s services.

Meley took the job with Barnaby Beckett Referrals to pay for his college education in 2018. Along with a small group of others from the University of Surrey, he was told to cold-call wealthy lawyers to persuade them to make appointments. you with a SJP. adviser – in violation of a ban on cold calling in the company.

Barnaby Beckett’s boss was called Jules, but sometimes also Susan or Sarah on the phone. She told the students that the work was “secret” because SJP partners were not supposed to use her company’s services.

Meley and the other students were instructed to lie about where they got lawyers’ contact information. The students were told to call each other Sarah when talking on the phone. They never received a contract or taxes deducted from their salary. The sums simply appeared in their bank account following a shift.

SJP says it has never had a connection with Barnaby Beckett and individual advisers at its partner firms must have used his services in violation of company rules.

Founded in 1991, SJP uses more than 4,500 wealth managers to sell its funds. “Gifts” given to top performers include white gold cufflinks and luxury vacations. The company was lambasted by pundits and MPs in 2019 when the extent of those rewards – funded by customer money – was exposed by a previous whistleblower. The company has been lambasted for charging higher fees than many of its peers.

SJP says it has changed its practices to ensure rewards reflect “the value partners bring to customers” and to ensure they incorporate “elements such as professional development and training.” It also claims that independent research ‘shows that the total fees paid by customers of St James’s Place are below the market average for the service we provide’. But the call center’s allegations raise new questions about its compliance and oversight of partner companies.

Meley, who now works for financial publication Citywire, was in her second year at university when the offer arrived in her inbox, forwarded by the careers service. All she had to do was leave a voicemail to apply. Jules, she said, called her back the next day and said, “I like your voice, do you want to come practice?”

“There was no interview, no resume. She told us she was looking for pretty voices – people who sounded good on the phone,” says Meley. Jules, who has been running the call center since her living room, was an enigma.”She told us she was an actress in her twenties and thirties,” Meley said, putting her age at 60. Jules never gave a last name or explained why she worked for SJP.

Meley said: “I knew it was shady because we were using fake names and couldn’t tell people how we got their contact details. It was stressful, sometimes overwhelming, because of the pressure.

She worked for Barnaby Beckett for about eight months in total, between 2018 and 2020.

It wasn’t until she started working for Citywire that she realized the job was against SJP rules. And there is no record of Barnaby Beckett Referrals on Companies House, the UK business register. Her website disappeared when Meley wrote about her experience for Citywire in April.

Tarnished image: St James's Place said a handful of its advisers had been disciplined for using the services of the telemarketing firm

Tarnished image: St James’s Place said a handful of its advisers had been disciplined for using the services of the telemarketing firm

She still has a copy of the script they were asked to use. When asked what the SJP advisor would do at the meeting, he was told to say that they would ensure that “you receive the best possible returns on any investment you have”. If asked by a lawyer where she got her contact details, she says she was told to answer: “Our partners deal with legal partners on a daily basis – probably from one of your colleagues.”

She says that in reality, she was handed a pile of papers every shift with hundreds of numbers. She had no idea where they came from. In eight months, she only got about 20 dates, earning less than £200 in commission on top of her £10 hourly wage.

SJP said he knew about the malpractice before it was revealed by Ms Meley. However, Barnaby Beckett’s website did not disappear until April when the Citywire article was published.

A spokesperson added: ‘We reject the methods of Barnaby Beckett and have taken steps to prevent him from dealing with our advisers. We never hired or approved her. The few advisers who had an unauthorized engagement with Barnaby Beckett were sanctioned after a detailed internal review. We have asked Barnaby Beckett to cease his dealings with our advisers and are deeply concerned that he has gone to such lengths to conceal this from SJP.

The Mail on Sunday could not reach anyone from Barnaby Beckett for comment.

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