Everyone wants to be a millionaire. That's why people apply to go on game shows, and why investors buy Premium Bonds hoping to win the monthly jackpot of £1 million. So when Investors Chronicle reader Peter Austin received an email promoting a book called Liquid Millionaire by Stephen Sutherland, he was interested enough to read it.
"Mr Sutherland's Isa trend investing strategy seemed quite sound," he says.
"But taking the process forward and chatting to one of their reps, I was somewhat surprised by the cost of the service - several thousand pounds for five years payable up front.
"I thought you may have heard of this and could shed some light on whether it is a good established format that works for pension and Isas?"
Yes, I have known about the Liquid Millionaire book since it was launched in January 2009, and I thought it would quickly disappear into investment obscurity. It is not a serious investment book (although it has an eye-catching title), but a marketing promotion tool for Mr Sutherland's investment services.
He didn't manage to get any endorsements from the Investors Chronicle, despite engaging a public relations firm to target myself, Dominic Picarda and Maike Currie.
Mr Sutherland claims to be "the UK's leading authority on Isa Trend Investing". What does he mean by this? The book explains that by using an Isa (individual savings account) you can make gains when the market is in an uptrend and then bank those profits - without paying any tax - when the market trend changes. He prefers to invest in funds rather than stocks as they are "not as risky as stocks but just as powerful".
Thus far, so good. However, "Retire Rich in Just 3 Minutes per Day" is one of the chapter headings. As is "Turning Your First Million into £75 Million". This puts the book firmly into the "get rich quick" category, which should always be viewed with a healthy dose of suspicion. (You can also read the book for free at http://www.isaco.co.uk/media/liquid_millionaire_free.pdf)
I spoke to Stephen, who says his 250 clients take him on trust. He has lots of high-profile endorsements and numerous good testimonials. However, unless you want to take a high-risk punt, I would concentrate on doing your own investment research.
While he may have made decent money investing in Isas (and he offers no proof that he has or that his system of investing actually works), that is not in itself a reason to go for his services. The book states that his single-year package used to cost £3,000, which seems totally out of proportion when you consider that he is advising on how to invest your annual Isa contribution of £10,860. Paying several more thousand pounds up front, committing yourself for five years is way too much for any service, let alone one that is unregulated and hardly transparent. He says he is applying for Financial Services Authority (FSA) regulation, something we could not confirm with the FSA as its policy is not to confirm or deny applications.
Any decent independent financial adviser would give you a free initial consultation. But Mr Sutherland is not giving investment advice - he is merely offering a shadow trading service. I see ISACO Ltd (his company) was previously called 'FILTHY RICH ENTERPRISES LIMITED'. To my mind that says it all, really.