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Advisers warn new chief exec cannot change “flawed” MAS

Caroline Rookes MAS Money Advice Service

Advisers say the Money Advice Service is a “flawed concept” which cannot be fixed by the arrival of a new chief executive.

The MAS has appointed Department for Work and Pensions director of private pensions Caroline Rookes as its new chief executive replacing Tony Hobman.

Rookes will be paid £140,000 a year, compared to the £250,000 salary paid to Hobman as part of a total £350,000 pay package. FSA chairman Lord Turner admitted in June that Hobman’s pay was set too high. Hobman resigned from the MAS in July and will leave on 31 December. Rookes will take up the role in the New Year.

Clearwater Financial Planning managing director Duncan Carter says: “I do not know why this job has gone to someone from within the public sector with perhaps very little experience of what goes in the real world. I expect we will get more of the same but for a slightly cheaper salary.

“Citizens Advice does a fantastic job and it should be given greater funding. The MAS is a flawed concept and I do not think it can be turned around. The MAS is just plastering over the cracks.”

Facts & Figures Financial Planners managing director Simon Webster says: “£140,000 does seem very generous remuneration for very little work. The MAS is a flawed model and she has a huge task ahead of her. I do not think she has a snowball’s chance in hell of turning the service around.”

Thameside Wealth director Tom Kean says: “We need someone from a commercial background who feels the pain of spending other people’s money. We are paying for this and yet we have no say. It is time the MAS was funded a different way.”

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  1. “We need someone from a commercial background who feels the pain of spending other people’s money”.

    If memory serves, Hector Sants came from a commercial background (banking) and he never had any qualms about the size of the FSA’s budget or how it was spent. £20m on bonuses, £1m on stationery, £68.5m on office accommodation, £132,000 on his own motor transport, thousands of pounds on assorted first class overseas jollies for himself, Margaret Cole, Adair Turner et al, a £612,000 golden parachute for Clive Briault, tens of millions of pounds spent on outside consultation exercises.

    Does Caroline Rookes have any intention of avoiding such a culture within the MAS which, let us not forget, is a spin-off from the FSA, having previously been an integral part of it in the form of the CFEB?

    And what if any measures does Ms. Rookes propose to quantify whether or not the MAS actually achieves anything of tangible value to the industry and to consumers? The only worthwhile yardstick by which the success of the MAS can be measured is not how many people visit its website or go through one of its online questionnaires or phone in for a chat or even meet up with one of its consultants. It’s how many people who do any of those things take action and actually DO something that involves committing money. That’s the bottom line, isn’t it? Nothing is for nothing.

    Addressing shortfalls in one’s financial planning strategy ~ in fact, embarking on any sort of financial planning strategy at all ~ means committing money to something, be it life insurance, Income Protection, a pension plan, a long term savings plan or whatever. If people availing themselves of the guidance available from the MAS don’t actually do anything as a result because they were expecting to be provided with an all-encompassing strategy costing no more than £19.99 p.m. then all the tens of millions of pounds taken from us and spent by the MAS will have accomplished nothing beyond explaining to people what they ought to be doing. The crunch point is whether or not those people take out some protection insurance or start a pension plan or start saving regularly into an ISA. Those things, so far, appear not to be happening.

    What, if any, systems does the MAS operate to record how many people have actually done anything meaningful in the wake of having availed themselves of its services? If the MAS does in fact operate such a system, then it should publish the data for all to see and to assess. If it doesn’t operate such a system, why not? Or, if it does but refuses to publish the relevant data, then on what basis are we who are forced to fund it to assume anything other than that it’s just another hugely costly but ultimately impotent white elephant?

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