Caroline Rookes: The changing role of the MAS

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The Money Advice Service was launched in April 2011 to enhance people’s understanding of money matters and to help them better manage their financial affairs.

Although our remit is the same – with responsibilities for co-ordinating debt advice added the following year – our approach has changed significantly over the last two years.

Only by working in partnership with others can we achieve the scale and everyday touch points we need to get messages to consumers about money matters when they are most receptive to change.

Over the last few years, therefore, we have focused on co-ordination and collaboration.

This will manifest itself in the launch of the 10-year Financial Capability Strategy for the UK in late October, as we work with partners from across the financial industry, including financial advisers, to create a collective impact.

The Financial Capability Strategy will be at the heart of the Money Advice Service’s work as we move from trying to meet consumers’ advice needs directly to becoming a more streamlined and strategic organisation.

Our role will be to co-ordinate activity across the sector, identifying gaps in provision and working with partners across the public, private and voluntary sectors to ensure those gaps are filled. We will also play an important role in collecting and sharing evidence to inform the design of future projects.

Where is this taking us? We know children develop the ‘habits of mind’ that inform their financial behaviours by the age of seven – so improving financial capability has to start early.

We have taken on a significant role in co-ordinating financial education initiatives in schools. We have launched a joint innovation and evaluation fund with the Education Endowment Foundation to provide schools with a set of interventions that improve financial capability and attainment, and can be delivered cost effectively at scale.

Collaborating with debt advice partners has enabled us to deliver free debt advice services to even more people while reducing the cost per session. There are important lessons from this debt model we’d like to apply to our money advice services.

We can provide best value to levy-payers if the levy is used to co-ordinate and focus the financial capability work of organisations that are much larger than the Money Advice Service.

Our dedicated partnership team regularly liaises with local authorities, charities, the financial services sector and media channels to provide content and tools to help their audiences get the information they need to manage their money better.

We worked with Rightmove to develop a mortgage timeline tool, partnered with Saga to provide advice about how to protect financial assets and divide pensions after a divorce, and collaborated with local authorities and social landlords to help residents manage welfare reforms.

We’ve also significantly reduced our marketing budget and are instead focusing on alternative methods of getting messages across to consumers.

This activity is indicative of the new partnership-based approach the Money Advice Service is taking. The forthcoming launch of the Financial Capability Strategy represents another significant step forward for us as we work with our partners and stakeholders to help change people’s lives by encouraging them to manage their money better.

Caroline Rookes is chief executive of the Money Advice Service