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Citizens Advice chief: Altmann provider criticism unhelpful

Ros Altmann

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy says Ros Altmann’s comments over how providers are failing to signpost to Pension Wise were not helpful.

Pension Wise has suffered from low take-up since it launched in April 2015, prompting the pensions minister to blame providers for failing to direct customers to it.

But Guy – whose organisation delivers the face-to-face appointments – says she has not seen providers directing customers away from the service.

She says: “I’m not sure it’s a helpful comment. I don’t have evidence of that so I haven’t made that claim. It was difficult to get the thing off the ground, we all had our roles and we really wanted to help people in an uncertain situation while not treading on each other’s toes.”

Pension Wise received a £20m start-up loan from the Treasury and is expected to cost an additional £39m in 2015/16, with advisers contributing £4.7m of the industry levy.

Appointment numbers have been low, however, meaning the cost per appointment has risen to around £550.

However, Guy says this cannot be compared to the cost of advice. “The cost is calculated not just on the basis of time spent and resource input to a particular intervention but actually to the whole cost of the service which is then run out against appointments. That loads the number considerably.”



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There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. “[£550 a pop] cannot be compared to the cost of advice”. Well yes it can. In fact, that is how you measure the cost of advice.

  2. You have to chuckle at the claim that the appointments are not that expensive as they attribute the huge costs of the bureaucracy to the small take up…as if somehow the head office and bureaucracy costs are a good thing in themselves.

  3. A great bit of business acumen from CA here. I will charge £25 an hour from now on and ignore the cost of the office/admin/advertising/hanger on fees etc as they don’t come into the equation. Pensionwise are spending obscene amounts on advertising and now seek to ignore that cost as part if the cost of delivering guidance.

  4. Trevor Harrington 29th March 2016 at 5:41 pm

    Lesson number one when entering a career in financial advice :-
    – “My service is so good and trustworthy, and so very useful to the client, and not only that but it is also free to them too …. the general public will obviously be beating a path to my door …. I shall have a large client bank in no time at all, and I will therefore be able to charge fees for my time”.

  5. I have just read a document from the New CAB Pensionwise Coordinator, Rosemary Maxwell which I think was probably drafted by the writers of Yes Minister.

    Having been involved with the Money Plan project since 2007 on a voluntary basis, giving up time regularly and becoming a Bureau Director/Trustee. The changes now being introduced after Ms Maxwell has been in post for a mere 2 months, with by her own admission no experience, are causing me to think again.

    This is so clearly a stunt to try to make Pensionwise look fit for purpose as are the dis-appointing comments from Ros Altmann. I have 30 years of experience, am a Chartered Financial Planner and specialise in pensions advice. I couldn’t be exact but I’d be confident that the average Pensionwise operative won’t have relevant qualifications and little experience but in my Bureau role, if a DC pension query comes in, I will now have to make a further referral to PW!

    This is particularly ironic as I saw a chap a few weeks ago who had spoken to the little lamented MAS (he must have been the one) was told to speak to PW who then told him to come to the CAB.

    Hilarious If I wasn’t also paying for this through the various levies

  6. How does Pension Wise propose repaying the £20m start-up loan from the Treasury?

    A cost of £550 per appointment is a cost of £550 per appointment, no matter how you try to spin part of it away into the long grass. God, how do these people come up with this type of rubbish?

  7. Julian, it’s bureaucracy in action at the highest level and probably an extra carriage on the gravy train!

  8. At the risk of defending Mrs Guy I think they calculate the ‘cost of advice’ slightly differently. They are given a load of cash (by someone who steals it from us but that’s a different discussion) and then divide that amount by the number of people seen. Obviously the lower the number of people seen the higher the cost of advice. This is clearly a luxury only afforded to public bodies.

    The issue is that no one is required to figure out exactly how much it does cost to deliver this service because it doesn’t matter in the same way it would in the private sector. We need to figure out the cost of advice in order to stay in business, cover costs and make a profit.

    I would argue that Mrs Guy is right £550 is not their ‘cost of advice’, in reality it is how much of the industry’s money they are giving to each of the people that walk through their door. I wonder how different the outcomes would be if they just issued a voucher of £250 to each person for regulated professional advice instead. They’d more than half their (our) costs straight away.

  9. PW is signposted by providers but the generl public intelligentsia are fully aware that they will not get ‘advice’ so why bother? They will go directly to a professional financial adviser or a mate down the pub

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