MAS does not deserve to be given a chance, it deserves to be put out of “our misery” as quickly as possible.
As others have stated if the Government wants to educate the population about managing their finances then let them pay for it through taxation. Although listening to the news last night about the number of schools conned out of a lot of money by tricksters offering “free computers and photocopiers”, I am not convinced that the education system is the right place for financial education.
Even the FSA agreed in its submission to the Treasury select committee that MAS should not be funded by a levy on the financial services sector and yet that is where we find ourselves. If like us you had money debited from your bank account this month (in our case over £1,000) to fund this organisation then you have every right to be critical of MAS.
MAS has a £46.3 million budget for the 2012/13 year and is in the process of spending £19m that on a name awareness campaign. When I challenged the role of MAS on Radio 4 You and Yours program last Friday, I was told that they are acting as a “hub” and partnering up with over 300 other services. Honestly, who thinks we need a £46.3m “hub” ?!!
The best example of a positive outcome of their service that they could describe to the Radio 4 listeners was that of helping a single mother in South Wales work out how she could save £100 per month, which is laudable . Well with a budget of £46.3 m they could give £1,200 to each of 38,583 single mothers and have a direct and measurable impact upon the financial well being of a lot of people. Better that than this cringe making series of adverts.
Neil suggests that the lack of a final fulfilment on the MAS website could help advisers in attracting new customers. I disagree, It will not drive people to seek independent advice because that is a commodity that has to be paid for and MAS has convinced their users that “advice is free”. More importantly, if I want to attract new customers, I am able to do that much more effectively with £1,000 of my own money than MAS ever can.
MAS represents the typical outcome of placing a levy on firms over which they have no control of the spend. It will continue do what it has done so far but it is highly optimistic to believe that it will benefit the IFA community who are paying for it. It represents the old world view where advisers should only have a role to play and be paid where they implement a product solution. So MAS provides generic advice and then expects the IFA to flog the user a product- what outdated thinking.
If MAS truly provides advice (the word they want to use because they believe their users think that is what they are getting and oh because the Advertising Standards Authority says they can)then they are a competitor. In what strange world should a business be paying the salaries of its competitor offering an alternative free service? The lunatics have definitely taken over this asylum.
Nick Bamford is executive director of Informed Choice