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Lee Robertson: MAS should have been reformed, not abolished

Lee Robertson

Last week’s Budget contained some big news for advisers, not least the announcement of the demise of the Money Advice Service. After six controversy-filled but rather self-congratulatory years it appears MAS is to be retired by the Chancellor.

Those six years have seen runaway spending of over a third of a billion pounds, which beggars belief really. Then there was its masquerading under the advice label when only offering guidance, the infamous comments about adviser ethics and the following non-apologies wrapped in weasel words about misrepresentation and journalists quoting out of context.

So it is safe to say MAS will not be missed by the adviser community. A community that was never consulted on its creation or on the amount of the levy we had to stump up while being publicly insulted by them and having to see those appalling TV ads that made no mention of who was footing the bill. I guess in hindsight we are rather glad to have not been tainted by the sheer awfulness of it as a failing organisation.

But I wonder if it should have been saved. It was finally beginning to realise it was on borrowed time. It had been subject to a comprehensive but entirely necessary review that detailed lots of changes it was in the process of adopting. It had finally  – if rather belatedly – realised self-aggrandisement and vanity brand building on someone else’s bankroll was probably not the way forward.

“Do not take the easy, almost cowardly way out. Stop shutting things down just for convenience”

Instead of shutting it down, then reincarnating it in some form and letting it run on and on, reform under a carefully managed and measured timescale might have been the better, more cost-effective option.

This constant shutting down of quango-type organisations – usually after a costly review and report by some notable worthy picked from within exactly the same part of the establishment that sets up these bodies – costs a huge amount money.

The public or the industry concerned has no choice but to continually stump up their cash through taxes or levies (which are just taxes by another name) to fund organisation after organisation on some ridiculous governmental civil service led idea merry-go-round.

How about taking a leaf out of the book of those successful advisers who have built their business without external and never-ending funding? Learn something from those who were happily maligned by MAS by sticking with it, learning from mistakes, moving forward and making sure it is fit for purpose?

Do not just take the easy, almost cowardly way out. Stop shutting things down just for convenience or out of some civil service perceived sense of embarrassment. Instead, give the organisation some firm operating principles with measurable metrics, strict funding parameters and the time to get going and learn. Insist it is at least listening to its stakeholders and those already operating in the sector. Too much to ask? Probably. But I guess we can continue to live in hope.

Lee Robertson is chief executive of Investment Quorum


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There are 7 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Would it have started to make changes if it hadn’t realised it was on borrowed time – I doubt it so good riddance.

    If the Government wants to provide free ‘guidance’ to those unable/unwilling to pay for the service it should finance it out of general taxation.

  2. Trevor Harrington 24th March 2016 at 5:32 pm

    No point in flogging a dead horse ….

  3. Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated.

  4. I often wonder if advisers actual taken the time to review MAS web site In some areas it is quite good I have to agree with Lee instead of closing it down they should have reviewed the whole strategy
    If advisers had an input after all we contribute to its cost it could have benefits for the consumer and adviser community

  5. The acid test for the MAS, like any other quango, must surely be: Is it worth what it costs or has the MAS merely spent its six year life building a lot of expensive sand castles in which not that many members of the public are actually interested? Osborne & Co. have evidently decided on the latter.

  6. MAS was a good idea, badly thought out, badly constructed, badly run and (in my humble view) incorrectly funded. It should never have been funded by industry levy but the govt wanted to be seen to be doing something in the eyes of the public and the usual spin of “the industry will benefit from this so it should pay” was flogged to death.
    My only hope is that the next quango that Phoenixes from this is NOT funded by our industry (and in particular the adviser community) however I fear that the Chancellor will just continue to use OPM so to do.

  7. The covert plan all along was privatisation by stealth of the CAB, so whatever body replaces the MAS is unhappily not likely to be free of any funding burden on the FA industry.

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