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Martin Bamford: MAS, I want my money back

I am pretty confident that most of us would agree that we need to educate members of our society about the importance of money management and planning for their financial future. After all most IFAs deliver loads of education, information and guidance as well as financial advice, financial planning and investment advice, as part of what they do.

At some level or other we are all signed up to the delivery of education to the public. I also suspect that few of us would argue that such education is vitally important to the young people of this country.

However, isn’t that best delivered through the formal education system which might them be considered independent and without bias, rather than through the financial services sector itself? Why am I so disillusioned by what is on offer from the Money Advice Service? It sort of sounds just like what it is needed and yet it is failing at every level.

It alienated the vast majority of advisers with its first foray into the advertising space. Claiming to offer advice (which it never did and still doesn’t) when what it offered was at best information and guidance.

Then claiming it was free when the whole regulatory thrust has been to explain to consumers that advice has never been free. Talk about contradictory.

What could be a worse red rag to a bull than to then claim that its advice was refreshing because it was free! Who was responsible for this nonsense and, if they are still employed, why are they?

There are any number of websites that are accessible to the public that can provide information and guidance and many of them to a much higher standard than the MAS website. It is trying to do something in an already crowded space that at least one respected commentator has described as “crap”. 

Do we really need, in this time of austerity, to spend £19 million on an advertising budget that will fundamentally fail to change all but a few people’s behaviour?

If it were public funds that were being wasted this way, I would be fuming. It is however my money that is being wasted and therefore I am apoplectic with rage. I feel like writing to the FSA and demanding my money back, for all the good that would do.

The latest advertising offering is at best tacky and at worst cringe worthy. Is our hard earned money really being wasted on this nonsense? Did the senior management of the Quango really fail to listen to the feedback they got from the Treasury select committee?

Perhaps we should expect little more from an overpaid bunch but sadly because we are paying for this nonsense I believe we have every right to expect something better – but I am not holding my breath.

What is particularly galling is that they never appear to have learned about the need for all objectives to be measured with specific metrics, so for the latest TV and press advertising the Chairman of MAS states that this campaign is designed to “shake people out of their money slumber and prompt them to manage their finances well”. How many brain cells does it take to understand that it will not achieve this kind of politically correct nonsense?

MAS, I want my money back. I certainly don’t want to continue paying for this misguided nonsense. I suspect many others feel the same.

Martin Bamford is managing director of Informed Choice


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There are 14 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. The FSA,FCA et al are civil servants paid for by the industry.

    Civil servants spend the majority of their time ensuring that they are employed and dont care about how much it costs as it isnt coming out of their pockets.

    I love watching Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister as it hits the nail on the head with regards to the attitudes of these self serving parasites.

  2. Martin as usual, a well formatted piece and bang on the mark. On a different note I read you are stopping advising to concentrate on other aspects of running Informed choice. I would like to wish you all the best for that. I do hope you continue with your articles in MM. Cheers

  3. I believe the money would be better spent supporting websites like who already provide free unbiased help guides covering financial planning topics

  4. The sad fact is that despite paying towards the MAS we have no say in how that budget is spent.
    Why is that?
    I doubt many IFAs (or other regulated firms) feel that the MAS adds value to a level anywhere near its budget, but with an unaccountable regulator I don’t see this improving. Furthermore, it is common that when you are critical of an organisation they then go out of their way to try and prove that their strategy was sound, so this could result in the MAS getting an even bigger budget – costing us more!
    The key is somehow working from the top down towards an accountable regulator with implications for how it sets and spends its budgets.

  5. What’s the easiest money in the world to spend? Somebody else’s of course. That’s why it will never matter to the mandarins whether it works or not cos it ain’t their money.
    If you run a business you would have SMART principles in place for a £19M advertising budget not ….”shake people out of their money slumber and prompt them to manage their finances well”. Complete and utter bollo****

  6. Well said!

    And, the “You can also find insurance companies that specialise in income protection.” link goes straight to Life Search – well done Tom.

    I doubt we’ll see Tom having a go at MAS anytime soon!

  7. Martin Bamford has hit the nail on the head.
    How many of us fume when we seee the diabolical advert particularly when is says that the government has provided it free.
    Unbelieveable, nothing is free and to have £19m spent of our money providing a sub standard “service” does us all who try to do a good job of educating the public a grave dis-service.
    Keep up the good work Martin.

  8. Too right we all feel the same Martin.

    Snag is – who’s going to listen?

    Sure a hell not the regulator, it’s their stupid idea.

    I think the only chance of any sort of a sympathetic hearing might be from the TSC

    A Petition maybe?

  9. Bang on Martin. You are correct that MAS like the FSA and the forthcoming FCA do not listen to experience no matter how vast. In fact that they seem to feel it is an actual benefit never speaking to real clients whether individuals or businesses. They prefer to listen to focus groups and pressure groups with vested interest (banks!) and look where it has lead us. I am no pessimist but I can see we are heading toward the darkest days in financial services in the UK and all the noise from the powers that be is they still don’t see how they have got it wrong in the first place. Afterall was not the credit crunch, banking failures, libor scandels, PPI, Loan swaps,etc all a failure of regulation?

  10. I thought it was the government that set up MAS… Maybe we should all go to our respective MPs and try and get something done that way,,,

  11. Spot on Martin, I haven’t managed to see an ad yet because what these quangocrats don’t realise is that most people fast forward, talk, check facebook on the mobile or put the kettle on when the ads come on. I caught a fleeting glimpse the other night as the kids fast forwarded through it, of course I was the only one who recognised the logo (bit larger than I am allowed on my disclosure docs by the way 😉 ). The other occupants of the room don’t know about it (and I shan’t be telling them). Of course the tub of Flora, Virgin logo and Magnum pictures subliminally made some impact on them somewhere being known and largely trusted brands – which is where the MAS / FSA fail miserably.
    An utter waste of money, only these fools could blow £20m of other peoples’ money on advertising at the point where the majority of people are looking the other way or even out of the room!
    As for the site, don’t get me started, had a look the other day and I could have done better with a couple of sixth formers and an FPC3 manual. Mine would have been more accurate. The other generic sites and sources of information already out there are far superior.
    Spend the money on education in schools and the CAB.

  12. The implementation of MAS shows how little respect the FSA has left for the adviser community, the majority of that respect being destroyed by poor ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ regulation.

  13. Well said Nick, Represents all our feelings. I’ve campaigned taht the MAS – be definition – is incorrect. It should be MIS Money ‘Information’ Servioce, as they do not offer any advice.

    Can I use this article in the next MAS policy committee meeting?

  14. Great article Martin,100% in agreement. The problem we have is that we just can’t seem to pin the blame regarding the MAS on any one individual – it’s like trying to get hold of a soapy rat. After the Jimmy Savile revelations, George Entwhistle at the BBC was a gonner within days. Yet, Hector Sants screwed the IFA sector, oversaw disaster and scandal on a grand scale, and gets a huge pay-off and a £3m job with Barclays, and he – when questioned on the live televised debate – didn’t even know who the FSA were accountable to!. The problem we have is that there are so many civil servant leeches living off IFA money yet able to hide behind a corporate decision when we want answers. With the money they’ve spent on the MAS they could have paid most people’s debts off that ring the MAS!. Absolute jokers.

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