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MAS adviser directory branded ‘not fit for purpose’

The Money Advice Service’s directory of at-retirement advisers has been branded “not fit for purpose” after it launched with a number of technical issues. 

The directory is in beta mode and features 4,500 advisers from 1,200 firms.

Those using the Government’s Pension Wise guidance service will be pointed to the directory if they wish to seek advice.

Users enter their postcode and can choose to search for face-to-face, telephone or online advice.

They can also tick one or more of the following areas that they wish to receive advice on: pension pot(s)/other savings or investments, paying for care, equity release, inheritance tax planning, and wills and probate.

The results are ordered by a combination of location and – if the customer selects an advice area – by the firm’s business mix. Advisers are asked what proportion of their business is in each of the five areas.

But FCA Consumer Panel member Teresa Fritz, who has led the work on the directory, says there are some “anomolies” in the results which need to be ironed out.

She says: “Some advice firms will have a head office location but advisers who work from home and travel to see clients. There is an issue where the top result could say the firm has an adviser 160 miles away, but what we mean is the firm has an adviser which will travel to them. We need to change the message to explain that.

“In an ideal world the directory would not be going live to the public yet and we would have at least another month to work with advisers to get everything right. But we have had to work to very tight timescales.”

Pilot Financial Planning managing director Ian Thomas says the postcode search is “not fit for purpose”.

He says: “We have registered for the directory, but when I type in our office postcode and tick the pension pot box, the first adviser is 200 miles away and our firm is not on the first page of results.

“That is not good enough and it is a bit late in the day to be having such fundamental issues. The directory is user friendly but the advice areas seem to be extending the brief as the guidance service will not cover areas like equity release.”

For each advice firm, the directory lists its minimum fee, whether the initial meeting is free and the firm’s minimum pot size, if applicable. It also lists whether the firm has advisers with specialist qualifications.

MAS says it aims to match consumers to firms by their pot size.

But Fritz says where firms have left the minimum fee blank on the form they submitted, no minimum fee information shows on their profile. She says this will be changed to “no minimum fee”.

She says: “I cannot stress enough how early in the directory’s development this is. We want to introduce additional filters so that consumers can search by qualification or search for an independent adviser.

“We want to capture more details on fees but we would have to be careful with any feature that allowed users to search by price, as we don’t want to be a price comparison site.”

Almary Green managing director Carl Lamb says: “The directory is basic in the extreme and has a long way to go. The results list does not tell you much about the firms and I would like to see more information included.

“Pension freedom is now a reality and it seems we are still putting sticky plasters over the gaps.”

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Comments

There are 11 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. ….MAS says it aims to match consumers to firms by their pot size. FFS give me a break.!!!!! Simply match the people to their closest adviser – end of. The users can easily see the results and take things from there
    Like everything else this lot do they have managed to complicate a very simple task and most likely increased the costs of implementing this. Why must the quangoites try to make it so complicated. When will they realise they are not clever enough to re-invent the wheel? It is totally ridiculous but then again what else can we expect from people who run these organisations when they have no commercial or business experience whatsoever

  2. I suppose that in this instance we should cut the MAS some slack, as the timescale to get this new system ready has been undeniably tight. That said, it hardly sounds like a very difficult programme to have written. All it has to do is match the user’s postcode with his nearest FA, but they seem to have been unable to get even that right.

    In fact, has the MAS ever managed to do ANYTHING that might reasonably be described as fit for purpose? It’s tragi-comical really.

  3. I know this is knit picking but please just google MAS.

    It comes up as second page as 12 entry. Is this a sufficient record for what is being offered here even before any attempt is made to locate a financial adviser on this issue.

    It suggests irrelevance and for that reason the headline above is correct!

  4. I don’t get it, why doesn’t MAS just refer people to unbiased.com. Unbiased seem to do a perfectly good job of directing people seeking advice. What MAS are doing will just cost pointless millions. I’ve just watched an advert from WHICH on pension freedom. They seem to have their act together and are issuing free guides to whoever is interested. Everyone knows who “WHICH” and “UNBIASED” are. People just need to tap in a few appropriate words into their browser and hey presto access to all the information they need. MAS’s problem is nobody knows who they are, which is why they have to spend huge amounts of money advertising themselves. Such a waste.

  5. Probably why I decided against being listed in the directory.

  6. My thoughts.......... 10th April 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Well I thought I would try out the directory, with me as the test pilot….. No point relying on hearsay!!!

    I typed in my home postcode, confirmed I wanted local Pension Advice (face-to-face), and Hey Presto up popped a list of firms in Glamorgan, Brighton, Coventry, Sunderland etc……. Just such a shame I live in London !!!!

    I had to scroll down to the 35th entry to find the first London based firm.

    So well done Pension Wise/MAS…….You could not have ballsed this up more if you had tried.

    And why not just add a link to Unbiased….. it would cost nothing….it would work….it would take 5 minutes to do. Oh silly me, that would stop everyone on the Regulatory Gravy-train from being rewarded for massive failure.

  7. I’m with Mark Sikora, I don’t understand why there is any need to waste millions developing a listing search engine when Google, unbiased, VouchedFor, IFP and others are already out there with proper sites doing a proper job. This is just replicating what has already been done (by and large). Sorry, but I can see no purpose in the “service” – it seems like another waste of money on a white elephant.

  8. Douglas Baillie 11th April 2015 at 8:39 am

    MAS seem to be oblivious as to the relevant FCA adviser permissions necessary if the consumer has any occupational pension plans, and/or any policy with a guarantee in it where the adviser needs to be a Pension Transfer Specialist (PTS).
    My understanding is that only about 10% or less of the adviser population have the necessary FCA PTS permissions and PI Isurance.
    Advisers who do not have the FCA PTA permissions may be sleep walking into real problems for themselves and their prospective new clients unless MAS have a separate directory and are able to identify consumer pensions that fall into the PTS requirements.

  9. @Mark Sikora

    UNBIASED puts the people who have paid them (Sponsored) 1st and so is not independent.

  10. @Ted Shaw

    Unbiased like all other business’s are commercial enterprises and make a profit from selling a service. People who search their database have a need to access independent advice. IFA’s who pay more for a premium listing are keener for people seeking independent advice to call them. It’s still access to independent advice.

  11. @Mark Sikora

    I didn’t say that the advice was not Independent, I said that Unbiased is not independent. Why don’t they just charge everybody for a listing if they are a ‘commercial company’. Potential Clients are not aware that the nearest Adviser may not have, paid and is therefore not high enough up the list to show.

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