The outgoing head of the Money Advice Service says the Government’s new single guidance body should not carry the word “advice” in its branding.
MAS is preparing to merge with the other two public guidance bodies, Pension Wise and The Pensions Advisory Service at some point after Autumn 2018.
Speaking to Money Marketing, Rookes acknowledges having advice in the title of her service had caused anger among regulated advisers who thought the term could cause confusion for consumers.
She says: “I really don’t think the general public can distinguish between advice and guidance. Whether we are called MAS or something else doesn’t matter to them going forward. But it does make sense to get the new organisation to go with something that perhaps doesn’t include the word advice.
“In particular now that the pension freedoms have come into being it’s much more important that individuals understand what regulated advice is and when they might take it.
“None of us were responsible for naming MAS. But if I was a betting person, I would put my money on the new body not being called the ‘something advice service’ and I wouldn’t be taking much risk. It just makes sense if it’s going to upset people.”
The Personal Finance Society asked the Government last month not to use the word “advice” in any branding, marketing or communications material when it sets up its new public guidance body.
Rookes maintains MAS offered value for money for advisers’ levy contributions, as the organisation took decisions to cut its marketing budget and face-to-face money guidance services.
She says: “There will always be some people who don’t agree with MAS, but I feel like we are in a much stronger place, not just with the IFA community, but with all of our stakeholders, because we have shown we do provide a great service to customers.
“The levy, in a sense, is nothing to do with us, it’s the FCA’s decision. My understanding is the combined body will still be funded by an FCA levy, but how much or what the mechanism is is for the Department for Work and Pensions, Treasury and FCA to decide.”
Rookes is preparing to stand down from her role as MAS chief executive around April, with a successor due to be announced shortly. She had planned to retire in February last year, but stayed in the post to oversee discussions over the future of public guidance.
Rookes says she has no firm plans on her next move.
She says: “I believe passionately in what we are trying to do. The organisation is now a credible organisation. We have achieved a lot in the last few years and its time to hand it on to somebody else, hopefully without any more reviews.”
Discussions are also ongoing as to who will lead the new joint guidance bodies, with both internal and external candidates being assessed.
The three bodies are planning to move into the same building in Canary Wharf previously occupied by Barclays, and will sit alongside nearly 6,000 other Whitehall staffers.