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MAS chief: Uncertainty over future of guidance has caused a ‘difficult year’

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Uncertainty over the future direction of public financial guidance has created a “difficult” year for the Money Advice Service, the organisation’s outgoing chief executive has admitted.

In the MAS business plan for the 2017/18 financial year, Caroline Rookes says that the organisation will ensure a smooth transition into the new single guidance body which will combined MAS with The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.

Earlier this week, the Government set out the remit its new single guidance body will have, which will include personal and occupation pensions guidance but not regulated pensions or investment advice.

Rookes says: “The uncertainty about the future scope and shape of a money guidance body has naturally made this a difficult year for the Money Advice Service’s staff. I want to pay tribute to my staff, fellow directors and board who have all remained focused on the task and given me great support.”

Rookes says that MAS still supports a combined public guidance service however, which will come into force after April 2018.

She says: “We know from experience that people’s money issues do not fall neatly into discrete categories, so we welcome the Government’s proposals for the future direction of financial guidance.

“We intend that the 2018/19 plan will ensure a smooth transition into the new body. In the meantime, we plan to fulfil our statutory remit. Informed by consumer needs, we will fill the gaps our corporate strategy identifies, and we will join up this work ever more closely with The Pensions Advisory Service and Pension Wise.”

The role of advisers

Speaking to Money Marketing, Rookes said that while the combined guidance will offer debt advice, it should retain a focus on moving clients towards fuller financial advice.

She says: “We have never been an advice organisation…Debt advice is regulated but that’s very very different to regulated money advice. I don’t anticipate that we will move across that boundary, nor should we. There’s a regulated advice community out there; our role is to ensure that where people need regulated advice they understand why they need it and get them there.”

Rookes will step down as MAS head in April next year. MAS has enlisted headhunting firm Moloney Search to begin looking for her replacement.

She says: “We want someone who has extensive experience of building strong stakeholder relationships, experience of developing high performing organisations. Do they need to have public sector experience? I think it would be beneficial if they did before, and if they have had experience of financial services, but at the end of the day it is a leadership role which requires someone who is capable of keeping the organisation running and meeting its statutory objectives whilst managing the transition.”

Rookes agreed that merging the three guidance bodies in to one could lead to efficiency savings, but said it was too early to guess how much adviser levies might fall by.

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Comments

There are 3 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Says Ms. Rookes: “We have never been an advice organisation”. So why, when you don’t provide it, are you called the Money ADVICE Service? Is that not fundamentally misleading and an open invitation to people to approach you in the expectation of being able to get from you FOC something that you don’t actually offer? Why aren’t you called the Money INFORMATION or GUIDANCE Service? I’m surprised that no one has lodged a complaint against you with the ASA for misrepresentation.

    The mostly likely actions in the wake of a consultation with the MAS are:-

    1. Go to a regulated adviser and pay for the required services (exactly what most people who approach the MAS hope to avoid because, for consumers, it’s free),

    2. DIY, with a high possibility of getting it wrong,

    3. In the case of pension fund vesting, accept the holding provider’s own annuity (quite possibly not the most suitably structured one or based on the best rate),

    4. Try to find an adviser who’ll do a cut price deal on an Exec. Only basis (ever more difficult these days, I imagine) or

    5. Do nothing.

    Not a great setting for good consumer outcomes, is it?

  2. Sorry to bring it up but in 2014 Rookes said: “Am I worried about the ethics of regulated advisers? Personally, yes. (https://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/mas-chief-raises-concerns-over-adviser-ethics)

    I think it is difficult for anybody who has qualified to be an adviser to take her seriously.

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