The Money Advice Service has confirmed plans to go ahead with an adviser directory but will now consider whether it should include all advisers and not just retirement specialists.
In its consultation on the plan, published in June, the MAS said to be included in the directory firms will have to show they specialise in retirement advice and agree to take clients no matter how small their pension pots.
It said a panel of industry and consumer representatives would decide the final criteria for inclusion in the directory.
At the time, Apfa said MAS was veering into “dangerous” territory by setting its own standards for which firms are qualified to give retirement advice.
In its response to the consultation, published today, the MAS says the panel will be asked to consider whether the directory should include all regulated financial advisers or just those specialising in retirement advice.
It says final entry criteria will be decided by the panel but its intention in suggesting there should be entry criteria is to “differentiate this directory from others in the market and to instill consumer confidence in the directory”.
The MAS will invite 13 organisations to be part of the panel, including Apfa, the Personal Finance Society, the Institute of Financial Planning, Citizens Advice, The Pensions Advisory Services and the Society of Later Life Advisers.
Despite Apfa’s initial criticism, director general Chris Hannant says he welcomes the proposal for an “impartial and effective directory” because it will form part of the “handover” from the Government’s pension guidance to regulated advice.
He adds: ”We will work with the service to ensure that the directory’s criteria are effective in delivering this, and helps link consumers that need advice to those that are capable of delivering it.”
The MAS says it intends to include information on advisers’ fees in the directory. However, it says further work will be needed and the information may not be included in the first iteration of the directory, but added at a later date.
The service is due to be in place by April 2015, to coincide with the launch of the Government’s at retirement guidance service announced in the Budget.
The MAS says a new consumer interface, where consumers can search for an adviser and view advisers’ details, will be built and hosted within its existing site.
It will now investigate whether this should be outsourced or developed in-house, but says that either way it will be responsible for determining the user journey and site content.
Data management and verification of the service, as well as ongoing maintenance, will be outsourced. The MAS will now undertake a public procurement exercise to find a suitable supplier.
Respondents to the consultation highlighted a number of potential risks associated with the directory, including adding to the confusion among consumers as numerous other directories already exist, high costs associated with getting the service right, and inadequate maintenance.
The MAS says these are all “valid concerns” which will be kept under review.