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Money Advice Service scraps ambitious growth targets

Caroline Rookes MAS Money Advice Service
MAS chief executive Caroline Rookes

The Money Advice Service has scrapped its target to reach over 11 million people by 2016/17 in order to concentrate on changing consumers’ financial behaviour.

In February 2012, former MAS chief executive Tony Hobman set an ambitious growth target for the MAS to go from 1.3 million MAS users in 2011/12 to more than 11 million by 2016/17. Hobman, who received a £350,000 pay package, quit last July.

His successor, former Department of Work and Pensions director of private pensions Caroline Rookes, joined MAS in February.

In an interview with Money Marketing, Rookes says the MAS will now focus on the actions consumers take relating to their finances.

She says: “We have changed our approach in the business plan away from just setting a numerical target. It is important we achieve behavioural shifts – it is not just about being able to count up the number of people that have used the service.

”That is why we have gone towards more outcome-based measures around managing down debt, saving, saving for the long-term, protecting assets and protecting dependants. We have set targets in those areas.”

Rookes says the MAS is not simply aiming to drive traffic to its website but is keen to ensure people can access the advice and information they need, which may mean directing consumers wanting financial help to other organisations.

She says: “My view is it not helpful just to set a figure. The MAS is a very young organisation, and what we are seeing now is the service develop as it understands more about the sectors and customers it is dealing with.”

Rookes is acutely aware of the industry’s concerns around what the MAS is delivering for its £78.3m budget for 2013/14, with £43.8m for money advice and £34.5m for debt advice.

Financial Conduct Authority chairman John Griffith-Jones told the Treasury select committee last November he was having “robust” discussions with the MAS ahead of this year’s budget and that the MAS should undergo a value for money study.

Rookes says: “The industry is absolutely right to be concerned, as we all have to be concerned about value for money. The MAS has been set up to fulfil an important role. We are one of the very few sources of completely impartial advice, but what we have which is different to the other organisations around is that through our statutory objectives we have this leadership role across the sector which gives us a kind of authority.”

Rookes says the MAS will try to influence the way the financial services sector is working for consumers.

She adds: “I do understand the concerns of organisations about whether this is value for money, and whether the MAS is duplicating services that are already there. We have got to show this is not what we are doing, that we are working right across the board to help develop a kind of ‘financial capability’ sector which can deliver its services more efficiently and more effectively.”

Figures published by the MAS last week show over 2 million people used the service in the year to the end of March, up 62 per cent from 1.3 million users in 2011/12. MAS had an annual target of reaching 1.9 million users for 2012/13.

The number of face-to-face “advice” sessions has gone up 35 per cent over the last year from 74,000 to 100,000, while the number of users of MAS’ telephone service has dipped 4 per cent from 84,000 to 81,000. A total of 15,000 consumers used the MAS webchat service, which launched last year.

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Comments

There are 12 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. While education is an excellent objective this really is a huge an admission of failure by MAS!

  2. Nearly choked on my afternoon tea seeing the £78 MILLION budget for these jokers.

    I seriously thought it was April the 1st and some sort of a mega wind-up was going on here.

  3. My milkman gives better advice than MAS and does not charge all those who dont use him £78 million

  4. The number of face-to-face “advice” sessions has gone up 35 per cent

    Sorry but i’m pretty sure that MAS isn’t authorised to give advice.

    This joke has to be stopped.

    After all as recent cases have shown if a consumer thinks they have received advice the courts are inclined to agree that they have received advice – so who will pick the FSCS bill when the proverbial hits the fan?

  5. “Rookes says the MAS will try to influence the way the financial services sector is working for consumers”
    More state interference and box ticking culture.
    No doubt we will all be receiving questionaires asking us how we help mas type customers, who are usually looking for free help.
    I will not help mas in any way shape or form.
    The FCA want us to charge for advice, which, due to added regulatory and liability costs, will never be cheap

  6. MAS doesn’t provide any info that a 2 minute Google search would give

    They still insist on calling it “advice” too – I’m pretty sure if anybody who was regulated did that, they’d be in hot water

    £350,000 pa to run that show – I’m doing something wrong

  7. I hope this isn’t just warm words as what MAS needs to do in a hurry is to build links with IFA’s

    MAS seems to be about building links with big conglomerates like banks and building societies when reality there are 23,000 existing advisers around the country willing to take leads from MAS.

    The head of these quangos really need to see that economic problems they are causing in the sector that they represent.

    On one hand we have RDR stating that advisers need to clearly disclose charges upfront and on the other we have quangos that offers so called FREE FINANCIAL ADVICE.

    Particularly when it is not advice but is only information!

    I don’t see that as working closely with the industry!

    Have a read of MM article on what I thought of her comments on building partnerships with Banks

    http://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/1070645.article?cmpid=amalert_1300435710&cmptype=Garnier+calls+for+TSC+inquiry+into+RDR+%27hangover%27%3B+Aegon+hits+out+at+Skandia+rebate+move

  8. If MAS is providing advice are they authorised and do they pay FCA levies?

  9. The idea of a consumer financial education body is a good one, but that was its old name and until its name is changed either back to this or to one which does NOT confuse the consumer, they will remain a MES……. If they change their name I will support them. Until then I will use their booklets, I will direct people who want or need their info (they have some useful bits for those divorcing for instance), but I will continue to tell consumers MAS is a MES as it does NOT provide regulated advice.

  10. Of course MAS wants to build links with Banks and Life Offices – needs to carry on the tradition of the FSA of those leaving getting jobs with the big boys.

  11. Someone help me please. She says ‘statutory objectives’. What statute? Did I miss something?

  12. Julian Stevens 13th May 2013 at 7:57 pm

    The only measure of whether or not the MAS is delivering anything approaching benefits commensurate with its enormous cost (extorted from proper, regulated financial advisers) is surely the number of people availing themselves of its services who actually go on to set in motion a meaningful action plan to:-

    1. protect their families,

    2. protect their income against sickness or accident,

    3. save for the future and

    4. avoid being in a position of perpetually unmanageable debt.

    11m people interacting with the MAS is all but worthless if the proportion of those 11m people who actually do something thereafter is nothing more than minuscule.

    The MAS should be forced to stop claiming that it offers advice and to state plainly that the reason its services are free to users is that it’s funded by IFA’s. We’re forced to pay for the wretched thing yet we receive virtually nothing in return.

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