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Neil McCarthy: Give MAS a chance

Neil McCarthy MM blog

“Tell Sid” was the catchphrase used in the British gas privatisation back in 1986 that encouraged a generation of new investors to take action and become direct holders of equity investments.

It captured the public mood at the time, the launch was oversubscribed and helped encourage many other successful privatisations.

The economy in 1986 was very different to the one we are faced with today. So why does the Money Advice Service think it is a good time to promote their services via a TV campaign? And will they be able to deliver the solutions required of their potential users?

I want to make it clear that the financial promotion of the types of services they offer is extremely important. The financial issues facing some individuals today are severe and the MAS has chosen to highlight three real areas of financial concern initially and try to create a strapline that will encourage a return to these services as an individual develops greater need for financial clarity in other areas.

“What Does MA Think” is set to become a bit of a catchphrase over the next few months if the advertising agency succeeds in achieving its brief for the Money Advice Service. We are in the second week of the advertising and I suspect you have seen one of the three TV adverts that will be running over the next six weeks.

The adverts initially focus on three separate areas – moving house, redundancy and budgeting your income. While it is easy to be negative about this type of activity, they are helping to provide a solution to individuals whose first port of call will usually be family and friends, and may not know where else to go to get financial help.

Getting customers to consistently access and research the site will be the big challenge. It will be interesting to see the volume of enquiries to gauge the appetite for this service, and the customer outcomes.

Advisers looking at the site will have noticed that theMoney Advice Service is not regulated by the FSA and does not provide a regulated service. It goes on to say that the information and tools provided are generic and should be of general assistance to you in managing your finances.

The site gives a good overview of the typical areas where most individuals need to be better financially educated. As the MAS cannot recommend specific financial products, it recommends that you seek further information from an independent financial adviser and/or further information from the providers. You may be surprised to see links to advisers already.

The inability to provide a final fulfillment is the weakness of the process but this could also help advisers in attracting new customers if they want to access these individuals (or could be included on the site).

Looking at the insurance and protection sections on the site, they provide users with basic information, simple calculations and potentially a prescription of what they could do to solve their financial problems.

They will often need an adviser to take that “prescription” and deliver a solution. Better financial education will encourage increased take- up of protection and savings – MA may know best.

Neil McCarthy is sales & marketing director at Direct Life & Pension Services


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There are 18 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Neil, we agree on many financial matters but not, I fear, on this one.

    If the MAS was publicy funded rather than misusing funds leeched from the industry then I might take a more sanguine view. However, as they ar spending my money I scrutinise them in the same manner as I scrutinise the FSA, FOS and the other quangos.

    Providing generic advice is no bad thing but the MAS has a tainted history of high salaries, a woeful website, dubious connctions with businesses that are in competition with advisers as well as the ‘advice’ word in their name.

    Consider 2013, a regulated restricted adviser will be in trouble if he suggests or promotes himself as independent yet the MAS can use the ‘advice’ word freely when it offers no such service and isn’t regulated.

    This hotch-potch affair highlights yet again what happens when a fat cheque book gets into the hands of incapable and unaccountable people.

  2. Rather an expensive ‘chance’ to give isn’t it?

  3. Neill I would have been far less angry if the FSA had given the budget to the CAB. It provides and already far superior service to the public than MAS can EVER achieve and it could produce so much more benefit by the injection of the of capital that is being spent on the MAS advertising budget alone. It has had its chance, it failed and should be confined to room 101 – it is yet ANOTHER calamitous idea of an inadequate, incompetent failed regulator who seem to view their own success on the budget it costs to run itself (which seems to be indicitive of most quangos). At what point would you say enough is enough I wonder? When £100m is wasted, or £150 million or £200 million?

  4. To have a reasonable chance of achieving their aims (which I agree are laudable and worthwhile) it is important to start of in the right direction. Unfortunately in this instance what has happened is akin to setting of to Portsmouth via the North Pole. It shows that they may well have the best intentions in the world but they are totally inadequate and unprepared for the job at hand.

  5. I had an interesting appt this week with an ‘adviser’ from MAS. He was looking for some mortgage advice. Believe it or not he said that 99% of his appointments are from people who need help with benefits and mainly housing benefit. He said he has never had an investment, pension (private) or mortgage query in his 18 months in the job. The nearest he gets to a mortgage query is someone being repossessed. He agreed that what he does totally duplicates CAB. So, if this is the case and I am sure someone would be doing the stats, you have to ask what is the point of the MAS when CAB is carrying out the same service and is grossly underfunded

  6. Anon@5.04

    The other point about CAB funding which hasn’t even been mentioned is that they have to fight tooth and nail for it through laborious and painstaking bid processes that further divert precious resources. Its staff are on nothing like the pay/conditions to those of MAS.

    MAS on the other hand seems to pretty well do what it wants regardless of cost, this crass (crap – there I’ve said it) advertising campaign is a grotesque waste of money. Only the MAS marketing people and ad’ agency will get anything out of this asinine venture.

    Or should that be porcine? Plenty of snouts still in the trough!

  7. It’s a great site for the masses to do some home work and a starting block for many who need some basic help and advice. CII do help and work with CAB. I feel very confident that refering people with limited ability to pay for advice ( or willingness ) to the MAS site which I make a contribution to the funding is the least I cann do.

  8. mate, let me just break this down for you.

    The share bonanza of the 80’s was driven by greed, which has been the problem ever since.

    Every investor is a pro until it goes wrong, then they are the victim.

    as for the “what does Ma think” catchphrase, I think “can i have my money back now please” works much better.

    I actually got bored half through your article, and didnt fini

  9. Anonymous at 5.04 p.m. hits the nail squarely on the head. An earlier report suggested that the proportion of people using the MAS who are referred to IFA’s is barely 3%. What proportion of that 3% that actually ends up doing anything of any commercial value to the “lucky” IFA is unknown. What world are you living in, mate? Cloud bloody cuckoo land?

  10. Just had a look at the site and was intrigued to read the article about those dastardly IFAs who will charge a minimum of £495 for an initial review. It’s such a scare monger that when you read the article you would think they are trying to take business away from IFAs….really…I can’t believe it especially when we’ve just parted with £1,000 as our levy to fund this rubbish. As for those adverts I want to spit. Reminds me of ‘unchain yourself from your occupational pensions’ need I say more

  11. Neil
    ‘you cannot be serious’!!!
    Attempting to support something as flawed as the MAS cannot do your reputation any good.
    Do you seriously think people will believe what you write?
    You must have been paid to write this ‘drivel’ for the MAS.
    Look at the cost of each ‘lead’ you refer to-it is beyond belief.
    And of what quality?
    Come off it Neil,stick to your day time job!

  12. When I saw the latest advert last night on the TV for MAS or “MA” as it is to become known, I nearly died laughing. Some poor guy was in dire straights, just been made redundant, very little money and some numpty suggested he speak to the MAS

    What a tragic joke this service is playing on the public. The people at MAS are neither qualified or capable of giving financial advice on any subject and to put forward the view that they could help some poor shmuck organise his finances when he actually needs a paying job is pathetic.

    Help ! The Lunatics are now running the asylum.

  13. So Neil, why all this positivity about what is essentially a waste of money. Are you looking for a job?

  14. Nurse! He’s escaped again!

  15. @nobody cares – quite agree. Comparing the “tell Sid” campaign to “Ma says” is irrelevant. In 1986 de-mutualisation / privatisation was all the rage and “tell Sid” was simply pushing a rock downhill.

  16. I would suggest that £43m of other peoples’ money was a pretty good chance to be given!

  17. History has shown that projects like MAS are white elephants by design. First they inject money into a flawed idea. Then when it is found not to be working they inject more money to change it. Then once it’s working they realise that it isn’t actually fit for purpose but by then they’ve put so much money in they might as well keep pumping more into it. Only this time the funding is not coming from a seemingly bottomless pit of taxpayers money. Is MAS a good idea? Possibly. Is it necessary? Maybe. Could it have been done for far less money? Definitely.

  18. Why create MAS when the Citizen’s Advice Bureau already does a similar job.

    Why create Auto Enrollment when we had SERPs-S2P?

    This is what happens when you have quango’s and government departments with too much money at their disposal.

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