Earlier this month, my colleague Paul Lewis wrote a column criticising the new, unified financial guidance body in that it will probably not be able to state its primary role as that of giving advice to consumers.
The Financial Guidance and Claims Bill now wending its way through Parliament will create one organisation out of three: the much-loved Money Advice Service, The Pensions Advisory Service and PensionWise.
Paul told Money Marketing readers the bill would be “giving the financial services industry a monopoly over the word advice”. By pushing for non-regulated advice to be described as guidance, with advice being used to describe recommendations about specific regulated products, “the industry has now defied the dictionary”.
I will come back to Paul’s argument shortly. But first it is worth noting how disappointing it is when one or two contributors to the online debate on his article do not even bother to engage with the points he makes, simply responding with comments like “waste of ink” or “drivel”.
The issue of what consumers can expect from the new service – and, critically, where they go in the next stage of their journey towards better financial outcomes for themselves and their families – deserves better than snide remarks.
Second, it is not entirely clear from his column whether Paul welcomes the bill’s proposed rationalisation of these various advice/guidance bodies. Probably not: there is slightly light-hearted reference to the absence of mass demonstrations calling for a unified financial guidance body.
In this regard, Paul is indeed correct. Yet the absence of such mass movements should not be used to invalidate a sensible approach to bringing similar functions under one roof, reducing duplication of resources and ensuring a single port of call for all the financial information consumers need.
I do not recall any marches, true, but then I do not recall an armed uprising before 2012 demanding workplace pension schemes, or a Tooting Popular Front-style urban guerrilla movement in favour of pension liberalisation in 2014. The far more important issue is not whether such a move is a sensible idea – as I think it is on balance – but how the idea itself is executed.