I hate the term “chattering classes” although I think I might belong to them. But at least I have so far managed to avoid being classed among the Twitterati.
I make this admission because there can be a mindset among industry commentators that encourages them to be ultra-critical of industry initiatives, often because it is expected of them.
Most industry commentators would deny this in the way that you would naturally deny that you listened to Daniel O’Donnell, still have a pair of flared trousers or occasionally go to the New Den.
But in murky reality, I think there is a temptation to knock Government-driven initiatives in financial services automatically, usually because of an assumption they are ill-conceived. See, I have started already.
So it is with a sense of self-righteousness that I want to echo the praise that Tom Baigrie a few weeks ago directed towards the Money Advice Service for not only the quality of its web pages on protection, which are very good, but also from my own experience of dealing with the MAS at a senior level.
I always start out with a sense of inferiority when I approach a regulatory body or something like it. I struggled to hold a good dialogue with senior members of the FSA simply because I do not think protection was very high on their agenda. Now the MAS is, of course, a public information service but I approached it with trepidation with the plans that we at the IP Task Force wanted to share about what will be some very exciting initiatives for the education of the public and the increased projection of the product.
I am delighted to say the MAS could not have been more helpful and positive and it was nice not to have to persuade a senior person in the industry about the need to safeguard income in the event of serious disability. It is probably true to say that the MAS did not get off to the best of starts and I was underwhelmed by its initial advertising. The website I reviewed some time ago has steadily improved and I cannot be cynical or obstructive about an organisation that exists to help the public understand finances.
Furthermore, it gives every indication of being willing to listen to and interact with industry professionals who can help it and the MAS could really make a serious difference if it is given the right resource and support in terms of funding and advertising. I really cannot see a simple IP product selling without the very active and positive participation of the MAS.
After this article surfaces, I fully expect a degree of derision from several people who will accuse me of naivety and blind optimism. That is fine with me. I would like the MAS to succeed and I am determined that if I can do anything to help it sharpen its act I will. Frankly, the plans I have for a product I care passionately about will be unlikely to succeed without it.
Peter Le Beau is managing director of Le Beau Visage