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Peter Le Beau: Time to give the Money Advice Service a chance

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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

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Comments

There are 9 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Peter, I hope you dont get any derisory comments, and I fully agree with you that MAS could prove to be a useful tool for many people.

    Its very refreshing to read an article that isn’t attacking an aspect of this industry; Thank you.

  2. I have no problem at all with MAS as an organisation nor do I have any problem with what they are trying to achieve. They do have a role to play. I do however object vigoursly to the fact that it is there for teh entire population to use but we pay for it via FCA fees. That really p*sses me off as it does many others in our profession. If it is for the nation as a whole to use then let the entire nation fund it? The annual cost of MAS is but a fraction of what we send monthly by way of aid to various countries. The Government are keen to allow it promote itself as a Government iniative then let them fund it. There is no need for it to be funded by the FCA. What MAS actually does has got nothing to do with the remit of the FCA at all.

  3. I have no problems with giving the MAS a chance to prove itself. I just don’t like being forced to pay for it, given that it’s a government, not an industry initiative, designed to supplant much of what the CAB has been doing for decades.

  4. There you go Peter, no derision at all but a perfectly reasonable question from Marty and Julian. Why is this Government initiative being paid for by IFAs and not from general taxation like every other Government initiative?

    In advance of your answer though please do not try to claim that MAS is of any use to the IFA community from a marketing perspective. If that is the reason we pay for it then I can tell you I am perfectly capable of spending my own marketing budget without interference from MAS

  5. I agree. MAS is doing a good job for those who want general advice or help.

    Financial advisers should be proud to fund it. More than happy to pay for it.

    The black and white thinkers above will have to excuse the positive mindset.

  6. @Black Dog in which case if you think they are doing such a good job I imagine you will be happy to pay our MAS fee. Thank you. They do nothing of any value for my clients.

  7. @bamford try and gain some perspective. On the basis 50 odd clients in Surrey don’t use MAS it’s not a valid organisation?

    I’m sure your clients don’t use CAB either – on your limited perspective that should close as well?

    Of course you don’t fund CAB.

  8. What about those people who begin thier wealth building as a result of MAS and come to your firm looking for advice in years to come?

    What about potential refferals to advisers for those that require advice?

    If MAS gets going, these are real possibilities.

    Who doesnt want to live in a country where people manage thier finances properly and dont rely on others to bail them out.

    Think a litle wider than your own little world.

  9. On the matter of perspective, I think that there are a lot of advisers who feel that if the government is so keen to claim that MAS is a government initiative and to take credit for such, then they should indeed fund it. To take credit at other people’s expense is as disingenuous as it comes.

    As a Northern IFA, I can assure Black Dog that there are quite a few folk (and clients) up here that don’t use it either, many more than 50 too! Do I want to pay for it? Not if I have an option.

    Is it capable of dong a half-decent job for non-clients and the wider public? Well that’s a moot point as long as I have to help fund it. (No, I haven’t seen any referrals from them either!). All this charitable talk is getting is little bit tiring and rather expensive now!

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