Advisers are no doubt aware of the recent comments made by Money Advice Service chief executive Caroline Rookes at the Labour party conference, where she said she worried about the ethics of advisers.
As reported in Money Marketing, Rookes was asked if she was worried about the ethics of regulated advisers.
She said: “Personally, yes. But I know they are regulated and nothing will change that. If anything the FCA will be tougher on them to ensure they are doing what they should. I don’t have a problem with the number [of advisers] because if there is the demand then the supply will come.”
Seeing as providers cannot deliver the Budget guidance service, and the likes of The Pensions Advisory Service cannot function without advisers, I do not understand why Rookes would bad mouth advisers so carelessly.
Guidance needs to be delivered every five years after starting work. If we stick with the ridiculous notion that its only those at retirement where help is needed most, then forget the MAS and recruit the Samaritans. After all, if people are told: “If only you had acted sooner, now there is no time to rectify the position”, then guidance will be of little use.
It reminds me of a Billy Connolly story where the comedian told of a car accident where he and others were observing one of the casualties. The crowd is suddenly parted by someone who cries: “Let me through – I am a reflexologist!” For someone whose body is almost in pieces is this the time to tickle their feet?
Caroline Rookes is a career civil servant with no worries about her retirement, and given her comments to date, she has no clue about the life choices of those not so fortunate. In a previous life Rookes was director of private pensions at the Department for Work and Pensions, and has been insulated personally from the pension pot issues others are grappling with.
I believe she needs to fall on her sword, as she is deluded if she thinks advisers will volunteer to work with the MAS while she remains in post.
In order for the guidance service to be successful, those involved need collective vision with no division in their midst. It needs people that understand what real people are going through.
The MAS has been a mess from day one. If the Government had any vision the chief executive would be a consumer champion, someone like Tony Hazell or Paul Lewis, not a career civil servant.
I have my own reasons for being annoyed with Rookes’ comments. I spent a lot of personal time establishing a pro bono advice service at the Personal Finance Society only to watch the government create a body with no connection with its target audience. And yet they failed to fund the very project that worked.
If the Government wants our help on delivering the new pension freedoms, some respect and recognition would be a good start. Otherwise George Osborne’s guidance project may be over before it has begun.:
This is the time to work as a team. We do not need those that cannot; we need those that can.
Robert Reid is managing director of Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners