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Robert Reid: MAS has been careless in bad-mouthing advisers


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



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There are 5 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. If even Robert is now calling for her resignation, she probably has to go.

    I am willing to wait for a meaningful apology, but there has to be a deadline for that and I think it should be Monday.

    Apologise publicly and explain yourself by Monday Ms Rookies or even I will start to add to the calls for your resignation and/or consider joint legal action against you for your comments.

    So far MAS appear not to have acknowledged ANY advisers complaint made about their flawed apology and they should be given a deadline too. Acknowledge and deal with the complaints within 2 weeks or we ALL stop paying MAS fees even though my part of the levy is less than a round of drinks. Some of us have ethics and principles we put above the cost.

  2. Hi Robert

    You won’t get an argument from me on what you have written. My grouse is having to pay for this, both MAS and the guidance guarantee. These organisations (run as you say by Civil Servants) seem to think they can do better than professional advisers but Vampire like suck money out of the advisory sector to pay for it.

    I thought Treasury Select Committee was challenging whether MAS was fit for purpose and then seamlessly Treasury hands the guidance guarantee mandate to MAS.

    You honestly couldn’t make this stuff up

  3. E L Wisty (an only twin) 2nd October 2014 at 12:46 pm

    What disgusts me most is Ms Rookes utter disregard for the evolution of financial services from a sales industry to an educated profession in the last decade, and current practitioners’ commitment to professional development and ethical standards.

    No doubt, she wasn’t expecting these politically-motivated comments to be reported, and it only goes to show how misguided, or self-serving, she actually is.

    As regard’s MAS’ non-apology, what I really want to know is was Rookes involved in the drafting, or approval, of the letter; or was it written independently of her? If the latter, then clearly there is a widespread failure at MAS to understand the seriousness of the matter. If the former, then questions have to be asked of Rookes’ own ethics.

    If MAS really wants to forge an effective relationship with advisers, then Rookes has to go.

  4. If Ms Rookies really believes her comments are true why has she not ensured that the problem has been dealt with! We have spent many millions on regulation and the fundamentals need to be kept as a priority.
    In any group there will be some rotten apples MPs Police Civil Servants come to mind but this does not mean all are unethical. WE really deserve better leadership at MAS.

  5. Perhaps the MES HR depth can confirm whether Ms Rookies booked a days holiday to attend the Labour party fringe meeting as well as all major party meetings?
    It is funny how she find time to personally attend meetings (at whose expense we do not as yet know), but can’t find the time to PERSONALLY apologise to advisers and clarify things nor to apologise to the journalists who MAS then said misrepresented her comments. There are recordings of EXACTLY what she said and the context which just haven’t been released yet.

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