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Tom Kean: MAS is unaccountable to those who fund it

I wonder what people think is worse:

  1. An over-zealous financial adviser who is keen to sell a pension plan for commission?

  2. A lazy fee charging adviser who looks to eek out a job compiling a report that is mostly cut and pasted old work and who then charges a time-based amount as if it were original (and I know the Picasso story before anyone asks!)?

  3. A tired and bored council office worker who encourages his harder-working new colleague to slow down so the rest of them don’t look so bad?

  4. Or, a government quango which has a massive budget that it controls and spend with gay abandon, as it’s someone else’s money, paid for by the very people it is looking to usurp?

I suspect you would get a different response from most people, but instinctively the over-zealous adviser feels the least naughty, and in fact some good might actually come of it.

The other three have absolutely nothing positive about them, but options two and four are the direction the world of advice is going with the commission “ban” and the surreal manifestation of a consumer champion that is a misnomer of the highest order, the Money Advice Service.

I like to think I’m reasonably up on these things but I feel utterly bereft of any involvement in the whole instigation of the MAS, all the way from its conception to the current incarnation I see on the website.

Perhaps I missed the various consultations and technical documents that were surely issued at the time of its creation. Was I too busy readying Thameside for the RDR to notice what was going on right under my nose?

Or perhaps the whole thing was dreamt up and initiated on the whim of a well-meaning civil servant who hungered for some recognition for his or her efforts in order to further their own career?

Whatever the answer, the fact remains that I, and everyone else I talk to, remain disenfranchised and devoid of any feeling of control or input over an initiative that we pay for.

The whole gestation, birth and infancy is a complete enigma. Once we started to notice this burgeoning Frankenstein, we’ve been shouting about certain elements that urgently need to be changed. The MAS strapline for example, “Free. Unbiased. Independent.” has quite rightly rankled advisers of all persuasions from day one.

And how easy it would be to correct this anomaly by simply getting rid of the word ‘free’. This is so totally wrong on every level I wonder what we have to do to get ourselves heard – can’t people see this is just plain crazy?

And if that is not bad enough, the website then goes on to suggest that they are a “government-led or government-backed service”. I may well be wrong here, but aren’t we the backers; so why don’t we get the credit?

There are plenty of excellent items on the MAS site that are superbly worded that I have no gripe with. But it is so full of anomalies, inaccuracies and plain naiveties that I could write a book on the subject. It is a tricky subject to get right but it must do better given the resources we are spending on it.

Tom Kean is director of Thameside Wealth Management

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