So the long awaited demise of the MAS has finally come to fruition. It was bound to happen.
Right from the start it was another financial body that seemed doomed to fail, despite the nearly £400m of funding from, ironically, the financial advisory industry, with which there has been ‘no love lost’. The money seemed to be spent on advertising and marketing, the adverts that claimed it offered free, unbiased, independent advice. That was the first bone of contention. ‘Advice’ in the world of financial services means ‘regulated advice’; this was clearly ‘guidance’.
And then you take a look at the website: not particularly engaging, some information was questionable, or point blank mis-information. Other platforms like moneysavingexpert were arguably better. And finally, no clear, defined metrics to actually demonstrate how it was performing. I was always confused as to how the service worked alongside other organisations like CAB and Pension Wise; there seemed a lot of cross over. Were all needed? And, perhaps more importantly, was the nearly £400m investment really needed?
The over-whelming consensus has been that of ‘good riddance’.
There have been, however, a few individuals who have voiced an opposing opinion. They feel to axe the MAS was the wrong move at this stage. Martin Lewis (moneysavingexpert) is one of these. At its inception he made his views very clear that he thought the MAS would not work. Why his change of heart? He feels that if it was to be scrapped it should have been done a few years ago, but now it was finally on the way to turning things around.
Either way, we are now left with the quandary once again, of how to educate the masses. In the budget it was announced that there will be a new body combining TPAS, Pension Wise and parts of the MAS. I know what you are all thinking. Not again. And, rightly so. We are expecting a ‘same story, different day’ type scenario. And even more money to be wasted. And yes it will still be funded by a levy on financial services, though this will be reduced.
The need now to educate the masses in the areas of debt management, saving and retirement is more important than ever before in light of pension freedoms. And with ‘pension scammers’ on the increase and evidence from recent surveys conducted by bodies like the CAB demonstrating that the majority of people just don’t know how to spot them or how to check an organisation is registered with the FCA, there needs to be somewhere people can look for free guidance and then be directed as to where they can gain financial advice if that is what is needed. Any new body needs to work with the financial advisory industry, not against it. It needs to have a clear strategy, and it needs to have clear defined metrics so it can be held accountable for its performance and then demonstrate that it hopefully, has been worth the investment. In terms of strategy, in my opinion, a key focus should without a doubt be around debt management and financial education.
The consultation takes place this autumn and the new ‘structure’ will not be launched until April 2018 at the earliest, which is a year and a half away. What happens in the meantime?