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MAS defies MPs by refusing to slash multi-million pound marketing budget

by: Carmen Reichman
  • 17/12/2013
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MAS defies MPs by refusing to slash multi-million pound marketing budget
The industry-funded Money Advice Service (MAS) has ignored calls by MPs to cut its marketing budget, saying it needs the multi-million pound pot to "encourage people to take action" on financial matters.

Only two weeks ago the MAS was branded “not fit for purpose” by a Treasury sub-committee of MPs, which called for an urgent independent review into the service and a possible scrapping of it altogether.

The committeee had found that the MAS was failing on five counts, including spending too much money on marketing, not reaching consumers effectively and duplicating other services instead of collaborating with them.

However in its business plan proposal the MAS said it would keep its marketing budget at £12.68m to be spent on “a range of activity, from campaigns to digital marketing, aimed at encouraging people to take action”.

MAS chief executive Caroline Rookes told Mortgage Solutions‘ sister-title IFAonline: “An organisation like ours will always have to spend money on marketing and our money is moving away from raising awareness to providing advice and information. More and more we will be using our marketing to get advice across within the message.”

The service has also outlined plans to reach 15 million contacts with consumers next year, a third of which will result in them taking action, it said.

It plans to do this on a reduced money advice budget of £43m – £800,000 or 1% less than last year’s – and a stable debt budget of £34.5m, which will be levied on the industry.

MAS has proposed to invest an extra £546,000 in face-to-face sessions, while cutting almost £1m in telephone and web chat services.

However, overall, the proposed budget for both money and debt advice will see no movement compared to last year’s when measured as a proportion of the total budget.

The National Audit Office found in its report earlier this month that the MAS was moving in the right direction and was already providing value for money on its debt advice.

It said the MAS had started to develop “more targeted advice provision” and would further benefit from the launch of its UK Financial Capability Strategy, to be published in 2014, which will allow it to influence long-term financial behaviour change in consumers.

The MAS said it would focus on “normalising the need for money advice”.

“Money advice should be easy to find, something that friends and family talk about, and an accepted part of everyday life,” it said.

“We want to reach out to people who are experiencing key life events, interrupt their thinking, and prompt them to consider the implications of their choices, including the benefits of seeking more information,” it added.

The MAS will also introduce step-by-step journeys for customers to follow on the website when experiencing “big financial events”. This tool will be designed to “coach customers through significant events that have financial consequences”, it said.

For its debt arm, the MAS will introduce a new three year funding model for debt advice providers in October 2014, which, it hopes, will “help to increase the number of debt advice clients reaching positive outcomes”.

The service is now consulting on its plan until 14 February 2014, prior to final approval by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in March 2014. The final Business Plan will be published in March 2014.

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