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MAS chief: We do not want to step on advisers’ toes

by: Carmen Reichman
  • 18/12/2013
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MAS chief: We do not want to step on advisers’ toes
Caroline Rookes, the chief executive of the Money Advice Service (MAS), has hit back at critics of the organisation, saying the MAS is now delivering a "very effective" service and does not "step on the toes" of financial advisers.

Speaking to Mortgage Solutions‘ sister-title IFAonline following the publication of MAS’s draft business plan on Tuesday, Rookes said she did not accept some of the recent criticisms of the body, including by some MPs, though she said she recognised it “can always do better”.

She explained the MAS’s recent difficulties were down to the fact it was a new organisation with a “very complex, very ambitious agenda”.

“No organisation of this nature is going to hit the ground absolutely running and delivering value for money from day one,” she said.

The MAS was criticised by MPs earlier this month, who said it had failed to deliver on its objectives and was “not fit for purpose”.

They called for an urgent independent review into the service, having stopped short of demanding it be scrapped altogether.

But Rookes said the select committee’s report was based on old evidence and the service had since moved on. 

“I know from having had contact with just about every single one of our stakeholders that they now believe the MAS has moved on and is delivering an effective service,” she said.

“If we look at all that we’ve delivered over the last year and this current year, we are seeing we are receiving 1.5 million contacts a month from people and we are constantly achieving satisfaction levels over 80%. So I think at the moment we are delivering a very effective service.”

Rookes also dismissed the MPs’ criticism of her organisation “unnecessarily duplicating other services”, saying “most of what we do is not duplication because it is impartial. And we are the only organisation that is totally impartial.”

A National Audit Office (NAO) report, published shortly after the MPs’ findings, was more favourable towards the MAS and found it was on the right track.

Rookes said: “The NAO report is bang up to date and that concluded that we are achieving value for money on the debt side and moving towards that on the money advice side.”

Going forward, the MAS’s business plan, which was built on a reduced budget of 1% to £77.5m, will be more of the same but better, Rookes said.

“There are no significant changes. I would characterise the coming year as business as usual but doing more and doing it better.”

She added the MAS’s strategy was about “normalising” money advice: “We know that money is very much a taboo subject and all our research tells us that if we want to be effective we need to get to people at points when the money advice will be relevant to them”.

Rookes waved off concerns among advisers that the MAS could be treading on their toes and said she was in the process of looking into how it can work effectively with the financial advice community. 

“We are absolutely clear that we don’t want to step on the toes of financial advisers and also that there will be times when people need regulated financial advice. An important thing for us at the MAS is to identify when our clients need that advice and to make referrals to that advice as simple and easy as possible,” she said.

The MAS’s consultation on its forthcoming business plan ends on 14 February 2014, prior to final approval by the Financial Conduct Authority in March. The final business plan will be published the same month.

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