Marital arguments, Scrappy business and why MAS and Advisers should get along.

Like most married couples Cassie and I sometimes fall out.

The strange thing is it’s tough to understand why as our goals and ambitions are relatively similar…

Happy contented kids who make the most of their potential.

Plenty of interesting, fun and memorable experiences.

and

Living a life true to what we believe in.

However even though what we are Mardriving for is pretty similar the fact still remains…

Cassie and I sometimes fall out.

Now I’m a million mile away from being a relationship expert (Cassie could probably tell you that!) but every time we argue, fall out or get annoyed with each other there’s probably only three reasons…

Firstly, although we (mainly) agree on what we’re looking to achieve we disagree on what we see the route to get there as being different.

Secondly, we agree but we don’t communicate well enough.

and

Thirdly, we each get caught up in the argument that we lose sight on what the issue was in the first place (have you ever got to the end of a row and realised that you can’t remember what the issue was in the first place? Ok, erm, just me then!)

Knowing what I think I know about marriage (which is obviously very little) tells me one thing about financial services…

The relationship between the professional advice community and the Money Advice Service is like an incredibly dysfunctional marriage.

Broadly speaking (although the comments will probably tell me otherwise!) most advisers agree that the goal of the Money Advice Service is an noble one…

To empower the UK with the knowledge, skills and tools to manage money more effectively.

So, if we’re agreed that a more financially empowered population is better for everyone why isn’t MAS and the adviser community more connected?

I reckon it’s the same reasons why Cassie and I don’t always agree….

We disagree on how to achieve the goal

I recently wrote in Professional Adviser about the Guidance Guarantee on what I believe they could do to make it a success.

Now I’m pretty sure the team at MAS, or any other government department, are not overly concerned about my perspective.

I’m speculating but I reckon the reason is in the approach.

ex-Civil Servants and ex-employees of large institutions (which is what MAS is filled with) have a different way of seeing, thinking about and doing things when compared to a scrappy relatively small business owner like me (and probably you).

Who’s right?

I’d suggest that being nimble, adaptable, innovative and entrepreneurial would have some value. They’d probably suggest that big problems need big solutions and my techniques aren’t appropriate.

The answer lies somewhere in the middle…but we never get there.

The reason?

We don’t communicate well enough

I reckon this is an issue for both sides…

The very recent remarks at the Labour party conference by Caroline Rookes (the Head of MAS) where she raised concerns over Adviser ethics were unnecessary and disappointing.

On the other side of the coin whilst some of the comments made about both the guidance guarantee and MAS by the advisory community are inflammatory and unnecessarily insulting.

I’m all for robust, challenging and engaging communication on both sides but when it results in a loss of trust it doesn’t do any of us any favours…

So, what’s the issue?

We lose sight of what’s important in the first place

The ambition of the money advice service (and in time the guidance guarantee) are similar to most advisers…

Helping our customers get closer to the lives they want by helping them achieve their financial goals.

However we get lost in the other issues…

Who pays for MAS is a big one.

For what it’s worth I’m not a great fan of paying for a service which could be way more effective and efficient and have far greater impact per pound than it does now.

I also reckon the use of the word “Advice” in the service doesn’t help consumers who want actual advice understand the difference.

However I do get the benefits of a service whose goal is to provide much needed support to many the market cannot currently afford to help.

The fact that they doesn’t perform the task as well as the should, or that you and I pay for it, or that they don’t seem to respect the role advisers play in the process are all important to discuss and consider.

However actually they are all ultimately peripheral issues which mean we lose sight on an aim we can all get behind. To help we all need to get back (as Simon Sinek might put it) to our “collective why?”

Helping people get closer to their financial goals.

Maybe advisers and MAS will never get on.

Maybe MAS doesn’t feel they need to engage with “third parties”, even the one’s who help fund it, to deliver what it should in the market.

or

Maybe the market will develop alternative solutions which sit in the middle so that the remit and scope of MAS reduces.

However if we agree that we want to achieve the same broad goals, share ideas on how to do it, communicate more clearly and not get lost in the peripheral arguments and focus on the end game we might move closer to what all of us would like to achieve.

What do you think?

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16 thoughts on “Marital arguments, Scrappy business and why MAS and Advisers should get along.

  • It’s a beautiful thing, marriage.. When viewed by two people who see it as a natural progression to further establish their relationship, as opposed to rushing into it because circumstances dictate.

    I feel the same could be said about IFA & MAS. We are clearly still viewed as glorified sales agents who constantly need to be on a leash. Perhaps we need to go back to courting again, where we find out about eachother & rediscover the love… Or just walk away & find someone else, or stay single!!

    Reply
    • Marriage is indeed a beautiful thing….and you’re right!

      The advisory community might not be married to MAS by choice but the point remains that actually we might have some shared aspirations (helping people make better financial decisions) which we can work on before we sling the relationship out of the window.

      I’m hopeful that we can go back to courting and find a collective purpose (or maybe I’m just being idealistic) and perhaps the relationship is strained because we haven’t got any choice apart from continuing to fund MAS and maybe that’s why there is animosity….the relationship isn’t voluntarily but compulsory and there’s not too many that like being in that type of relationship!

      The question goes back to whether it’s possible to rekindle the shared purpose or not!

      Thanks for your comment Victor, it’s really appreciated!

      Reply
  • I started typing a lengthy comment here highlighting all of the flaws in the Money Advice Service but then I stopped.

    I realised that, if I was unfortunate enough to be married to MAS, I would have filed for divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour a very long time ago…

    Reply
    • Cheers Martin,

      I appreciate your restraint! 🙂

      However if there was clearer communication and MAS actively engaged the advisory community and worked in partnership instead of in perceived conflict would you feel differently?

      If it’s the case that you would feel differently about the service if as a community we were listened to the next step would be how we could get there from where we are now?

      or maybe it’s just not possible. However my natural optimism tells me it might be worth a shot.

      What do you think?

      Reply
  • Interesting analogy.

    So in this case, MAS is form of young, dumb trophy wife, who spends all her husbands earnings on fripperies, whilst publicly disparaging him and openly looking for a new lover? Like a bad stereotype from a ‘B’ sixties movie?

    Speaking for myself, I would be delighted to work with and promote the merits of a new look, grown up MAS. One that spent our money on what it is supposed to do, not silly adverts and staff jollies. One that stopped calling itself an advice service. One that did not disparage Advisers because we are not junior civil servants like them.

    It takes two to make a marriage work. Be nice to see some effort from the other partner in this relationship

    Reply
    • Wise words Phil and an interesting extension to the analogy!

      I suppose the challenge is how we influence MAS from what it is now to what it has the potential to be.

      Personally I reckon that there’s plenty of incredible experience and knowledge in the advisory community to help MAS be more effective and on the flip side (and for the purposes of a degree of balance) I wonder if learning from MAS’s previous wins and losses might be worth learning from.

      You’re absolutely right to say it takes two to make the marriage work and it takes both sides to want to work at it.

      Time will tell whether that’s possible!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

      Reply
  • Continuing this marital theme, lack of communication and money matters are two of the main reasons couples fall out and that’s what we have here isn’t it.

    It’s high time there was some collaboration before it becomes too late to reconcile differences.

    Reply
    • That’s where I am with this Paul. However some of the comments seem to suggest that many believe it might to too late…

      However I’m staying optimistic (idealistic – maybe?)

      Thanks so much for commenting.

      Reply
  • I thought that enforced marriages were illegal?

    Reply
    • Hi Phil,

      Do me a favour. Remind me not to be drinking coffee whilst reading comments! Yours made me chuckle and almost splutter!

      However I wonder whether the animosity to MAS is due to this enforcement or the fact that MAS doesn’t engage with the advisory community who funds it’s service.

      I suppose it could be like an arranged marriage. Initially it feels contrived but eventually it might just work out!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply
  • Excellent article.

    I think the frustrating thing from my perspective is that our firms are paying for the MAS and they are apparently supporting the public to make key financial decisions, but I have never come across the MAS or any of their people from a professional perspective.

    I am going to the PFS annual conference next month and you would expect that the head honchos from the MAS would be there to demonstrate how they can help advisers as we all have people we come across that could do with some guidance without having to pay our fees.

    So it is hard to say it is a marriage as there are no communication lines whatsoever. It is more like a tax on advisers.

    Reply
    • Thanks Adam.

      I’m with you on this point.You never see MAS at any of these events even though potentially engaging the advisory community could be a smart move….winning the hearts and minds of advisers would mean that could have professional partners who at least wouldn’t be so critical but at most could eventually turn into advocates of a service designed to do what it’s meant to….as well as the experience and expertise who work with individuals directly every day.

      I also absolutely agree that the key lies in opening up lines of communication to move this forward…however this has to come from both the advisory community and MAS.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      Reply
  • Before we spend too much time trying to interact with Government and its employees we need to remember that for most of them we and other end users are totally irrelevant to them.

    When people work for the State be they policemen, teachers, politicians, civil servants or whatever they mostly only look inwards for their entire working lives. Their concerns are their rights – not yours – their benefits, promotion opportunities and perhaps most important maintaining the status quo by not making decisions for which they might be accountable .

    Ambitious State employees only have eyes on their next job and
    we the public are seen only as a bloody nuisance who might impinge on their lives if we are given the opportunity.

    If you just reflect in our industry on the endless verbal garbage spewed out by transient members of regulatory bodies, trade associations and every other parasite living off our efforts you will in the end accept that you should just keep your head down and get on with your work as they inevitable move along to be replaced by the next big idea.

    Reply
    • Hi Phil,

      Having just read your comment to Cassie (an ex early years teacher) it started a marital debate which could have quickly turned into one of those occasions where we don’t get on! 😉

      She, like me, is an optimist who wanted to genuinely make a difference to the children and the families she worked (She’s been out of it for 3 years and still talks with passion about the difference she made and what she’s proud of).

      However she tells me that the layers of management and bureaucracy stifled innovation massively and the nature of these large organisations meant that it was tempting to become quite jaded quite quickly.

      I get what you’re saying…however based on Cassie’s experience it seems that there are a key few who look ‘outward’ and not ‘inward’ and do the job not for the money, benefits or job security but because they want to make a difference to peoples lives.

      However the battle the outward looking members of large organisations have is fighting through layers of management (some who will be outward looking but also some inward looking) and trying to keep the faith when things take so long and get rejected so often.

      Thanks for your thoughts Phil.

      Reply
  • Is the MAS authorised and regulated by the FCA?

    If they are, then they are one of us, and I hope they do well.

    If they aren’t (and they don’t have the regulatory statement we all have on their website) then isn’t their name a breach of the FCA regulations governing organisations offering financial advice that are not regulated?

    Just a thought.

    Reply
    • I get where you’re coming from on this Chris…

      However do they need to be regulated to share the greater goal of informing and empowering people to be more financially free? Did Martin Lewis? or Alvin Hall?

      Maybe the service shouldn’t be called “Advice” however what if the collective goal is the same shouldn’t we stop worrying about the details and work to building a more collaborative with MAS?

      That takes both MAS and the adviser community to talk and collaborate. Whilst I share the frustrations of many of us I’d rather be hopeful as opposed to cynical!

      Thanks for your comments Chris….it’s always appreciated!

      Reply

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