Caroline Rookes: Advisers’ money has not been wasted on MAS

Rookes-Caroline-MAS-2013-500x320.jpg

The Money Advice Service chief executive Caroline Rookes says Treasury proposals to scrap the organisation do not mean advisers’ money has been wasted and that the “MAS legacy has not been lost”.

The Treasury revealed plans to close the MAS as part of a restructure of guidance services, with parts of the organisation folded into two new bodies focused on pensions and money services.

Nonetheless, Rookes points to the MAS’ most recent business plan, which saw the service increase its focus on gaps in existing guidance.

She says: “The last review we published recommended that we become a more strategic body that provided more of a gap filling service than direct delivery.

“So it’s not a different direction, but it’s moving much more quickly towards the sort of organisation that was recommended last year.

“It may be that we don’t deliver services any more, but one of the great success stories for us were the resources that we developed for the pension changes and in particular the retirement adviser directory. That work is not wasted, and so resources like that we will move over to the new pensions organisation.

“Other tools and resources we have built, where they are valuable, will got to other websites and organisations that will continue to host them.

“So our legacy is not lost, quite the reverse.”

The Government hopes to have a new guidance structure in place by April 2018, and the MAS chief says it is too early to decide whether she will seek a role.

Rookes says the number of employees the successor organisations will retain has not yet been set out.

But she admits the 150 staff only found out about the closure when reports first emerged on Tuesday night, which Rookes says was “most unhelpful”.

By the end of 2015/16, the MAS will have taken in almost £400m in levies from the financial services industry, but Rookes denies the closure of the service means the money was wasted.

She says: “Many millions of people have been helped, many of our tools will continue, and the financial capability strategy will continue for some time.

“I don’t accept for one moment that the money has been wasted.”

She adds: “I’m the one that has directed the MAS to produce the business plan for 2016/17, but at the end of the day, it’s not my decision. It’s the decision of Government, they have decided they want to take a different approach and we must accept that.”