Association of Independent Financial Advisers (Aifa) director general Stephen Gay has revealed he went undercover to undertake a 'mystery shopping' investigation of the Money Advice Service (MAS).
Gay (pictured) told a panel session at the Liberal Democrat conference he called MAS to find out whether its operators would stray into regulated financial advice and whether they could explain money advice, and how it differed from financial advice.
‘I found it impossible to get the operator to stray from unregulated to regulated advice,' he said. 'But they found it difficult to explain the difference between money advice and financial advice.’
MAS chief executive Tony Hobman said there was a ‘total distinction’ between guidance and advice and that the organisation was meeting a need for guidance that was not being met by other groups.
He pointed to MAS research looking at who consumers thought has the most influence on what they buy and how much they have to spend.
In a quick poll of delegates, IFAs came bottom when asked what had the most influence on what you buy and how much you have to spend. Inflation and interest rates came top.
‘One in five people don’t have anything they trust enough to get advice from,’ said Hobman. ‘There is a large market for what we do and we hope to increase the scope and scale, but we will not say go and get this product.’
Gay said he was concerned that while advisers bore liability for the advice they gave MAS would not be held responsible for any customer detriment it caused as a result of its guidance.