The Money and Pensions Service (Maps) has appointed StepChange Debt Charity CEO Phil Andrew, Money Advice Trust CEO Joanna Elson, Citizens Advice CEO Clare Moriarty and NatWest Group chief financial officer Katie Murray to its advisory group.
The advisory group – established in May 2020 – helps ensure that Maps delivers on its vision of everyone making the most of their money and pensions, and provides input, oversight and ongoing challenge on progress towards the UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing’s ten-year goals.
The four new hires join 12 others who are already part of the group.
We should be questioning these four appointments. They are not replacing existing advisers. The 16 advisers are in addition to the non-executives on the MaPS board and the various “Challenge groups“, each of which is populated by a further group of experts.
We are yet to see how all these groups are funded (the new accounts are due out in January) but the doors of 120 Holborn would be revolving , (were it not for the pandemic) with the arrival and departure of the great and the good.
MaPS is a DWP Arms length body
When I wrote this article this morning , it was out of a worry that MaPS was becoming increasingly distant from those who pay the levy and the department who uses that levy to fund it.
I didn’t know then that Tom McPhail had been conducting a review of MaPS for the DWP, this review was published two hours after my blog.
Earlier this year I conducted an independent external review of the Money and Pensions Service on behalf of the DWP, the report has been published today https://t.co/1sQlflixEQ
— Tom McPhail (@PensionsMonkey) November 1, 2021
Much in the review, chimes with my thinking and I have quoted from the review in rewriting the blog this lunchtime.
With a large and increasing budget
MaPS spent around £110m in 2019 against a grant from the DWP of £112m, £28m of this was spent on advising on pension freedoms (Pension Wise) and less than £6m on pension guidance (what was TPAS). By contrast debt advice swallowed up £54m and money guidance £18m.
Later figures are now available thanks to the McPhail report that show that MaPS had a total budget allocation for 2020 to 2021 was £175.7 million (of which £34.8 million was temporary funding for additional debt advice provision resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic). But full year actual expenditure was £140.4 million, representing an underspend of £35.3 million.
But the pensions dashboard looks under-resourced
The 2020 accounts do not contain a section dedicated to the delivery of the pension dashboard (despite the delivery being originally planned for 2019). My memory of 2018-19 was of what was then the Single Finance Guidance Body spending a year working out how the dashboard governance would work. The private sector looked on aghast as nothing was delivered.
I am pleased to see a recent report from the Pension Dashboard telling us that it is making good progress and on track for delivering a dashboard in 2023.
But for all that year creating the governance for dashboard delivery, the state of the dashboard’s development looks very half-baked.
Tom McPhail’s departmental report highlights the urgent need to put the Pension Dashboard’s budget on a proper footing
Specific consideration should be given to the funding position of the Pensions Dashboards Programme, in consultation with DWP and HMT (DWP Partnership Team to lead on joint activity to agree approach – by January 2022).
I suspect that the pensions dashboard’s delivery has been a low priority for MaPs whose primary focus has been in delivering to its 10 year strategic goals. Chris Curry who heads the Pension Dashboard Program works for it part-time. There are constant complaints of resource constraint at a time when MaPS is £35m under budget.
The Pensions Dashboard has the potential to become more important to the UK consumer than Pension Wise or what was once TPAS, it has the potential to make MaPS – or to break it.
MaPS has set itself ambitious ten year goals.,
It will be interesting , two years after the launch of this strategy, how far we are towards achieving the goals, but I suspect that these targets will be monitored , rather than influenced by MaPS. In the words of the McPhail Departmental review
MaPS will never have the resources or the reach to deliver itself the outcomes identified in its Financial Wellbeing Strategy paper.
The things that make a difference to our ability to save and keep out of debt are largely beyond the scope of MaPS.
My view is that MaPS is struggling with accountability. It does not have the operational capacity to move the dial and it is struggling within its leadership team . It struggles to tell its levy payers how it is doing and it struggles to show Government how it is delivering value for their money.
In short , it is failing to account for itself and simply increasing the number of external advisers is compounding the problem. MaPS needs a stronger executive function and it needs to divert resource to the Pensions Dashboard Programme.
The Executive Dilemma at MaPS
MaPs have had problems with their executive. John Govett was Chief Executive and a member of the Board until 14 June 2019. Helen John was Chief Financial Officer and Director until 26 April 2019 and left the company on 17 May 2019. Justin Kenny was appointed as Chief Operating Officer and a member of the Board from 25 February to 24 May 2019.
The MaPS board now has only two voting executives. Caroline Siarkiewicz joined the Board as Acting Chief Executive and Accounting Officer on 15 June 2019. She wasn’t appointed Chief Executive Officer till 27 January 2020. Steve Buckingham joined the Board on taking up the position of Chief Financial Officer on 29 April 2019.
We could hope that after a bad start, things are settling down. But, according to Tom McPhail’s review, there are two many board meetings, the non execs -and particularly the Chair exercise executive control but the board are out of sync with the DWP and with the delivery of the services MaPS exists to provide.
MaPS’ Board composition lacks representation from any form of end-user voice. It boasts a roster of highly capable and experienced individuals who understand about business leadership, governance, entrepreneurship, policy making and academia; what it lacks is anyone with any recent experience of frontline delivery of the services MaPS exists to provide
Maps has five non executive directors and a non-executive chair and runs six sub- committees.
Despite all this non-executive governance, MaPS is loading its advisory board to 16 members.
Add to this the 10 challenge groups (each with a chair and at least 10 members) who are also charged with delivering the 10 year plan and you have a massive number of jobs for a group of people building portfolio careers.
MaPS had only 284 staff working for them in 2020, this has increased to 420 but it now has 139 named advisers on its various boards and challenge groups. There are only three people working at MaPS for every person in a non-executive role.
This works well for the substantial number of policy officers within financial services whose output tends to be reports that are under-read but which justify the creation of further working groups producing further reports.
However it is not working for the pensions people at MaPS , this message , posted on linked in cannot be taken in isolation but it is not the first such message of its kind I have seen.
Having previously worked at The Pensions Advisory Service (TPAS) which at the time prided itself on focusing on giving the public free impartial help and guidance on UK pension related matters and then also began to offer the telephone based service offering for Pension Wise, I am dismayed to see that since these services were submerged into the Money and Pensions Service (MaPS) how much the pensions guidance offering has been sidelined and watered down over the past few years.
Indeed the latest re-branding to ‘Money Helper’ has now dropped the word Pensions completely out of the organizations title & branding.
Members of the public that TPAS was originally set up to help on pension related matters, I’m sure must now have a great deal more difficulty in finding out this is where to go for pensions information and guidance.
I know that feeling is shared by many of my former colleagues who have worked there more recently also. The extremely high staff turnover levels of the former TPAS staff should be viewed as an indicator of staff dissatisfaction in the way this formerly outstanding service is now being managed and diminished. High staff turnover is usually an indicator of poor management and loss of direction.
Indeed, in Tom McPhail’s departmental review of MaPS for the DWP, the problems is a central focus
In 2019 MaPS saw staff turnover rates of around 22% and exit interviews indicated that two key reasons were:
merging into a DWP Arms-Length Body
lack of stability at senior level with the implications of the leadership style of the previous CEO
There are some real jobs of work to be done at MaPS but some have been done in a poor way. The Price Comparison service for investment pathways is not fit for purpose, the dashboard will be deemed a triumph if it arrives four years late, Pensions Wise is getting 10-11% take up and pension guidance activities seem to be diminishing fast.
A yearning to brand everything “money”
Earlier in 2021, MaPS launched the “MoneyHelper” brand. This has been the main focus for MaPS in 2021, like the strategy, the new brand was a year in the making and involved a major media launch.
But as the comment above says, it means that what was the “Pension Advisory” service now helping with money. People want help with pensions, are we to see the pension dashboard be similarly dumbed down?
I cannot comment on the 70% of MaPS funding that goes on debt advice and guidance but suspect that the story is much the same. There is a lot of talk and not enough action.
Let’s hope that in 2020, we had greater continuity in management and that we started seeing an uptick in some of the MaPS activities we pay our levy for.
But the signals don’t look promising, loading MaPS with a 16 strong advisory board, does not suggest a great deal of confidence in the current executive or indeed the current strategy.