The recent Financial Advice Markets Review was aimed at increasing the financial knowledge of the population, to develop a market that provides “affordable and accessible financial advice and guidance for everyone, at all stages of their lives”.
The theme of the review’s conclusions was to instigate lots more thinking and consulting. Can’t rush a good thing.
As an industry (a term I am using in this context to include financial advisers, financial planners, wealth managers, fund managers, product providers and regulator) we are serving less and less of the population. There are lots of reasons for this, and, as ever, no one is to blame.
There are, however, plenty of organisations who ARE trying to do something about help the population with their finances. Within the industry there are individuals who do their bit (such as some of the NextGen advisers), and providers often give out fairly generic, usually product based, information.
However most of the organisations that are really making a difference, who are really engaging with the public on the subject of money, have nothing to do with the financial services industry.
I’ve come into contact with some of this activity through my recently published book, The Financial Wellbeing Book. It guides the reader to create a basic financial plan to increase happiness, not just wealth. We are doing podcasts and workshops for employees. All profits go to the Penny Brohn UK cancer centre, so adviser firms can buy copies to give to their clients (bulk discounts are available!).
The book is generating lots of interest, and has introduced me to a variety of organisations not connected with our industry who are also actively trying to educate people. Here are a few of them:
Neyber arranges workplace loans. They employ a Financial Wellbeing team who conduct research into helping employees with money worries at work
Bristol University has a Personal Finance Research Centre (I’m sure they’re not the only ones) that focuses on financial wellbeing
Boring Money. Holly Mackay is helping people to cut through the complexities of finances. Likewise Martin Lewis
Barclays Bank have a great space for financial education they call Money Skills
Wellbeing Pulse is the blog of the Bank Workers Charity. Funded by banks, it supports current and former bank employees
The Money Charity works with schools and adults to provide financial education
What Works Wellbeing is a centre dedicated to understanding what national and local governments can do to increase wellbeing
MAS has recently announced it has £7m available to help fund financial capability projects
There are many more that I could add to that list but that I haven’t got to know properly yet (such as Money Fight Club, Simone Gnessen at Wise Monkey and many others). These people aren’t just explaining what an ISA is, they are properly educating and researching in the world of personal finance.
Now, it’s entirely possible I may be being unfair and one of the large (and often cash rich) firms under one of these categories is doing something I haven’t come across (and if this is the case I’d love to hear about it firstname.lastname@example.org).
However, it seems to me the one sector that is doing little to help educate and inform the public is the one sector most likely to gain from doing so.
While we as an industry sit around discussing what could be done through the FMAR, others are out there doing it.
To misquote Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, “It’s perfectly simple, Reg. All you’ve got to do is to go out of that door and do something. It’s happening, Reg. Something’s actually happening, Reg.”