The Money Advice Service has yet again exceeded its main target for 2014/15 –six months early. Its latest performance figures show that people took almost five million actions to improve their financial circumstances after using the Service in the first six months of the year (April to September 2014). The target was for 4.5 million actions to be taken in the full year (April 2014 – March 2015).
The figures show that the Service is being particularly effective in helping people to budget. In the year to date, people have taken 3.5 million budgeting actions such as sticking to a budget and shopping around for deals. People have also taken 535,000 actions to improve their saving position, for example starting saving for a home or car, and 221,000 actions in the area of preparing for later life.
High customer volumes in the run up to Christmas
The numbers of people seeking advice from the Service in the last three months of 2014 remained constant quarter on quarter, in spite of the pressures to spend before Christmas.
In the period October to December, the Service received over 4.5 million contacts from customers through its online, phone, and face-to-face services. Satisfaction levels remained high with 90% of customers stating they would re-visit the Service and 87% suggesting they would recommend it to friends and family.
Working in partnership
Partnership remains at the heart of the Service’s strategy. During the quarter, there was a particular focus on building links with financial services firms. RBS incorporated the Service’s advice on interest rates into its website and Virgin Money developed a Money Advice Service hub on their site. The Service also worked with MSN to provide a wide range of personal finance articles for their money portal.
The Service continues to work closely with lifestyle organisations, for example incorporating its advice into sites such as Mumsnet and Rightmove. The Service also took advice on tour, participating in the Daily Mirror’s money roadshows around the UK.
The Service also held a number of consultation events around the UK for partners to input into the emerging Financial Capability Strategy for the UK.
Preparing for pensions changes
The Service devoted significant effort during the quarter, working collaboratively with a whole range of organisations, to develop products to help people going through retirement – particularly important in the light of the forthcoming changes. Its services will complement and support the new Pension Wise service.
The Service launched a new and improved annuities comparison table in November, which takes people through a simple six step journey using videos, FAQs and tables. The aim is to demystify the variety of annuity products available. The tool has been extremely well received, with 86% of people who start using it following it through to completion.
The Service also made considerable progress on its retirement adviser directory during the period. The directory aims to signpost people to regulated advisers as they approach retirement and beyond.
Another key focus during the quarter was helping consumers to prepare for possible interest rates rises. In October, it launched a campaign to encourage consumers think about the impact of a rate rise on their finances and plan ahead. Over the quarter, both of the Service’s mortgage calculators, which help consumers choose which mortgage is best for them and how much they can afford to borrow, were used 100,000 times.
Helping more people receive debt advice
More and more people continue to benefit from the Service’s debt advice work. 66,000 people received debt advice from the Service’s partners over the quarter, bringing the total number of people helped across the UK in 2014-15 to date, to 166,000. During the quarter, the Service began its new three year grant agreements with partners in England and Wales including Citizens Advice, which will enable an increase in debt advice provided and greater targeting at those areas and communities in most need. The new arrangements will help 35% more people to receive advice this year from its partners than in 2013-14.
Commenting on the results Caroline Rookes, CEO of the Money Advice Service said:
“We’ve made some great leaps forward during the October-December period, helping more people than ever to take action to improve their financial situation. These figures are a tribute to our staff and our partners who work hard every day to help people across the UK.
“I’m really pleased to see our partnerships with financial services organisations - banks, building societies, insurance firms and regulated advisers, coming to fruition. If we are going to improve the financial capability of the UK, it’s vital to have those partners on board.
“Our focus in the period ahead is working with HM Treasury, the Pensions Advisory Service, Citizens Advice and others, to help people prepare for the biggest changes to retirement in a generation. People will have a lot of new freedoms and we have an important role to play in encouraging people to think carefully before making their choices. "
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