Easy ‘access to advice’ is recognised by the Financial Conduct Authority as a worthy concept, however, all too often it introduces rules that run contrary to this important goal.
This is despite the fact that it has been demonstrated countless times that the more consumers able to work with advisers, the better it is for them and the economy as a whole.
The cost of advice, and the sad fact that there are currently simply not enough advisers to meet demand, means that personal advice is not an immediate option for everyone.
For this reason, I believe the government and the watchdog also need to jointly focus upon access to information.
We know that the vast majority of people need to put more into their pension pots, and start to do it earlier, yet how is this communicated to consumers?
Apart from through advisers directly to clients, the answer is: "It’s not."
An important practical step for employees has been auto-enrolment, of which I was one of the early architects. It has made a good start as a basic provision, and there are also some early signs that having that AE base is encouraging people to increase their personal savings.
Nonetheless, there is currently a dearth of sources passing information to the public on the importance of saving more and saving earlier. Pensions Wise appears to be widely acknowledged as an expensive non-event, and the fate of the pensions dashboard currently hangs in the balance.
The recently suggested ‘defined benefit triage’ system sounds like it needs much more thought from the watchdog to avoid it being hugely confusing for consumers and advisers alike.
All of this makes initiatives like the Scottish Widows and Pension Geeks’ 'Pension Awareness Bus’, which is back on its annual tour around the UK, particularly important.
I can comment on this first hand because the bus visited the SimplyBiz offices last year, and a significant percentage of our staff increased their own pension contributions following the visit.
This clearly demonstrates a hunger for more knowledge, and the latent motivation to act upon it, among consumers of all ages and income levels.
The onus is now upon the government and the FCA to find a viable way to promote easy access to good quality financial advice, so that it becomes a reality rather than an ineffective slogan.
Ken Davy is group chairman of SimplyBiz