Published: 26 February 2019
A new one-stop-shop for consumers seeking information on all things financial arrived in January, after more than two years in the planning.
The temporarily-named Single Financial Guidance Body (SFGB) combines the services provided by the Money Advice Service, Pension Wise and The Pensions Advisory Service. It represents the first time all the government’s debt, money and pensions guidance services have been available under one roof, making it easier to access support that can help in making good financial decisions.
The name of the new body hadn’t been announced at the time of writing, and despite the scale of the project its launch was relatively low profile. So here we take a look at what the SFGB is all about and what it will offer.
The idea emerged in the wake of the pension reforms that took effect in 2015, giving people greater flexibility over how to use their defined contribution pension savings to fund retirement.
When the government launched its consultation on the SFGB in December 2016 it said it would be somewhere “people can go for free, impartial financial guidance”1.
The aim was to provide a more joined up approach2 to guidance on personal finance matters across the board and to help improve financial capability as people take on increased responsibility for managing their own financial wellbeing.
The new entity is funded by levies on the financial services industry and on pension schemes.
Information and guidance on pretty much any area of finance you can think of, and on a vast range of personal finance matters. Its main functions are to help consumers with their understanding of financial issues and day-to-day money management, provide information on pensions matters and (in England) offer advice on debt matters.
So if you’ve got general queries on anything from debt, savings and mortgages to insurance, investment and pensions, they’re likely to be covered. Most of what you’ll find is already available from the Money Advice Service, but the new body also incorporates the specialist expertise of Pension Wise and The Pensions Advisory Service.
The Pension Wise service was set up alongside the 2015 pension reforms to provide free and impartial guidance on defined contribution pension options for those aged 50 or over with personal or workplace pensions. This continues under the SFGB umbrella. Specialist guidance sessions last for up to an hour and take place either by phone or face-to-face. Alongside that is the free, impartial information offered by The Pensions Advisory Service on the state pension and workplace and private pensions.
It’s not just about information and guidance. The SFGB will work with the financial services industry and other bodies to develop a national financial capability strategy aimed at improving financial understanding and bolstering consumer protection.
It is also leading the development of the pensions dashboard, which, when it launches, will allow savers to see all their pension savings - including private, company and state pensions, and potentially products such as ISAs - in one place.
The SFGB offers an easy way to get generic guidance and to be signposted to relevant organisations. However it doesn't offer regulated financial advice.
So if you’re looking for someone to provide detailed financial advice on complex and/or long-term financial matters, on issues specific to your personal and household finances, you will need to pay for the services of a regulated, professional financial adviser.
Also, although the general money and pension guidance the SFGB gives is relevant across the UK, the debt advice element doesn’t apply to the devolved nations (Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales).
The SFGB website is at www.singlefinancialguidancebody.org.uk
For now it gives an overview of the SFGB and its aims along with links to the websites of the three services it encompasses – these are still accessed in their original locations. If you are not yet familiar with them, now is as good a time as any to look at what they can offer. To keep up with future developments there’s also an option to sign-up for the SFGB’s newsletter service.
These three services can also be accessed directly:
This is provided for general information only and takes no account of personal circumstances. It is not a recommendation to buy or sell. It is provided solely to support you in making your own investment decisions. If you have any doubts as to their suitability you should seek expert advice. Alliance Trust Savings does not give financial or investment advice.
Laws and tax rules may change in the future without notice.
Please be aware that the value of investments can fall as well as rise so you could get back less than you invest.
1 Gov.uk - New financial guidance body unveiled - 19 December 2016
2 FTAdviser - Government to create single financial guidance body - 10 October 2016
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