Pop goes our faith in insurers’ ads

February 27, 2009

According to various news sources within the Daily Mail stable, when Tim Soong, literal-minded bassist with never-before-heard-of-and-probably-never-heard-of‚again “popular music” ensemble Roguetune saw grizzled trouser-stretching shirt-free rock legend Iggy Pop prancing around in ads for car insurer Swiftcover he quickly concluded that this was the insurer for him. Imagine his dismay, then, on being told that musicians are not welcome chez Swiftcover!

“I got it Swiftcovered. I got insurance on my insurance.” Mr Pop avers fervently in his frenetic TV spots, before commanding: “Do it. Get a life. Get Swiftcovered.”

Following a dozen written complaints, advertising standards watchdog the ASA has stepped in to investigate. Presumably it will wish to consider inter alia whether the purchase of motor insurance can justifiably be equated with getting a life.

When an aggrieved Mr Soong queried the apparent anomaly of Pop’s acceptance and his own rejection, a Swiftcover employee allegedly explained that the discrepancy was due to Mr Pop’s being American.

Another rejected musician, Felix Wright, was apparently told that Swiftcover was not familiar with the details of Mr Pop’s personal life (probably for the best), but that in any case he is not a Swiftcover policyholder.

Further shocking evidence that advertising may not always provide a fair and impartial reflection of insurers’ amenability to particular risk types came in the form of the twin revelations a) that esure could not help Michael Winner because he is a film director and b) that Sheila’s Wheels would reject the pink Cadillac featured in its own TV commercials ‚ even, presumably, should its garishly styled occupants undertake to sing less and wear seat belts more.

February 26, 2009

The problem of fraudsters staging crashes is spreading. So says a newly published analysis of suspicious claims referred to solicitors Keoghs during the past 12 months.

Plotting such cases geographically, the law firm has discerned a gradual overspill of fraudulent collision claims from known hotspots into neighbouring towns.

Keogh’s 2009 Motor Fraud Index shows nine towns bordering the UK’s top 10 motor fraud hotspots turning into problem zones themselves over the past year.

New entrants in the fraudulent claims premier league include: Huddersfield, Sheffield, Chester, South East London, Stoke-on-Trent, Leicester, Stockport, Wolverhampton and Romford.

Using their skill and judgement, Bankstone News readers will doubtless be able to match these overspill zones to their respective sponsor locations: Bradford, Birmingham, Blackburn, Liverpool, Oldham, Manchester, Bolton, Southall and Huddersfield.

Keoghs attributes this  leaching effect’ to insurers’ success in combatting fraud in the known hotspots.

Keogh’s head of counter fraud strategy James Heath ‚ clearly a man in no hurry to express himself succinctly ‚ comments, “Our Motor Fraud Index clearly shows that the regions with the highest levels of suspicious claims activity in the past are still plagued by the problem ‚ with only one of the top ten worst affected towns changing in the past year.

“While there is clearly still a hard core of motor fraud hot spots that continue to suffer from a high level of fraud,” he ploughs on ponderously, beginning to flounder grammatically, “our latest study demonstrates that fraudsters may now be seeking softer targets in neighbouring towns.”

February 26, 2009

Welsh second city Swansea has been fingered as the UK’s motor claims capital.

“If you see signs for Swansea,” Virgin Money PR bloke Grant Bather deadpans, “take extra care because our data suggests you are more likely to have to make a car insurance claim following an incident there than in any other place in the country. That could mean being involved in an accident, having your car stolen or vandalised or being a victim of theft from within the vehicle.”

Theft from within the vehicle certainly sounds alarming! But what on earth is going on in Swansea? Virgin Money’s survey found Swansea’s SA4 postcode area generates more insurance claims per head of population than any other UK postcode area.

Leyton in London and Widnes in Cheshire, were joint second in the survey, with Warrington in Cheshire fourth and Hayes Middlesex joint fifth.

The survey also found Birmingham was the leading “major region” for car insurance claims, and, slightly randomly, that 17% of all claims were made by drivers in the South East.

February 25, 2009

Insurance Times detects the tentative unfurling of fresh green shoots in the launch of the curiously named Alpine Risk Services LLP which plans to invest in spunky go-getting insurance firms looking to grow organically, through acquisition or via buy-ins, buy-outs, and, doubtless, buy-shake-it-all-abouts with the backing of venture capital firm Alcuin Partners.

“The insurance sector has seen its fair share of third-party investment in recent times,” Insurance Times reveals, “but could a new wave of cash-rich backers be about to pounce on the next breed of insurance industry entrepreneurs?”

At the helm of supposed prospective pouncer Alpine is Francis de Zulueta, 50, who recently left a £160,000 a year job as development director with venture capital firm B. P. Marsh & Partners, where he had been since 2002 following previous roles with Nelson Hurst & Marsh, Wills, Aon, Minet and Marsh & McLennan.

Zulueta told Insurance Times “For investors [the insurance sector] has a renewable income attached to it. That is quite appealing to capital backers. The insurance industry has not suffered anything like the banking sector. It is one of the few places any where you can set up for a relatively small amount of money. That makes it a particularly good partner for specialist venture capital.”

The Alpine website features an attractive photograph of snow covered peaks echoing the rise-fall-rise-fall-rise and then fall again trajectory traced by the firm’s logo.

The accompanying banner proclaims that Alpine offers “Real backing for insurance entrepreneurs in the insurance broking and underwriting sector.” The fact that “insurance broking” is in bigger letters than the rest suggests its main focus will be on the broking sector, of which Mr de Zulueta has most experience.

The firm says it “will comit between £250,000-£1.5m initially although larger deals can be considered up to £10m. Follow on funding will be considered for growth and bolt on acquisitions.”

Alpine is based in an exclusive collection of serviced office suites in Victoria, offering exceptional style and space, ideally located in the most fashionable part of town with Kings Road and Sloane Square on the doorstep.

February 25, 2009

Ethical car and bicycle insurer ETA has challenged figures quoted in a recent press release from LV= claiming that 12% of Britons are considering reducing or cancelling some type of insurance policy in the light of the current recession ‚ and that 37% of these are ready to downgrade their motor cover.

LV= warned that people failing to purchase legally required cover could be hit with a hefty fine and lose their licence. ETA suspects LV= is being alarmist, however, citing as evidence it’s own survey findings that only 1% of motorists are prepared to go without insurance altogether.

Bankstone News is not entirely sure whether, or how, these claims actually contradict one another, since 37% of 12% is only 4.5% of the total sample, with no split specified between downgraders and cancellers. Assume a ratio of three to one, and the two sets of findings seem broadly aligned. Far be it from us, though, to dampen the flames of smouldering controversy.

February 20, 2009

The Irish Times reports this week how a dictionary helped solve the case of one of Ireland’s most notorious traffic offenders.

Prawo Jazdy recklessly piled up scores of speeding tickets and parking fines, giving a different address each time he was caught. By June 2007 there were more than 50 entries under his name on the Garda’s Pulse database.

“The vital clue to his identity,” reports Ruadhán Mac Cormaic, “lay not with Interpol or the fingerprint database but in the pages of a Polish-English dictionary. Prawo jazdy means driving licence.”

February 20, 2009

Comparison site compareandsave.com this week quotes possibly the most extensive consumer research exercise ever carried out in the UK. And the findings will make uncomfortable reading for insurance claims people.

According to a news item on compareandsave.com’s website (not sure what the URL is ‚ you could probably find it via Google if you wanted to), “Some 4.7 million consumers told the insurer they do not believe making a false claim is wrong.” Clearly RSA’s researchers have been extremely busy ‚ either that or compareandsame are gluity of kind of carelees reporting never findd in Bankstone News.

Car insurance fraud is “not a victimless crime,” Zoe stressed gravely, “and has financial repercussions for customers across the country.”

“What people do not realise,” she bemoaned, “is that bogus and inflated insurance claims cost the UK insurance industry over £1.6 billion a year and this can add five per cent to every policyholder’s premium.”

February 18, 2009

Under-utilised vehicle ownership specialist Helphire is looking to raise £50m to “strengthen its balance sheet.”

The firm believes it can shift said amount in new ordinary shares at 33p a piece to existing institutional shareholders, subject to “certain conditions including agreement being reached on satisfactory banking terms, publication of a prospectus and shareholder approval.”

Helphire’s half-year figures are due out on the 27th.

Meanwhile subsidiary fleet repair and claims management firm Total Accident Management has appointed Penny Stoolman as its first ever managing director.

Stoolman’s appointment comes after two years as Total Accident’s sales and marketing director. In that time its accident management fleet has increased to over 110,000 vehicles.

Commenting on her appointment Stoolman expounded, “As we continue to grow I intend to keep true to our strategy of bringing new levels of excellence and specialism back to a commodotised market and continue to invest ahead of our growth curve as we increase our customer base and activity.”

Total Accident’s business director, Stefan Smyth, who set up the business in 2002, is leaving the company in March 2009 to take his family to South Africa.

While we’re rounding up old Helphire stories: earlier this month the firm announced the launch of the UK’s first Shariah-compliant credit hire service. Yes really!

Speaking of which, Stevie Wonder has apparently converted to Islam and re-released an old favourite with specially adapted lyrics under the title My Shariah Law.

I’ll stop now, shall I?

February 18, 2009

Preparations are gathering pace for Bankstone’s 2009 charity fundraiser, Monkey Moviestars. Nothing to do with Cheetah, King Louie, Clyde or Curious George, the two-day event involves (as usual) haring round Yorkshire on monkey bikes and visiting pre-assigned points of interest along the way.

The theme this year is famous films and TV programmes shot in Yorkshire. The full itinerary is yet to be confirmed ‚ but some of the locations slated for possible inclusion are Goathland (Harry Potter), Halifax Piece Hall (Brassed Off), Scarborough (Little Voice), Aysgarth Falls (Robin Hood, Ponce of Thieves), Ilkley (A Private Function), Barnsley (Kes), Castle Howard (Brideshead Revisited), Whitby (The BBC’s Dracula), Elland Road (Damned United), and Grimsby Docks (Atonement).

The event takes place on 11th and 12th July, and ‚ adverse weather, breakdowns etc, permitting ‚ will cover between 300 and 400 miles in all.

Aside from raising money to support the life-saving work of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance service, the plan is to re-enact scenes from famous films at the famous locations concerned… on monkey bikes. This might sound only mildly disturbing if you are talking about some borrowed brass instruments in Halifax or perhaps a scarf and a bear at Castle Howard. But also on the list are The Full Monty (Sheffield) and, more worryingly still, Calendar Gils (Wharfedale). Not for the faint-hearted or squeamish.

Anyone wishing to support this excellent cause can make a donation at https://www.justgiving.com/monkeymoviestars

If you would like to take part – or offer your support in any other way – please contact Bankstone’s Dickon Tysoe.

February 18, 2009

Sixties fashion chain BIBA has professed itself alarmed by new proposals from the Food Standards Agency the independent UK government department set up to protect the public’s health and consumer interests in relation to food.

The worlds of food and fashion rarely collide, so Bankstone News decided to find out more! It seems it’s all to do with the FSA’s intriguingly titled Consultation Paper CP09/7.

BIBA’s Eric Gallbreath begins diplomatically: “Whilst we appreciate that the FSA has an ever-growing workload and that the fees for 10,000 small firms have been frozen” before suddenly erupting into righteous fury: “we are alarmed that medium and larger insurance intermediary firms are facing a year on year increase on their regulatory fees and levies of between 30 to 70%.”

With under-collar temperatures now rising to dangerous levels, he rages on: “Insurance intermediaries are recognised as one of the very lowest risk groups to the regulator’s statutory objectives and yet are facing huge percentage year on year increases for the levies they pay to both the Financial Ombudsman Service and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.” No mention of food or frocks yet ‚ all very puzzling.

Apparently worn out from the violent exertion of this outburst, Gallbreath lapses into sulkiness: “This is patently unfair and puts insurance intermediaries in the UK at a significant competitive disadvantage to their peers elsewhere in Europe. These fee and levy proposals add a significant burden at a very difficult time in the economic cycle and we want to see the FSA give a much more detailed justification for these increases.”

Bankstone News has absolutely no idea what any of this means.

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