Pop goes the ban on musicians

April 30, 2009

“I am the passenger,” claims James Newell Osterberg Jr. repeatedly in his 1977 hit song “The Passenger.” But Osterberg‚ better known as wizened trouser-python wrangler Iggy Pop‚ appears to be firmly in the driving seat chez Swiftcover. Not only does he flog their wares on TV (boosting their sales by a third), he’s now directing underwriting policy too.

Readers will be sure to chortle when they learn that just minutes after complaints against its Pop-fronted ad campaign were upheld by the ASA this Wednesday, the insurer decided that maybe musicians weren’t such a bad risk after all. And what’s a couple of extra claims compared with losing such a successful front man?

Spokesperson Tina Shortle announced proudly that “we are now one of the few insurers that actually insures musicians.” You Tube fans who enjoyed Pop’s recent performance of “In the Death Car” (see lyrics below) will be relieved to hear Shortle assert that “Pop will return to continue Swiftcover’s campaign to help UK motorists get cheap online insurance and make it clear that now even musicians can Get a Life!’”

It didn’t take long for the ASA to conclude that viewers might find the ads misleading. “I got it Swiftcovered,” Pop claims in them. “I got insurance on my insurance.” Not unreasonably, the ASA felt that some viewers might interpret this as meaning that Mr Pop held a policy with Swiftcover. Whereas, the Authority noted severely “Iggy Pop did not have a policy with Swiftcover.”

Swiftcover now hopes to get its ads back on air, which leaves only the question of whether buying motor insurance can fairly be equated with getting a life.

More careful copywriting could have avoided the problem in the first place. Had Mr Pop merely suggested that UK nationals might care to get Swiftcovered‚ rather than asserting (falsely) that he had done so himself, he might have slipped through the net like fellow “entertainer” Michael Winner.

To see previous Bankstone News coverage of this story click here.

Lyrics

A bowling wind is whistling in the night,
my dog is growling in the dark
Something’s pulling me outside,
to ride around in circles
I know that you have got the time
cause anything I want, you do
You’ll take a ride through the strangers
who don’t understand how to feel

In the death car, we’re alive,
in the death car, we’re alive

I’ll let some air come in the window,
kind of wakes me up a little
I don’t turn on the radio
cause they play shut, like… you know
When your hand was down on my duck,
it felt quite amazing
And now that, that is all over,
all we’ve got is the silence

In the death car, we’re alive,
in the death car, we’re alive
So come on mandolins, play


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April 30, 2009

The insurance community is working through the implications of the government’s recently announced “scrappage” scheme and snatching ‚ like a kitten scampering after a torch beam‚ at one or two glimmers of encouragement.

Many have questioned the wisdom and “vertitude” of a spellchecker-unfriendly initiative that rewards people for junking perfectly sound older vehicles for newly manufactured ones.

But insurers are busy convincing themselves that “scrappage” will act like a dose of Viagra on the less than rampant motor market.

Leading the charge, the ABI have pointed out that each time someone ditches their old banger for the £2k bounty and the right to make regular payments to a motor finance provider, said person will have to cancel their old policy and take out a new one.

Bingo! Thanks to the short-rate premium return available on most cancelled policies, the motor market stands to benefit from several months’ extra premium income for every vehicle “scrappaged.”

But if the customer switches insurance provider, some carriers (and brokers?) might consider a couple of months’ risk-free premium a poorish consolation for losing a customer. “Well, yeah,” the ABI might concede if it weren’t so nicely-spoken, but policyholders with nice new shiny (little) cars might well wish to upgrade from, say, third party only to fully comp and thus put more money the industry’s way.

Meanwhile in another part of the forest (Milton Keynes to be precise) valuations firm ETWB sees “scrappage” muddying the waters ‚ what with a third of the claims it saw last year involving vehicles that would have qualified for the scheme and many total losses involving cars worth less the two grand.

“We had our first call an hour after the budget,” ETWB CEO David Stubbs told Post Magazine. “There was a client who’d accepted a value on their vehicle ‚ £500, £600, whatever it was. They wanted to retain the salvage and we said no, because you can’t benefit from an insurance payout and the scheme.”

Well, yes. There is also the stipulation that any vehicle offered up for “scrappage” (or scrapp-aah-je as the Park Lane dealers hesitantly mention, sotto voce) must also have a current MOT which might disqualify one or two total loss contenders.

The facts a) that vehicles must have been in the current owner’s possession for a year and b) that the scheme ends next March have also put paid to many a cunning plan to pay £300 quid for an old wreck and cash in quick.

They weren’t born yesterday, these legislators, you know!


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April 30, 2009

Exhibiting true mastery of the subtle art of paradox NIG says it believes closing almost half its 18 regional offices will provide brokers with “an even better level of on-the-ground contact from company representatives.”

The insurer has said that as part of a restructuring plan, its 18 UK commercial offices will be cut to 10. But MD Nigel Pearce insists, “NIG is a strong business and these proposals should allow it to enjoy significant and profitable growth over the next few years and reinforces our commitment to the broker channel.

“The proposals announced today, would sadly result in some job losses” Pearce accepted, “and this is a regrettable, but necessary, consequence of our plans to reposition the business for future growth.”

NIG currently employs 900 staff. Among the offices slated for the chop are those in Cardiff, Chelmsford, Exeter, Leicester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Reading and Redhill.

One of those due to depart is former NIG managing director Charles Crawford who leaves RBS Insurance in July to join loss adjuster Davies.

NIG has also noted that it plans to launch a number of new offerings over the next 12 months.


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April 30, 2009

Bankstone News is heartened to learn that our local police force is cracking down on key road safety issues such as the inability to see.

In their latest day of action West Yorkshire Police have been targeting the threat posed by the visually challenged.

In a two-day multi-agency initiative in the Almondbury and Newsome areas of Huddersfield on Monday 20 April police stopped a large number of vehicles for eyesight spot checks.

Sergeant Rachael Bairstow of the Huddersfield South Neighbourhood Policing Team commented: “Out of the 89 vehicles which were stopped, all thankfully passed the test.” Presumably their drivers did OK as well.

“Although a regular part of day-to-day roads policing,” Bairstow continued, “the eyesight test was a new aspect of the  Focus’ operations in Kirklees and enabled us to stop a large quantity of motorist (sic) in one day.

“The test was simply to check whether the drivers who were stopped were able to see a registration at the required distance.

“We felt it was important to introduce this test, as not being able to see correctly can often be a contributory factor to an accident.

“In doing this, we really want to send out a message to other motorists that if you require glasses or contact lenses for driving make sure you use them. We will take the appropriate action against those who don’t.”

All very reassuring. Now where did I put my glasses?

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April 29, 2009

Honest to god, not a word of a lie, guv, Bankstone are offering new road-ready monkey bikes for just £575.00‚ including VAT‚ with one year’s road tax paid up front!

Too good to be true? Not really. The only catch is that you (plus any selected co-riders) have to sign-up for this year’s Monkey Moviestars two-day charity fundraising tour of Yorkshire in aid of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance service.

Not exactly a catch. More an opportunity to spend the weekend of 11-12 July in the company of fun-loving fellow monkey bikers raising money for a very good cause simply by touring Yorkshire’s most famous film locations (10 in all‚ see previous news stories for details) with full mechanical support along the way and your very own monkey bike to keep at the end.

What would you want with a monkey bike? Well, based on what beneficiaries of our subsidised charity monkey bike purchase scheme have done in previous years, you could a) sell it at a profit, b) auction it for charity, c) use it as a promotional tool for your business (we’ve seen a few in office receptions and at trade shows) or d) keep it and ride it!

To apply for your very own virtually free monkey bike, contact Bankstone’s Dickon Tysoe ‚ dtysoe@bankstone.co.uk. Models available include Monkeys to choose from at that price the sporty Pro-Monkey, the shopper style DAX, or the slightly more butch Gorilla! We can also help you get them professionally badged up and branded in corporate livery.


To read more of this nonsense on a regular basis subscribe to the Bankstone News weekly email by pointing your mouse here and clicking.

April 24, 2009

In the aggregator news this week, Moneyextra.com extra plans to “shake up” the price comparison market by launching an online insurance aggregator backed by a call centre.

New managing director Richard Mason ‚ previously insurance director at Moneysupermarket.com ‚ said the firms new site would convert more online visitors into buyers and use the extra revenue to keep prices low.

None of the other sites have call centres, he said, and “consumers just have to get by ‚ even though 40% want to speak to somebody before they buy insurance. They will have to compete with us, not us with them,” he asserted boldly.

“Insurance aggregators convert about 15% of traffic into revenue,” he said. “We are aiming for 25%.” Adding that converting more business will mean the firm can afford to spend more on advertising via Google and the like ‚ creating a virtuous circle.

Meanwhile Comparethemarket.com has launched a new bike insurance comparison service, set to include the likes of Bennetts, Suzuki, Honda, eBike and MCE.

Commercial director Moll Jeremy said: “In order to help motorcyclists choose the right deal, comparethemarket.com displays additional policy information alongside the price of the bike policy, making it easier to see exactly what they are buying.

“Not only will bikers be able to compare price on their insurance,” Jeremy continued, “a range of other important policy features such as helmet and leathers cover, breakdown, European and legal cover will also be available for comparison.”

Disappointingly their press release contains not a single mention of meerkats.

April 24, 2009

Mixed news on the insurance jobs front this week as RSA said it plans to axe 500 roles in Bristol and Swinton said it would be taking on 250 at its Norwich-based call centre.

Don’t be surprised then to see massed herds of insurance workers migrating eastwards across the plains of southern and central England.

RSA has apparently had enough of former slavery-tobacco-sherry hub Bristol and plans to release almost all of its workers there by the middle of next year.

The move comes as part of the insurer’s previously announced £70m cost-cutting exercise, set to see 1,200 jobs go in total.

RSA said it was fully committed to helping its staff find alternative employment and will provide assistance in the form of CV preparation, workshops, liaison with local employers, and access to specialist consultants ‚ though no specific mention is made of a bus service to Norwich.

Adrian Brown, RSA UK CEO said “Our people are highly skilled and we will give them all the support we can to help them find new jobs.”

Swinton, meanwhile is looking to bring in hundreds of new staff, from outbound sales advisors to team managers, to take the tally at its Norwich office to around the 400 mark.

Call centre director Kelly Ogley, said: “Swinton has been experiencing tremendous growth over the past few years, and this current recruitment drive is testament to the company’s success.

“The Norwich call centre is a great place to work,” she enthused, “with lots of staff incentives and team competitions as well as offering great opportunities for career development.”

Bristolian ears set twitching by these enticing words may droop again on recollecting that Norwich Union recently announced plans to cut more than a thousand jobs at Norwich Union Life.

April 24, 2009

Breakin’ the law, breakin’ the law!

“For the good of all men, and the love of one woman, he fought to uphold justice by breaking the law.” Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, released in 1991, must have one of the clunkiest taglines of all time, striving, with all the subtle artistry of an ABI press release, to combine idealism, romance, adventure and paradox in a single snappy phrase.

Delivering his lines, as one critic put it, as if woken by a phone call at home in LA, Kevin Costner makes a dull and earnest Robin Hood. The film, however, is at least partially redeemed by Alan Rickman’s storming performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Morgan Freeman’s turn as Hood’s Moorish sidekick Aseem.

Most of the outdoor scenes were filmed at Burnham Beeches in semi-suburban home county Bucks, conveniently close to Pinewood Studios, but Hood’s quarterstaff combat with Little John was shot at Yorkshire beauty spot Aysgarth Falls, the second stop on Monkey Movie Star’s recently confirmed clockwise tour of Yorkshire’s finest film locations.

Above the tumbling waters of the falls Hood confronts Little John (played by Nick Brimble who recently appeared in 27 episodes of Yorkshire soap Emerdale as Terence Turner, trivia fans) aided and abetted by assorted woodsmen such as “Max the miller’s son” (sic) and Will Scarlet, in which role Christian Slater scooped a Worst Supporting Actor award to go with Costner’s Worst Actor.

Accompanied by much ribald banter, John bests Hood twice over before succumbing to a questionably legal move when surprised by a submerged Hood, landed a thudding staff blow to the tenders and threatened with drowning in the turbid broiling waters. The scene’s final ironic denouement goes as follows:

ROBIN: Do you yield?

The terrified giant sputters. Goes under again, flailing
with arms and legs. Robin holds his head just above the
surface.

ROBIN: Do you yield?

LITTLE JOHN: Yes!

ROBIN: Good. Now put your feet down.

John struggles, then his feet hit bottom… The water
only reaches his chest.

LITTLE JOHN: I’ll be buggered.

Bankstone’s monkeybikers will be re-enacting this immortal scene ‚ so far as is practically possible without leaving the river bank, hitting each other with big sticks, or generally buggering about ‚ before “speeding” off to Thirsk’s “All Creatures Great and Small” Herriot House to the East.


April 23, 2009

“Helphire is not married to the credit hire model,” the company’s new CEO Mark Adams told Post Magazine in February this year. Nor, as it turns out, was Mark Adams married to Helphire.

The man brought in to take Helphire to the “third stage” in its development has now left the company.

Reportedly desperate to secure additional funding to restructure the business and renegotiate credit terms with its lenders, Helphire has lost three non-execs and a chief exec this year.

Commenting, in the most recent press release on the Helphire website (just to the left of a banner ad asking Looking for a new car? Check out Helphire’s ex-fleet vehicles), Mark Adams had this to say:

“I am delighted that Helphire ‚ through our fantastic team of volunteers – is able to offer its support to this great cause and help to raise much needed funds for Comic Relief. I know everyone involved is really looking forward to the evening’s activities and the prospect of taking many, many pledges from the public!”

True, the firm made its intentions clear in its press release of 9 February  Helphire Group plc to reduce head count,’ but starting at the top seems a little extreme.

The last words are perhaps best left to Mr Adams himself: “I had no preconceived ideas about Helphire. Credit hire wasn’t an industry I was familiar with.”

Well, now it is.

Readers with time on their hands may like to try their hand at a topical quiz: https://www.helphiregroupjobs.co.uk/current_vacancies/quiz/

April 22, 2009

Notwithstanding its laudable aim of cutting roads deaths by a third by 2020, the Department for Transport’s new road safety strategy “A Safer Way: Consultation on Making Britain’s Roads the Safest in the World” has had a lukewarm welcome from the Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI).

Whilst the MCI applauds the government’s aim of reducing death and injury on Britain’s roads, it claims the consultation has missed an opportunity to make a real difference to motorcycle safety by failing to introduce “positive actions” that would make a real contribution to rider safety.

These, the Association has suggested, could have included “better driver education, increased funding for motorcycle safety programmes such as Bikesafe, wider access to bus lanes and urban infrastructure designed with powered two-wheelers in mind.”

The MCI’s Sheila Rainger said: “We had hoped for a genuinely new vision for road safety which would make a real difference to riders’ safety. Cutting speed limits can never be a panacea when one-third of accidents are caused by the basic driver error of failure to look properly.”

Motorcycle casualties on Britain’s road have remained stable over the past decade, but given the massive rise in the popularity of motorcycling, this actually represents a significant fall in casualty rates.

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