Learner driver problems shredded

December 4, 2009

Ever had a client asking to have a child or partner added to their motor policy – only to find their current insurer won’t help and they have to take out a whole new policy?

Thought so. The unrewarding hassle of sourcing a new policy – and the attendant risk of destabilising a client relationship – can now be a thing of the past thanks to Provisional Marmalade.

Provisional Marmalade is a short-term add-on policy specifically designed to cover learner drivers for the few months they’ll be using a friend or family member’s car.

Nudge your clients in the direction of Provisional Marmalade and you’ll earn a handy commission, impress your client, and save looking round for a new motor policy.

All you have to do is you point them at the user-friendly online interface at www.provisionalmarmalade.co.uk and claim your well-earned commission.

Policies are available for one, two or three months, with fixed-price post-code-based premiums split into three risk bands. Drawing your clients’ attention to Provisional Marmalade avoids the risk of losing business – by keeping your client’s primary policy where it is – and earns you commission into the bargain.

To register, visit www.PM-broker-registration.co.uk or call the Marmaladers on 0845 644 4206. And don’t forget to tell them you heard about Provisional Marmalade from the ever-impartial Bankstone News!

They can also arrange a direct commission-earning link from your website that includes your logo and FSA data (see an example at www.PM-demo.co.uk)

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December 4, 2009

What’s in a name? Who can you trust? What’s for lunch? At least two of these questions are partially answered by the latest stats-based revelation trumpeted by pachyderm-fronted car insurance outlet Elephant.co.uk.

Britain’s most accident-prone couple have LAUREN and LUKE spelled out in vinyl capitals across the upper portion of their windscreen. Those with the most uneventful driving histories – and doubtless the most uneventful lives in general – go by the names of Douglas and Margaret but mark their territory more subtly with a parcel-shelf panama and a neatly folded lap rug on the rear seat.

Elephant reveal that girls with names like Danielle, Leanne and Natalie make more motor claims, while the likes of Ann, Anne, Lesley and Wendy claim the least. For boys the tearaways are Bens, Sams, Dans and Joes – with Raymond, Gordon and Trevor almost guaranteed to play it safe.

Elephant claim to have analysed more than half a million motor insurance claims over a two-year period to arrive at these conclusions.

Spokesman Brian Martin (sounds like a decent risk to us) insists “Our research is just a bit of fun, but the safest names definitely appear to be linked to the older generation – compared with the least-safe names being more common to the younger generation.”

In France, meanwhile, controversy rages over the naming of the latest proposed addition to the Renault range. The Times reports that petitions have been started by outraged parents of the many jeunes filles recently christened Zoé.

“Our daughters have a beautiful first name that must not be associated with a car, so let us unite to bring pressure on a multinational which is going to destroy this pretty name for our children,” blusters petition lynchpin Sébastien Mortreux. “It is a scandal that they are able to use common first names for products,” he said.

Renault spokesman Valerian David claims no offence was intended. Zoe, he says, “is a name that evokes values of femininity, of youth, a playful spirit and vivacity,” said, a spokesman.” More prosaically, the name refers to “the concept of zero emissions” towards which Renault’s electric vehicle vaguely nods.

Previous girl-named models from Renault do not appear to have elicited similar outrage. Clios and Méganes slipped quietly into production with scarcely a ripple. In the UK, indeed, the latter name, transmogrified into the less sibilant phonetic equivalent of the surname of the celebrated scouse actor siblings and re-spelled like the Welsh name Megan has lately climbed to number 17 in the most-popular-UK-girls-name charts and is oft heard bawled out on the street.

Bankstone News has its own car-christian-name problems to wrestle with. Given the growing popularity of  the imported Mazda van of that name (see illustration), christening our first-born Bongo Friendee no longer seems like such a great decision.

December 4, 2009

Shark v Polar Bear. Lion v Gorilla. Crocodile v Peter Mandelson. Jaded webnerds have long hypothesised the outcomes of unlikely bestial showdowns. The equivalent line of conjecture in the world of two-wheeled transport over the past few years has been the result of throwing bikers and cyclists together in London’s bus lanes.

Cycle groups predicted carnage, lobbying hard against trials proposed from January this year. Bikers insisted there was nothing to worry about and that buses and taxis, bikes and bikes could get along peaceably. Cackling fiendishly like some latter-day Caligula, Mayor Boris insisted that the trials go ahead.

Given that cyclists already share said lanes with the 20-tonne man-mangling psychopathic behemoths from whom they take their name, a few leather clad solicitors and hi-viz couriers would hardly suggest a big step up in terms of mortal threat.

Now the bike world’s weekly journal of record MCN has got its hands on a leaked TfL report covering the first four months of trials scheduled to run til June next year.

At first sight, the results appear to support the bikers’ view that cyclists needn’t have worried. But MCN rather scuppers the coup of its scooped report by admitting that no one finds its findings particularly convincing.

The facts – such as they are – are these: there were three collisions between motorcycles and bicycles during the four months in question: two fewer than during the same period in 2008.

The tally of pedestrians struck by bikers, 16, was exactly the same. Overall collisions were up slightly from 369 to 374. Curiously, those involving bikers rose from 109 to 124, but the report does not distinguish between bus-lane and main-highway collisions.

Cyclists remain skeptical. CTC’s Roger Geffen told MCN he’d be “asking TfL searching questions about their methodology,” while pedestrian champion Tony Armstrong said he’s still worried bikers in bus lanes may “impact on more vulnerable road users such as pedestrians.”

Surely bikers and cyclists should set aside their differences and unite against the real enemy. Ban buses from the bus lane and we’d all feel so much safer.

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December 4, 2009

A succession of long dark nights briefly punctuated by a few fleeting hours of feeble daylight are hardly calculated to raise the spirits. No amount of Christmas lights can disguise the fact that sunlight’s in short supply around this time of year.

But fear not: the Winter Solstice is just days away. As of Monday December 21st, the nights start drawing out again and the summer beckons from afar. But first you’ll have to survive… Black Saturday!

Whatever else you do, warns Virgin Money Car Insurance, for God’s sake leave the car at home on 19 December!

Precisely why, you may ask. Is this some shabby ruse designed to avoid paying out claims for one day at least this year?

No indeed. VMCI’s alert is actuated by nothing other than the purest altruism.

For Saturday December 19 is “the most dangerous day of the month” for drivers!

“As the pressures of the festive season mount,” VMCI claim, “claims are up around 40%” on the last Saturday before Christmas, with both accidents and thefts peaking due to the “late shopping rush.”

If you’re unhappy at the thought of missing out on time behind the wheel three Saturdays hence, again fear not: VMCI have the answer. Christmas Day and Boxing Day are the safest days of the year on Britain’s roads – so you can get out then and drive to your heart’s content.

Vumkey spokesman Grant Bather has a nice line in vaguely threatening punmanship: “Christmas is a time for giving, but maybe drivers should be giving the car a miss on December 19th – if they want to keep their no-claims bonus.”

December 3, 2009

AXA’s PR people have been busy ranking again this week. With safe driving their criterion, they’ve established that we Brits come out on top. More UKers wear a seatbelt that any other Euronation. Fewer jabber on their mobiles at the wheel.

Better still, just 4% of UK drivers said they’d done so whilst under the affluence of incohol, compared with a whopping 21% average across the Channel. So we’re either all paragons of virtue or a bunch of vertital economists.

November 27, 2009

Funny you should ask!

Bankstone’s Dickon Tysoe has penned a most instructive article for the current edition of acclaimed insurance industry organ  Broker’s Monthly addressing precisely that inquiry.

Want to know what it says? Read on!

Reducing overheads, enhancing customer service, strengthening your brand. If any of those appeal, you might want to consider outsourcing your First Notification of Loss (FNOL) service to a specialist claims handling company.

Outsourcing FNOL can deliver all of those benefits – but first you need to find the right claims-handling partner. Brokers have traditionally – and rightly – been wary of entrusting their customers to a third party. But keeping claims in house can be expensive and isn’t necessarily the best route for you or your customers.

If you are thinking about outsourcing – and it is certainly worth considering – choose your partner with care. The company you choose should have skilled customer-focussed claims handlers, They should also have a technology platform that give you ready access to the information you need to understand the impact of claims impact on your business and to manage your claims handling partner effectively.

The right provider will be able to take on all aspects of your claims whilst ensuring that you retain managerial control and fulfil your TCF obligations. They should handle all your claims calls and all postal communication – allowing you to reassign staff to income-generating activities.

One potential advantage of outsourcing is being able to extend the hours during which you offer your customers a claims service. So make sure the firm you choose offers extended working hours. The right partner may also be able to provide you with the option of taking your calls temporarily should your phone lines or systems ever go down.

Look for a firm that will work with you to minimise notification times, maximise your return from income-generating claims, and allow your panel insurers to maximise their intervention opportunities, thus improving the profitability of your insurer accounts.

The right partner should also be able to demonstrate that they have an effective strategy in place for minimising claims leakage to other organisations, such as recovery operators bodyshops and claims management companies, over whom you have no control and from whom you obtain no income.

They should be ready and able to work with you to ensure that your panel insurers receive prompt and accurate data in a format that minimises their administration costs. Equally, you need to be confident that you will always have the information you need to manage your relationship with your insurers – including a full suite of management information (MI) reports. These should offer reports tailored to your specific MI needs – whether in terms of controlling claims costs or understanding their impact on the different policy types in your portfolio.

Outsourcing can also be a way for brokers to enhance customer service without sacrificing control over the claims process. For most types of personal lines policies – including home, car, motorcycle, taxi, caravan, commercial vehicle, pet and travel insurance – you should be able to find a service provider who will handle all FNOL aspects of a claim including external post and contact with the third party.

Consistent service is key. Your service provider should be able to handle all your claims in a consistent manner. If you have a panel of 10 insurers, each will handle claims in a slightly different way. Your outsourced claims partner should be able to “homogenise” the service your customers receive to a uniformly high standard – regardless of which insurer you have placed them with.

A typical broker’s book might have an incident rate of something like 10%. Simplistically, that means the average customer can be expected to claim once every ten years. Clearly, the way claims were handled 10 years ago is very different to how they are handled today. So your selected partner should employ claims handlers who understand this, who treat each customer with respect and empathy, and can manage their expectations appropriately. They will also be fully up to date with the latest changes insurers have made to their processes.

Technology is another key consideration. From the minute a claim is reported, you should expect to have real-time online access, and thus the ability to take a view on whether it is something you would want to get involved with directly. Outsourcing should absolutely not mean distancing yourself from an awareness of what claims your customers are making. Indeed, for many brokers it can significantly enhance this understanding.

Every broker is different. Each has their own specific requirements, particularly in niche sectors of the market. This is precisely where a good claims handling firm excels, offering you the ability to work closely with your underwriters when developing new schemes while retaining close control over service standards and costs.

At the beginning of this article we flagged up the issue of brand. Many claims handling companies now offer an own-branded service. This can and should include everything from answering the telephone in your company name to branded stationery for all correspondence.

An own-branded service can give your customers the comfort of dealing with a trusted name at the time of an incident and deliver a service consistent with your brand values and service offering.

If the customer perception is that they are dealing directly with you, they will quite naturally expect the person to whom they are talking to know all their details. The only way to achieve this is to select a claims-handling partner who can access your customers’ policy records seamlessly, via a link into your software house.

This allows call-handlers to verify customer details directly from your records, transfer this data into their claims-handling system, and be discussing the details of the claim within seconds of answering the phone. Another advantage of this approach is its potential for providing insurers with details of incidents along with full policy records – especially important with delegated scheme business.

Above all, choose a partner who offers all of its clients a high standard of account management, personal attention and innovation. Look for a firm that makes the effort to understand your brand, your business model, and your marketing strategy – one with the eagerness and the understanding to contribute to your business success on a broad front. And don’t forget to ask for evidence of customer-satisfaction feedback. After all, you need to be sure your customers will be getting a service at least as good as you would give them yourself!

November 27, 2009

It was just another Friday morning at Bankstone News. I fixed myself a coffee and fired up Post Mag’s video news wrap. Which poor sap’s blinking at the lens this week, I wondered.

Then – boom – there she was. I was looking at some kind of angel. Jagged pixelation couldn’t stop me falling into those warm dark auto-cueing eyes.

Then reality pulled me back with a jerk. What was she saying?

Barbon on the rocks. Broker hit with massive fine. Fraud. Scandal. I blinked. I reeled. I clicked pause in a hurry.

This was no ordinary Friday. I needed more coffee. I fixed it strong.

Back at the screen, I tried again. “I’m Amy Ellis,” she purred, those gorgeous lips only slightly out of sync. My senses began to swim.

But then – wham – there it was again. The High Court has found Barbon Insurance liable to pay £8m, plus costs, plus interest, relating to an alleged mortgage fraud case involving Nationwide Building Society back in 2006.

This one needed looking into. But first I needed a coffee. Make that a double.

I hit the archives. Barbon Insurance. The Windscale of insurance broking. Formerly known as Erinaceous Group. So where’d they get that Barbon tag?

I dusted down another volume. Dr Nicholas Barbon aka Unless-Jesus-Christ-Had-Died-For-Thee-Thou-Hadst-Been-Damned Barebone (sic). Picked up the crazy name from his old man, some kind of religious nut. Set up as a quack doc over in Holland. Got into property back in London. Set up some insurance company in the 1600s. Figures, I thought.

But Erinaceous? I let the pages fall through my fingers. C, D, E. Erinaceous: adjective, zoology: of the hedgehog kind or family. A picture began to form. It didn’t look pretty.

I had to find a way of warning Amy what she was getting into. But first I needed coffee. A lot of coffee.

November 27, 2009

“This nation’s automotive heritage is quite literally being thrown on the scrap heap,” warns Forsythe De’tol Life President and Founder of Vintage Autos Group.

Yet another dark facet to the Government’s scrappage scheme was recently revealed when Chelmsford dealer Bill Cook rescued a classic 1967 Rose Taupe 1098cc Morris Minor Traveller from the very jaws of the crusher after its cash-strapped owner traded it in for a measly £2k.

To save the woody from its cruel fate, Cook paid the scrappage allowance out of his own pocket. Now he’s auctioning it in aid of Children In Need. The auction ends shortly after 3pm today (271109).

The 1098cc Morris Minor Traveller is an estate model which famously mimicked classic American cars with its wood-framed rear end.

Bankstone News is a weekly email “news”letter which infamously insults its readers with a diet of half digested stories “borrowed” from more reputable sources or just plain makes them up.

Forsythe De’tol was not available for comment.

November 27, 2009

Bankstone News is indebted, as that smug old bloke in the leather armchair used to say on telly, to the Daily Telegraph for the following story.

Tory health spokesman Lord McColl has proposed an ingenious solution to the hazard posed to unwary pedestrians – visually impaired ones in particular – by near-silent electric cars (and hybrids at low speeds).

The offending vehicles, he claims, should be required to carry cow bells to give pedestrians fair warning of their approach.

Raising the issue with Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, Lord McColl said that when he purchased a Toyota Prius “my wife, being very practical, said that the answer would be to put on the front of the car a small Swiss cowbell.”

Labour peer Lord Grenfell meanwhile suggested that a “better solution” might be a man with a red flag walking in front of the car. Clearly, Lord G hankers for the good old days before 1896 when the speed limit rose from 4 mph to 20 and the red flag man ceased to be a legal requirement.

Intrigued by the cow bell suggestion, however, the Torygraph contacted Lord McColl for further details. “I have a Prius,” he confirmed, “and people can’t always hear it, and a little cow bell might do the trick.

“It doesn’t even have to be Swiss,” he conceded reasonably. “It should be something which makes a gentle bing bong.”

Quite so!

November 27, 2009

Axa has been totting up its business insurance claims data and can now reveal… that the UK’s number-one business crime hotspot is… – fumbles with envelope – Halifax!

But if you’re looking for a really hot spot bizcrime-wise look no further than arson-capital Kilmarnock where delinquents keep their spirits up through the long chilly winters by torching local businesses and/or despairing would-be entrepreneurs torch their own with whisky for propellant.

Want to handle something hot? You could do worse than Wolverhampton (not a phrase you often hear), where – Axa’s “Business Crime Index” suggests – businesses are most at risk from theft.

Not content with a simple top 20 (Halifax, Manchester, Bristol, Croydon, London Southside, Northampton, London EC, Oldham, Sutton, Bradford, Doncaster, Wakefield, Doudleh, Enfield, Liverpewel, Wigan, Motherwell, Walsall, St Albans, Southall, if you must know) Axa’s press people add broader socio-economic commentary with the claim that areas hit hardest by the current economic crisis (e.g. The North and West Midlands) are suffering as people turn to crime.

Not content with that, they deftly apply the currently obligatory seasonal twist with the claim that “As retail businesses increase stock levels for Christmas it provides richer pickings for thieves. As takings rise and shops stay open longer, the potential for lucrative hold-ups also increases.” Meanwhile “drunken revelry can lead to malicious damage or even arson attacks.”

So if you’re reading this in Kilmarnock get your hose out!

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