Shooting stars

July 30, 2010

Photographic evidence has started coming in from the recent star-studded charity golf event Leuka Mini Masters – see previous Bankstone News story – at which Bankstone’s Dickon Tysoe was a guest of the UK’s leading medical reporting and screening services provider, PMT.

In the accompanying photograph, Bankstone’s Dickon Typo (right) is pictured with – unless Bankstone News is very much mistaken – Little Britain’s David Walliams and Matt Lucas. Watch out for a horn-playing sauna-enthusiast character in the next series!

July 30, 2010

They deal in mysterious allusions over at Post Magazine.

Five Go Forth may or may not be the title of the great lost novel of naked tennis enthusiast Enid Blyton, or an allusion to the hidden masters of the Great White Brotherhood.

What we can say with certainty is that these words provide the titular introduction to a survey of the UK’s five leading legal expenses insurers (UKFLLEI) published this week in Post magazine.

In said article, Peter Joy, lid-lifter in chief at Insurance 360 looked at the standard of service and product provided by UKFLLEI.

How many brokers did I360 canvas? They “sent a detailed questionnaire to a full cross-section of UK broking professionals, asking them to grade and comment on the performance of the legal expenses insurers they used.

Although respondents mentioned around 20 providers, “Many proved to be small fry,” sniffed Joy Germanically. So they focused on the top five only. This elite comprised: Abbey Legal, Allianz, Arag, DAS and MSL.

Turns out they’re mostly much of a muchness, with one notable exception… Arag, the researchers claim, were “something of a revelation.” Their performance, Freud said, was “thoroughly convincing, scoring 80% for overall service” and higher still for “underwriting skills, documentation, legal advice, and quality of cover.”

Arag were consistently described in terms such as “helpful”, “instantly responsive,” “pragmatic,” “highly knowledgeable,” “open-minded” and “accommodating and flexible in their approach to working with us” — and generally “easy to do business with”.

“Founded in Dusseldorf in the 1950s,” Joy notes, “Arag has operated in the UK since 2006. Based in Bristol — close to both DAS and Allianz Legal Protection — it clearly has expansion in mind,” he warns.

Congratulations, then to Bankstone News’ friends at Arag – and thanks again for filling out those forms for us!

Anyone who would like to read Insurance 180’s report in full – not recommended if you’ve anything to do with Abbey Legal – can have a look at Post Mag online.

July 29, 2010

“When Black Friday comes,” predicted Donald Fagan, low-key frontman of the world’s most popular band named after a literary sex-toy, Steely Dan. “I’ll collect everything I’m owed. And before my friends find out, I’ll be on the road.”

The obvious flaw in this plan, of course, is that there’s a good chance that whatever vehicle it was in which Mr Fagan was planning to leave town would have gone missing on Black Monday – and not been recovered during the intervening three days.

The latest press release from Retainagroup claims that no fewer than 681 people reported their vehicles stolen on (Black) Monday 26 July, and that barely half of these individuals will ever see their vehicles again.

You can greatly reduce the risk of having your ride purloined, of course, by not driving a Ford Transit – the number-one choice of ride purloiners. In fact, more than 10% of the vehicles stolen on Black Monday (26 July 2010) were “vans, pick-ups and other light commercial vehicles.”

But owners of newer more car-like vehicles shouldn’t feel complacent either, Retinagroup argues: “We are constantly told that car theft has fallen by 65% since the bad old days of the late 90s. But now immobilisers are a standard feature of newer cars, thieves have found new ways of stealing them, and more than 25% of vehicles stolen on Black Monday were 2007 or younger.”*

If all this has left you feeling a little nervous, fear not! Salvation is at hand.

Retainagroup offers a simple affordable solution to all your ride-purloinment worries. This involves registering your vehicle with the International Security Register, whose 24/7 phone number and a unique identifying code are chemically etched into the glass of its windows, thereby allowing instant verification online by public or police.

End result: risk of theft cut by 55% – prospect of recovery up by 42%.

Because they are ineradicable, Retainagroup’s markings also provide an effective deterrent against cloning – reckoned to affect between 70,000 and 80,000 UK motors annually. A quick (free) visit to www.ISRcodecheck.com soon confirms whether a vehicle has been stolen or cloned. Bingo!

Bankstone News cannot help thinking – in a purely impartial way – that this kind of peace of mind would surely provide a highly attractive added benefit to customers of motor insurance organisations of all kinds. And it’s eminently affordable, just so you know.

* This statistic presents an interesting contrast with human beings, of whom 100% are 2007 or younger. It’s different with vampires, obviously.

July 29, 2010

Cutting things is all the rage these days. Sharp-edged instruments are the metaphor of the moment. Cutting, chopping, slashing – it’s everywhere you look.

As ever at the cutting edge of incisive (with a small i) reportage, Insurance Times this week brings us a portentously Eugene-O’Neill-inspired special feature: The Axeman Cometh!

Intent on disabusing us of the pipe dream that we can somehow spend our way out of recession, “The coalition,” IT reports, “wants £83bn slashed from the state budget by 2014 – a swingeing 40% cut in some departments.”

To speak of swingeing (Middle English Swengen) suggests a dark-ages style of axeman laying about him pell mell with his mighty blade – though George Osborne would doubtless rather cast himself as a judicious nip and tucker trimming back excess fat.

Be that as it may, most expect there will be blood. The UK economy is going to be “incredibly anaemic” for “up to five years” IT suggests, quoting Bank of England man Spencer Dale.

We’ll have to wait for October’s spending review to find out exactly where the axe will fall, claims IT reporter Anglo Saxon West. But the “first stabs of pain have already been felt as the government aims to cut £6bn this year alone.”

So what manner of chopping (or stabbing) lies ahead for our beloved insurance industry? With talk of grim (but oddly not of reaping), of slicing and of scars, Sax predicts a “significant negative impact.”

Cutting the education budget could apparently hurt insurers like Zurich and Chartists who insure a lot of schools and things. Zurich’s Larry Stokes fans the flames of apprehension with fears that sprinkler systems won’t be fitted, leaving educational establishments to flare up undefended.

And if cuts delay any recovery in construction, Saxon adze (adds, geddit?!), “brokers with professional indemnity packages for architects, surveyors and solicitors will also suffer.”

Meanwhile Defra’s promise of “efficiency savings” casts doubt, Times says, on the government’s commitment to flood management –raising once again the spectre of insurers cutting cover for at-risk homes. The ABI says it doesn’t expect flood defence budgets to be cut, but will certainly have something to say if they are.

Though most of us know it better as the national electricity company in Didier Drogba’s homeland, CIE apparently also stands for Compulsory Insurance Enforcement. This involves vigorously encouraging their owners to insure the estimated two million motor vehicles lurking around the UK uninsured. Whilst clearly a good thing for insurers, this has precious little to do with cutting anything. But what the hell.

The Men in Black (MIB), are fully on board, with their Motor Insurance Database (MIB-MID) teed up to meld seamlessly with luxury luggage marque DVLA’s database to track down uninsured vehicles.

But BIBA’s Eeyoresque Graeme Trudgill anticipates a long uphill plod. He fears “the government may not put its full weight” (approximately 2.4 tonnes, if you include all cabinet members) “behind the programme” and says “We would be very disappointed if we did not get support after the efforts we have made.”

Returning to the theme of cutting things, IT suggests the multibillion Crossrail project could still be under threat, before concluding that it probably isn’t.

OK then, how about tax rises? Very worrying for insurers! Malcolm Smith of Groupananarama makes a difficult point of real significance, telling Times “There’s a real need to significantly increase commercial writing. A 1% increase [in IPT] makes this difficult in an already difficult market.”

Plus: maybe tax rises will force Brit go-getters to leave the country en masse, and (the irony!) poor Phil Collins, who left when Labour got in, may yet have to put his repatriation plans back on hold.

Then there’s the risk that government-funded bodies and projects will cut back on risk management – forcing insurers to charge higher premiums. Hmmm…

David Cameron is apparently very keen on something called the private sector, and a mystery source tells Times there are “phenomenal opportunities” in government-tendered contracts: “There’s a business opportunity for brokers. It’s fill your boots time basically.”

“Brokers are entrepreneurs and survivors,” the mystery man continues, saving Sax the bother of summing up his own article. “They will have to react to market conditions when they see them. If it’s raining, put on a raincoat, and if it isn’t, don’t. It’s as simple as that.”

Bankstone News only wishes someone had spelled it out that clearly before.

July 27, 2010

In addition to being an unpleasant hazard of changing nappies, PPI is generally regarded as one of the murkier of the many tributaries that flow into the great river of insurance.

Following its provisional decision in May this year that PPI ought probably to be banned at point of sale, the Competition Commission has spent the last couple of months looking into a minor tributary of the aforementioned tributary, retail payment protection insurance (stuff bought from catalogues, that kind of thing – let’s call it RPPI).

RPPI was excluded from the CC’s earlier pronouncements, but now they’ve had a good look at how it is sold, the commission have come up with a document suggesting consumers should be given a bit more information about what RPPI will cost them and what rights they have to decline it.

The commission is not convinced it’s worth the bother of banning RPPI at POS, but is inviting comments and will make a decision in September when it takes a view on whether to ban POS sales for other forms of PPI.

We just knew you’d want to know about that.

July 22, 2010

Fresh back from the Leuka Mini Masters charity golf event at Dukes Meadow, Bankstone’s Dickon Tysoe relates how one wag risked the ire of the event’s main sponsor, by noting that he’d known nothing about Bing until he Googled it.

Has Dickon picked up any tips on how to run a charity event? You’ll have to wait til 18th and 19th September to find out, when Bankstone’s fleet of mini motorbikes rides out in aid of Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

Be that as it may, nothing chagrined by the cruel omital of any wooden spoon award, new course record holder Mr Tysoe reports an excellent time being had by all, admist valuable fund raising, obviously, for the Hammersmith Hosptial-based leukaemia charity.

After rubbing elbows with various celebrities, Mr Tysoe offers the arresting observation that – uncannily – hardman Ashes to Ashes star Philip Glennister is exactly the same height in real life as he appears on TV. Who would have thought it?

July 22, 2010

“Euan has a stellar track record in leading thriving teams,” said Aon Specialty CEO Robin Hood recently of the leading risk management services, insurance and reinsurance brokerage and human capital consulting services provider’s aristocratically-connected new Head of Upstream & Offshore Construction, Euan Nicolson.

In this case, to be specific, Euan was leading a thriving team out of Marsh and into Aon, via an extended horticultural sabbatical.

But according to his former employees – rather than gardening – young Euan was busy helping Aon net erstwhile Marsh clients Italian energy firm Saipem. That and – more recently – hurling computer hardware into nearby ponds and waterways, leaving egg-faced Aon cast adrift on the stormy waters of adverse publicity.

Fresh from the disappointment of sponsoring a shirt Man U fans refuse to wear in defiance of the Glaziers, Aon have now seen the man who forsook the marshes for deeper waters roundly rebuked in the High Court for destroying evidence of his misspent leave. Accused of contempt of court and making false statements, Euan could yet end up behind bars.

In apparent defiance of a court ruling won by Marsh ordering him not to “destroy, tamper with, cancel or part with possession, power, custody or control” of any computers or data storage devices that might contain material evidence, Euan betook himself early one morn to a mist-enshrouded lake and did a Bedivere on his laptop, before allegedly dispatching three or four USB memory devices to a nearby riverbed.

But forensic frogmen have since retrieved the laptop, 59% of whose data is still readable – yielding potentially interesting reading on Euan’s contacts with fellow ex-Marsh gardeners and with Aon’s Saipem tender team.

Magne Seljeflot, Chairman of Aon’s Energy Team – whose name, fact fans, is Old Norse for large salty floating thing – says “Bringing Euan in to our energy team underlines Aon’s commitment to building first-class teams that lead the industry.” Such was Aon’s excitement at landing such a catch, it seems, they may have reeled him in a little hastily.

Aon, incidentally, is Gaelic for one or oneness. Euan is Gaelic for born yesterday – out of a cleft in a yew tree.

July 21, 2010

Former M15 head Eliza Manningham-Buller (EMB to her friends) has claimed that that absolutely everyone – well, quite a few people – had to pay massively more – or rather, an average of 14.2% more – for their comprehensive car insurance policies in the second quarter of this year.

She went on to claim that the decision by an entire generation of middle-aged people to add literally hundreds of children – well, one or two at least – to their insurance policies had led to their motor insurance premiums increasing more than anyone else’s.

Confused Simon Lamble blamed Switzerland’s largest city: “Zurich publicly announced in January it was looking to raise prices by up to 20% and it appears the rest of the industry has followed suit.”

Bankstone News would love to tell you what all this means but a) we’ve no idea and b) we’d probably have to kill you.

July 20, 2010

More and more car owners are opting to take out motor insurance.

That at least is the claim from shadowy alien busting agency Men In Black. However improbable its source, this is clearly good news – because you’re kind of supposed to have insurance if you’re planning on driving a motor vehicle around these days.

MIB’s investigations show there’s been a 20% drop in the number of Brits driving without insurance over the past four years. But that still leaves 1.5 million drivers eschewing its proven benefits. How do MIB know all this? Best not ask – they just know!

Good thing for uninsured drivers that MIB don’t have a licence to prosecute terrestrials – because they even know where all these insurance dodgers live – mostly in Bradford (why is it always Bradford?), Greater Manchester and Birmingham, since you ask.

Armed with this valuable knowledge insurance providers may wish to consider targeting residents of postcodes BD3, M12, B10 and B12 with marketing literature saying something like:

Attention small time criminals! Want to make an honest motor of your ride? You could qualify for our special No Insurance Bonus when you take out a policy with [insert company name]. No questions asked. Cash up front only.

OK, it’s not the greatest marketing idea ever. But it’s certainly a cut above Legal Assistance Direct who proudly differentiate themselves from non-English speakers without any legal training – with the distinctly underwhelming boast: ‘Real lawyers who speak your language.’

July 19, 2010

Check your car insurance before heading off on a road trip warns Tesco Compare. Also: plan your route, get comfortable and take regular breaks.

Check your car insurance before travelling overseas this summer warns the Car Insurance Mega Store. Apparently things can go wrong when driving on ‘The Continent.’

Check your car insurance before heading off to one of this summer’s music festivals warns the Post Office this week (even though the good ones have mostly come and gone already).

Check your car insurance before borrowing a car warns confused.com, who recently uncovered ‘an alarming host of misconceptions about the cover your motor insurance gives you when driving someone else’s car.”

Check your car insurance before switching off your bedside light each night advises the National Insomnia Helpline.

Check your car insurance before scratching your arse warns Bankstone News.

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