Is it that time of year already?

December 17, 2010

Bankstone News will be taking a barely deserved two-week break over the festive period to spend more time with our families, lawyers etc. We’ll be back in the new year with the same tawdry hotchpotch of home truths, half-truths and abject nonsense.

So, for now, here’s wishing you good cheer and blissful oblivion over the holiday break – not forgetting peace and goodwill to all mankind and that type of thing, obviously.

In the meantime, don’t forget there’s still time to enter last week’s “sign up some new subscribers and win a load of booze” competition.

We’re outta here!

December 17, 2010

Good to see information getting passed around more freely these days. First Wikileaks regaled us all with lavish portions of the forbidden fruit of knowledge, now Strathclyde Police have been slipping juicy titbits of inside information about some of the tastier geezers on their patch to insurance companies.

The Herald Scotland reports that Strathclyde police have been “revealing the names of gangland figures to insurance firms and life assurers who then massively increase their premiums.”

Whether the insurance firms in question will be obliged to communicate the reasons for the premium alterations to the policyholders in question is unclear to Bankstone News at this point. Perhaps something along the following lines would be appropriate.

Dear Sir,

In the light of your status as ‘gangland figure’ recently revealed to us by the Strathclyde Police we have reluctantly concluded that your monthly premium will need to increase to [insert very large sum of money]. But don’t worry: you and your family will continue to enjoy exactly the same cover as before, and you can continue count on our exceptionally high standards of customer service.

This is boundary-pushing police work at its best. Rather than wait around while detectives gather the necessary hard evidence to bring suspected gangsters to trial, Police can now strike back pre-emptively by passing on “confidential files.”

Raising premiums to astronomical levels could effectively deny the families of suspected gangsters an opportunity to gain monetary compensation for the untimely loss of loved ones in local turf wars etc. Alternatively, dramatically increased premiums could simply ensure that those with sizeable undisclosed incomes pay a suitably inflated price for their cover. Either way, sounds like a great plan!

Gangsters are also notoriously poor drivers. You must have seen them on TV. So it will be a great comfort to motor insurers to learn that Strathcops will also be tipping them off about suspected wrong’uns, so they can be priced out of purchasing motor insurance, thus cunningly enabling the police to move in and arrest them for failure to hold valid insurance for their vehicles. Genius!

Strathclyde Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton told the Herald: “If a criminal has heavy life assurance then it doesn’t seem right that the rest of us – who have a much lower-risk lifestyle – have to pay for that.”

“Some of the information we give – because of the how, the where and from whom we got it – can’t be used in court,” Hamilton accepted. “But that does not mean we should sit on the information and not share it with other legitimate bodies.”

A spokeswoman for the Association of British Insurers told the Scottish paper that “Insurance companies use lifestyle factors to calculate premiums – and being a gangster is a pretty high-risk lifestyle.”

Hamilton declined to name the companies who are receiving information from the police because of “the danger of reprisals.” Should be fairly obvious when their premiums suddenly increase though.

But if mainstream insurers don’t want to help shady characters out with their motor insurance, there could be an attractive niche market in the offing. The domain name is still available if anyone’s interested.

December 17, 2010

The thirteenth century Worcestershire poet Layamon suggests that King Arthur first had some Cornish bloke knock up a large but easily transportable round table to prevent his legendary knights from quarrelling over precedence.

No doubt Fleet News convened their recent panel discussion on fleet insurance premiums around a similarly configured table to discourage any potential discord between assembled luminaries from the world of fleet insurance.

With a well-judged nod to the specialist language of mycology, Fleet News conclude from their circular seminar that firms who fail to enforce “tight controls” on driver and vehicle safety can expect to pay higher insurance premiums as “claims costs continue to mushroom.”

Could it be we’ve finally entered the twilight of the golden age of ever-falling insurance premiums?

Heath Lambert claims man Mike Ellis is sternly emphatic: “Claims costs are rising, so prices will increase – possibly next year, possibly the year after.”

“For some,” Ellis warns starkly, “coverage will be harder to get.”

Cash strapped insurers are tightening their stipulations, no doubt hoping to save some money by turning more claims away. “Any non-disclosures mean the claim will be at risk,” Ellis told Fleet News’ assembled roundtablists, “and the insurance companies will look at this more and more if the price continues to fall.”

Insurers, Fleet News suggest, “will mandate criteria designed to reduce claims, manage risk and prompt behavioural change with drivers.”

“It’s a culture and a top-down approach,” explains J Sainsbury risk analyst David Bolger gnomically.

“Agency drivers are bad news from a risk perspective,” suddenly pipes up Scott Ingham, director at Matrix Global Services, adding abruptly: “Foreign nationals can be an issue if they fly in, do a task, and then leave.”

Very true. And if there’s one thing underwriters don’t like it’s issues. Claims people, on the other hand, seem to really like them. It’s swings and roundabouts really, init?

December 16, 2010

It’s certainly been a year of surprises in 2010. Who could have predicted, for example, that the current cold weather would lead to an increase in insurance claims?

According to a cold-weather themed news report cobbled together by The Press Association, enormous Gallic insurance concern Axa is experiencing double the normal volume of home insurance claims, with almost half of these relating to “snow damage.”

The PA notes that Axa recently experienced a 24% jump in the number of people phoning in to report motor insurance claims, with an extraordinary “85% jump in single vehicle accidents, as motorists slid off roads.”

Think that’s amazing? Then try this for size! The ABI has made the highly provocative claim that it is too early to say how much the recent cold snap will have cost the industry. Meanwhile a spokeswoman for Aviva insisted that: “Of course, burst pipe claims are common in this type of weather.”

How right that spokeswoman was: Lloyds TSB Insurance are said to have experienced an almost literally mind-blowing seven-fold increase in claims for damage caused by burst pipes, while AA Insurance allegedly saw a 23% rise in motor insurance claims, with collision one of the chief causes.

One driver, the PA claims bizarrely,”damaged his car after having a collision with a wild bore.”

Speaking of which, that’s probably enough amazing cold weather claims stories to be going on with.

December 16, 2010

Prolific management consultants Whatsup Perrin are back with a masterclass on business theory for UK motor insurers.

Apparently it’s all getting a bit competitive out there, and insurers need to choose between differentiating on service or being lowest on cost. “You can’t do both,” warns Ryan Warren, whose title is too long to relate here.

Since only one can be lowest on cost, this logically suggests all the rest will need to differentiate on service.

Apparently the UK motor sector gets 70% of its advice from Perrin Towers, so we could soon see a major change in business model from all those “not quite the cheapest but pretty good considering” type insurers.

Watson Towers reckon the UK motor market now has a combined ratio of around 120%, up 30 points on a decade ago.

But “how much of this is collision and how much collusion,” Ryan asks – noting that fraud adds £80 to every claim.

Is he suggesting the industry is colluding with fraudulent claimants? Would they really do that?

December 10, 2010

Isn’t it odd how insurance and people not quite telling the truth seem to keep cropping up together?

The Daily Telegraph this week reports that nine out of 10 GPs believe they have seen patients “who have exaggerated their injuries for the sake of insurance claims.”

Compare this with a mere two in 10 who believe they have seen ghosts or UFOs, and we can quickly see that claims cheats are three and a half times more likely to exist than that of either of those other disputed phenomena.

The original source of this amazing statistic is groovily named insurer LOVE, whose survey of GPs also found that four out of five doctors suspect some of their patients have completely made up their supposed post-accident afflictions “for the sake of claiming compensation.”

A staggering 92% per cent of GPs cited whiplash as the most commonly exaggerated injury. Who could possibly have anticipated that shock finding? Sixty per cent thought more people were exaggerating lately, blaming Britain’s culture of blame.

LOVE’s director of technical claims, Martin Millinilliner said: “Anyone trying to get money for an injury that doesn’t exist is not only breaking the law but also wasting valuable NHS time and resources.”

Bankstone News has done some supplementary research and discovered that injuries that do not exist include: hyperextension of the transverse nasal reticulum, acute traumatic Pelligrinitis (Walsh-Cowell syndrome), gross inflagration of the hyper-tibial maelstrom, and mysteroid disjunction of the dorsal gander.

Reports that the Duchess of Cornwall is complaining of a severe pain in the neck following yesterday’s unpleasantness en route to the Palladium are as yet unconfirmed.

December 10, 2010

Why suffer alone? Spread the pain of being a Bankstone News subscriber and you could WIN BIG in our yuletide recommend-a-friend drive!

Persuade people you know to sign up as new Bankstone News subscribers, and you could win a bumper haul of boxed-up booze – just in time for mid-Jan.

Yes, that’s right: we’re pledging to forward all festive alcoholic bribery received here at Bankstone HQ to the person who signs up the most new subscribers by 31st December.

Entering couldn’t be simpler: email the suggested wording below (or something of your own devising) to everyone you know (or some judiciously selected subset thereof) and send us a list of their names (please don’t send us their email addresses – that’s probably some kind of data crime).

Come Jan 1, we’ll match the names you’ve sent us against the names of all new subscribers, and whoever gets the highest number of matches scoops the entire haul of festive boxed-up booze that’s currently piling up nicely in one corner of the Bankstone executive suite.

And because “holiday” is a time for giving, we’re also pledging to donate £1 to our favourite charity – the life saving Yorkshire Air Ambulance – for every new subscriber.

So it really is a win-win-not-lose-anything deal. Marvellous.

Simply cut and paste the following and mail it to anyone you can think of.

Weekly insurance news eZine Bankstone News have promised to donate £1 to charity for every new subscriber they sign up between now and midnight new year’s eve.

They have also promised to send all the boxed bottles of yuletide good cheer they receive this year to the person who gets the most people to sign up to their supposedly humorous email newsletter.

Obviously it’s the charity element rather than any interest in alcohol that has motivated me to write to you. Please help. It’s very simple:

Simply click on the link below, fill in your name and email address, click subscribe, then reply to the email they’ll send back to you. That’s it. You don’t even have to read their ridiculous eZine, unless you want to, obviously. *

It costs you nothing, gains £1 for life-saving charity Yorkshire Air Ambulance, and might win me a couple of bottles of booze – not that I care about that bit, of course.

*If that link doesn’t work for any reason, there’s a sign-up button on their homepage at

[sign off]

And don’t forget to send a list of people you’ve recommended to

Good luck!

Image not necessarily illustrative of actual prize – or anything else in particular for that matter.

December 9, 2010

Bluefin chief exec Stuart Reid is busy turning down the covers for his new boss Amanda Blanc.

Reid reckons she’ll make a refreshing change from the people he’s had to work with at Axa up to now. Seems they’ve been somewhat wanting in the appetite department.

Clearly excited at the prospect of starting with a Blanc sheet, Reid’s unbridled lust for conquest is unlikely to take his new boss by surprise.

“I’m not speaking for her,” he clarified this week to Post Magazine, but “M&A is very exciting at the moment” and “prices are relatively low.”

“I am sure one of the first questions we will discuss,” he predicts uncannily, “is what is the M&A activity going to be like in next 12-24 months.

Ms Blanc meanwhile has professed herself “very pleased” to be rejoining Axa after stints with Group Armagh and latterly Towergate, and is looking forward to the chance to “deploy my experience to the full.”

What prompted her to jump ship, abandoning her chance to profit personally from SS Towergate’s anticipated flotation a couple of years hence?

Writing in Insurance Times, Celtic West wonders whether she’s lost faith in the seaworthiness of Towergate in particular and perhaps Consolidator class vessels in general.

Did she lack “belief in Towergate’s financial juggling ability” during adverse economic conditions? Was she worried insurers may eventually prevail in their desire to pay consolidators smaller commissions?  Was she concerned about entrepreneurs who’d sold out to Towergate coming back into the market once their restrictive covenants run out? You may draw your own conclusions.

The consolidators’ future is up in the air, West declares. It could still turn out OK, he adds. But, he concludes, “it looks like Blanc wasn’t willing to wait to find out.”

December 8, 2010

Towergate Insurance has got into bed with a meerkat.

Compare The Market will henceforward be chucking any crumbs of SME business that spill across its aggregative table in a Towergatewardly direction.

Commenting drolly on this exotic new partnership, Towergate retail chief exec Jonathan Walker puns knowingly on his own name, claiming that “this is an exciting step in moving forwards with a very clear and defined SME strategy based on ambitions to reach a GWP target of £100m in this space over the next few years.”

Mr Walker seems unlikely to win any awards for the Campaign for Plain English. But let’s just parse this jargonistically opaque statement and see if we can work out what he really means.

The word exciting flags JW’s intent to project positivity. “Moving forwards” makes clear that the step Mr Walker is so excited about is a step forwards rather than a step backwards, or sideways, or wherever. Well worth spelling this out, given that backward steps are generally frowned upon in the world of business.

Every journey begins with a single step, of course, but to what destination are Mr Walker and his colleagues now one step closer? His phraseology here is somewhat indirect. We learn only that Towergate are moving forward with a strategy based on some ambitions.

The ambitions on which the movement strategy is based seem, at first sight, pretty specific – although why the singular target of £100m GWP “in this space” should require ambitions in the plural we can only guess. But shouldn’t a “very clear and defined” strategy be more specific timelinewise than “over the next few years”?

Chief among the other intriguing ambiguities about Mr Walker’s utterance is the “in this space” qualifier attached to the temporally vague £100m target. Spaces come in many shapes and sizes, from the ever-popular inside of ping pong ball to the infinitesque unremarkableness of so-called outer space.

Could the space about which Mr Walken is talking simply be something as mundane as the UK SME market. Maybe. Maybe not. He may simply have fancied using words like “in this space” based on the perception that those are the kinds of thing today’s thrusting insurance executive is apt to say – along with things like “moving forward,” “ambition,” “strategy” and target.

Someone should perhaps have warned him, however, that talk of very clear and defined strategies is language more appropriate to defensive politicians quizzed on how they are planning to deal with issues they have barely begun to consider.

December 7, 2010

AA Insurance gripped insurance editors’ imaginations this week with tales of wintry weather accidents. Post Magazine and Insurance Times ran near-identical headlines, setting aside the latter’s inability to distinguish singular from plural. Where Post had AA: icy conditions see 23% rise in motor claims, Insurance Times went with Icy weather see motor claims up 23% in one week.

Yes, the AA says the number of insurance claims reported to its Cardiff call centre was up by almost a quarter in the past week – with the majority of the extra volume accounted for by collisions involving one or more moving vehicles. Moving, generally speaking, one assumes, further or in a direction other than that intended by whoever was driving them at the time.

AA Insurance director, Douglas Simon has a scientific explanation for the phenomenon: “When there is [are?] widespread snow and ice, the proportion of claims where the icy conditions are a contributory factor increases significantly.”

So there you have it. How about some hilarious claims stories? Here you go:

– ‘I reversed, skidded and hit side of spouse’

– Slid down drive and hit my own garage, damaging my wife’s car inside.

– Had to abandon my car and returned next morning to find the side had been taken out by a snowplough.

– Hit a pile of frozen snow cleared off the road. It was as solid as a concrete block and completely wrecked my car.

– My car slid down a hill on its own – I think it was nudged by another car. It hit a fence.

– Skidded on black ice, hit the kerb, bounced off a tree, hit another car and ended up in the ditch. The accident cause a multiple collision.

– I tried to avoid a large animal standing in a country road – it seemed dazzled by my lights. I braked but skidded on ice and hit it. It turned out to be a wild boar, which ran away but my car was very badly damaged.

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