You’ve gotta go some to catch TB!

September 30, 2011

Regular readers of this irregular publication will recall that last week’s issue was pulled at the very last minute due to everyone involved having sloped off to Milton Keynes for the Insurance Endurance karting event. How did Team Bankstone fare in yet another motorsports event involving undersized vehicles, you are probably wondering. No? Well, sorry, we are going to tell you all about it anyway in positively exhausting detail.

The day dawned cold and misty, temporarily vindicating Bankstone’s thoughtful distribution of branded team caps and jackets in place the usual polo shirts. Soon, however, brilliant sunshine saw these fine promotional items unceremoniously discarded, leaving Team Bankstone (or TB as we like to call them) to compete in merciful anonymity.

Given the non-comformity of most team members’ size and shape with that of the stereotypical karting competition winner, TB had its collective heart set on the coveted Pitstop Challenge F1 wheel-changing side event, in which it had indeed achieved utter and outright triumph in the 2010 event.

Reluctant to surrender hope altogether in the main event, however, evil genius team leader Dickon Tysoe cooked up a cunning plan for snatching victory from the very jaws of near-inevitable defeat. This involved avoiding other people’s accidents, profiting from an almost uncanny instinctive sympathy between man and machine, leveraging a well-honed race strategy designed to minimise time lost from driver change-overs, fuel stops and mandatory pit stops.

Equally essential to victory, of course, was having top-notch nick-names (more – much more – detail on this below).

The Pit Stop Challenge event involves jacking up a clapped-out former Formula 1 car, changing the wheels and jacking down again – and, ideally, doing it all quicker than any other team. Avid F1 fans will know that a respectable time within which to accomplish said tasks is something under three seconds. Anything under 20 will do for Insurance Endurance. Some early pitstop practice furnished TB’s first fresh-minted nick-name of the day. Ian Pritchard became ‘Hugh Jackman’ because he was operating a jack, he is a man, and his first name is… well, it’s near enough!

TB had an hour and a quarter to get some practice laps, plan which order its members would race in (allowing an early departure for those who needed to get away), and determine its start position on the grid. After revealing that his wife had given him a list of items to pick up from Ikea on the way home, Simon Toop became (bear with us) Simon “At home I am a Viking” Toop. Takes a little longer to say, but it’s well worth the extra effort, we feel sure you will agree.

Meanwhile Simon “At home I am a Viking” Toop’s colleague at Adrian Flux, Peter Cook was dubbed Peter “Reverse into the pit lane” Cook. Quite why, nobody can now remember. Although there is general agreement that Dave “purple mango special” Plummer owes his nick-name to having attended a curry-house-based tactics planning session with team leader Tysoe the evening before, rather than to any exotic bodily deformity.

Fascinating as all this back-story may be, Bankstone News readers will probably be content to learn simply that Clarke Bailey’s nick-name is Clarke “Huddersfield Giant” Bailey. You can draw your own conclusions.

With the familiar loping bass, fade-in snare, and whining guitar two-thirds of the way through Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain jangling over the Tannoy, TB’s number 18 kart, ably piloted by Simon AHIAV Toop, snarled out onto the track to take up its slot in the formation lap. The safety kart peeled into the pits. The chequered flag fell. The race was on!

Aiming to do 20 minutes each per session, the team had agreed driver hand-signals to indicate when early relief was required. Those not driving abused the numeric signal boards to improvise lewd and offensive messages using numbers in place of letters.

Paul “Plugs” Upton was next up for TB, exemplifying the true spirit of courtesy and restraint by allowing a procession of other karts to pass him in a safe and controlled manner, thus becoming Paul “Driving Miss Daisy” Upton.

With TB now in 13th, it fell to the Huddersfield Giant and Hugh Jackman to claw back a couple of places before lunch. The latter proved a disappointment: chicken more rubbery than kart tyres and burgers of a weirdly leathery consistency. From which Matt Collett took his “Grrr hard burger” nickname. The burgermeister, it turned, out was indeed no slouch behind the wheel, fully living up to his F1-via-fastfood monicker.

A stirling stint from the Purple Mango followed. It was while TPM was out on the track that the number 18 kart was flagged in for the much anticipated pitstop challenge. This threw the meticulous planning of team manager Dickon “Ross Brawn” Tysoe into disarray.

Dickon explains (kind of) what happened next: “We were in a quandary. All our practice runs had been with “At Home I am a Viking” driving and “PMS” on the left rear wheel gun. A quick shuffle was needed. With that out of the way, we decided to change the roles around a bit. So with the kart heading in along the pit lane, we had “Huddersfield Giant” on the front jack, “Grrr Hard Burger” on the back jack, Ian “Not Colin” McRae and “Driving Miss Daisy” on the front left, “Ross Brawn” and “At Home I am a Viking” rear left, “Reverse into the pit lane” on front right, Andy “The Brigadier” Jones on rear right, ably assisted by “Hugh Jackman”. Unfortunately “Ross Brawn” lost his nut, along with several precious seconds, but we still ended up with a broadly respectable 17.04 seconds on the stopwatch.”

Ending with a good but not great PSC time left TB with a tense remainder of the afternoon to wait out pending the eventual confirmation that, with a time 4.5 seconds faster than second-placed arch rivals The Bike Insurer (TBI), Team Bankstone had indeed clinched the coveted title for a second year running. One more of these and TB get to keep the trophy – and presumably go down in the anals of karting history.

Quickly switching “PMS” for “Not Colin”, TB rejoined that karting fray with a vengeance. “Reverse into the Pitlane” made a good showing with his memorably orange footwear. “The Brigadier” put in some stellar laps, and TB was working its way back up the leader board.

But then, in an act of villainous sabotage well worthy of “Dick Dastardly” himself, Lester “Dick Dastardly” Short of The Bike Insurer stole a Bankstone Racing cap and jacket, and borrowed a pair of specs to impersonate TB’s Dickon Tysoe. Thus disguised, he then proceeded to hang out a Kart 18 pit-board to bring the TB kart in for a spurious unscheduled pitstop!

TB’s attempts to bribe track officials to black-flag TBI’s Kart 29 having failed, TBI brought about their own undoing by overtaking under yellows and picking up a 30-second penalty. Shortly after TBI fell foul of a mechanical breakdown which cost them a full nine minutes and any chance of beating TB.

Now well into the second session, with the Viking long departed for Ikea, Dickon “Formerly known as Ross Brawn, now known as Loose Nuts” Tysoe opted for a daring single-fuel-stop strategy and forewent his second stint at the wheel to make full use of the talents of fast drivers The Brigadier and RITPL, thuswise enabling TB to edge its way up into a not entirely disgraceful 7th place finish.

A fitting reward for a true team effort.

Dick Tysoe (L) with Dickon Darstardly (R). We think!

Dick Tysoe (L) with Dickon Darstardly (R). We think!

September 24, 2011

Bankstone News was just settling down, with some pleasantly over-ripe Stilton, a half-dozen Carr’s and a rather magnificent old claret, to enjoy the unrivaled televisual highlight of the week, when, to our utter horror, our favourite Uvavu ads were rudely interrupted by a fetid little ‘costume drama’ by the name (we think) of Downturn Abbey.

Why oh why, would ITV even think of ruining the one luxuriously self-indulgent moment of audiovisual enjoyment to which Bankstone News had been looking forward throughout the emotionally deprived tedium of the business week, with this absurd confection of lifeless toffs and implausibly unruly domestics?

The grittily gripping drama of Gary and his unfortunate motorcycle mishap, ended up being delivered in staccato snippets squeezed between the stultifying longeurs of a Jack Vettriano daub brought (partially) to life in the form of a farcically stilted acting-out of the sick fantasy life of some preposterous bufoon by the name of Fellowes.

How can ITV possibly justify interrupting an important drama, which performs a vital public information service by highlighting the fact that – contrary to received wisdom – insurers do occasionally pay claims, with an endless series of dismal aristoporn tableaux?

Bankstone News is frankly incensed and has literally bombarded Ofcom with letters of complaint (wrapped around bricks for enhanced ballistic performance).

Heads will roll!

September 23, 2011

Mixing references to eggs and soldiers in a way not seen since news broke of Humpty Dumpty’s tragically brief career in wall sitting, Insurance Times reports this week that ‘a clutch of brokers and insurers broke ranks this week to reveal how much they earn from referral fees.’

Turns out it’s all been a big fuss about nothing! The rank-breaking clutchsters earn scarcely a penny from referral fees. Rank-breakers in chief Allianz netted a pitiful £1.5m last year. They’d probably have made more nipping out with a hat in their lunch hour and banging out Streets of London on a de-tuned ukelele.

Ludicrously named Markerstudy fared worse still, bringing in a woeful £200,000 from referral fees and then bizarrely just giving it all to their brokers. Poor Groupama made just £150,000 from referrals last year, equivalent to a piffling 0.05% of turnover.

Meanwhile fellow under-remunerated rank-buster Arron Banks of Brightside offered the philosophically provocative prediction that insurers will simply buy up law firms once new ownership rules are introduced next year, at which point ‘the question of referral fees is immaterial because it is internalised.’

Presumably, at that point, any law firm foolish enough not to (own or) be owned by an insurance firm will find it harder laying its hands on data pertaining to persons who’ve been personally injured.

September 23, 2011

You wouldn’t know it from his gormless mugshot, but Mohammed Samsul Haque is some kind of genius, a “criminal mastermind” who made £2m smashing up luxury motors for insurance cash.

Fiendish megabrain Haque ran a North London gang of crash for cash specialists who invited friends and family along for ‘crashing parties’ at their yard up in Tottenham, where guests ate and drank before crashing cheap cars into pricey ones.

If the impact damage wasn’t up to scratch, the wily Haque (sometime alias Samuel Hague) and his ruthless sidekick Rosul “Louisville Slugger” Yusuf would apply judicious finishing touches with a couple of baseball bats.

Following each non-accidental accident, Haque’s ‘accident management’ company Motor Alliance provided – or pretended to provide – a wide range of non-existent services to the supposed owners of the damaged luxury models, along with some more or less real replacement hire vehicles, for which insurers were handsomely billed.

In all, press reports claim, Haque and his hoodlums made “more than 120 fraudulent claims for accidents that never took place,” living a charmed life on the ill-gotten proceeds. Chuckling maniacally all the while with ill-concealed fiendish glee, no doubt, Haque probably thought the coppers couldn’t touch him.

What Haque couldn’t know was that the local cops had teemed up with the dreaded Insurance Fraud Bureau (FBI) whose leader Glen Marr has been known to drawl laconically: “fraudsters are deluded if they think they won’t get caught.”

Had the evil mastermind slipped up somewhere? Was Haque in fact – for all his high-level mental powers – in some way deluded?

Turns out he was. Following a tip-off from one insurer sick of settling suspiciously similar £350 a day bills for luxury replacement vehicles, cops kicked in Haque’s Tottenham doors and seized the sleazy fraudster and his six-strong gang, along with an attaché case full of damning claims docs retrieved from the boot of a silver Mercedes.

And now, barely three years after this dramatic raid, Haque and his boys have been convicted of conspiracy to defraud and are due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court next month. Throw away the keys, says Bankstone News.

September 23, 2011

Less reliably entertaining than their Edinburgh Festival counterparts, ABI fringe events can nonetheless throw up the odd surprise. The odd surprise at the ABI’s Labour Party Conference fringe event this week was the unedifying spectacle of neck-tie spurning shadow justice spokesbeing Sandy Slaughter brutally kicking his hosts in the teeth.

Slaughter dismissed the idea that insurers are losing money in the motor market. Look at Admiral, he suggested for some obscure reason. He pooh-poohed the idea of tampering with the law of the land to help nurse fat cat insurers happily back into profit.

“We should not be seeking to subsidise an industry that is not operating terribly well,” he declared starkly. Insurers, he said “should put their own house in order before we make major changes to the system of justice” (presumably a fancy name for the justice system).

A report in this week’s Insurance Times quotes Slaughter saying he is “not on the side of the claimant solicitors or the insurance [sic].” Controversially, he says he is “on the side of the victim.” Surely this will never catch on. He went on to add that he would be interested to know what they do about whiplash over in Europe.

In the same report Insurance Times goes on to quote AXA Commercial director of claims and underwriting, David Walliams, who says “I feel like I’ve been spent a lifetime whinging about the compensation system [sic].” When asked about the proposed implementation of the Jackson reforms, he is reported to have observed that “Unless this gets derailed, this will be a really good step.”

Rails. Steps. Whatever can he mean?

September 16, 2011

Brokers are on their way out of the motor insurance market, reports Insurance Age this week. Latest research from research firm Defunqto appearently reveals that ‘the number of motor policies available via the intermediary channel has fallen to 33%’ down from 40% in 2004, ‘with direct products dominating the sector.’

Under the factually questionable and grammatically provocative sub-heading ‘Brokers are king’ (possibly a misguided attempt at applying the ‘royal we’ to a plural third person?), the Age clutched triumphantly at the straw of broker’s uncontested suitedness to negotiating the complexities of arranging high net worth motor policies, where 90% of available products are available only through intermediaries.

Mike Powell Defunqto’s so-called insight analyst for general insurance, was ready with some diplomatic words: ‘There are still tangible opportunities for intermediaries in the motor insurance sector. Essentially, they need to play to their core strength: giving advice.”

Wonder how the inessential version of that last sentence would have sounded.

September 16, 2011

If you had a “too hard” compartment, what would you park in it? Come on, it’s a perfectly simple question! Is there, perhaps, something mooted in your life that seems a bit, well, complicated… Just the thing to park in your THC! But, beware, parking it may not be the end of the matter. As the following story all-too vividly illustrates.

According to this week’s Insurance Times, 14th Century rabble rouser Jack Straw – “never one to pull his punches” – has “gone in with all guns blazing” to “force the government’s hand” on “the mooted referral fee ban” which “only a few weeks ago looked as if it had been parked in the ‘too hard’ compartment.”

How has Jack Straw achieved the above manually-intensive feat? By means of a ten minute rule bill he tabled this week which features a “wish list” that includes the very same banning of referral fees.

Controversially, his wish list also includes requiring claimants to provide hard proof when claiming for whiplash, which could be tricky, given that the condition has no physical symptoms to speak of and has been dismissed by no less an authority than Straw himself as “hardly an injury at all, more a profitable invention of the human imagination, un-diagnosable, except by the third-rate doctors in the pay of claims management companies or personal injury lawyers.”

Other planks in Jack’s wish-list raft include hastening measures to prevent the sale of accident victim’s details and halving the fixed legal fee of £1,200 for claims pursued through the electronic claims portal system used currently for RTA claims worth less than £10,000, but possibly soon for anything under £40,000.

So far so broadly welcome, you might be thinking if you were an insurer. But hold on to the horses of your enthusiasm there just a gosh-darned second, because Jack is back to pick up on what Insurance Times terms ‘the topic that sparked his drive to clean up the motor insurance stables.’ And I think we all know exactly what that means!

Yes, the Straw man’s plan includes barring insurers from using post codes to determine premiums, in the same way as interfering busy-bodies from the continent have just banned them from taking account of whether a person is male, female, or anywhere in between – a rather more narrowly acceptable prospect, doubtless, from the underwriter’s POV.

On a more positive note, the paper concludes that The bill itself is highly unlikely to become law. The fact that it’s getting a second reading, however, clearly shows the grey-faced one’s crusade on bad motor insurance things is not to be ignored.

Deborah Evans, Chief Executive of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers counters that  “Jack Straw is deluded if he thinks a lawyer could possibly give advice to an injured person for the price of £100. In all cases the solicitor needs to talk to the client to understand the symptoms, and the impact of the injury on the client’s life, as well as obtaining a medical report. These were the factors taken into account when fixed costs for road traffic accidents were agreed with the insurance industry only last year.”

Meanwhile former Motor Accident Solicitors Society president John Spencer says Straw’s “misguided” proposals on whiplash injury “run a very serious risk of disproportionately punishing legitimate accident victims and shockingly sideline the views of the scientific community on these issues.”

It will all be worth it in the end, Straw clearly believes with an almost Blair-like messianic conviction, when all his wise reforms are passed and motor insurance premiums tumble.

September 16, 2011

Excellent news for fans of driving a bit fast and/or under the influence this week, as the Daily Telegraph confirmed that ‘police across the country are cutting back on breath tests and the enforcement of motoring laws.’

All this recession induced budget cutting may be a nuisance, but it’s an ill wind, as they say. Latest government stats reveal there were almost a quarter fewer breath tests carried out in May this year than in the same month last year.

Twenty of the 35 police forces responding to a recent Freeworm of Information request confirm that they have cut traffic cop numbers in the year to May. In Essex, the Torygraph reports, the number of officers assigned to traffic duties fell from 268 to 221. Combined with a wholesale junking of speed cameras, there’s certainly an exhilarating new air of lawlessness abroad on Britain’s increasingly deregulated highways.

Nanny statists may contend there’s some far fetched link between these developments and latest official road casualty statistics showing the number of people killed or seriously injured rising for the first time in four years during Q1 2011. They would, wouldn’t they!

“It is a known fact that policing is facing cuts and chiefs are making difficult decisions to ensure that we can meet the economical challenges and keep the public safe,” a police spokesman blathered, whilst not entirely sidestepping the hazard of self-contradiction.

‘It is for chief constables to deploy officers where they are most needed,’ declared road safety minister Mike Pennis. Quite so, and the buck, all right minded people will surely agree, quite properly stops with these unfortunate individuals.

It is sadly inevitable, of course, that these necessary cuts will hurt some more than others, but let’s face it: you can’t make an omelette, etc. etc.

.

September 16, 2011

‘Insurers want to be their own judge and jury,’ reckons access to justice campaigner Andrew Dismal. As regular readers will recall, Dismal is some kind of deranged heretic who contends that any old Tom, Dick and Harry should be allowed to bother the legal system with endless complaints about supposed wrongs done them.

He sees the sinister influence of fat cats’ interest group the ABI behind the government’s current plans to put a stop to all this ‘no win, no fee’ business which in its view simply encourages people to seek redress through the courts instead of being content with what they get.

Predicting that one in four genuine claims will fall by the wayside, he claims that ending NWNF will deprive non-affluent victims of wrongs like phone hacking, asbestos poisoning, medical malpractice (and so on) of any practical means of standing up for their rights.

The ABI, Dismal contents, is hell bent on cutting the rights of road accident victims and quite happy to sacrifice the rights of others in the process. “There is no compensation culture,” he claims. “The reality is that 23% of road accident victims do not bother to claim, and only 52% claim for accidents at work.”

‘While the ABI routinely alleges fraud,’ he says, the Experian Fraud Index shows that ‘only 12 in every 10,000 applications and claims’ is fraudulent.

‘If the lawyers and ATE providers are branded fat cats,’ he insists, ‘then the liability insurers are clinically obese! Although they complain about the impact of claims,’ he continues, insurers have declined to confirm they will cut premiums if they get their way, and, he warns,‘insurance premiums have never gone down after a reform or major court victory in the insurance industry’s favour.’

‘The ABI says that claimants don’t need lawyers as its members’ offers are fair and should be accepted,’ Dismal claims, ‘but the Personal Injury Bar Association (PUBA) found that in 99% of 1349 cases where offers were made on the basis of the insurers’ computer model, the claimant beat the offer.’

‘Cases only go to court,’ he says, ‘when the insurers deny liability or refuse to pay adequate compensation, so insurers have only themselves to blame for legal costs. Banning success fees, he argues, would mean that income from relatively easy wins would no longer be available to subsidise the investigation and pursuit of ‘meritorious but problematical or difficult cases’ including ‘important test cases on appeal.’

‘The government acknowledges,’ Dismal concludes, that ‘the changes mean millions more for the liability insurers’ shareholders at the expense of individual claimants.

So what on earth is going on? It’s like common sense gone mad!

September 16, 2011

Whilst on the subject of firms making generous donations in support of Bankstone’s Medieval Monkeys charity fundraising exploits (see previous issues), on to which topic we may inadvertently have strayed last week in discussing Premex’s recent village cricket sponsoring triumph (see previous issue), it would surely be wrong of us not to pay tribute to the excellent people at Macclesfield-based Thorneycroft Solicitors and in particular MD Rachel L Stow.

She it was who spoke recently at a seminar convened by the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust (BIRT) on the subject of ‘Mental capacity from a legal perspective.’ The invitation to speak at this august gathering stemmed from Rachel’s extensive involvement of late in the world of brain injury, and her firm’s rapidly expanding role in the arena of brains and brain claims.

In a well received presentation to more than 50 ‘key professionals’ (who may have strayed in from a locksmiths’ convention nearby), she provided a perceptive and enlightening discourse upon the divers implications of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, as well as commenting on issues ‘related to the areas of relationship and lifestyle choices.’

Rachel reports receiving highly positive feedback, including the following most gratifying observation from event organiser and fellow speaker Dr Ivan Pitman, consultant in Neuropsychology and Rehabilitation at host institution Redford Court, who noted: ‘We are delighted to have worked with Thorneycrofts to provide such a successful event. This is Redford Court’s third annual seminar, and feedback from delegates has shown that the subjects we addressed were extremely useful for professionals working in brain injury.’

Bankstone News readers can find out more about Thorneycroft and its wide range of services at www.thorneycroftsolicitors.co.uk. While you’re there, why not read the latest edition of their newsletter, which includes the hair-raising story of an impecunious biker client who ended up with tractor tyre tracks right across his back, a crumpled cocyx, and a full payout including hire charges of £8,000.

Donate now to Medieval Monkeys using the justgiving box below left and your picture could appear in next week’s Bankstone News.

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