Mutual mass termination

December 16, 2011

Yet more Euro-meddling to report this week, sadly, as French mutual insurer Covéa waded in with all the subtlety of a barking Corsican Corporal to summarily dismiss the entire board of its rosbif subsidiary Swinton Group Limited. The alleged crime supposedly committed by the desk-clearing cadre? Nothing worse than putting their own short term interests ahead of the long term interests of the company and its employees – something to do with moving things around a bit so their performance related pay worked out nicely.

This drastically draconian intervention from across La Manche has sent a chill wind – even for this time of year – through the entire UK insurance industry. If a board member can’t feather their own nest a little from time to time, quite frankly, what would the world be coming to?! Taking this Gallic madness to its logical conclusion would surely see a wholesale clear-out of boardrooms up and down the land.

The net result would simply drive talent away from UK companies. Who would bother taking on the many cares and duties of high corporate office if they could not vote themselves the occasional perk or 1000% pay rise or something like that. Let’s face it, top Brit fat cats would be voting with their paws and heading somewhere where the cream was apt to flow more freely.

Get a sense of humour, Frenchy, we say here at Bankstone News. Or as Michel Gagnant would say: Calmez-vous, ma chére!

December 16, 2011

Uvavu’s ill-conceived attempt to make a mini-drama out of a crisis in the life of hapless regular-bloke motorcycle casualty Gary and serialise it between segments of much-loved wishy-washy toff-saga Downturn Abbey has incensed an entire nation – including, it now appears, media regulator Ofcom, who’ve ruled that Uvavu’s indecorous bookends were more like ads than sponsorship.

Leaving aside the fact that more or less nobody knew or cared that Uvavu were meant to be sponsoring Downturn rather than advertising around it, this sounds like a very grave matter indeed. A stern slap to the wrist for the mark-overstepping insurer related specifically to the aforementioned Gary claiming fascinatingly at one point in his tediously drawn-out recovery that his insurance policy would still cover him if he retrained whilst hobbling about bravely on crutches.

Uvavu have apologised and promised not to do it again. Which would probably suit everyone pretty well, come to think of it.

Click on the image above for some proper drama

December 16, 2011

Where convicted criminals are concerned, good behaviour is generally a precondition of time off. Fortunately no similar requirement applies to eZine editors. Bankstone News is therefore taking a two-week break over the holiday season.

In the meantime, if you want to continue getting hold of top insurance stories by the wrong end of the stick, you might want to try a bottle of Quinta do Noval – ideally with a little Colston Bassett on the side and perhaps a little toot on your specialist tobacco product of choice – followed by a casual squinty sort of skim through the trade papers in a half-lit comfortably furnished room.

Bankstone News returns on 6 January 2012. Until then, here’s wishing a very Merry Christmas, or culturally appropriate alternative mid-winter festival, to all our readers. Apologies to those whose words, actions or characters we’ve misconstrued over the past year, and to those we haven’t, don’t worry, we’ll get to you soon.

Click here for a special Yuletide message. Bear with it; it builds.

December 15, 2011

Derived from the Arabic amir al bahr via the Medieval Latin admiralis, the word Admiral means not, as is commonly supposed by those with basic sangria Spanish, “someone who looks around a bit” (possibly with a telescope), but something more like commander or ruler (emir) of the sea. For how much longer the South-Wales-based insurance provider of that name will continue to rule the metaphorical motor insurance waves from Cardiff Bay to far Dundee, however, seems suddenly open to question.

And if you think that’s all a bit tortuous, try this…

Insurance Times’ Celtic West this week made a spirited last minute bid to clinch the prize for 2011’s most thoroughly mixed metaphor in noting that whilst Admiral was once ‘the pin-up boy of motor insurance,’ it could now ‘be sailing into very stormy waters’ whilst a quick look ‘under the bonnet’ reveals that ‘several profit generators in the distribution arm are coming under attack.’

The gist of West’s analysis is that Admiral’s in for a buffeting from several simultaneous directions. First up: referral fees – 5.6% of profits – going, going… Next up: credit hire referrals – OFT investigating – too few motor accidents around… Boom, there goes another profit generator! Plus also: “the recession may focus customer attention on the basic insurance product rather than paying for ancillaries,” West reckons. Quite so! What have ancillaries ever done for us?

Another worry, West reckons, is that the jolly old Admiral may be poised at the very apex of the super-scary bodily injury rollercoaster that ‘has plagued’ rival motor insurers. As it swooshes down into the soupy-stagnant splash pool below it could face ‘a deluge of ‘small’ whiplash claims.’

The real concern, however, he reveals (having – what? – just traipsed us through a litany of phony concerns) is that (after a couple of years of phony pain?) ‘Admiral is yet to face the real pain for 2010 and 2011, years when it grew its business aggressively to take up a 10% market share.’

If Admiral’s result were to take a turn for the worse, West opines, its reliance on reinsurers to provide around 3/4s of the operation’s capacity could see its dividend-rich capital-light ‘coinsurance’ model unravel as disheartened reinsurers jostle in their haste to leave a sinking ship. All of which makes 2012 a fairly crucial year for Wales’ number one employer.

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph believes Admiral has a cunning plan to stave off attacks on one at least one of its distribution arm profit generators by setting up its own personal injury law firm. See, those storm clouds are starting to clear already!

December 14, 2011

Bankstone News’ old friend Mike Pennis is mulling over plans to allow learner drivers on motorways for the first time. This is an excellent idea, if you ask Bankstone News.

It is a well known fact that motorways are statistically the safest place to drive. Logically, therefore, the sensible thing would be for learner drivers to be allowed ONLY on motorways.

With no traffic lights, cyclists, horses or speed bumps to worry about – and straight lines or gentle curves as far as the eye can see – you probably wouldn’t even need to involve driving instructors.

Supportive parents could simply wave their little darlings off from service stations and let nature take its course.

You know it makes sense!

December 9, 2011

Please say you didn’t buy car insurance during 2011! You did? Oh dear, oh dear! Respected analists Ernst ‘n’ Young reckon those unfortunate enough to have insured their motors after 31 December 2010 have collectively forked out enough to turn motor insurers’ dismal 121% combined operating ratio last year into an almost respectable 101%.

Although, obviously, that could just be a load of old b*llocks. We’ll have to wait until Q4 results are in to see. Or maybe longer. E&Y themselves note that bodily injury claims – which now account for 2/3rds of claims, up from 1/3rd ten years ago – “stay open ever longer, exposed to the ever-present threat of legislative and economic changes,” ever making it ever-harder for insurers (and E&Y) to ever “understand their true performance”.

Willis Re meanwhile, are quoted by Insurance Times making the startling claim that “some” drivers are facing increases of “up to” 50% (reminding Bankstone News that some statisitics are up to 100% meaningless), but that the frequency of large claims of “up to” £5m has dropped by 10% “when measured against premium income.” Put that it your pipe and smoke it, Bankstone News suggests.

The motor market is in a state of bloss, claimed Willis Redirector Richard Flux. People are paying more for their motor insurance, he argued controversially, but are less likely to be involved in serious accidents on our roads (serious for insurers because they tend to involve forking out a load of cash, serious for those involved because they tend to involve getting killed or maimed).

Those serious accidents that do persist in occurring, however, are costing around 10% more to settle than they did in 2010.

So there you have it. Swings and roundabouts really, init.

Completness is a nice ironic touch

December 9, 2011

Bankstone director Dickon Tysoe had his stylish sleeveless jersey out again for the claims firm’s annual Christmas party. The Bankstone team gathered at the Brighouse branch of Alan “Lord” Sugar’s Austrian-themed restaurant chain Amstrudel for predictably ribald yuletide hi-jinks.

Pictured below is the aforementioned Tysoe locked in a Bachanallian clinch with a mystery female companion (provisionally identified as Rebecca “Bex” Ineson).

More observant readers may have spotted Jim Eastward from Apprentice Series 7 in the background patiently guiding Leo Dicaprio and his guest Lady Gaga through the bewildering plethora of Mitteleuropean specialities on Amstrudel’s à la carte menu.

Zum Wohl!

December 9, 2011

Fears were raised this week over the future of Scotland’s precious stocks of palm trees as gusts of well over 150 miles an hour lashed the land of Braveheart.

Loss adjusters GAB Robins had the presence of mind to make PR capital from this human and sub-tropical vegetational tragedy by announcing to the press that “all of its adjusters are now on standby for a major incident.” (Just in case you were wondering where they’d all got to.)

GAB employees now dreading cancellation of their winter breaks in Antigua can only hope there’ll be enough Scots palms left so they won’t notice the difference too badly.

How Insurance Times broke the news of Scotland's imperilled arecaceae

December 9, 2011

Since Bankstone News covered news of TV’s Gary Lineker fronting telematic kids’ motor cover provider ingenue last week, describing him as clearly a good man, we have been literally bombarded by people throwing bombs. Which was a bit unexpected, quite frankly.

We have also been metaphorically bombarded by readers eager to point out that Mr Lineker is perhaps somewhat less saintly than his booking-free playing career and flawless (fully sleeved) pullovers might suggest and that, indeed, his own former wife once accused him of being unreasonable.

Be that as it may, Bankstone News was nonetheless delighted to see him all over the insurance papers again this week as Insurance Times exclusively revealed that ”Insurance Times previously reported Lineker was supporting the firm, but can now reveal his further involvement” i.e. that he actually has sunk some of his own money in the venture or, at least, that he has waived his fee for sitting on a sofa and reading a lot of old guff off an autocue in return for an undisclosed interest in ingenue’s future success.

Perhaps deceived by Lineker’s modestly self-deprecating manner and facial resemblance to the beardless member of Disney’s Seven Dwarfs, ingenue chief exec Dick King was pleasantly surprised by the presenter’s powers of comprehension. “He totally got it, totally understood it,” King insisted to Insurance Times, boasting that “Gary is very much part of the brand.”

King went on to predict of telematics boxes that everyone will have one soon. “Over the next 3-5 years it’s going to be a defacto thing,” he opined meaninglessly. “You’re probably going to have a box fitted,” he warned the paper’s reporter. Clearly a man with a fondness for fancy sounding foreign phrases, King want on to reveal that: “Our whole raison d’etre is to improve driver behaviour among young people.”

This declaration may have come as a less than welcome surprise to interested parties like Lineker who might naively have assumed there was some kind of profit-making agenda behind the venture.

December 8, 2011

“This report of my death was an exaggeration,” Mark Twain once noted laconically, when plainly the phrase he should have employed was the more fruitily ornate “Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”

Now, in a similar vein, Group Armagh chief exec Frank Boisseau has stated that his firm “would be around for a long time,” when he should surely instead have declared, as Gloria Gaynor and countless persons of unsettled personal life have insisted before him, “I will survive!”

Brokers have been getting on the French insurer’s case following various Eurocreek-triggered ratings downgrades. Swiss Re, who famously know loads of stuff and do real research and everything, recently concluded that if the the so-called GIPSI countries (Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland) were all to write down their debts by 50% it could decimate European insurers’ capital base two and a half times over (i.e. reduce them by 25%). Which would be quite bad.

Insurance Times (which as attentive readers may have noticed by now was the only insurance paper Bankstone News got round to plagiarising this week) noted that whilst insurers view a full-on Euro breakup (like a powerful electric fan in a busy drey) as very much a tail risk, the mere thought of it is putting the wind up many observers.

Cheer up Bankstone News, says, it might never happen!

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