Fantasy football reader offer corner

September 28, 2012

As fantasies go, being a football manager with a measly £55m to spend on a building a Premiership beating team strikes Bankstone News as somewhat tame. But that hasn’t stopped a massive ‘quite a few’ people rushing to sign up for Insurance Times’ Fantasy League ahead of the first scored games tomorrow afternoon.

Have you signed up yet? It’s something you could consider if you’ve really nothing better to do! If you’re a bona fide broker (is there any other kind?) you might even win a prize for having made a less foolish choice of players than all those other idiots. But you need to register and pick your team before 12.45 tomorrow when John ‘I never called you a ****ing foulmouthed racist’ Terry and his teammates put their dreams of becoming the new Arsenal to the sternest of all possible tests.

Hell, even Bankstone News has entered a team in the I League this year, so you can be pretty sure of beating at least one other fantasy manager – although… with a team that includes Martin Kelly, Neil Taylor and Daniel Agger, perhaps we could be in with a chance after all!

And while you cheer your virtual team on from the comfort of your home office, or wherever you do such things, you might wish to deck yourself out in the colours of your favourite team (go on, you might, just for argument’s sake), and what better way to do this than in a slightly too-tight absurdly overpriced shiny new replica shirt?

Let’s face it, almost any other way would be better, wouldn’t it! But, – not to worry – Bankstone News has a sartorial solution especially selected just for you! What’s more we have a special offer to go with it! What’s even more again, our special sartorial solution works equally well – arguably even better – if you leave the house and go to an actual football match or something. Can it be true? Yes – read on to find out how!

That’s right, in the latest in our highly popular line of special offer discounts (which has previously brought you unrepeatable deals on Swiss chalets, non-stick paint, pistachio tools, and glamour galoshes (glamloshes, as we like to call them), we are now proud to announce that ALL Bankstone News readers (yes, even you!) are now eligible – for a limited period only – for a literally stunning 15% discount on the exciting new tasteful spectatorwear sensation that is the Appleberry scarf.

Applebury is the brain wave of somebody we met down the pub or something who spotted that 750,000 grown men and women attend professional football matches in the UK ten months out of every twelve – and most of them look frankly ridiculous. But you don’t have to – that’s the beauty of it! Appleberry make high-quality tasteful scarves in the colours of your favourite team – but without lots of badges and branding and stuff – so you’ll look like a nice respectable rugby fan, not some low-life football hooligan oik. Plus your neck won’t get cold!

It’s genius, basically – and you know you have simply have to have one this instant – so don’t delay – hurry to www.appleberry.co.uk and order online quoting voucher code BS15 when you checkout to qualify for a full 15% (yes, FIF-TEEN per cent) discount on every neckpiece ordered. Tell ‘em Bankstone News sent ya!

Also great for meeting your friends for an impromptu picnic in a municipal park on a cloudy day or for walking over bridges in – see instructional video on the Appleberry website.

September 28, 2012

A young couple tour the forecourt of a used car dealership. Operatic price-comparison avatar Giorgio ‘Gio’ Compario suddenly appears out of nowhere, serenading them vigorously concerning the money-saving virtues of a certain website.

Meanwhile a man dressed 80s-casual struts, George The Bear style, past a bunch of kids playing football in the park. Spotting Compario across the road, he clutches his shopping bag with psychotic intensity, asks if he can “have a taste” of the kids’ ball, snarls “Saving, yeah? Try saving this!” and thumps the ball with savage intensity into Compario’s luxuriously upholstered midriff. The tenor collapses in startled agony.

“Yes!” ejaculates an air-punching Stuart Pearce – for it is he, his fondness for kicking balls straight at people clearly not limited to international goalkeepers – revelling in his victim’s pain. So far, so peculiar. And incidentally Bankstone News would strongly recommend that readers do not wander round public parks carrying shopping bags and asking random kids for a taste of their balls.

But what exactly are we meant to make of this peculiar glorification of casual thuggery?

As we patiently explained – if only you’d been paying proper attention – in a previous edition of Bankstone News, GoCompare finally twigged earlier this year that everybody in the UK had either become, or in the majority of cases, very possibly, had always been heartily sick of “Gio” Campari and his wearisome antics.

Reluctant to wave goodbye to the countless millions they’ve spent thrusting him in our faces, however, they decided to carry on using him – but to pretend they hated him too. Their ad agency creatives picked up this ball of an idea and ran far and fast with it, promulgating a comedy fatwa on Mr Compario and enlisting a bevy of has-been celebrities as their would-be assassins.

The first ad in the “Saving the Nation” campaign saw an initially anonymous balaclava-clad terrorist (subsequently revealed as Sue Barker, whose psychotic tendencies were previously less well documented than Pearce’s) making an unsuccessful attempt to kill Compario with an RPG. It’s happy slapping taken to a whole new level – with added (minor) celebrities!

But does the nation really want to see Compario suffer and die, Bankstone News wonders, or merely to be rid of his tedious price comparison songs (sadly, he still gets to sing in the new ads). Seeking the authentic voice of the nation, Bankstone News turned, of course, to YouTube. What are viewers saying there?

AwesomeFan2010 approves, commenting “GO STUART KILL HIM” and Olivia says “I like seeing him get beat up because 1 hes ugly 2 hes fat 3 hes annoying.” But ****ingwiththestars expresses concern over that “awkward moment when a child watches and thinks violence is ok”. “Sometime violence IS the answer”, AwesomeFan2010 insists. But bobgold seems confused: “I don’t know why that no-class ****head would want to hurt that nice singing character.”

Could it be his sponsor’s violent betrayal of their erstwhile protégé, is winning newfound sympathy for Compario?

Might a simpler way of saving the nation not be to stop running annoying price comparison ads?

When young Master Bankstone News Junior first saw the billboard campaign created to look as though some witty hoodlum had crossed out compare and scrawled away, he reacted with immediate and spontaneous mirth. “I bet skateboarders did that,” he speculated. Keen to snuff out such innocent illusions, Bankstone News advised the nipper that they’d printed it that way and it was all a cunning advertising ploy. Looking suddenly sad, deflated and bemused, the mite asked simply: “Why would they do that?”

Bankstone News neither knows nor cares, but the whole thing leaves a distinctly bad taste in the mouth.

September 27, 2012

There’s good new and bad new for the motor insurance market this week.

The bad news (as exclusively predicted by Bankstone News in a previous edition) is that interfering busybodies the (so-called) Office of Fair Trading (OFT) are referring the market to the Competitors’ Companion.

The good news is that – as OFT boss Clive Maximum put it this week – “there is no quick fix” and a CC investigation will take at least two years to carry out!

Until those CC geese come home to roast, insurance firms can continue taking full advantage of their money-no-object cervically resilient clients and/or the mysteriously plummeting motor insurance rates flagged up this week when comparisoneers Monkeysupermarket reported that motor insurance premiums have fallen by more than 10% in the past year.

Of course, if motor underwriting for fun and profit is not an option, there’s always ancillary income. This was, coincidentally, a topic touched upon in passing by Jonny Numan of Stockbrokers Brewer & Dolphin quoted this week in This is Money! warning his clients not to touch the Direct Lime float with a barge pole.

“I don’t see motor insurance as terribly profitable,” he tossed off with casual dismissiveness. “It’s very easy to get into,” he told the paper, explaining that there are no longer any “barriers to entry” in the motor market – aside, presumably, from common sense.

Motor insurers rely heavily on something called “ancillary income” he revealed. But now this ancillary income is apparently under threat from “regulatory pressure”. Could be something for Bankstone News to follow up in future editions…

“I do not at present see anything especially attractive in Direct Line,” Numan drawled laconically, judging that the best chance of wringing some kind of profit out of this enforced sell-off of state-owned assets was for institutional investors to say lots of cruel and disparaging things about what a disaster the flotation is going to be and thus make RBS drop its valuation. Then there might be some quick gains to be made when DLG bounces a bit post-flotation.

Oh well…

September 26, 2012

Insurance Times has been ploughing through the FSA’s latest statistical digest of complaints and complainers, and decided that an increasing number of them relate to insurance brokers.

Or, at least, they might do. Complaints about general insurance and pure protection products during the first half of 2012 accounted for over 70% of a total 3.5 million complaints about financial services providers. But most of the GI ones related to products sold by banks rather than GI intermediaries – PPI in particular.

But the 431,897 complaints made against GI intermediaries in the first half of this year was almost double the 246,250 recorded in the same period last year – and 42% of these were upheld.

Complaints against insurance GI intermediaries have been steadily creeping up since 2009, Insurance Times worries. Either that or the GI intermediaries in question have been writing them down more often.

But “the FSA figures on redress paid to consumers are jaw-droppingly bad for brokers,” Insurance Times insists, with GI intermediaries paying “£145.9m to consumers since 1 August 2009, when the FSA rejigged its complaints procedure.” That’s enough to get rid off those Swinton directors 52 times over!

The paper admits, however, that the exact degree of jaw droppage involved is a little hard to gauge since “the FSA counts about 6,000 firms in the ‘general insurance intermediary’ category, many of which sell insurance as a secondary service,” and “unfortunately, the FSA complaint statistics do not distinguish between the two, so the true proportion of blame is uncertain.”

In other words, we have little or no idea what these latest FSA stats tell us about brokers.

Undaunted, however, Insurance Times does not hesitate to spell out the inescapable question all UK brokers must ask themselves today: “What is the truth behind these figures?”

September 23, 2012

It all started off at 8am on Sunday 23 September at Guiseley Bowling Club. The team piling on the boneshaker of a minibus on route to the Lancashire/Yorkshire border town of Todmorden where the event was being held. Airedale, winners of division 5 of the Federation leagues up against the winners of the other 5 divisions.

On arrival at Todmorden’s Centre Vale Park, where there are 4 greens it was a race to the Burger van for a strength building Sausage, Bacon & Egg Butty before the 9.30 start.

Suitably nourished we took to the green against Bury, winners of the 4th Division. We had a 13 player squad, with the teams consisting of 10 players per team, so with us having to play 3 qualifying games we had to rotate our squad. We got off to a great start with the first three winners off the green (including Bankstone’s Mike Hall winning his game 21-11) but then Bury recorded a win and looked like getting another win with their player 20-14 up against our Steve Morris (The Dancer). However Dancer kept his cool and ran out to win 21-20. Three more winners in the last five gave us a 7-3 win.

On to the second game against Barnsley, winners of the 2nd division, on paper a hard game as they had won this event last year, but again we were off to a flyer with our young Burnley supporter Danny Carter playing with his claret & blue marbles winning 21-1. Barnsley fought back however, and we ended up 3-2 down after the first five jacks. Another two defeats made it 5-2 for Barnsley, but then came the fight-back, last three winners for Airedale to grab a 5-5 draw. Mike Hall lost his game 16-21 but was losing 17-6 at one stage so a good fight back.

The final section game saw us needing 4 winners to qualify for the final, and after losing the first two games we then won the next three with Mike Hall fighting back in his game from 9-2 down and 19-15 down to win 21-19. Three more winners in last 5 games saw us progress to final in comfort.

FINAL AIREDALE  v  MID-CHESHIRE  (Winners of Division 1 for the last three years)

Good start for Airedale with Bankstone’s Mike Hall winning his game 21-11 against Cheshire county player Tom Vickers, to record his third win of the day. But Airedale had only one  other winner out of the first five leaving us 8 behind on aggregate. However, another  two heavy defeats in the last five put us 30 behind with three games left on the green. Neil Nicholson (Nelly the Pink, ‘cos he has Pink Bowls) stormed to a 21-6 win, and class on grass Richard Stockdale won 21-7 to put us 1 point behind overall, with Graham (The Boss) Oliver (‘Cos he’s the oldest player in our team at 73 years old) 16-13 in front. No problem for the boss though, not letting his opponent score again to give us an overall victory by 7 points.

September 21, 2012

We have further motorsporting exploits to report this week, after Bankstone Racing leading light Andy “the silver fish” Jones beat off a stiff challenge from former racing driver and erstwhile BBC Top Geek presenter Tiffany Dell to clinch a triumphant second place in the 20 minute kart race in which a Cisco Systems track day at Blyton Park on 19 September culminated.

The Jones was there in the newly created roll of Bankstone IT Procurement Manager as the “plus-one” of Bankstone IT manager Simon Gould. As well as squeezing out and holding off Mr Needles in the kart race, AJ drove an Aston Martin DB9, which suited him very well indeed, he afterwards declared, and a Mazda MX5.

During the course of a fantastic day’s motorsports, he also had the pleasure of passenging a supercharged Ariel Atom, an M440 Noble, a Caterham R400, an Audi R8, a Vauxhall Chevette (yes, really!), and a Radical – about whose acceleration, cornering, braking, thrill factor, and, indeed, everything else he has not ceased enthusing since.

To compensate for his crushing defeat at the hands of Kartmeister Jones (Did we mention that yet? What – who won it? “Some pie dodger” is all we can tell you.”), Tuff Needles had the consolation of firsting in the Mazda MX5 auto test – so he needn’t feel too bad about being beaten off by the Duke of Jones, who only nudged Needles’ kart very lightly on that fateful bend, just for the record.

Jones (right) : magnanimous in victory

September 20, 2012

Chink. Chink. Chink. What IS that ominously repetitive sound?

Why, it’s the spurs on the authentic western boots worn by Martin “Wyatt” Wheatley, incoming sheriff of Regulation City, as he strides out onto the stage at the ABI’s “Way out West Conduct Regulation” Conference in London this week.

“Listen up, Folks, and listen good,” Wheatley spat out (his words the immediate precursors to a hefty wad of well-chewed tobacco) as the piano player stopped abruptly, someone dropped a whiskey glass, and the assembled delegates froze in their seats in nervous expectation: “Thar’s gonna be a few changes round here.”

Introducing what Insurance Times described as a “super aggressive” new approach, Wyatt Wheatley, his trigger finger restlessly flexing by his side, said he planned to “shoot first and ask questions later” (yes, he actually did say that bit).

So the days when the toothless FSA posse stood by peaceably and watched as insurance firms rode roughshod up and down Main Street Insuranceville over both the letter and the spirit of the regulatory writ will soon be dead and buried.

Once he’s in town to stay, if Wyatt Wheatley doesn’t like the look of your insurance product – he’ll ban it on the spot – not wait around collecting “evidence” like those limp-wristed FSA boys! Look at him a bit funny, and you’re likely to be leaving town in your best suit with a wooden box around it.

Hinting darkly at “tough new powers”, Dubya Dubya warned insurance people to “not even think” about mis-selling anything” because he has friends in high places who have given him carte blanche to give mis-sellers hell.

If such tough talk upsets you – best keep it to yourself – lest yours ends up in his book of names.

Super aggression comes to Insuranceville

Super aggression comes to Insuranceville

September 20, 2012

A court action reported this week by Insurance Times has helped uncover how money-grubbing police forces have for years been fleecing decent hard working insurance companies with trumped up storage charges for vehicles held while criminal investigations are underway.

It seems one insurer, Uvavu, has finally had enough and is taking the matter to court. In a cynical bid to fund their so-called “crime-fighting” lifestyles, fat cat Warwickshire cops held one Uvavu policyholder’s Corsa for a whopping 77 days (while they claimed they were investigating a “possible” offence of causing death by dangerous driving) and then tried to charge Uvavu an absurdly inflated £20 per day for “storing” the Corsa!

Faced with a bill for £1,540 – which will inevitably put up the premiums paid by ordinary working Brits to insure their cars – Uvavu have decided to take the matter all the way to the High Court of Great UK, where they are seeking their money back – plus £500 for “good measure”. If the case goes in Uvavu’s favour, it could set a precedent that will put an end to this vile practice once and for all!

High time too, says Bankstone News, if motor insurers are forced to bankroll the exploits of police forces up and down the land – to the tune of an estimated “millions” every year – how are they ever going to reduce the premiums ordinary hardworking motorists have to pay?

If the police want to stockpile RTA vehicles while they “investigate” alleged crimes, they can jolly well pay for it themselves – or cut back on some of their other extravagances like traipsing about all day yakking into walkie-talkies.

How refreshing to see that the worm has finally turned and stood up proudly for its rights.

September 19, 2012

Regular readers of Bankstone News will doubtless recall how in last week’s story concerning the Insurance Injurance karting event at Daytoner Milton Kindness, we posed you a puzzle. With a coveted lifetime’s subscription to Bankstone News as the prize, we challenged readers guess to which of the companies mentioned in our report the accompanying image elliptically alluded.

To recap briefly those organisations were: PSUCK, Lamp, Sagicore, NCI Insurance, Key Choice, Copart, Bankstone, Driver Cyst, Ace Group, Group Armagh, Sleasycall, and Glass Olutions.

First to spot that our impressively hi-res version of John Constable’s The Haywain was a cryptic reference to Copart was Jerry Dalton of Strobes Ingliss Norton, who wins a lifetime’s subscription – absolutely free of charge – unless you count a lifetime’s pestering calls asking whether Bankstone can offer Strobes Ingliss Norton a professional outsourced claims service – along with our hearty congratulations.

We also had a number of sadly incorrect guesses, including one particularly thoughtful and original suggestion from Steve Chelton of Swinton fame, whose submission so impressed us that we have decided to award a second a lifetime’s sub to him (same caveats apply, clearly) and to reproduce his losing entry here:

“In response to the reader comp in this week’s magnificent BN, I have carefully studied the majestic piece of artwork depicted and believe I may have solved the riddle.

In perhaps his most famous landscape painting, Constable depicts a typical driver of the time (c.1820) struggling with one of the more tricky sections at East Anglia’s notoriously challenging Flatford Cart Track.

Whether from over excitement or sheer recklessness, the driver appears to have lost control of his vehicle and ended up in the murky lake lurking alongside a tricky right hand bend.

The striking resemblance borne by Constable’s driver to a prominent motor claims industry personality whose initials, correspond with those of Milton Keynes, home of the recent karting event featured in your report, whilst poetically apt, is, I suspect, a red herring.

The key to this riddle, in my opinion, is a conversation traditionally held to have taken place between the driver and his passenger. A conversation, which I believe must have gone something like this…

The passenger, who has doubtless already turned off his mobile phone in anticipation of the myriad of incoming calls about to ensue, enquires of the suspiciously MK-like driver as to the cause of his inept performance.  MK (let us call him that for now) responds sharply to this impertinent enquiry in a tense high-pitched cockney accent: ‘I was doin’ awright mate, but just as I hit that tight right hander, I shifted in my seat, my cheeks squeezed together, and I felt a searin’ pain right up through me torso. It was all I could do to keep the cart upright!’
 
“What,” asks the passenger, with obvious concern, “you don’t mean…” “Fraid so, mate”, says the driver miserably, “It’s a nasty case of Driver Cyst!”

September 14, 2012

What a day it was! Many assumed the UK sporting calendar had reached its soaring apotheosis with all the excitement around the Olympics and Paralympics. Not so. Last Friday’s Insurance Endurance karting marathon at the internationally renowned Daytona Milton Keynes track only went and trumped them all! This was the event that quite literally had it all: go-karts, men in overalls, tarmac, tyres, bacon rolls… You name it, Insurance Endurance had it in spades!

Specifically, it had nearly 20 handpicked teams of death-defying demon drivers contending fiercely with one another in their super-fast karts as they tore round a twisting and turning track of tyre-trimmed tarmac for a full six hours, until at last one team emerged as the one to have gone round more times than any other. That team, as it turned out, was the team named psuck.com, closely followed by the one called Lamps Champs, of whose unfortunate brush with engine failure regular readers may recall having read in our previous “Live from Milton Keynes” edition.

Who or what psuck might be, Bankstone News, as usual, had frankly no idea. Seeking further information on these dark-horse mystery people, Bankstone News was aided in its investigations by the fact that the team’s name corresponded fortuitously with the website url of the organization in question. The home page explains succinctly that PSUCK “will help you select customised solutions for you and your company. Our website provides you with lots of important information about our comprehensive range of specialist services.” So now you know. ‘Well done you psuckers!”, we say here at Bankstone News.

There were lots of other teams there, of course, namely (in reverse order of being a bit rubbish) Sagicore 1, NCI Insurance, General Lee, Key Choice 2, Copart, Bankstone Racing (yay!), The Bike Insurer, Sagicore 3, Driver Cyst, Bankstone News (double yay!), Sagicore 2 (enough with the Sagicores already!), Ace Group, Bonne Chance (representing Group Armagh – see last week’s BN), Sleasycall, Key Choice 1, Au Revoir UK, and Glass Olutions.

Copart’s team included one swarthily surly individual bearing an uncanny resemblance to Bankstone News’ occasional motoring correspondent Marty Butch – although he strongly denied being, having met, or having even heard of Mr Butch – so it can’t have been him, Bankstone News supposes. In a sneaky attempt to wrest the coveted Pit Stop Challenge from its rightful owners, Bankstone Racing, Copart included several fitters from their motor vehicle disassemblage centre in their team.

Their evil plan came within an ace of succeeding, with all four tyre on the F1 racer off and on again in under 10 seconds. All went awry at the last, however, when trigger happy nut gunner Sara Stainsby on the “back wheel on the passenger side” (nearside rear) omitted in her excitement to supply the requisite nut tension – resulting ultimately in a less than triumphant time of 45.2 seconds. Fortunately, Sara was one of only a very small number of women permitted to sully the occasion with their lamentable want of masculinity.

Bikesure’s Simon Toop must surely scoop the award for most pleasing decorative accessory (i.e. for having one, not being one). He came dressed in a charming and elegant Bankstone Racing cap. Less subtly Lloyd Geddes came dressed head to foot as Spiderman, thereby making his reckless endangerment of other drivers and their vehicles all the more obvious to the track marshals (see last week’s again).

Bankstone Racing team member Damian Cross incurred the fierce derision of macho team boss Brawlin’ Dick Tyson for driving in golf gloves in a vain attempt to protect what Tyson described as “what Captain Redbeard Rum would describe as the hands of a woman”. All to no avail, sadly, Tyson reveals, as the unfortunate Cross ended up with blisters the size of “small dinner plates” as he completed the team’s final stint to secure a highly creditable 8th place – just 18 laps behind the winning team.

Pete Aikenhead nobly substituted for Bankstone News team leader Davy-Jane McManus who retired to the pavilion feeling “delicate” and muttering something about having a newsletter to write.

Major plaudits and nuff respect to Nick Keen for organising all the Bankstone Racing driver changes and to Steady Eddie Moule for resolutely ignoring all the pit boards calling him in – to the point where members of the pit crew were overheard discussing the lobbing of tyres at him as he sped merrily past yet again.

What larks, eh!

Be sure you don’t miss next year’s event, which promises to be even bigger and better – not least because it won’t be happening on the same day as the UK Broker Awards.

READER COMPETION Name the team to which the image above refers obliquely and win a lifetime's subscription to Bankstone News. Answers by email only to editor@bankstone-news.co.uk

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