Back off you bankers, says Gallbreath

September 13, 2012

It’s got to be worth a try, hasn’t it? In his prestigious figurehead role as supreme paladin of British insurance broking, veteran bruiser Eric Gallbreath this week jumped down temporarily from the trundling BIIBBA float and leapt aboard the nearby bandwagon on which that much reviled hate figure ‘the banker’ is currently getting a sound kicking – or would be if the impact weren’t so amply cushioned by sackfuls of usurer’s notes, taxpayers’ money, and fresh-minted quantative ease.

It’s time to ban bankers from selling general insurance, says Eric. Taking the recent declaration from FSA managing director Martin Wheaty that perhaps all those sales incentives might be encouraging bank staff to mis-sell insurance products (really, d’ya think?!) as his cue, EG opines that Britain should imitate the illustrious example of Canada by banning banks from selling GI altogether. Except, of course, presumably, through all those brokers they own?

Commenting on Wheaty’s announcement, Gallbreath ironically congratulates the FSA on taking “a step towards recognising the role that banks have played in the mis-selling of financial products”, but insists that only an outright ban on banks will do.

Sick of his collaterally damaged ass taking a pounding from all those boots aimed ineffectually at ‘the banker’, Gallbreath complains that “Our sector has been tarnished by the practises of other institutions, whose main business is not insurance and [who?] have mis-sold insurance products.” Bankstone News had its sector tarnished once, and can confirm that this is definitively not a pleasant experience.

Let’s face it, if there’s ever been a cat’s chance in hell of brokers nicking some business back from over-mighty financial institutions, this has got to be it. So, ‘well said, Eric,’ we say here at Bankstone News. Let’s get behind his call for banks to “focus on their core business” (accepting government handouts, protecting their capital from would-be borrowers and paying huge bonuses, presumably) and “not be allowed to directly sell general insurance.”

Come on then, FSA – why not seize this chance to go out in a blaze of glory by saving insurance brokers and their representative bodies the bother of communicating the value of their advisory services and competing with banks for the business of GI Joe Public.

September 12, 2012

Thinking of starting up a new an innovative new insurance venture? Don’t bother! By the time you get approval from the FSA or its twin peaked successor bodies you’ll probably have lost all interest and quite possibly the will to live. That was the sober warning this week from law firm Reynolds Pooter Chamberpot (RPG) who reckon firms applying for FSA approval now have to wait an average 22.9 weeks.

That’s as good as saying you’ll have to wait 23 weeks, because that extra point nine takes you through to 7am on the last day of the 23rd week – which is probably going to be the weekend anyway. By then you’ll have waited the best part of half a year and probably wandered off and started doing something less frustrating.

Back in the first quarter of 2007, RPI note in their press release, firms waited on average no more than 8 weeks. At the current rate of increase this suggests that firms seeking regulatory approval in 2022 will have to wait around 207 weeks for regulatory approval – til 2026 in other words.

Although, of course, things are bound to improve with the demise of the FSA and the joyous advent of its twin peaky successors – unless, for some strange reason, getting twin approvals from twin regulators still trying to work out what the twin they are supposed to be doing proves unexpectedly more complicated and time consuming than getting only-child approval from the FSA.

RIP regulatory partner Dick Burger warned that long waiting times could stifle competition and innovation. “The time taken for approval can put off firms seeking approval,” he noted. This is surely right, in Bankstone News‘ humble opinion. But surely a bigger worry is that it might even put them off seeking approval in the first place.

Having made the alarmist suggestion that the whole twin peaks thing might actually make things worse rather than better, Mr Burglar goes on to suggest that all may not be lost if the peaksters can put the next few months to good use and pluck the nettle of opportunity from thorns of two stools: “This overlapping period is an opportunity for them to overhaul the process of approval, rather than simply follow the mould of its predecessor.”

Wise words again. Let’s face it, following a mould never got anyone anywhere! Normally when people put out press releases highlighting troublesome challenges in the market they go on to outline some solution they can offer (at a price). Nobly, RPG appear to have eschewed any such vulgarity in favour of a welcome and timely call to regulators present and future to pull their bleedin’ fingers out. How refreshing!

September 12, 2012

Driving under the influence of alcohol killed 280 people on Britain’s roads in 2011 – a 12% increase on the previous year – yet the UK still frowns less severely on drink-drivers than any other European Country. That’s according to a report on the latest stats released by the Department for Transport (DafT) in high-speed news organ Fleet News this week.

In the UK it’s still perfectly legal to tear about the country’s road network in your four-wheeled killing machine of choice (or, indeed, on or in the two, three, six, eight, ten or twelve-wheeled ditto) with a stinking 80mg per 100ml of brain-addling alcohol raging round your bloodstream.

That’s 30mg more than in places like Portugal and Italy – and fully four times the limit in Poland and the Netherlands. Chillingly it’s also enough to slow reaction speeds significantly and cause previously normal individuals to drool inadvertently, laugh at the stupidest things, lust after salty snacks, and take an unexpected fancy to demonstrably unattractive colleagues.

The DafT’s statistics show that alcohol was a factor in all but 85% of road deaths – prompting calls (see below) for the limit to be cut to 20mg or even (worryingly for fans of chocolate liqueurs and tiramisu – and for Bankstone News whose blood was that of a mere child the last time it contained no alcohol at all) to zero.

A zero mg limit would certainly rule out driving the morning after consuming alcohol – thereby making a 24-hour driving ban out of even the mildest flirtation with intoxicating spirits.

But alcohol is just the tip of a vast driver-faculties-impairment iceberg. A jaw-dropping 18% of those killed on Britain’s roads according to DafT stats were drug crazed maniacs (aka “tested positive for drugs” – and we’re not talking paracetamol here!) Research from Brake and Direct Line reveals, Fleet News claims, that 1 in 9 young persons now admit to driving high on drugs.

That’s why Brake is “calling on drivers to pledge never to drink or take drugs and drive – not a drop, not a drag – because even small amounts of either affect your ability to drive safely.” While they are at it, male drivers, at least, might also want to consider chemical castration.

It it is a well know fact that men think about sex every seven seconds – which is to say 8,000 times a day – leaving minimal mental capacity for other functions such as steering, braking, hazard recognition etc. One need only think back to the RTA reign of terror that accompanied the Wonderbra “Hello Boys” poster campaign to recognise the scale of the threat here.

Bankstone strongly urges all its readers to take the pledge or take the bus – where it is, of course, perfectly safe and acceptable to get out of your head on booze and drugs and entertain whatever vile and perverted thoughts you wish.

September 7, 2012

This week’s issue of Bankstone News comes to you live and direct from the Insurance Endearance pro-karting event at Daytona Milton Keynes, where spills and thrills have been the order of the day from beginning to end.

While others endured the predicatable tedium of the prestigious Broker Awards ceremony in the dingy bowels of the City of London’s Brewery beer halls, Bankstone Racing, Bankstone News and some other people enjoyed the bright MK sunshine and a thrilling six (yes, six!) full hours of adrenaline fuelled antics out on the kart track.

Shame for anyone to miss out on such fun. Particularly regrettable, Bankstone Supremo Dickon Tysoe noted, that teams from Easi Drive, RTR (Road to Ruin), Fourth Dimension and Compass Costs had ultimately missed out on this great day out.

We’ll be bringing you a full report on this fantastic day’s motorsports in next week’s edition – together with the results and placings of a race that is still in progress as Bankstone News goes to press. We can already reveal however that Bankstone Racing have once again won the hard-fought pitstop challenge – see previous issues – by changing all four tyres on an F1 car a full four seconds faster than any other team. Whether triumph awaits in the main event is somewhat less certain.

Those who drive outrageously at such events are generally well advised not to draw attention to themselves through their manner of attire. This lesson was clearly lost on one member of the Adrian Flux team who caught the eye – and indeed the ire – of track marshals by shunting other karts aside with gay abandon – all the while dressed as Spiderman. Not subtle.

Whilst Daytona’s new karts performed superby, reaching previously unimaginable speeds and generally slowing down a bit when brakes were applied, strong contenders Lamp Champs had some rotten luck with their kart when the engine twice blew up, forcing them to come in for trackside repairs and losing them their hard won number 2 position – at least temporarily. Andrew Gordon of legal expenses insurance firm Lamp, noted ruefully that his team, which had achieved two first places and two second places in six previous outings, might now struggle to secure a podium place. More importantly, he recalled how he had featured as an extra in Steven Spielberg’s Warhorse two summers back after a choir he sang in was picked to feature in an ultimately cut scene during the six-day Castle Coombe location shoot.

But we digress… As Bankstone News went to press were in first place with Lamp Champs having hauled themselves back up the field into second place. Can the leaders hold them off for another 2 hrs? Only time will tell…

September 7, 2012

Group Armagh UK and Ageas have sworn one another to silence for a period of four weeks while they huddle and haggle over the former’s mooted sale to the latter. It was for precisely this reason that the Group Armagh contingent at today’s Insurance Endurance karting event in Milton Keynes would say nothing about the matter.

As the (still just about) French-owned insurer’s two teams, mysteriously named Au Revoir UK and Bon Chance, hurtled round the track at literally quite fast speeds, the Group Armagh boys remained resolutely tight-lipped about the fact that the UK operations of Group Armagh (pronounced Group-ama) are being sold to Ageas (pronounced a-gay-ass, we think, probably).

Nor were they willing to speculate upon the future of their mascot Anton the Ant, who may now be looking for fresh opportunities. If any Bankstone News reader believes their own company may be lacking the charm and character that only a not-too-big-not-too-small insect can bring to their marketing, please consider Anton, who, like Johnny Vegas’ friend Monkeh who famously switched from ITV Digital to PG Tips, may shortly be open to offers. Maybe another insurance firm might want to pick up that whole “small enought to care” thing. Hell, we’d have him ourselves in a flash, if it weren’t for Mrs Bankstone News’ irrational fear of giant bipedal insects.

The fact that Anton (known to be a keen karting aficionado) was not present on the day, could perhaps be significant in itself. Representatives of Carole Nash (who also arrived without their cuddly mascot former boss Carole Nash) were also at the Insurance Endurance event today, but, as yet, could add nothing to the discussion Group Armagh resoluted refused to have about being sold by French parents.

For Group Armagh, at least, however, it looks as though what Insurance Age colourfully termed a “period of limbo” may finally be nearing its end.

Although (clearly) nothing was said on the topic of the proposed takeover at the trackside, Bankstone News believes it may have gleaned one snippet of information. It is this. Whereas Insurance Times suggested that Ageas had “swooped” on Group Armagh, a source (not, obviously, anyone from that company) may have let slip in Bankstone News’ presence that it was in fact not so much a swoop as a pounce.

You read it here first!

September 7, 2012

Love them or hate them, Bankstone News’ old friends Justine Greebling and Mike Pennis were certainly transport secretary and parliamentary under-secretary at the DfT respectively. But now they aren’t. The recent ministerial reshuffle has seen both shunted off beyond the realms of transportion.

Her nimbyotic anti-business opposition to expanding Heathrow Airport across the remainder of Middlesex is widely believed to have necessitated Greebling’s removal. The same applies to her minister Theresa DeVille whose has been shuffled off to Northern Ireland, leaving the way clear for the government to conduct a rational and impartial enquiry into whether or not to do what its financial backers tell it over Heathrow.

This wholesale clear-out at Transport brings the disobliging necessity of requiring Bankstone News to learn the names of some other bunch of bastards.

Greebling’s successor as transport secretary is somebody called Patrick McGoohan, aka Mr Whippy, who was instrumental in failing to persuade 91 conservative MPs to back Lords reform recently, thereby banging what will likely prove one of the final nails into the coffin of the so-called coalition.

DeVille’s replacement is veteran smoothy Simon “Carpet” Burns, a ruddy faced natural strawberry blond who rose to notoriety by calling speaker John Bercow a “stupid sanctimonious dwarf”. Pennis’ replacement is former Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond, who takes special responsibility in his new role for buses.

It’s pretty clear this new lot spell a brighter future for the UK air transportation sector, but what will they mean for motor transport? No idea, mate!

September 7, 2012

Insurance Age reported this week that forcibly dissected insurance group Direct Lime insists that brokers will see “absolutely no change” as a result of the proposed axing of between 50 and 60 staff on the commercial side of its business which includes NIG, Direct Lime for Business and BIS.

This, presumably, is because all of those getting the chop were time-wasting layabouts who contributed precisely nothing to their employers’ functional performance. Probable confirmation of this came with the revelation that the redundancy axe will mostly fall within inessential areas such as support services, sales and something called risk management.

A Direct Lime Group spokesbeing told Insurance Age that “it’s not nice news but” now is “the right time for looking at efficiency across the business”.

Perhaps if NIG had abandoned its puzzling former squeamishness about jettisoning useless staff a little sooner, it could have saved itself the considerable trouble and expense of servicing brokers way beyond any reasonable need or expectation.

Those still in jobs at NIG, the spokesbeing confirmed, are “reviewing their cost base and looking at their bottom lime.”

And, let’s be honest, there’s never a bad time to do that!

Oh no, wait, we COULD do what we do without you!

Oh no, wait, we COULD do what we do without you!

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