Insurance broking needs you!

February 27, 2013

Regular readers will recall from last week’s issue that Bankstone News has developed an unhealthy fascination with the compellingly ludicrous spectacle that is Insurance Age’s Broker Apprentice. For anyone who’s been living in a cave or doesn’t have interweb or whatever, the set-up is as follows.

Chris “Hanky” Hanks of Alley Ants pretends to be Lord Sir Alan Sugar (flanked by Age editor M. N. U. L. “Kenny” Kenning and his boss Jonno “Swifty” Swift in the traditional roles of Nick and Margaret – though we’re still not quite sure which one’s meant to be which) whilst sundry insurance bods vie for right to be called (fanfare, deep voice) Broker Apprentice.

Episode 4, which went out this week (or more exactly which began sitting in a publicly visible location on the Insurance Age website this week), showed the five hapless contestants attempt to create a two-page print ad to go into “a student newspaper” that would convince bright young people to forget about university and plunge straight into the varied and stimulating world of insurance broking.

First to present his ideas to Chris and the boys was task-two winner Oliver “Olly” Layers, whose ad features a portion of the Lloyd’s building and a giant banner headline proclaiming KEEP CALM YOU DON’T NEED UNI, and explains that “You don’t need a degree to have a lucrative career in insurance broking”. Hanky was hoping Olly’s ad might give him some clue as to what insurance broking is. Alas, he is disappointed.

In Olly’s defence, the ad does make clear that without insurance “the Olympics wouldn’t have taken place,” “you can’t drive your car” and “your first property won’t be covered”. It also reveals (under the heading Insurance Facts!!!) that David Beckham’s clapped out old legs are insured for $70m, a full $32m more than Michael Flatley’s tediously twiddly feet, and that Tom Jones’ $7m chest hair is worth a million more than Rod Stewart’s voice.

In explaining the rationale for his ad, Olly makes an unfortunate slip by saying he is trying to inject a bit of fun and excitement because “insurance is not the most exciting of industries”, before quickly adding “or – it’s not perceived to be the most exciting of industries.”

Kenny agrees that Olly’s copy-light ad is eye-catching, but has concerns, suggesting that as a young person his reaction might be “Ooh, I’ll get to do things with footballers and movie stars – or singers – but what do I do next?” Where, in other words, is the call to action?

Well it’s only a first draft, Olly insists, alluding to the potential existence of a “final version” that would include contact details. It would be “an ad for our brokerage” he says shamelessly and would say contact us.

Next up is Jonathan Gannet, whose ad Hanky likes because it is clean and colourful. “It’s very clean”, he says approvingly, several times. Jonathan’s main headline asks “Are you bright, ambitious and ready to develop your future? Then insurance broking might be right for you.” It goes on to list the benefits of a career in insurance broking, which include earning money “whilst continuing to develop”, portability (“take YOUR career where you want to go”) and “start working in dynamic exciting environment”, before asking provocatively, “Insurance broking – how far do you want to take it?”

The obvious flaw in Jonathan’s ad is that it still doesn’t tell Hanky what insurance broking is. He’s never going to find out at this rate! Plus: Swifty has spotted another problem. It’s Merv Hughes. “I’m nearly 40”, Swifty admits ruefully, “and I know who he is” but does anybody else? Hughes features in a section of Jonathan’s ad that explains graphically how insurance covers “everything from sports clubs to property to famous walrus moustaches”. But Swifty isn’t having it. Struggling to defend the Australian sportsman’s relevance to young people, Jonathan can only offer: “the reason why I settled on Merv Hughes was more because of the moustache” than because of Hughes himself. Citing the increasingly influential “Movember” facial-hair-for-charity phenomenon, he explains that “it is becoming kind of fashionable with young people in a niche way to maybe not grow a moustache but to have like a kind of interest.”

With Jonathan effectively dead in the water, it’s Katy up next. “What does a broker do?” asks an increasingly desperate Hanky. Will Katy’s ad provide elucidation? Yes and No. Her ad provides a lot of information about what one individual broker does – but rather less about brokers in general.

“Insurance broking…. success lies within saying yes!!” her ad declares mysteriously, before going on to suggest that insurance broking will appeal to people who are “18 and like the idea of a successful career in an industry that is stimulating and varied.”

Katy, it soon becomes clear, has based her ad squarely on herself, thinly disguised in male form as Toby Smith. “I have given an example of Toby who was 18 himself,” she says, “and didn’t want to go to university but decided to pursue the brokerage route.” Toby, we read, had an “offer I couldn’t refuse” to join a broking firm, where he had an “impressive salary” and “the option to further my studies” by taking CII exams. Now at the age of 23, Toby (Katy) has an advanced diploma and is individually chartered. “If that doesn’t impress you,” Toby/Katy concludes, “I don’t know what will.”

Hanky reiterates his disappointment over not learning more about brokers in general. WIth hindsight, Katy accepts, she might have done things a little differently. But she says she “didn’t give Toby a pacific title” (Earl of Tahiti or Prince of Peace perhaps?) because she wanted to stress that “you don’t have to do one pacific job to be successful” and that there are “many roles within the industry.”

Katy’s ad does include one interesting novelty that the others lack: a competition. Readers of the hypothetical student paper are challenged to enter a single-question multiple guess competition by text to qualify for the chance to say yes to insurance broking. The question is: what does the FSA stand for (“aside from no nonsense, obviously”, it neglects to add). The options provided are a) Financial Service Authority, b) Financial Service Agency, c) Financial Service Agreement. To which the answer, presumably, is none of the above.

Trick question or not, Hanky reckons it’s still too easy. He tells Katy he likes the fact she’s included a call to action, but thinks her simplistic competition might attract “the homeless guy in the doorway”. “Would you like to have a person who smells sitting in your office,” he asks her frankly, adding after duly noting her apparent unconcern, “I don’t know.” But with his previously noted penchant for cleanliness, Hanky certain wouldn’t want smelly people hanging round the Allez-Ants offices. He tells her she need to tighten up the rules – to exclude homeless people, presumably.

Ashley’s ad also includes a case study (again a barely disguised self-portrait, this time as Mr J Bloggs). His big idea is climbing ladders. This he feels (perhaps prompted by talk of ladders in Task 1) provides the perfect metaphor for the diversity of career opportunities available to school leavers within the insurance broking industry. “Insurance broking has a ladder for everyone,” the ad proclaims, “and within an industry this broad the opportunities are endless” A bit like ladders, really.

Bloggs, we learn, has gone from earning £11k as an office junior to bringing in £40k at the age of 25, and regrets only that he “cannot recommend insurance broking highly enough.”

Hanky thinks the ladder thing has legs. “I thought this was very clever actually, Ashley” he says, adding “the whole notion of climbing ladders is a good idea”. Ash also scores points for being the only candidate to include social media details at the foot of his add, and for having given thought to things like a website, partnerships with recruitment agencies, a programme of school visits and so on.

“I didn’t want it to be too gimmicky or mascots,” Ash says, “I didn’t even want any celebrities in there.” No celebrities seems controversial given the youthful audience at whom the campaign is targeted, but “when you are 18 looking for a job, it’s a serious business,” he stresses – and nobody contradicts him.

Final contestant Holly, on the other hand, has lots of celebrities in her “eye catching” ad. What do Gaga, Rihanna and Ronaldo have in common?, her ad asks. The answer, of course, is insurance! “Insurance is more glamorous than you may think,” it advises us, “with opportunities to travel the world and gain recognised qualifications through the Chartered Institute of Insurers.” If this sounds good, wait until you read on to discover that “Jobs available include Claims Handling, Compliance, Sales, Marketing, IT,” and er… “Aviation and Space,” her list concludes incongruously.

Any suspicions of plagiarism aroused by this abrupt shift from a list of job roles to a list of classes of insurance (possibly featured one above the other in the original source material) is only confirmed when she signs off by noting that “we are looking for dynamic, talented, ambitious individuals to join one of the world’s leading proefessional organisations.”

Whether Hanky ever did find out what insurance broking involves (aside from handsome remuneration, variety, international travel and the chance to mingle with celebrities), Bankstone News remains uncertain, but he generously declares that he has seen five fantastic ads – as good as anything an agency could come up with. He really liked Olly’s Keep Calm don’t go to university thing, but concedes that in the final analysis “I love the notion of climbing ladders.

So it’s Ashley who carries the day, leaving only Jonathan and Holly without a win so far. Holly’s probably not too worried though. She’s roped in all her mates to vote for her on the Insurance Age website and had 96% of the online vote last time Bankstone News checked. If that doesn’t impress you, we don’t know what will!

February 26, 2013

What a scam: HMG requires us to purchase motor insurance – and then hammers us with a literally punitive tax penalty for so doing!

The link between motor insurance and taxation hasn’t escaped BIBA’s ever-vigilant Eric Gallbreath who warned the government this week that it should not even think about putting up Iniquitous Punishment Tax (IPT) in the Budget later this month.

Such a move, he argues, would be “counter-intuitive” and would risk undoing (or possibly preempting) any good done by the coalition’s laudable attempts to bring down premiums by giving insurers the civil litigation “reforms” they have requested.

In a dramatically leaked letter destined never to be opened by Chancellor Gideon Oliver “Squeaky” Osborne, Gallbreath urged the government to “work more closely” with BIBA in 2013 “to assist Britain’s economic recovery”.

But does BIBA have the necessary wherewithal to influence government policy? What do you think, Reader?!

February 22, 2013

There is no Bankstone story this week. Just because you are reading it, you might innocently assume that there is. There is not.

Why? Because the feckless and frankly bone idle editor refuses to write anything. Might it not, you counter suspiciously (what is it with you and all this suspicion?!), might it not simply be because there is nothing of interest to report about leading outsourced professional claims handling firm Bankstone this week?

It might most emphatically not! There have been plenty of very interesting and newsworthy developments at Bankstone this week – not to mention the exemplary ongoing story of sustained professional excellence that is the Bankstone day to day (something amply attested by the habitually bulging sacks of Derren Winkshaugh who collects up all the gushing letters the firm receives from amply satisfied clients and their customers).

No indeed. We could tell you about the latest bizarre costumes Bankstone bossman Dickson Tythebarn has been squeezing into for some supposedly good cause or other – or where the ever-mysterious and illusive Andrew “Andy” Jones has disappeared to this week (if only we knew). But, no, our abject apology for a so-called editor simply can’t be bothered to lift a finger, place it on a keyboard, lift, repeat etc.

All the worthless b*gger does is stare listlessly at the old newspapers, pork scratchings packets, and other accreted detritus that lies inches deep across most of his sticky-surfaced desk, taking occasional swigs from a hip flask he probably thinks we haven’t noticed and tunelessly humming the theme to 1960s childrens TV import the Flashing Blade. Maybe someone should wander over and give him a prod or a kick or something. He’s never going to get anything written that way!

February 21, 2013

It’s not just whiplash claimants who are willfully pushing up the price of insurance for everyone else. Oh, Deary Me, no! There’s other culprits aplenty besides. Not the least of whom are all those meerkat-loving premium increase dodgers who allow themselves to be tempted by the gaudily childish ads of price comparison sites. Faithless turncoats, the lot of them – ship-hopping vermin who’ll switch insurers at the drop of a few measly premium pence (and/or several hundred quid, as the case may be).

Tenorcidal comaprisoneers GoCampari.com put out a press release this week complaining that – according to their latest “research” – one in three UK drivers (gasp) simply “allows their insurance to renew” at the end of the year. That’s at least, 8.7 million motorists who have definitely not taken advantage of the switch-abetting services that GoCompo.com and their pals so noisily tout. Imagine: that’s as many comparison shirking motorists – in the UK alone – as there are species of living creatures on the planet. Oh Dear, this is awful – what a scandal, you are probably thinking.

A scandal? WTF are you talking about? Are you for real? Why, you pathetically misguided excuse for a reader of online newsletters! It is absolutely right and proper that motor insurance policyholders should stick with their incumbent providers, for as long as they both shall live ideally.

To do otherwise cruelly deprives the insurance company of the opportunity to nudge your premiums up a tad over time to the point where, eventually, they have just about made up for the unrealistically low price they quoted to attract your business in the first place. If you rush off into the cut-price embrace of another insurer, they’ll have to find other ways of making money – and that puts upward pressure on everyone else’s premiums.

So don’t fall for cheap promises that you’ll be better off for spending an hour or two clicking and key-clicking your way through the countless data-hungry screens that lurk behind the smiling face of those comparison sites. You may be – but at what price?!

And don’t let yourself be brow-beaten or shamed into comparing. What is it to you if GoCampario.com make fun of the the 29% of auto-renewers who did so because their insurer was cheapest last time so they “thought they would offer good value at renewal” or the pitiful fools (or so they’d have you believe) who did so “out of loyalty to the insurer” (28%). Are you the kind of person who fears the mean-spirited mockery of comparisoneers?!

Commenting on this latest research, Ned Kelly, head of motor services at GoatCompare.com, said “the best advice is to shop around.” Don’t listen to him, Reader!

February 21, 2013

Large areas of the British Isles are rapidly turning black on Keogh’s motor fraud map and that can only mean one thing: massive motor fraud. On a chromatic scale where green means good, orangey-yellow a bit bad, red quite bad, and black really bad, vast swathes of the Midlands, North West and London have already fallen into darkness and many more are glowing a febrile malevolent red.

Birmingham is the worst place in the UK, Keogh’s confirm uncontroversially. For a fourth year running the Midlands Metropolis scored highest for “all types of motor fraud”, accounting for a mind-billowing 7.76 per cent of all “suspect motor insurance claims across England and Wales”.

How does Keogh’s know all this?, you may may be wondering: they don’t really, only God does, but they probably have some kind of a clue as they’re doing very nicely, thank you, by billing “a host of the country’s top insurers” shedloads of cash for looking into “over 24,000” suspicious looking claims in 2012 alone.

Birmingham remains top UK hotspot for motor fraud in Keogholes’ 6th annual motor fraud index, accounting for almost 1 in 6 dodgy looking claims nationally. The law firm which increasingly describes itself as “a benchmark” has also had a lot of cases in East London (recently identified in another survey, which Bankstone News most certainly hasn’t just made up, as the very worst place in all Britain to live in), and in Liverpool (which almost clinched a win in this category with a ‘heroic’ come back, only to wear themselves out a bit in the latter stages and ultimately succumb to their Eastern rivals), and in Manchester, where of course they never win anything.

The bigger picture, however, is that the polluting influence of fraudish behaviour in blackspots such as the above is spilling out to infect surrounding areas, which, as the accompanying item of mappage so vividly illustrates, are rapidly turning the feverish red of a zone shortly due to go quite literally motor fraud crazy. So bad has the motor fraud epidemic become in recent years that even some parts of West Yorkshire are said to be affected!

Kough’s Counter-Fraud Partner James Heat commented: “We work alongside insurers and law enforcement agencies to proactively identify innovative tools, technologies and procedures to support the insurance industry’s fight against fraud.” And Bankstone News is willing to bet that they jolly well do, too!

February 19, 2013

Dasha is the diminutive form of the popular Russian name Daria or Darya. A Dacha is sort of a cross between a shack and a holiday home often located in the hinterland of a major conurbation – also popular in Russia. More popular with Russians than either of these, however, is the subject of the story you are about to stop reading (and wonder, indeed, why you even started reading), to wit: the Dashcam.

Due, probably, to the fact all Russians learned to drive from Zambian students studying in Moscow during the 1970s and 80s, Russia’s roads are among the most terrifying and lethal in all the Northern Hemisphere. With police corruption not entirely unheard of, less pecunious Russians had grown accustomed to seeing their versions of RTA events discounted in favour of those provided by others with a few more notes to hand out or strings to pull.

Not any more! Moore’s Law and the ever plummeting price of consumer electronics have latterly returned a modicum of power to the man on the street (or more accurately in the Lada). Dashboard cameras (Cобаки ерунда or Даш Кам (i.e. dashcam) for short) are now fitted to around 50% of Russian cars. These provide an eloquent (audio) visual corroboration of wronged drivers’ stories. Unless, of course, friendly traffic policemen rip them from their moorings and grind them under their jackbooted heels.

Perhaps we should all try something similar in the UK. Bikers in particular might benefit from this kind of technology. Wouldn’t it be great if a firm like Bankstone could offer a solution custom designed for the modern biker’s RTA recording needs… etc… etc…

More importantly, however, Russia’s Даш Кам plague provides endless hours of hilarious and violent web-based footage for the gratuitous entertainment of those with urgent deadlines to meet and in desperate search of something to distract them. Tempted?

Here’s a link to a selected highlights reel on The Grauniad’s video section (which might not even be blocked by your server at work) or, if you have more time to spare and aren’t blocked from YouTube, check out this lot here.

наслаждайтесь!

February 15, 2013

Not since the heady days when the advertising-driven heavy artillery of Peter Wood’s Direct Line first began clearing a swathe through the complacent ranks of so-called insurance brokers has the phrase “cutting out the middleman” enjoyed such currency in insurance circles.

Directing the onslaught this time round are insurers Uvavu whose route map for government policymakers ‘Road to Reform’ is this week’s hot topic in the world of motor insurance. Uvavu’s document makes the common-sense recommendation that lawyers and claims managers should be denied the opportunity to inflate costs by requiring those injured in RTAs to apply for any compensation they think they deserve directly to the at-fault driver’s insurers.

Uvavu blame the well-documented and uncontroversial ‘personal injury compensation culture’ for adding £118 to the average motorist’s insurance premium. There are really only two ‘important people’ in the process, Uvavu claims director Dominic Claymore told Insurance Ague this week, and the government should take steps to cut out all the ‘middlemen and hangers on’.

The important people identified by Mr Claymless are ‘the person who has had the accident that’s not their fault’ and ‘the broader paying public’ (i.e. presumably people who have to pay motor insurance premiums). Insurers can’t keep saying ‘”Sorry, premiums are rising” and passing them on to policyholders’, Claymo insists.

And, of course, he’s right! Somehow all this claiming has to be stopped. Removing middlemen looks like a great way of doing it – because people like lawyers (ambulance chasers), claims firms (people who think any old RTA victim has a right to a lawyer) and insurance brokers (relentless defenders of their clients’ interests) all have a vested interest in fostering claims and maximising settlement figures.

Getting rid of all these unimportant people clearly makes sense. The curious thing about Mr Claymtown’s analysis is that insurers themselves are not adjudged ‘important people’. This might sound odd, coming from an insurer. But perhaps he has a point…

Might there not, after all, be a more efficient way of getting a modest but equitable amount of money from ‘the broader paying public’ to ‘the person who has had the accident that’s not their fault’?

Reading between the lines, Uvavu appear actually to be making a noble and selfless case for nationalising the whole business of motor insurance and removing the excess costs introduced by insurers’ need to reward their shareholders, advertise their services etc. etc.

Centralising the whole business would certainly make it easier to align the interests of those who pay and those who receive compensation and to identify fraudsters, the uninsured and so on – and imagine how much easier it would be for all those comparison sites if there was only one insurer to compare!

Great to see some truly objective and enlightened analysis for a change. Hats off to Uvavu for finally breaking the tedious cycle of self-interested misrepresentation and special pleading that so often plagues discussion on this topic.

February 15, 2013

In view of the tumultuous reception with which recent competitions in these pages have been greeted. Here’s another.

Guess the famous insurance person pictured below and Bankstone News will lavish the Cheap Eats Dine Out vouchers we’d been saving up for Valentines Day (only to suffer the bitter ignominy of a last-minute pull-out from someone who – when we emailed them to confirm – claimed they’d ‘never received’ our invitation had ‘never heard’ of us and was ‘in a relationship’) on YOU!

Yes, an intimate candlelit dinner for two – well, for you and Bankstone News editor Davy-Jane McManus basically – awaits the first person to correctly guess who this is:

Answers on a postcard, please, to editor@bankstone-news.co.uk

February 13, 2013

Bankstone News’ insurance-related audio visual experience was considerably enhanced this week by the launch of Insurance Age’s online take on BBC1’s The Apprentice. This sees five thrusting young insurance persons vying for the ultimate prize of a week as Chris ‘Allianz’ Hanky’s personal protégé and a brief leisure break to help them recover.

Episode 1, now available for your viewing pleasure on the Insurance Urge website, sees the five introduce themselves and then confront a feisty new business prospect in the shape of Derek SME Owner (played by Insurance Age’s Andy Pearce) who’s apparently very unhappy with his current insurance broker and looking for a change. His laconically geezeresque performance is the star turn of the show – by a mile.

Sadly, voting for Derek is not an option, so Age readers must choose between Ashley Prickett, Katie Pusey (both of whom, no doubt, have already suffered enough surname-related witticisms to last a lifetime, so we’ve spelled their names e-x-t-r-r-a carefully), Jonathan Garrett, Oliver Leyens and Holly Markham.

When Bankstone News checked voting on the Age website on Thursday afternoon, ginger fox Katie had two votes (or 50% as the totalizer put it) and Olly and Holly one a piece (both of them a convincing 25% ahead of Ashley and Jonathan on 0%).

Who are these people?

Jonathan Garrett is a commercial account handler with Flint Insurance Brokers. Did Civil Engineering at Uni but didn’t fancy it and ended up in insurance. He is hungry to learn and loves fresh fish, but hates anything German like Frankfurters or Sauerkraut and some other things he’s not really sure how to pronounce. His favourite book is Animal Farm in which he detects political undertones. Jonathan is “very keen on showing my level of service that I can provide to people’ which he believes will come across.

Katie Pusey is a commercial account handler at MRIB where she has her own ‘client bank’. She started in insurance at the age of 14 doing work experience and was offered an apprenticeship after A levels and at 23 is now a Chartered broker. She likes to go shopping and go to the Spa (for groceries, presumably) but has basically been too busy doing her insurance exams to relax for as long as she can remember. She likes chocolate but strongly believes that fruit should not be in a cake.

Oliver Leyens is director of the insurance department at his dad’s firm Heath Crawford (no relation) in Bushey. He likes motor racing and takes the firm’s JP1 track car all over the UK. He is bubbly, energetic and (according to a cruel video editor’s gratuitous inclusion) thinks tweets can be 140 words long. He gets into a bit of a mood when he’s hungry, which he admits is annoying. But if you fancy a rub down, Olly describes himself as “a sponge for the insurance industry”.

Holly Markham is a commercial account handler for Lupus Foetid & Partners (think that’s what she said, bit distracted by her crazily asymmetrical barnet). She wants to continue with her CII exams and fancies becoming a director and having a pivotal role in the insurance industry. Pressed to identify an annoying trait in herself, she confesses to being a perfectionist. This apparently means that even though she has achieved something great she is never happy or satisfied. She likes documentaries and spicy food – but isn’t keen on chocolate (good news for Katie, there!). She believes she can win because, unlike most people in the industry, she genuinely cares about her clients and thinks professionalism is one of the most important things.

Ashley Prickett is an account exec with Cotters Insurance who ended up in insurance after playing football with his ‘now boss’ (presumably a diminutive and essentially spheroid individual). His Insurance Hero is Chris Hanky (what a coincidence), whose career, Ashley hasn’t failed to notice, ‘has progressed to where he is now’. Ash also sees himself progressing further – after coming a fair distance already. His Ultimate Hero, however, is Brad Pitt ‘due to the fact that he has managed to snare Angelina Jolie’. Ashley would like to think he is driven enough to put up a good fight.

Holly is first to take on the challenge. She sympathises with Derek’s frustrations and promises sincerely ‘if you are happy for me to take some details I can have a look into obtaining a quotation and we can go from there.’

Next in to Derek’s Den is Olly who hears how various employees have been falling off ladders and suggests talking to insurers who insure people who climb ladders and that sort of thing, and asks pertinently ‘do any of the guys have any sort of like harnesses or anything like that when they go up on roofs?’ “It’s their own fault, really, if they can’t climb a ladder” opines Derek dismissively. What a character!

Then it’s Katie’s turn and, Boy, does she do quality eye contact. Derek’s putty in her hands. Coming over all posh, she’s soon into the technicalities of business interruption insurance and business continuity, and makes a persuasive case for the benefits of fee-based remuneration versus commission. “Are you trying to rip me off,” enquires Del, still a tad wary, but his apprehension is quickly and professionally allayed.

Now it’s Jonathan, and he’s more of a commission man – but reckons he can work on a fee basis for MTAs and could possibly add some fees ‘on new business on a case by case merit’. Pressed, he offers to disclose what commission his firm gets. Jon seems like a man who’d love to bend over backwards but whose hands are tied.

Finally we have baby-faced intellectual Ashley and it’s still all about the remuneration. Ash is a fees man and suggests there may be room for negotiation over fee levels year on year. He’s dismissive about the misconception that brokers should look across the market for the best deals for their clients – when in fact you get better deals if you support a few insurers consistently.

“I got a mate works down the road, a mechanic, these days” Del chimes in, “and he says it’s all about going online – the aggregators – that opera singer and the meerkat – and getting cheaper deals.” But Ash comes back with a cast iron rebuttal: it’s not really appropriate for a company your size, he explains patiently, and in any case (and all commercial brokers should probably memorise this speech): ‘the whole idea of having a broker is to take some hassle and aggravation out of your day to day. The last thing you want to be doing is dealing with the insurances. And that is what we, as brokers, are paid to do on your behalf.’

Summing up in the boardroom afterwards Chris Hanky, having a spot of (post-prandial?) bother with a wayward shirt collar, is broadly positive. Two candidates have particularly impressed him. He calls them all back in and recaps what the five have been asked to do. As it turns out, this was not – as Bankstone News had wrongly thought on first viewing – to look at the client’s knees and come up with a solution, but to look at his needs – an altogether more reasonable and practicable proposition. Who triumphed in this first task and who teamed an ill-fitting suit with a frighteningly ugly handbag? You will just have to watch it to find out!

Truly essential viewing!

Ashley ponders

Ashley ponders

February 13, 2013

As regular readers will know, Bankstone News has a bizarre – if not downright unhealthy – obsession with potholes. Imagine, then, our delight when the Telegraph took a sumptuously in-depth look into the multitude of cavernous pits and crevasses that lurk in wait for unsuspected motorists the length and breadth of our glorious land.

Along with the seemingly infinite profusion of other things rapidly turning pear-shaped as the nation tightens its belt through recessionary times, our roads are literally cracking up, precipitating a positive orgy of vehicular carnage, as extreme weather plays havoc with their superfices.

Insurance brokers Alcoholics Anonymous reported this week that pothole-related damage to cars has more than doubled over the past year. In just the last four weeks, AA claims, those pesky potholes have ‘seriously damaged’ an estimated 1,000 cars. That’s more than all Britain’s motoring journalists put together.

Doug Simons of AA told the Telegraph, somewhat cryptically and indeed agramatically, that “the figures shows that all had motorists who had made a claim had seen a tyre damaged, while a fifth had suffered wheel damage too.” By all of what or whom motorists who had made a claim were had the article does not make clear, but it certainly sounds bad. And it gets worse!

“That’s bad enough,” Simons says, “but those making insurance claims are saying that there has been serious damage to suspension, steering and bodywork as well.” Although they’d probably say pretty much anything to con some more cash out of their poor insurers! But it doesn’t end there: some of those making insurance claims have apparently swerved to avoid pitting hotholes only to hit something else!

Basically, it’s a complete nightmare. But at least all the savings local authorities are making to road repairs will go some way towards funding their multi-million pound bills for ‘compensation claims and extra staff costs required to process’ the claims of people who make claims for compensation from them.

With funding for the War on Potholes slashed by almost half of nearly a billion pounds since the Coalition came to power, pootholes.co.uk claim that a new and more virulent strain of potholes has emerged. Terrifyingly these are more aggressive and (at up to four inches) considerably deeper than even the most profound of previously known potholes.

What can motorists do? “Keep an eye on your tyres”, Doug Simons suggests, and watch out for ‘telltale bulges’ that could ultimately result in a ‘catastrophic blowout’. What he should probably have added is that you should not attempt to do this whilst traveling at high speeds, as this can distract you from hazards on the road ahead, such as potholes, for example.

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