Insurance Endurance is (almost) go!

April 26, 2013

Preparations for this year’s Insurance Endurance karting event have shifted up a gear or two of late. There’s even talk of a firm date being set sometime soon.

Of particular interest to all those whom wild horses could not prevent from attending the UK’s premier insurance-related corporate karting event will be the news that this year sees a number of exciting format changes.

Sadly one of these involves the introduction of a new set of rules for ever popular pitstop challenge specially designed to prevent the Bankstone Racing team from winning, as it habitually does. So fiendishly complex are the proposed new rules – which see teams of three going head to head as they change tyres on opposite sides of a clapped out F1 racer parked trackside in some kind of multi-stage tournament – that Bankstone Racing stands not the least chance of understanding them, let alone triumphing under them.

Among other proposed rules changes are a short cut which teams are allowed to use once every hour (with harsh penalties for doing so more frequently), teams being allowed (once per hour) to switch directional signage in the manner of Dick Dastardly so as to send rivals the wrong way, and teams being allowed (again once per hour maximum) to walk across the circuit with a canvas depicting clear track ahead, behind which they are permitted to deploy police-style stingers (not a musical reference).

If you have any suggestions of your own, please do not hesitate to let us know. Stand by for further Insurance Endurance News coming soon – including maybe even a date. So keep you diaries handy!

April 26, 2013

Pompous business voice: The insurance industry is on a journey.

Outer space voice: A trip, if you will.

Merrie Englande voice: Or perchance a quest.

No, clarifies CII research and policy head Larry Baxter, it’s definitely a journey.

Here’s how Larry described that journey as he launched the CII’s latest product, a report called ‘Upon the door of every cottage’: “The general insurance profession [by which, presumably, he means CII members] and the sector as a whole [non members] is [sic] on a journey towards better public trust and confidence.”

Rousing stuff. But how are we going to know when we get there? Logically, assuming we haven’t taken the wrong path or something, public trust and confidence in the insurance sector would achieve the relative status of ‘better’ the moment we take the first step – and if, as Lazza’s just told us, we are already on that journey. It’s starting to sound as if – unlike Xeno’s arrow – we’ve already reached our target.

Maybe we’ll be getting close if, say 50%, of the population stop thinking we’re all claims-dodging fat-cat small print mongers? Frustratingly, Lol doesn’t say. With furrowed brow, Bankstone News ploughed on through reportage of the CII’s perplexing document in this week’s Post Magazine to learn (on your behalf, Dear Reader) that “the general insurance sector has made major strides to improve its role in protecting the public interest” which certainly sounds like the kind of thing that should help engender public trust and confidence; but apparently it would be dangerous for the sector to slacken off with the striding and stretch out on its laurels.

Instead, the sector needs to concentrate on – as the Lolster poetically puts it – “driving its own destiny”. Bankstone News is not even going to attempt to make sense of that one!

Speaking of bizarre gibberish, btw, readers may be wondering what all this business about cottages and doors is about. Here, at least, we may be able to offer some illumination. Far from echoing the title – as Bankstone News had initially assumed – of the jauntily vernacular memoire of some sexually adventurous hobbit or rural knob-and-knocker maker, Upon the door of every cottage is actually a quote from a pome by WWII PM and £5 note man Winston Churchill.

This describes how the portly pm would like to prance around the countryside daubing the word INSURE “upon the door of every cottage” and then pop back to town to write it on “the blotting book of every public man”. Why would he do that you may wonder? Because he is convinced that for just a few pounds every month (or “for sacrifices so small”, as he more prettily puts it) families up and down the land can protect themselves against the catastrophic loss of a breadwinner (“the frail boat in which the family are embarked”) which might otherwise “smash them up forever”.

Can’t help thinking today’s advertising copywriters could learn a thing or two from that corpulent old soak!

Anyway, it’s great news that the CII’s report has come along to set out a bunch of “stakeholder viewpoints that challenge market norms in order to stimulate general insurance initiatives and fresh thinking to meet the public interest challenges of the future”.

Hats off to everyone involved: a role of honour that includes Post Mag’s Jonathan Swifty, Zurich’s Sophie Spank, AXA’s Mandy Blank and a couple of blokes called Evans.

You can read that report in full right here.

April 26, 2013

Motor lobbyists and/or insurance providers Alcoholics Anonymous this week brought some welcome clarity to the whole what’s-going-on-with-motor-insurance prices debate by revealing that car insurance premiums plummeted by a massive 1.4% during the first quarter of 2013.

And the good news for everyone not professionally involved in the provision of motor insurance is that, According to Insurance Times (see below), from this point onwards, the only way is down.

Alcoholics Anonymous’ widely respected ‘Sloparound’ survey (which apparently involves them taking the five cheapest quotes they can find, comparing them to a basket, then dividing them by the number they first thought of) found that the average UK motor premium now stands at just £745.75 (i.e. several pounds short of the crucial three-quarter bag mark). With pleasing symetricality, AA reveal, that Q1’s 1.4% drop leaves motor premiums down 4.1% year upon year.

Douglas Simons of Alcoholics Anonymous explained that consumers will welcome the downward trend because they prefer to pay less for their motor insurance and have not enjoyed seeing premiums rising by really rather a lot over the past three years.

Falling motor insurance premiums will receive a cooler reception from motor insurers who would secretly like rates to go up because they keep having to pay out costly claims for things like whiplash and are still doggedly clinging on to the belief that they will one day make some proper money out of insuring things with wheels and engines.

Insurers scored a major victory last year by persuading their friends in government to implement a series of measures designed to stop people making claims all the time. The sting in the tail here, however, is that, in return for its help, HMG extracted a solemn promise from insurers that if they didn’t have to keep paying out expensive claims they would seriously consider bring down premiums a bit.

Commenting on the results from AA’s Sloparound survey, Insurance Times sees a whole catalogue of reasons why motor rates are now set to plummet. These include the above mentioned solemn promise, telematics and the severe probing the motor insurance industry must endure at the hands of the Competition Commission over suspicions that it is somehow profiting from inflated credit hire and repair charges.

Other reasons cited by Insurance Times as to why insurance rates are set to plummet sound a bit more like reasons why claims costs are set to plummet. These include the fact that insurers will soon be able to cross-check applicants’ details automatically with the DVLA to identify what Doug Simons calls the “shocking 23% of those filling in insurance application forms” who “make false statements about things such as motoring offences which may lead to lower premiums”, and, of course, the claims-quashing powers of LASPO.

One thing is clear: it’s going to be tough making an honest “buck” in motor insurance for the foreseeable future. “The winners”, Insurance Times reveals, “will be the insurers that can adapt quickly to the changing landscape.”

April 25, 2013

A fresh face in the stale insurance market. That’s how hard-hitting online business publication Bdaily this week described Kevin Gillan, newly installed managing director of US insurance warranties firm SquareTrade, which is aiming to take the tired old UK insurance industry “by the lapels and shake it into life.”

The insurance sector is actually pretty lucky to have fresh-faced Kevin, who was initially reluctant to get involved in such a tawdry old racket. “When I was first approached for this role, I knew it was an insurance firm, and initially thought it wasn’t for me,” Kevin revealed to Bdaily (whose name is presumably some kind of pun on the French word bidet).

“If you think about insurance,” Kev told Bdaily, “it’s not very exciting” and “consumers don’t trust it.” (Has he not read the CII’s ‘Cottage’ report? Does he not realise this is a journey?!) But luckily he quickly discovered that SquareTrade are not some boring UK insurance firm. They’re from San Francisco USA, and, as Kev is quick to point out, “Apple, Google and Facebook – they’re all based out there.”

Bringing their distinctive “San Francisco vibe” with them, SquareTrade are planning to break the UK market through the winning combination of extreme cheapness and a quasi-religious devotion to outstanding customer service. Their reception and offices look nothing like an insurance company’s, Kevin insists.

Kevin, who once worked for Carhorn Whorehouse (2004-2007) and was most recently interim group director of multi-channel with The Coop, has high hopes for SquareTrade in the UK and is aiming to achieve the same kind of penetration as Alcoholics Anonymous.

“I know some industries that just set themselves up not to speak to customers,” he told Bdaily distainfully. adding “Sometimes these companies can be fairly faceless. You could be taking out a policy with a well known retail brand,” he blunders on, “but actually, it’s another company that sits behind it”.

Yes, yes, but would Kevin like to buy some advertising space with Bdaily, or, to put it more delicately, “how is Kevin going to communicate the SquareTrade USP to the UK market?”

“Above the line marketing wouldn’t sit right with the brand,” he says. “It wouldn’t be in line with our ethos, and I’d rather let the customers decide for themselves.”

That’s the kind of comment that can end a meeting quite abruptly, but Bankstone News feels sure that Kev and Bdaily will have found some way of staying friends.

Gillan: a very fresh face indeed. If you ignore those glazed despairing eyes that stifled scream of a pursed-lipped grimacing ghost of a smile.

April 19, 2013

Rumours have been circulating for some time that riding a motorcycle can actually be quite dangerous. As with things like matches and knives, however, there is a residual consensus that it’s probably OK to play around with bikes – so long as you have a rough idea what you are doing and take a modicum of care.

As with the inherently paradoxical YOLO* motto that has so captivated Britain’s youth of late, the standard mixed message received by bikers and would be bikers is a heavily parenthesized green light pulsing dimly with the message ‘go for it’.

This week’s green-lighty bit came courtesy of bike dealers being urged to get involved in the UK’s 15th annual Ride to Work Day. This sees dealers up and down the land cynically encouraging innocent members of the public to ride to work on 17 June – just days before a far more significant date in the biking calendar (see below).

Promark PR, the firm behind RTWD have written to dealers with a handy list of things they can do to make the most of the occasion. This includes: offering free breakfast (or just tea/coffee) to bikers, ditto after-work BBQs, special offers in store (great idea, that one!), attempting to persuade local firms to turn their car parks into ‘have a go’ areas, that sort of thing.

Needless to say, we’ll all be riding to work here at Bankstone Towers on the 17th, and we strongly urge you to do the same – just mind how you go!

This week’s parenthetical bit came in the form of a severe admonition from Road Safety Minister Richard Hammond that people who ride motorcycles need to ‘stay in control’. This latest initiative comes under the THINK! banner, which started out mostly being about the need for people driving cars to think about people riding bikes, but has latterly branched out into urging bikers to think a bit too.

Focusing on the peak bike-death months of spring and summer, this latest campaign will see posters, leaflets and other promotional material “cascaded to hundreds of motorcycle dealerships and retailers across the UK for distribution to customers”. Hammond has suggested bikers should consider “taking a ‘lifesaver glance’ around before manoeuvring” and giving themselves “time to react to potential hazards.” Motorists are also to be urged not to drive into motorcyclists if they can help it.

Speaking of motorcycling, safely and responsibly, obviously (and possibly wearing armour), did we mention we are doing this charity monkey biking thing on 29/30 June?

* i.e. you only live once, so you might as well try it/trying things can result in the termination of your single existence

April 19, 2013

Of all the many ways one might describe downsizing insurer Uvavu, sinking ship would be probably be the very last phrase that would come to mind. If you were Robin Spencer.

Interviewed in Insurance Age this week, Uvavu’s UK and Ireland chief exec, insisted that pretty much any other epithet would be more apt. If it were up to him, people would stop using the words sinking and ship to describe his firm – and would recognise that Uvavu is anything but a sinking ship.

And, you know what, he may even be right! If heaving around 2,000 crew members over the side during the coming six months doesn’t leave the Good Ship Uvavu significantly lighter in the water, Bankstone News for one would be very surprised indeed. Unless she’s holed, obviously.

Even the fact that former UK Intermediary & Partnerships Director Janice Deakin recently jumped ship to sail with salty old sea dog Arthur J Gallagher could start to look like more of a positive than a negative, from a floatation point of view.

So let’s hear no more talk of sinking ships where Uvavu is concerned. In fact, far from making her a sinking ship, Spencer insists with Nietzschean bravado, freezing pay and benefits and ditching large numbers of staff will make Uvavu stronger.

“I think it would be wrong to convey that we are a sinking ship,” he told Insurance Age. In reality, he insisted defiantly, “we have never been stronger”, although, he added, “we have got the potential to be significantly stronger in the UK.” Perhaps by ditching additional crew members next year?

Insisting bravely that Deakin’s departure did not “in any way faze me at all”, Spencer hinted darkly that he has the odd cunning plan up his sleeve. “I want to make it really, really difficult for other insurers” he said, predicting that “it’s going to be a nightmare for people to compete with us.”

Blimey!

April 19, 2013

Ethnic floaty dress specialists BIBA were aflush this week with the runaway success of an exciting new initiative which, it claims, will enable people – even old people – to source appropriate insurance cover via insurance brokers!

Following a ‘landmark agreement’ between BIBA the ABI and the Government, brokers will no longer simply turn away old people who they can’t or can’t be bothered to help – but will actually tell them where to go. Technically this is known as ‘signposting’.

BIBA members have sworn a solemn pledge to suggest to old people who come sniffing around for motor or travel insurance or whatever that they could try – shock – using another broker. Specifically, brokers have agreed to refer unwanted inquirers to BIBA’s state of the art “Find a Broker” (FaB) service.

This enables users – however decrepit – to find a broker who may be able to help them with their niche insurance requirements – however bizarre. Amazingly, the FaB web app reveals that there are at least four UK brokers willing to help people aged 86 and over to find motor insurance.

To you or I, that might seem absurdly irresponsible. But Equality Minister Theresa May insisted this week: “I fully support the work the ABI and BIBA are doing to make it easier for older people to get motor and travel insurance. This is a great example of businesses working with government to tackle discrimination.”

In actual fact, BIBA’s FaB is not just for old people. Say you live in the City of London, you are not specifically old and you simply want to insure your motorcycle. All you have to do is type in your post code, select Motor and then Motor Cycle from the pull-down menus on screen, and, within seconds, you will learn that, on your very doorstep, both Marsh Ltd of 1 Tower Place and Affinitive Insurance Brokers Ltd of Zetland House, Scrutton Street are ready and willing to help.

In a press release earlier this week, BIBA revealed that there has been a staggering 200% increase in the number of people phoning or clicking through to its innovative “Find a Broker’ service in the past year. This clearly proves that the whole signposting thing – officially launched on 5 April – is proving a run away success.

April 18, 2013

The lastest scandal to rock the world of UK motor insurance was unveiled this week, when consumer champions monkeysupermeerkat.com laid bare the shocking truth about protected no claims discounts. Apparently they are not the same as not actually making any claims and are sometimes not very good value.

Unless you are planning on claiming in year one of a protected NCD following five-years claim free, monkeysupermeerkat.com warned, you might well be better off without. If you leave it til Year 3 to claim, monkeysupermeerkat.com claim, you can expect to be an average £25 worse off than if you hadn’t bothered paying to protect your NCD. But it varies a lot from one provider to the next.

“Having reached the Holy Grail of five years no claims discount,” explained Pete Harrison of monkeysupermeerkat.com, “many motorists will be reluctant to run the risk of losing it and may consider paying extra to protect it.” This may or may not, monkeysupermeerkat.com reveal, be a good idea.

It all gets a bit technical, but the main thing, appparently, is to shop around.

“If you are looking to protect your no claims discount, shop around for the best deal available for your circumstances,” Pete says, “and if you do find a better deal with another provider, you can take your no claims bonus with you.”

Who would have thought it?

April 11, 2013

As regular participants will be only too well aware, Bankstone’s weekend-long tour of Yorkshire by monkey bike for charity (Medieval Monkeys) has been in the habit for a number of years now of stopping off in the charmingly run-down Victorian North Sea resort of Scarborough at the end of day one in order to eat curry, drink beer, hang around listlessly in clubs and bars, sleep/pass out etc.

Brace yourselves for some disturbing news! This will not be happening this year. It’s not that we’ve been banned or anything. They take all sorts in Scarborough. It’s simply that the town is hosting its annual Armed Forces Day on 29 June and – such is the fervour for militaristic display of all kinds along the UK’s North Eastern Littoral – it seems there is no room to be had at any of Scarborough’s many inns (however shabby) for us and our tiny motorcycles. This leaves us with the daunting task of finding somewhere less popular than Scarborough to hole up overnight.

Needless to say, Bankstone has taken its top people off making tea and fetching increasingly implausible orders from the local sandwich shop to work full-time on what we experts in the art of planning like to refer to informally as “Plan B”. Current contenders for Saturday Night Stopover Substitute include Whitby, Bridlington and “even Filey”. If you have a better suggestion of your own, please email editor@bankstone-news.co.uk and we will be happy to file it away somewhere.

A further announcement will be made as soon as we have completed work on “Plan B”.

In other Monkey news, we are delighted to announce that we received an overwhelming response to last week’s offer of fully branded monkey bikes for just a few hundred quid. Bikesure are taking delivery of two brand spanking new monkeys in their handsome corporate livery and – with excitement reaching officially verified fever pitch – staff members there are reported to be literally fighting one another for the honour of riding these magnificent machines come 29/30 June 2013.

Feeling just a tiny bit envious, perhaps? Then don’t hold back: throw yourself into the good-cause-serving two-day thrill fest that is Medieval Monkeys without delay. See previous issues for full details. Terms and conditions apply. Human beings only. Actual monkeys not eligible. Sorry.

April 10, 2013

Who would ever have guessed that the charming fun-loving couple pictured below, Elina Jaksone and Gagik Kyriacos Manucharyan of Westgate on Sea led a life of secret infamy? But they did, you see.

Ghostbrokers, the pair of them! But now, thankfully, they are safely behind bars doing a decent stretch at HM’s pleasure – instead of gallivanting around the place in their luxury Mercs, luxuriating in the sumptuous surrounds of their £365,000 mansion, or taking fancy holidays in exotic destinations such as Jamaica, Mauritius, Mexico and Tokyo.

So what exactly did they get up to? What didn’t they get up to?, more like!

In purportedly arranging cover for a clientele consisting mostly of Kent-based Eastern Europeans, Eli and Gag economised considerably on the truth when advising insurers of the particulars of the poor fools who forked out for the (surprisingly affordable) motor policies they sold. They also neglected to declare around £920,000 in commissions to HMRC. There was also some fairly outrageous benefit fraud going on, plus a bit of a sideline in contraband goods.

Keeping their noses clean, they were not! Their noses, indeed, as HMRC were quick to point out in their official press release this week, were firmly inserted into the very deepest recesses of a trough of material excess, the likes of which, David Margerydaw, Assistant Director, HMRC noted ruefully, “many of us can only dream of”.

Sentencing the couple to gaol terms upwards of two years each, Judge Jimmy O’Mahoney described the pair as “greedy and selfish” people who “couldn’t care less” whether their clients’ insurance was fit for purpose.

And they seemed so nice that day we all went fishing!

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