Nothing crude about this caricature!

March 28, 2014

(Modern Law) Walks beside me, (Modern Law) Walks on by, (Modern Law) Gets me to the court on time, (Court on Time) terrifies me, (Court on Time) makes me party, (Court on Time) Hoots mon, trust in Gordon Brown, (Gordon Brown) No confessions, (Gordon Brown) No religion, (Gordon Brown) Don’t believe in Modern Law.

So sang Sir David Jones-Bowie back in the day (we think, though we have yet to hear it on Memorex), and, whilst Gordon Brown may since have come and gone, Modern Law is still very much with us.

Oh yes, Modern Law (Walks beside me) [stop that] is alive and (despite HMG’s best efforts) still feebly kicking, and apparently holding “very informative” conferences in places like London’s Linkin’s Inn Fields, with “balanced speakers” and such like.

That’s according to Rachel Stow of Bankstone’s good mates Thorneycrofts Solicitors, who’s just been to one such event. Rachel reports that she got a great deal out of the Modern Law conference. In particular, she got this lively and colourful caricature, which we thought you might like to see.

So here it is:

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March 28, 2014

Catchphrase Britain is broken, and someone needs to “SORT IT!” The NHS: Broken! Education: Broken! The economy: Broken! Election promises: Broken! How much of the breakage was accidental and how much intentional is open to debate. attempts to reassemble all the broken bits have not being going well, and the whole place is starting to look like Sid Philips’ bedroom out of Toy Story 1.

Shockingly it emerged this week that, brace yourselves, even motor insurance has been broken. It was Johnny O’Roarke of L/V<, speaking in a break between rounds of golf at the I F’ing Love Claims motor conference in Sunny Portugal who reported the damage, but who broke it? No-one’s owning up.

So broken, in fact, is the private motor industry that Johnny reckons it might even do some good to have the Competitors Companion (CC) sticking its dreaded probe up the sector to have a good root around. The CC’s intervention is “long overdue,” he argues, and could help clear years of accumulated bad practice out of the system.

Of course, he concedes, the probe “is unwelcome,” but it is also “essential, and it gives the industry an opportunity to rescue its reputation.” Rather than resisting the CC’s vigorous probing, insurance firms should in fact, he suggests, be bending over backwards to accommodate it.

Unable to resist the current craze amongst insurance firms for reckless self-incrimination, he also threw in the devastating offhand observation that it seems a little ironic that (in the paraphrased words of Insurance Times, who were there on the spot among the luxuriant lawns of fair Lusitania, while Bankstone News and friends contented themselves with the odd kickabout with an empty Tizer can round the back of the Badgers) ”it is a crime for consumers to exaggerate the value of a claim” but “it is common practice for many insurers to inflate their motor repair costs and recover this from the at-fault insurer.”

He was also a tad pessimistic about the prospects for ‘sorting’ the motor market anytime soon. “We’re a nation of dodgy old chancers and opportunists,” he said. No, wait, “We are a nation of entrepreneurs,” he said, “and if the legislation changes, people who are affected by it will change their business models so they get around it. You only have to look at what’s happening with Alternative Business Structures with insurers owning law firms to see that this is not going to go away easily,” he said.

Nice as it would be to think that consumers might some day get a good deal out of broken Britain and its broken private motor sector, the CC and the rest may ultimately be barking up a dead tree, Johnny suspects: “They’re trying to eat an elephant,” he explained, which, given that the average elephant yields between three and four thousand portions of turgidly unappetising flesh (though the feet are quite tasty, apparently), could take a good few weeks, even if all staff were required to partake, and some of them, presumably, are vegetarians or might suddenly decide that they are .

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March 27, 2014

A new report from consumer watchdog the National Audit Offence (NAO) has found that seemingly enticing two-for-one offers may not always be all they’re cracked up to be.

When insurance firms were offered, not one but, two regulators (or peaks as they are officially known) in place of Hector Pants’ widely derided FSA, it sounded like a bargain, the mother, in fact, of all regulatory Bogofs.

‘Why settle for a single peak, when you could have two?’, financial services types must have ask themselves excitedly.

Well, the reality has turned out a little differently. Two peaks may not cost twice as much as one, but they do cost an extra £130m per annum (that’s at least 25% more), according to the NAO’s sums.

The national auditor’s report raises serious doubts as to how much regulatory bang financial services organisations are really getting for their buck. “These are still early days for the new regulators,” opined the NAO conversationally, “but the new regulators come at a higher cost borne directly by regulated firms, and ultimately by customers of the financial services industry.”

On value for money, the NAO voiced its concern that many of those currently manning (and/or womanning) the peaks have little or no experience. More experienced staff are deserting the peaks, with annual staff turnover currently around 10%, whilst, of those still up there, more than a third have two years’ experience or less in regulating things. All of which has prompted some commentators to wonder whether we shouldn’t have concentrated on peak quality rather than quantity.

Indeed the wonderings of some insurance types appear to have taken them even further, with some not only questioning whether one peak wouldn’t have done just as well as two, but even whether greater economies still could not usefully have been made by doing away with those pesky peaks altogether.

Twin Peaks

VFM BOGOF – or overpriced pair?

March 26, 2014

Anti-regulation campaigner Steve ‘Walter’ White of fashion chain BIBA must be hanging his head in despair this week. All the good work achieved by his unstinting Nothing to See Here campaign has been undone at a stroke by the sensational findings of a survey carried out among brokers by news organ Insurance Times.

In it, 86% of brokers said they believed that brokers didn’t always put their customers’ needs first, whilst a mere 57% said they thought that some brokers sometimes did so some of the time.

Given that it is hard to conceive of a definition of treating customers fairly applicable to brokers that wouldn’t involve putting the client’s needs first, this unprecedented act of mass self-incrimination should spark considerable interest on the part of the regulator (or at least it certainly would have done if the dear old FSA were still in charge, given their well-documented and no doubt well meant, if now a tad outdated, interest in so-called TCF).

Nor is this collective outburst of self-harming insanity likely to play well with insurers, from whose representatives at the Association of Brutish Insurers we can soon expect to hear some pretty darned indignant rebuttals after brokers accused them of seeking to pervert and distort brokers’ honest desire to do the best for their clients at all times through a variety of financial inducements and incentives.

There was fanciful talk of things like ‘profit or volume-driven incentives’ which brokers taking part in the IT survey claimed were imposed on them by insurers who cared more about getting new business in than about whether or not their policies were the most appropriate for prospective policyholders. This is quite plainly nonsense. If such payments did indeed exist – or were even contemplated – surely Walter and his colleagues at BIBA would be campaigning vigorously to ban insurers from imposing them.

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March 21, 2014

The legends of the Northlands abound with tales of blokes known by a combination of the name Eric (sometimes Erik) and some evocative epithet. Who could forget, for instance, Erik the Red, slayer of Eyiolf the Foul and first European to reach America? Or Eric Bloodaxe, terror of the Baltic shores and acclaimed author of Debrett’s Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners? Or, indeed, former Stiff Records stalwart and less obviously funny contemporary of Jilted John, Reckless Eric? You had forgotten him? He’s still touring, you know…

Anyway, even if you had forgotten the whole lot of them, not to worry, here’s an even more memorable Eric: Unrated Eric the unloved insurer of Iceland. Nobody has a good word to say about poor Unrated Eric right now. First Icelandic regulator Fjármálaeftirlitið stripped poor Eric of his rating, then rival insurers gathered round like a snarling pack of ankle-snapping wolves, next thing you knew: all and sundry were queuing up to berate Unrated Eric.

A barage of bad publicity across the UK’s mainstream media followed the shocking revelation in the Sunday papers that lady Roslyn Earle had been forced to flee her five-bedroom Wiltshire home with only two cats and a suitcase after flood waters warped her solid oak flooring and tide-marked her precious antiques – only for her to discover that centuries-old posh person’s insurance provider Country Gentlemen’s Association (known simply as Counts to its exclusive clientele) had secretly placed her insurance with Icelandic Eric, who was rumoured to have denied the claim.

A lone voice in defence of unrated Eric came from Bureau Insurance Services managing director Jordan. Eric has “no problem” Jordan claimed, insisting that just because Eric is unrated doesn’t mean he won’t be paying claims, if he sees fit. Jordan even suggested that Eric had slipped Roslyn an interim, so the whole thing could be just a storm in a tea chest, which kinda makes you wonder why we bothered telling you about it in the first place!

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March 21, 2014

Warning: the following story may not contain content of an ironic, satirical or not strictly true nature. Loath as Bankstone News is to go all sincere on its readers, every once in a while we come across something that lends itself particularly ill to our usual slapdash cynical nonsensicality.

One such thing is this video newly posted on YouTube by Bankstone’s good friends at Thorneycrofts Solicitors, in which Essex-based biker and tyre shop proprietor David, and his partner Deborah, speak movingly about the unusual and elusive brain injury (Compartment Syndrome) he suffered after a low-speed collision with a vehicle on a side street.

His simply-told touching story speaks volumes about the challenges of diagnosing, managing and living with brain injuries that manifest in less obvious ways – and the importance of retaining a firm of solicitors with the knowledge, empathy and tenacity to secure the help those affected need to put themselves on the road to recovery.

The genuinely sensitive and non-sensational handling of this deeply moving story, underlines what a fine bunch of people Thorneycrofts are – and what a privilege it is for Bankstone to be working hand in hand with them.

Apologies for the lack of irony, satire, careless error etc. Normal service will be resumed shortly!

David

March 20, 2014

Acting on advice from Tory spinmeisters after new research revealed that the reading age of the average voter is not, as previously supposed by newspaper editors and the like, nine, but is, in fact, six and three quarters, George Osborne spelled out carefully earlier this week that his freshly unveiled budget was one for “the makers, the doers and the savers.”

If you think that sounds like everyone (perhaps on the naive assumption that pretty much everyone does something from time to time – even if they don’t get round to saving anything or making much, other than a pitiful mess of their own and other people’s lives), then think again.

This was very much not a budget for all those simple trusting insurers who might reasonably have expected something back from the baby-faced chancellor in return for going to such lengths, premium-reductions wise, to enable HMG to realise its goal of returning motor insurance to affordability in the wake of the LESBO reforms.

Not a bit of it!

Ungrateful George has only gone and decimated big insurers’ share prices by deciding that in future we will all be able to raid our pensions with impunity – entirely free of any obligation or encouragement to purchase an annuity, a word we’ll come across in future only when playing Monopoly.

Of course we all knew the whole annuity thing was too good to last, “bad-value” annuities were an obvious target for officious new regulator the FCA with its eccentric obsession with securing good outcomes for consumers. But, surely Gideon could have shown a little more loyalty – after everything firms like Uvavu have done for him? Sadly, not.

Insurers have been busily adjusting their brave faces for the public gaze. Otto Son of Thor, head man of ABI, speaking to the FT, insisted implausibly that “The guaranteed lifetime income provided by an annuity can play an important part in discussions with customers considering their options” while analyst Malcolm Cur offered a shred of hope with the words “It is not necessarily Armageddon for annuities.”

Exactly how helpful insurers will be next time governments come begging favours, however, remains to be seen.

Honestly, after all that undignified bending over backwards to cut the cost of motor insurance…

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March 20, 2014

It’s a wonder insurers can still bring themselves to deal with vile scheming masses of the British population, at least a quarter of whom see nothing wrong with lying and cheating their way to ill-deserved insurance payouts.

Luxury information provider LexusNexus this week revealed that one in four UK consumers would tell a pack of lies on their motor insurance application form if it would save them a couple of quid.

One in five admitted they would be happy to pretend someone else caused scrapes and dents resulting from their own inability to perform even the most basic of manoeuvres without bumping into things.

Meanwhile, around a third had the brazen front to admit to LexusNexus researchers that the real driver of a vehicle they are insuring isn’t who they say it is.

On the bright side for insurers, they now know they can quite justifiably throw out at least a quarter (probably more like half) of all the motor insurance claims they receive. The trick is knowing which quarter (or half), of course.

Although, frankly, it wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that a 50-year old solicitor from Prestwich with a flawless no-claims history isn’t really driving around in a 2003 yellow Seat Ibiza 1.4 Sport, for example.

If respondents were candid about their readiness to misrepresent the risks they bring to their insurers, they came over all coy when asked about their readiness to cash in on the UK’s ongoing whiplash windfall claims bonanza.

Just 8% said they thought it was “acceptable to exaggerate the severity of a personal injury, such as whiplash, to increase the amount of money paid-out,” a statistic that can hardly reflect their real thoughts or intentions if, as is strongly suspected, there’s really no such thing as whiplash!

Two-thirds of respondents said they saw no problem with having their every move recorded by some form of telematics device if it would save them money, suggesting that one or two would-be fronters, self-shunters and misrepresenters really haven’t thought things through!

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March 17, 2014

Sadly, due to stupid bureaucratic Word Count Quotas, we are unable to bring you a Bankstone Story this week.

It’s bitterly disappointing because there are loads of really exciting developments afoot currently, including a slew of new appointments and some very exciting customer service initiatives that we are simply dying to tell you about.

But – just because some faceless functionary in an office somewhere has decided that we should only be allowed 100 words for this story – there simply isn’t space to tell you about any of it.

We have applied to have our WCQ reviewed, but at the time of writing we have not received so much as a

 

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March 14, 2014

So those busybody do-gooders at the Financial Conduct Authority want to “prevent consumers paying for poor-value insurance products that they may not need or use,” do they?

To naive ears, that might sound all very nice – but how exactly would insurance firms be supposed to make any money if they carried on like that?!

If you sell people insurance policies they do need, odds are they’re simply going to claim on them! And that’s money down the drain for the insurance industry and its shareholders. And if those policies were what the regulator euphemistically calls “good value” in the first place, that would only make the problem worse.

Whilst the idea that insurance firms use so-called strap-on insurance policies to sneak a little profit around the edges of their loss-leading “needed” policies is clearly nonsense, Al Barnes of law firm More Stephens is absolutely right to insist that if the regulator is going to get all silly about a few harmless extras, “the pricing of products may need to be to be re-visited” which will only “increase insurance costs for consumers.”

And, in any case, quite frankly, what is so wrong with selling people things they don’t need? Do people need the latest LP from Justin Beaver, Westzone or Wand Erection? Do they need Beyoncy’s In Heat Eau de Toilet, a chocolate-pumping archimedes’ screw, or some Jimmy Shoe chews? No they most probably do not! We buy such things for the simple pleasure of their ownership!

Who has time to tick every ‘yes please, I’d like one of those too’ box on every form they fill in? If we had to spend all our precious time on things like that, we’d never get anything done. Pre-ticked boxes are a convenience we would all miss sorely if those meddling bureaucrats took them away!

Most outrageous of all is the FCA’s absurd insistence that insurance buyers should be told what the claims ratios are on the policies they are offered. Have they really not thought this through?! That would be like online gambling sites and bookies publishing odds for all to see! It’s clearly a non-starter.

So kindly go away and have another little think, will you, Mr Regulator, before things get any further out of hand!

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