Come on you bludgers!

July 18, 2014

Bankstone News is sorry to have to say this, but your response, Dear Readers, to last week’s picture competition was frankly laughable.

Not one of the dozen or so guesses sent in came anywhere near identifying the driver of the very dirty vehicle pictured.

You are going to have to do better than that if you hope to clinch the coveted top prize in this never-to-be-repeated chance-of-a-lifetime type competition. But fear not: you still can!

Because it’s a bit hot, there’s ice-cold premium lager waiting for us down at the Badgers, and we can’t think what else to write about this week, we are offering you a second chance.

Reproduced below are the hands of the person pictured last week (kind of) driving the dirty car.

We have pixelated them to protect the innocent, but eagle-eyed readers may still discern enough to make a positive identification.

Remember, though, we have already told you that the driver is a man.

Maybe it’s, a man who plays golf… or one who thinks he does, at least.

Can you tell, as Dear old Uncle Rolf used to ask*, who it is yet?!

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*That is when he wasn’t saying things like “Let me Abos go loose, Bruce. They’re of no further use.”

July 18, 2014

FCA boss Dennis Wheatley was in a bullishly defiant mood at this week’s annual public meeting in London, banging on about having a “massive agenda” and how he wasn’t going to let a few cavils about insurer share price meltdowns and the like get to him.

Regular readers will be well aware that the new-fangled regulator has copped a sack of flack lately over its careless whispers about insurers possibly being obliged – not merely to treat customers fairly going forwards – but to make amends in cash for a whopping great tranche of former unfairnesses.

If people were expecting the FCA to come over all cowed and retreat into purdah pending the outcome of an ongoing enquiry over its injudicious announcement on legacy policies, they could, Wheato made abundantly clear, forget about it!  “The one thing we cannot do,” he confessed modestly, “is to go into purdah while we wait for it.”

Purdah, as readers will doubtless recall, is not the character played by Gurkha Friend the lovely Joanna Lumley in 70s espionage-based TV action series The New Seekers, but the practice – originated in ancient times by the Babylonians and Persians and still observed in many Middle Eastern and Islamic countries – of keeping women decently apart from men, thereby preventing the latter from any temptation they might feel to assail or corrupt the former’s virtue.

Now quite clearly the idea that anyone – male, female or otherwise – could plausibly assail or corrupt the virtue of a man like Dennis Wheatley is clearly preposterous. It is cheering, however, to have this very public reassurance that he and his minions are not simply going to be keeping their heads down on full pay while they await the full vindication a report on the legacy gaffe currently being carried out by law firm Clifford Chumps will eventually provide.

Wheato’s colleague John Griff-Rhys-Jones chimed with this undaunted note, claiming that the FCA is in “good heart” despite the endless accusations of incompetence and blunderment. FCA staff, he said, were “absolutely masterful” and “carrying on with their jobs as though this has not happened”.

He praised the FCA’s exemplary transparency and integrity in having asked its lawyers to have a look at the whole legacy gate thing almost as soon as it happened. ”If you make a mistake,” he said, (adding quickly, “and I am not saying we did”) “you have to have someone look at it.”

In exactly the same way that entities regulated by the FCA would expect to face a hefty fine and a range of other sanctions following the identification of any irregularities in their conduct, the regulator has been quick to pay the law firm of its choice a couple of hundred thousand to thoroughly investigate its complete innocence of any serious wrongdoing in this matter.

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July 17, 2014

Bankstone News is in a bit of a funny mood this week. It was all going so well until Wednesday when we happened to notice that leading industry publication Insurance Egg had surreptitiously snuck Episode 3 of Broker Apprentice onto its website. Initial glee at the prospect of another helping of our favourite online reality show, quickly turned to puzzlement, shortly followed by the classic sequence of denial (it’s not boring it’s just tackling some complex and challenging themes), anger (why have heavy-handed sponsors Zurg Insurance been allowed to hi-jack the entire episode to showcase their dismally uninspiring WTF Grading App?), bargaining (if we watch it another couple of times, will its subtle charms gradually reveal themselves?), depression (there goes any good last week’s show did the cause of attracting new recruits to the insurance industry) and acceptance (what did we really expect: we are talking about insurance after all).

At the end of the day, there really is but a single way about it: Broker Apprentice has badly lost its way. There’s nothing here to stir even the vaguest frisson of interest or pleasure. Last week’s recap at the top of show is the stand out highlight. Thereafter, once a boffin has extolled the algorithmic joys of Zurg’s patent WTF Grading risk assessment tool and the lovely Natalie has been foisted on Team Bro Kode, thereby diluting its essential Brosomeness (Team Bro Coed?), the episode descends into a Blair Witch style handheld stumble round the bowels and rooftop crannies of Haymarket House, West End home of Insurance Egg and various other prestigious tenants.  The good news for “eyes and ears” Manu Kenning and Jonno Swifty is that their workplace appears to be in no immediate danger of bursting into flames. The bad news is that Bankstone News and doubtless many other previously eager BA fans have just wasted 20 minutes of their lives finding this out.

Come on Broker Apprentice, you can do better than this!

Innovate

July 17, 2014

What is this modern obsession with treating customers fairly? Treating customers fairly? Do they think the great commercial empires of past and present got built by “treating customers fairly”? If we all went round treating customers fairly there’d be precious little point getting out of bed in the morning. Only the very slowest of bucks ever got made by treating customers fairly.

It’s like this nonsense about, “Oh, the customer is always right”. Really?! The customer is right when they make absurd nonsensical assumptions about what they’d like from your product or service and then get all upset when they don’t get it, are they?

That seems to be what the FCA are saying, now they are taking comparison sites to task because they focus on finding people cheap insurance rather than insurance that’s actually fit for purpose (and also, incidentally, for being a little less than fully forthcoming about being owned by insurers in certain cases).

Do consumers seriously think comparison sites have nothing better to do than to sit around all day agonising over their every whim, desire and special circumstance? Is it jolly mean that comparison-site quote-engines don’t trot off like digital Santa’s elves and scurry back in a jiffy with an insurance policy that’s just exactly right for you? Read the small print, Dummies. Take a punt like any other sucker, and stop your sickening whinging.

The customer is not always right. That prerogative, along with those of omnipresence, world-creatorship, and immaculate sexual congress with lady humans, belongs exclusively to God. When God comes looking for a motor insurance policy, you can be sure he’ll be fairly treated to the very ultimate degree. In the meantime, everybody else can take what they’re given or get the hell out.

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We honestly thought you said “monthly’ Lord!

July 11, 2014

In this week’s make-weight throwaway picture competition story (possibly the first of two this week, seeing as this edition got mysteriously held over from Friday with the chilling implication that you may yet receive another edition just three days from now), we ask you:

Just exactly who is driving this conspicuously filthy spring-loaded off-road runabout – and, more challengingly perhaps, why?

If you can identify the driver and offer a reasonably plausible diagnosis of the mild form of insanity prompting him to do so, you will automatically qualify for a chance to be entered in an exclusive draw for some unspecified prize at some unspecified point in time somewhere in the far distant future.

Clue: he is not a member of popular street dance crew BRIGHAUS BAD BOYZ, notwithstanding any indication to the contrary you may believe you have discerned embossed upon the, admittedly mud-caked and therefore part-way illegible, front fender.

Answers in an email, please, to editor@bankstone-news.co.uk

Closing date for entries: whenever really, we not too fussed.

who is driving

If you can’t guess, don’t worry: all will be revealed in a future edition of Bankstone News.

July 11, 2014

Great news, Kids: motor insurance is edging gingerly back towards the kind of pricing levels at which you might actually be able to afford it. Even if you live in Moss Side, Toxteth, Breightmet or some other such TransPennine hell hole.

Just kidding about that last bit, obviously, but car insurance premiums really have come down bait lately – particularly for youngsters – thanks to This Government’s ruthless and highly effective war on claims fraud… oh, no wait… thanks to rabid price-slashing by competition-crazed motor insurers.

In any event, the latest figures to emerge from that well-respected Motor Insurance Numbers Generating Engine the Confused Towels What’s-On Index show average car insurance premiums down 15% in the past year to just £579 (or Just-Five-Seven-Nine, as they say on the telly).

Females aged 17-20 have seen the biggest drop with premiums down 33% (or, dorsally speaking, FFM). Alcoholics Anonymous kind-of agree, reporting average premiums down £105 over the past year.

Last month, Ernst & Young predicted that motor insurers would be back to their usual loss-making ways after recording some kind of fluke hybrid of breaking even/actually making money this year – and that premiums would really need to go up again.

Jimmy Rackoff of Deeeloitte tends to agree with this last bit: “I expect car insurance premiums to start rising in line with inflation over the next 12 months,” he says. “The UK personal motor insurance industry returned to underwriting profitability in 2013. However, these figures were supported by the fact that insurers felt able to release claims reserves held at the previous year-end and this trend cannot go on indefinitely.”

For some strange reason best known to themselves analysts continue to labour under the bizarre misapprehension that motor insurers are out to make a profit. On the contrary, as is generally well understood outside the ivory towels of the financial research and analysis sector, motor insurers do it for the love of it – and for the opportunities it provides to make new friends and influence people.

Of course, they don’t worry to much if they occasionally end up with a quid or two in hand, but they would no more insist on making their customers pay full whack than would Bankstone News charge anything more than a nominal figure for its (several times offered, as yet unaccepted) services as personal masseur to (wildlife ambassador, glamour fitness consultant, and aspiring Miss Bradford) the very lovely Belisha Humplethwaite.

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July 11, 2014

Remember when people who were physically impaired in some way were routinely referred to as invalids (implying presumably that they were worthless or didn’t really count or something)? Bankstone News certainly does. Which might account for our initial confusion on reading press reports that a Bradford man had been jailed for selling invalid car insurance.

Once Bankstone News had twigged that it was the insurance that was invalid, not the cars or their prospective operators, a distinctly sinister story begun to take shape, a tale that told, not to put too fine a point on it, of decent honest Yorkshire folk getting royally fleeced by a skullduggerous scoundrel they’d innocently taken for one of their own.

The man in question, a certain Razzmatazz Iqbal has been accused, amongst other things, of being a ghost broker. Now, your classic ghost broker, as regular readers will doubtless recall, is a loathsome species of crepuscular bloodsucker who preys on unsuspecting vehicle owners, forcing them to fork out for suspiciously cheap motor insurance underwritten by non-existent underwriters.

What Iqbal was doing was something a little more subtle – or arguably a little more stupid – for instead of simply selling insubstantial insurance policies backed by non-existent insurance companies, he was actually buying real motor policies online under other people’s names from a “panel” of five insurers and then charging his victims the purchase price plus a handsome mark-up.

Whilst not particularly supernatural in character, Iqballs’ antics qualify as ghost broking in the limited sense that he was pretending to be a broker when he had not in fact passed a single one of the stringent array of professional tests, examinations, interviews, secret rites, and vetting procedures that a person must undergo to attain that exhalted status.

One particularly chilling aspect of Mr Iqbal’s crime, however, was that – according to crack police anti-fraud squad, iFEDs, who blew this case wide open – he pocketed over £45,000 by foisting these worthless, if not costless, insurance policies on to more than 100 Yorkshire persons on Asian descent who trustingly assumed that Iqbal (himself of Asian extraction) would have the best interests of fellow Asian Yorkshirepersons at heart.

Shame on you, Razzmatazz Igbal!

enter-the-matrix-ghost

July 11, 2014

Regular readers will be wearily familiar with Bankstone News’ sick obsession with insurance-themed online video sensation Broker Apprentice.

The first instalment, aired last week, introduced us to the six contestants whose first challenge was to invent names for the two teams into which they were split. They ended up settling on the vanishingly insipid and clichéd Team Innovate and the frankly bizarre male-bonding inspired Team Bro Kode (for full details click here to see last week’s Bankstone News coverage).

For their second challenge, the two teams were tasked with convincing an audience of Year 10 pupils at one of London’s top inner city schools (Mossbourne Community Academy in Hackney) that insurance is a fascinating and rewarding industry/profession/whatever in which to work.

In their pre-presentation “strategy” session, Team Bro Kode appeared to spend most of their time arguing over whether the opportunity to study for lots of CII exams was a selling point or a turn-off for would-be broker trainees.

Former soldier Will reckoned the big appeal of insurance is that you don’t need lots of exams and can just pick it up as you go along. Graduates Josh (Law) and Max (Economics) disagreed. Expert Jonathan Swift gamely attempted to persuade us that this difference of opinion was interesting.

Team Innovate spent less time arguing and more agreeing that a) emphasising the diversity of a career in insurance and b) audience participation would both be important, and c) they would probably win. Which they did.

Cut to the big day.

As they stride out onto a brand new looking but very creaky stage, the Bros are clearly on a hiding to nothing. By way of explaining what insurance is about to people whose awareness of insurance, they are assuming, will be based exclusively on TV advertising, a somewhat disheveled Will mimes/acts-out getting up and going to school, encountering hazards such as “pretty hot” toast along the way.

Super sauve Will provides kids TV style narration, before Josh interjects in the role of presenter. “So you’re thinking where’s insurance got to do with Will’s journey to school. Well, insurance was there to cover all the what ifs. What if Will’s toast had of burned, created a fire, burned his house down.” Insurance “helps keep you protected on a daily life” Will elucidates, having now abandoned his thespian duties.

Having clarified that, the three amigos launch into detailed summaries of their own careers to date. In a nutshell Will always wanted to be a soldier and it was going really well but unfortunately it didn’t work out so he ended up working in a bank and then found his way into insurance which was “absolutely fantastic”.

Josh was dead set on being a lawyer (or possibly ‘a law’ – he’s a little unclear at this point) but having got his law degree he met a powerful older man who opened his eyes and beckoned him into an industry where the possibilities are limitless.

Poor Max was “always going to go into financial services” but had never thought about insurance. Now, however, he recognises that “there’s so much that you can do, that it’s a great place to be” with lots of opportunities for people who fancy leaving school after GCSEs and getting stuck in.

“You’ve been given an opportunity to listen to us,” Josh congratulates his listeners, adding that “we’ve all shared our passion with you. If you take one thing forward from today,” he urges, it should be that “the opportunities are limitless.” With that, the fabulous broker brothers wander off stage to a bewildered smattering of polite applause.

Creaking on to take their places, Team Innovate begin with an explanation/demonstration of insurance which is, if anything, even less coherent than Bro Kode’s. “If I go grab my handbag just now,” suggests likeable young Scot Daniel, returning quickly from the wings with the aforementioned accessory. “If I pay £10 to Veronica, she will look after my phone for the whole year.” He hands her his “phone”, in reality an iPad, but you get the general idea. “So, she takes my phone and she will look after it. However, if I am out on a night out and I drop my handbag, she will give me £100 to go out and get a new phone.”

After this slightly shaky start, things pick up a good deal, with lots of audience participation and the persuasive charm of not one but two Scots accents (If it works for call centres…). Veronika talks a bit about claims. Natalie talks a bit about underwriting. Dan says he quite likes Meerkats, although they can be a bit annoying, and he actually has one of the toys, but stresses that “Insurance is far and beyond a lot more than than.”

Innovate wrap up with a Q&A, during which they talk a bit about their own experience. Veronika did badly at school but worked her way up. Natalie reveals (we think) that she wanted “to be a dancer at Sin” but found insurance when that didn’t work out. Dan says he “didn’t have a clue” when he went into insurance, but soon found himself enthralled. “People think insurance is boring,” he says, “but it really isn’t” and “it’s something you can fall into at any time.”

No doubt appreciating the fact that the second team have actually acknowledged their presence and even engaged with them as something other than a few passive rows of faces, the assembled Year 10s acclaim Team Innovate as winners, with more or less a single voice.

In the debrief interviews, task loser Max demonstrates consummate political skills, gracefully opining that: “I think at the end of the day the task was more about inspiring young people into our industry and, if both teams did that, I consider that a job well done.”

Watch and learn, Ed Milliband.

brokode

Bro Kode Live

July 4, 2014

Hearty congratulations are due this week to Allan “Papa” Poppleton, stalwart lynchpin of the entire Bankstone empire, who celebrates a particularly fine 60-year innings this very Sunday.

In the interests of a) sparing Allan’s blushes and b) getting Bankstone News out before everyone has gone home for the weekend, we will say no more, but simply leave you with a handful of evocative vignettes from the long and illustrious career of the man they can simply “Allan” or sometimes even just “Al”.

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July 4, 2014

Much to the delight of everyone here in the Bankstone News News Room, last year’s runaway online video comedy sensation, Broker Apprentice, is back for a second hilarious season.

In Episode 1, (click here to view now) we met six fresh-faced young brokers who, the voice-over tells us above authentic Apprentice-style swirly orchestral-electro combat music, share a single ambition “to be crowned Broker Apprentice 2014”.

Clearly, at least five of them are going to end up disappointed.

Presiding over their fate this year will be Zurich Personal Limes boss Tim Holidays who, the voice-overtells us clunkily, “runs a business that controls in excess of three hundred million of premium.”

Like last year’s Sir Alan stand-in, Chris Hanky, Tim will be assisted by “eyes and ears” Jonathan Swifty and Emmanuel Kenning. The distinction is never properly clarified, but Bankstone News’ guess would be that Swifty is the eyes and Emmanuel (or Emmanuelle, as Tim, who may or may not know something we do not, insists on calling him) is the ears.

The New-Gothic pink Brazilian marble facade of No. 3 Munster Court provides a suitably impressive backdrop to a compelling sequence during which, over plinky plonky cocktail piano, the candidates arrive and introduce themselves.

The segment begins rather tamely with Scots lass Veronica Belle telling us that she works well both as a member as a team and individually, and is good with clients.

Things begin to pick up a bit when fellow Scot Daniel Kinlan pops up telling us, with a nervous glance over his shoulder, that he finds it “dead easy to meet new people” and that, if he ever has to meet a client, he finds it easy to relate to them (the word ‘client’ accented with a dismissive grimace that says “Clients? I’m not afraid of them!”). Dan admits he can be a bit impatient, but cleverly recasts this supposed weakness as a strength – as he always wants “to keep striving to go further”. “I can talk to anybody,” he clarifies, “should it be a colleague or even just friends, and I think I can really implement that in the insurance market in future.”

Suavely saturnine Max Thompson, first seen riding the Munster Court escalators, thinks one of his key strengths is “with my background working towards my CII qualifications,” which gives him a good overall knowledge of “lots of different things, lots about regulations” and says he likes to keep himself up to date generally. “I know a lot about what happens in a broker,” he concludes, adding with affably complacent imprecision: “and, yeah, I have the skills to be able to do that.”

Natalie Marten should have plenty of experience to draw on in the business of apprenticeship, having already worked in insurance for no fewer than 14 years “very much from an office junior up to the position where I am now.” You name it, she’s worked on it. Nat knows risk like the back of her hand and reckons she has all the skills to “build a portfolio that insurers want to see and want to work with us to quote upon.”

Somewhat disconcertingly, Will Glee arrives by taxi sporting what appears to be some kind of collar and leash arrangement around his neck, before reassuring us that he finds it really easy to get on with people “regardless of who they are.” “I can usually put people at their ease,” he continues, “using either current affairs or sports or something like that.” This, he explains, is “just to break the ice and show that, although it is, you know, business, there is an element of customer service that underlies everything.”

Joshua Cryer prides himself on his “ability to analyse and evaluate a risk and then ultimately present that risk to the insurer whilst also keeping the client in mind and having full interaction with the client throughout the full process.” If that sounds quite staggeringly dull, fear not. Josh also has “a great passion” for the insurance industry. A passion so great, in fact, that he actually has to close his eyes briefly and collect himself before sharing this heartfelt profession.

Now that we have finally met all six, Tim Holidays briefs the assembled contenders on their first task: naming the two teams into which they are about to be split.

The first of these comprises Natalie, Daniel and Veronica. “I think it should be something that relates to success, or victory or winning,” Dan suggests. Team Winning, might not be quite right, he concedes, due to its being, arguably, “a bit cheesy”. Yes, the others agree, let’s call it Team Innovate. Which they do.

Deliberations take a decided more outlandish turn with the team comprising Will, Josh and Max. Something “that reflects broking but, at the same time, keep it lighthearted,” suggests Josh. “Something funny or that reflects current affairs maybe,” chips in Will, returning to his passion for the contemporaneous. “Could also go for a bit of alliteration,” he continues, suggesting, with a raised index finger, “Broker Broncos.” This inspires enthusiastic discussion of mascots, logos, flags etc, before transmuting via Brokos to BROkode, a name the trio universally acclaim for being “a bit quirky and silly”, sounding like ‘broke’, and emphasising the fact that, as Josh notes, “we are three men.” “Yeah, that’s it,” concurs Will with a knowingly suggestive chuckle, “three guys!”

With Task 1 “successfully” completed, the trio must now prepare for an even more daunting second task. This, Tim Holidays advises them, involves visiting places of education to persuade future school leavers that insurance is a great career.

Whilst not a single nod animates the dour-faced contestants in the cut-away shots accompanying Tim’s instance that “you guys know what a fantastic career insurance is,” Max’s face conveys a lack of conviction bordering on outright contempt.

Good luck with those kids, guys!

Will

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