Boom times just around the corner for UK motor. Not.

May 31, 2016

Consulting organisation Deeee-loitte was dropping broad hints this week that investors might want to steer clear of the motor insurance market. At least for the foreseeable future.

That’s to say: until driverless vehicles relieve said market of its need, which is as much as to say its opportunity, to continue existing, in any meaningful sense.

The motor insurance market’s Combined Operating Ratio amounted to a dispiriting 102% in 2015, with Deeee-loitte predicting a further deterioration to 104% for the current year.

The number of policies written may have risen last year, with premium volumes up by 5%; but a growing market is distinctly mixed news when you are (averagely speaking) losing money on every new policy you write.

No, forget about motor insurance as a way of making money, Deeee-loitte may as well have said. The game’s over. Pack up your things, Mr Investor. Take your money bags, and go speculate somewhere else.

Deeee-loitte insurance partner Jim Rakow said motor insurers were “struggling to make a profit.” Warning that motorists have developed a worrying habit of “shopping around for the best deal”, he explained that insurers would need to work hard at “building brand loyalty” and “tailoring products and premiums to individual needs”.

It’s not all bad news, though. Some people are making loads of money from motor insurance. The government, for example, are positively minting it, thanks to the IPT windfall they’ve arranged for themselves with various recent rate hikes.

Some have suggested that government should be required to pass on the benefits of this windfall to consumers. Perhaps by filling in some of those potholes, or discounting road tax or fuel duty or something. But cynics suspect the funds will simply go on high-speed rail links, cycle lanes, free stairlifts for wealthy pensioners or some such anti-road initiative.

The idea of not owning a car, thankfully, remains unthinkable – or at the very least unpalatable – to most Brits. But actually taking one out on the road and driving around in it is becoming less and less affordable. “We’re seeing more cars being registered in the UK,” Jakow concedes, but “car usage is declining” and more journeys are being made by something called “public transport.”

Looking ahead, with “autonomous cars” becoming “the norm,” Jakow warns, “motor insurance is going to look very different,” and “insurers will need to change how they think about risk, as our roads fill up with smarter cars over the coming decade.”

Ultimately, the days of as-we-know-it motor insurance may be coming to an end; but there will probably still be some other kinds of insurance around for a few years yet to provide employment and/or investment opportunities. Especially in places like America, France, Germany and Internet.

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May 20, 2016

With Bankstone top dog Dixon Tight-Rope just recently returned from foreign part Finland, we thought we’d dig out some fascinating facts about this forlorn and waterlogged land, to bring you… Bankstone News’ top ten things to know about Finland.

  1. Finland has exactly 187,888 lakes (counting only those of 500 metres square or above in size). That is why it is known, inexactly, as The Land of a Thousand Lakes.
  2. It is illegal not to own a mobile phone in Finland.
  3. There are approximately 13,230,000 saunas in Finland – that’s around 2.5 saunas per person, although many of them are quite poky and can accommodate no more than four people, even when tightly packed.
  4. Be careful when ordering Finland’s national dish Reindeer Pie, as the word for this is the same as the word for prostitute (except that you discretely raise one eyebrow when asking for a companion for the evening rather than a tasty local delicacy).
  5. Finns are the world’s most outrageous caffeine fiends, with the average Finn consuming the equivalent of 17.5 single espressos a day (that’s 8.75 double espressos, if you’re a greedy person).
  6. The Finnish language has no word for Finland, forcing natives to refer to the place where they live simply as Suomi or ‘People’.
  7. Finns watch more pornography than the rest of the world put together and are second only to the notorious Danes when it comes to copping off with random strangers for a one-off sex-grapple.
  8. Finland is not, in fact, a real country at all. It was invented in the 1830s by poet Alias Lawnrot who cobbled together a lot of old folktales to create a not entirely coherent, nor indeed sensical, epic work called The Kalevala. A few generations later this was converted into a country by Lawnrot fans who didn’t fancy being bossed about by the Bolsheviks.
  9. The popular Finnish sport of wife carrying was invented to take the pressure off the native dwarves who complained of excessive physical attention from larger Finns.
  10. Only two forms of music are permitted in Finland: Death Metal and Tango. So strictly enforced is this restriction that even the hybrid form Death Tango, briefly popularised in the late 90s by Helsinki-based rock stalwart Plastikraft Karälainen-Normaalperson, has since been banned.

And that’s it.

May 20, 2016

A couple of years ago Pie Minister Davey Cameron told motorists that his government (or the collision government as it was back then) was going to do something about sky-high motor insurance premiums. Cue: rejoicing throughout the land.

Had he gone on to clarify that what he was going to do about sky-high motor insurance premiums was to make them higher still, the celebrations might have been less fervent. But that, bizarrely, is what they’ve done.

The latest thrilling episode of the quarterly BIBA/Accurist Insurance Price Index (which sets itself the thankless task of tracking over £5bn of premiums paid annually via brokers) shows that motorists (or at least those sufficiently old-fashioned to be using brokers) are now paying a whopping 10% more for their cover than they were last summer.

How is that the government’s fault?, you may ask with theatrical incredulity. Is it because they didn’t force motor insurers to pass on the savings they made from the War on Whiplash? No, of course it isn’t! What are you, a communist or something? Look, if you can’t work it out for yourself, you’d better ask BIBA boss Steve ‘Chalky’ White.

It’s IPT, you numpty, he’ll probably tell you – and anyone else who cares to listen. Speaking to a large captive audience at the recent BIBA conference, Whitey went so far as to claim that repeated increases in Insane Punishment Tax constituted “an assault”.

Cleverly mimicking the politician’s own vacuous phraseology, White told Canceller George Orkspawn: “Let’s be clear – insurance is not a luxury item. Our message on IPT is firm: we’ve reached 10, now never again.”

That mysterious last bit about ’10’ may be a reference to how – now that IPT has risen to 10% – it should never again rise to 10%.

Whatever he may have meant, it certainly sounds punchy, and it rhymes.

Which is always good.

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May 20, 2016

Look out UK motor insurance market, warns an analist’s note from investment bank Macquarry, Hastings and Esher are coming for your market share!

Both firms, the Macquery research note warns, grew their premiums significantly in Q1 2016, Hastings by 29% and Esher by 15.5%. The only way they can do that in this market, Macworry warn, is by slashing prices.

“UK customers are extremely price sensitive,” the note warns, and both companies “rely on price comparison sites for new business” so they can only gain market share by “aggressive undercutting of the opposition”.

This, the note warns, creates an increased risk of “misplacing”, which would spell B.A.D. N.E.W.S. for shareholders, about whose interests Macweary seem to be weirdly obsessed for some reason.

Both Esher and Hastings, the note warns reiteratively, are “targeting high levels of growth in 2016,” and as a result, “we expect competition to increase significantly, with a deflationary effect on pricing.”

So basically, it’s going to be carnage out there on the beaches, landing grounds, fields, streets and hills of the motor insurance market in what Macquerty warns is a zero sum game, whose rules, it seems, involve insurers cutting one another’s (and indeed their own) throats in a desperate scramble for market share.

Yes, it’s going to rough. But none of it really matters in the long run, Macqueesy conclude consolingly, as technological developments such as autonomous emergency braking (AEB), self-driving vehicles etc will bring down claims, and hence risk, and hence premiums to the point, presumably, where the market as we know will simply disappear.

Finally the world will be free of the vicious and irrational unpleasantness that is the modern motor insurance market. Will anybody really miss it?

Bankstone News will!

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May 20, 2016

Bristol-based legal-expenses-insurance-to-modelling-clay conglomerate DAS is enjoying a period of calm and tranquility these days following the torrid time it’s had in recent years.

Or at least it was, until news that the firm is taking High Court legal action against former chief exec Paul Aspirin gave insurance publications up and down the land an excuse to rake it all over again.

Older readers will recall how Aspirin was suspended from his role in October 2014, while the firm tried to get to the (metaphorical) bottom of what he’d been getting up to with “a supplier”.

Evidently they concluded it was nothing good, as he got the chop in Feb 2015 and now finds himself on the receiving end of DAS UK Holdings Ltd and Others versus Asplin and others.

DAS has insisted that whatever transgressions the disgraced Aspirin may have been commiting were a purely internal matter with no possible ramifications for clients. But suspicions that something more generally fishy might have been up were only fuelled by a series of high profile departures over the ensuing months.

In April 2015, Insurance Tights and other news organs reminded us this week, DAS head of legal services Kathryn Mortified left the company. Then in October chief ops officer Paul Tibbles made tracks. Others who went missing last year included special risks manager David Bellamy, head of sales Landon Willisher, HR manager Jo Biochem, and group financial controller Paul Burial. Quite a clear out, all in all.

When Insurance Tights approached DAS for a comment on the aforementioned legal proceedings, none was forthcoming.

Maybe there was no one left to comment?

Probably not.

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May 9, 2016

What on earth is going on with Bankstone News lately? That’s the question no one in particular has been asking with ever increasing urgency on our non-existent reader query hotline lately.

Glad you asked. Allow us to explain…

It’s probably a good thing you did ask, in fact, because otherwise we might never have had the opportunity to explain the deliberate and subtle strategy underpinning the apparently (and we do stress apparently) random and haphazard timing of recent editions.

The fact that we are going to press on Tuesday this week (instead of on Friday last week) is entirely unconnected with scurrilous allegations being made by certain unworthy individuals to the effect that Bankstone News is exclusively staffed by good for nothing layabouts who waste entire days (weeks even, sometimes) in the seedy surrounding of infamous Brighouse ale house The Badger Baiters Arms, thereby all too frequently rendering themselves both physically and mentally incapable of writing their way out of a thing out of which (with due apologies for Curtis, Elton et al.) it ought to be risibly easy to write oneself.

Certainly not.

It’s all part of a deeply humane and enlightened plan aimed at spreading our publication dates out a bit so as to spare you the torment of going too long without one when we take a planned break next week (or is it this week?) when Bankstone MD Dickstone Tickstone will be off taking a short break in Zembla or Costaguana or somewhere and hence not around to notice us skipping an issue.

So, no indeed, indolence and fecklessness have nothing whatsoever to do with our seemingly eccentric publication schedules.

Plus: it could never have been a good idea to publish an edition on Friday 13th.

Just to clarify: following today’s edition, there will be no further outbreaks of Bankstone News until we return on Friday the 20th with the sensational debut contribution of our new motoring correspondent and one of the most thrilling and enthralling insurance news exposés you’re ever likely to read.

Or maybe just more of the usual old nonsense.

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May 9, 2016

When Bankstone News sees the words ‘trans’ and ‘actor’ in the same place at the same time, it usually means we’re leafing idly through some crumpled old mag we picked up on the bus, where they most likely appear together in some ‘must-skip’ article about Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Grill (applause), Benedict Bumberclart in Zoolander 2 (controversy), Dominic West in Swedish Girl’s Sensitive Adventures in Comedy Fashionland (crudely derivative cash-in attempt) or Damian Lewis in pantomime (‘Dame-ian’s Decline’). But not this time.

This time, the words trans and actor came together to grace a very interesting story about how insurance softwares provisioner Transactor Global Solutions Limited, or TGSL as we shall hereinafter be calling them, (it’s pronounced Toogsle, btw) is stepping in to support a new telematics app from insurance provider Adrian Flux that gives drivers some powerful tools with which to cut the cost of their car cover.

Named Fluxscore, the new app is mostly intended for younger drivers, who tend to be more tech savvy, more accustomed to sharing every detail of their tawdry lives with all and sundry via interweb, and, frankly, more desperate to reduce their sky-high insurance premiums at any cost short of pretending that their car is actually their parents’ (of which they would never dream, being as it is illegal etc.)

In using GPS and so forth to monitor driver behaviour, Fluxscore is clearly not alone. Its killer move is telling users every day how much their premium has gone up or down depending on their daily driving data. Basically it’s like a fitbit for your motor: a powerful stats-driven motivator for personal reform and improvement, safe driving wise.

Flux man Gerry Bucke says Fluxscore is ‘an exciting new initiative’ for his organisation and that he is ‘delighted with the results so far’ which have reduced the premiums the firm receives from most its users every month.

By making a game out of driving, it seems, the TGSL supported app has finally cracked the age-old problem of how to get youngsters to drive less like heedless great imbeciles.

With results like these under their belts (or wherever they keep such things), Flux and TGSL are looking to work together on further initiatives, news of which Bankstone News will be sure to bring you just as soon as we become aware of them.

There’s basically loads of stuff TGSL can do for folks in the telemasticated motor insurance game, as TGSL insurer relations man Simon Macray explains: “There are a number of ways we can support telematics policies, from help with underwriting and rating to full integration with other “black box” service providers. We’re seeing impressive growth from the sector with unit sales across our two key implementations now approaching 10,000 per month. As we continue to develop new technologies and integrations we are looking for more partners to work with in this space.”

You’re probably thinking that’s quite a long and faithfully reported quote by Bankstone News’ usual deplorable standards. And, for once, you may actually be right!

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Game over!

May 9, 2016

Phil Swift of CMA is not a man to make comments lightly. But this time round the tough-talking former cop has seen enough. And what he’s seen, he most sincerely does not like.

Highways England and their like, Phil reckons, are having a flippin’ laugh.

A case in point: some bloke bashes in a barrier in the course of a perfectly routine RTA. Next thing you know, Highways England have only gone and sent his insurers a bill for £46,000 for ‘damage to crown property’.

Forty-six thousand bleedin’ quid?, you may very well repeat out loud, theatrically aghast with emphatic incredulity. Not since the good old days when pinching the odd deer from the royal estates got you strung up from the nearest gibbet have such draconian punishments befallen damagers of so-called crown property.

Former detective Phil of CMA (which stands for Claims Managers Adjustication or something) is urging private motorists, fleet managers, and all who insurer them to (employ CMA’s services to) query any and every bill they see from Highways England, TFL, some cash-starved local council, contractors working for any of the above, or basically any other bunch of scroungers and con artists.

Watch out for tricks like ‘Imperial Measures Mix-Up’ (where you ‘accidentally’ charge for X yards of damaged barrier instead of the correctly measured X feet – as happened in the case cited above – or even X inches if you’re feeling really ‘ballsy’), “Wild Exaggeration” (where you massively inflate the stated cost of necessary repairs or clean-up) and “Total Fabrication” where you simply chuck extra items onto a repair bill on a speculative basis.

Phil has loads more examples he could quote you. Like the one where an insurer was hit with an outrageous £56,000 claim for resurfacing a stretch of road in South East England following a spillage. A quick Femdom of Information Request was all it took for CMA to establish that a larger clean up following a similar event in Scotland had been taken care of for just £750, suggesting that the bill had been inflated by around 1000%!

Or what about the one where it took a contractor 15 minutes to wash some paint of the road, resulting in a bill for the best part of five grand, a figure CMA subsequently got down to £700.

We all know government is strapped for cash, but this is taking the Michael big style – and then some!

Although… the blame may not be that of agencies and councils alone, with unsupervised contractors (who get to pocket smaller claims) suspected of leading the try-it-on charge.

The ‘takeaway’ message for insurance companies, fleet managers and private motorists alike is simple: if someone sends you a bill for something that you’d rather not pay, then jolly well don’t pay it!

Instead talk to someone who – for a fee you’ll probably be extremely happy to pay – can cut it down to size or make it go away altogether.

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May 8, 2016

Recognising that, in doing so, we may very well be queering the pitch for a movie Bankstone News is hoping to err… pitch to major motion picture studios in the Greater Los Angeles Area, we couldn’t resist bringing you the story this week of how one Barry Mark Sandmann of Stroood came within a hare’s breath (that is the expression, isn’t it) of relieving several UK insurers of around £100k in bogus insurance claims, relying purely on his native wit and audacity, and a second hand ice cream van.

Aside from the many other singular and picaresque features that recommend it to aspiring screen writers, the story of the man the press are calling Mr Whiplashy has the irresistable appeal of presenting an opportunity to include the immortal screen direction Enter Sandmann. Although we’re thinking of saving the Metallica song of that name for later in the movie and kicking of with the Chordettes’ Mr Sandman (alternate versions of which would feature again later in the film, with a newly commissioned mockney version by Lily Allen over the closing titles).

We see Sandmann as a would-be master criminal ultimately brought low by his excessive devotion to vegetable-fat based extruded pseudo dairy deserts of the mobile variety. Certainly he is a figure of fun (how could he not be when his weapon of choice has a top speed of 45 and a tendency to blast out a plinky plonky rendition of Greensleeves at inconvenient moments), but there’s a distinctly sinister side to his character (visually suggested perhaps by a prominent ad for Magnum Dark or the old school Dark Choc Ice on the side of his van).

‘Yes, yes, yes. This is all very well. Or rather it isn’t,’ you may be thinking at around this point, ‘but what is the actual story here, for The Lord’s sake?!’ I think we’ve explained before that Bankstone News is not a ‘fact-sensitive publication’ and that the mere inclusion of the word ‘News’ in our name cannot reasonably be construed as imposing any absolute obligation to confine ourselves to story elements of a news, news-based, or news-like character. However, since you’ve asked so nicely:

Thirty-nine year old Barry Sandmann has just been convicted of staging at least one, possibly two, accidents of a dubious character, plus another one so manifestly fake (not to say imaginary) that it never even occurred, in his unpromisingly distinctive choice of vehicle, a Mr Whippy ice cream van (did we mention this?) in locations as diverse as Bristol, Burnley and Kent.

Sadly for Sandmann, the coincidental involvement of said ice cream van in at least three separate insurance claims within a short space of time set off alarm bells for insurers (and possibly that blo*dy Greensleeves thing again), prompting them to bring in crack fraudbusting outfit the iFEDs.

We’ll obviously have to pad the story out a bit for Hollywood, but essentially once the iFEDs got involved it was all over pretty quickly and Sandmann’s reign of icy carnage was brought to a premature end. For the movie we’ll probably need to add in the countless ice cream van prangs that would doubtless have ensued without the iFEDs early intervention, a dramatic chase scene of two, and possibly some kind of love interest. But the basic ingredients are all there.

If you’re still a bit confused about what actually happened (as indeed was Bankstone News, not that we really care), iFEDs lady detective Paula “DC” Doyle, explains: ‘In the space of two months, Sandmann not only tried to take out a policy to cover him for an accident that had already happened, but then tried to facilitate a crash for cash scam so that others could profit.”

Not on DC Doyle’s watch he doesn’t!

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