Archive for Credit Crunch

Insurance Companies Should Support Barclays Shareholders Bonus Demands

Regular readers of Insurance Blog will know that we are not fans of Banc-assurance, indeed if it was mandatory you’d find us voting for UKIP in next months local elections!

The whole concept of banc-assurance, a European import of the mid Nineteen Nineties, with it’s centralised lifestyle, bank and insurance personal umbrella,  has stunk of plutocracy since the cosy relationships were first formed to maximise profit for the few.

PPI claims and mis-selling are just one example of things that would never have occurred if Banks had not been allowed to sell insurance products. (or should I re-phrase that ‘mis-sell’).

Large un-democratic multi-nationals are not good for competition or the UK Economy and the evidence shows that they are stifling business growth. Critics may argue that the market will decide and shareholders make this process democratic.

Not when over 70% of the shares in the Banks are owned by the large Insurance Companies, including in particular the large life  insurance and pension fund composites of Aviva, Legal & General and RSA, to name just a few!

Don’t just blame the previous Labour Government (FSA) for the mess that was created outside of their control. The fact that as predicted here two years ago, the UK has this week slipped into the dreaded double-dip recession, shows the problem is fundamently structural and lies in the ownership, management and control of the banks and mortgage lenders who control the money supply and are responsible for the current Western recession.

Incidently, by restricting credit they are also currently responsible for killing British entreprenuerial spirit and destroying growth potential in SME business.

The poor management speaks for itself in shareholder dividends. Just a penny in the pound for those poor shareholders of Barclays!

Today they are openly up in revolt to demand that the Chief Executive is not worth his $4 million annual bonus. Quite rightly so in our humble opinion. The overpaid who fail should not be rewarded, especially at the expense of those who take the risks.

Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond received a £1.35m salary and a £2.7m bonus for 2011, with an additional £2.25m in long-term incentive payments. Barclays has set aside an extra £300m for settling claims of mis-selling payment protection insurance. A £2.62bn accounting adjustment and the extra Payment Protection Insurance Claims reserve meant the bank reported a statutory pre-tax loss of £475m in the first quarter of this year as opposed to a £1.66bn profit a year ago.

More importantly though, the actions of these minions will fail as the outrageous bonuses are supported by the Insurance companies, who own big blocks of shares and voting rights.

There is your Plutocracy!

Regardless of your political allegiances, before you renew your insurance, if you can afford to that is, think about how these multi-nationals are encouraging the sort of undemocratic behaviour seen today that should not be seen at all, especially in a time when millions of families in the UK, it has also been announced today, between them owe £58 billion in debt mostly composed of interest and bank charges, to these very same ‘institutions’.


Shadow Banks Not Banks To Blame For UK Economic Crisis says FSA

Lord Turner, Head of the Government owned,  insurance broker  subsidised UK financial services authority the FSA, has been busy espousing his thoughts on the current economic crisis and apparently the banks are not to blame for the banking crisis!

It’”s not the banks, its the Shadow banks who are to blame”, cries the Lord. These shadow banks are still out there doing damage’ said the Lord, and one can only suppose from his attack that their activities are outside the control of the current banking reforms, and his influence.

Shadow Banks? What on earth are they then me lawd?

Well according to his honourable lordship in last nights speech,  “In autumn 2008 the developed world’s banking system suffered a severe crisis … but it’s striking that the crisis did not initially seem to be one of banks themselves, but rather of an apparently new phenomenon: shadow banking. So we need to ensure that our regulatory response appropriately covers shadow banking as well as banks.”

(Whooa! Hold on me lawd. What about the activites of RBS, Northern Rock, LLoyds etc etc etc. Insurance blog got sick of writing about the baknks in the autumn of 2008. Read our archives!)

Lord Turner then described shadow banking as activities including securitised lending, hedge funds active in credit markets, investment bank trading of credit securities, the issuance of asset-backed commercial paper and the repossession market.

Hmm, yes that covers just about everything that Banks and Insurance companies do with your money when they take your salary, insurance premiums and mortgage payments.

Which begs the question that those in the UK insurance sector have been asking about the FSA since its foundation in 2005. Just what regulatory powers can the FSA possibly have over the Global Free Market other than being a souped up consumer protection vehicle through the FSCS, beggars belief.

If it is aware of all the shadowplay, which is carried out by all the big groups, banks, insurance and assurance companies and holding companies that the FSA is supposed to be regulating, then just what can it do to avert a future scenario like we saw in 2008?

Insurance blog is still firmly of the opinion that the FSA is full of overpaid, bloated bureaucrats, funded by insurance fees, that is no better than an after the event vehicle and punishment body for money making in  fines.

Face it Lord Turner, the FSA will never be able to tell the City how to do business only maybe how to conduct it!

New Year Recession Fears

Insurance blog thought the silly season was in the Summer, but from the noises coming out of Whitehall and what remains of Fleet St. recently, it looks like it’s begun early!

If all the Economic pundits are to be believed, you would think that the economy was rosy! No chance of a the dreaded double dip recession now ……..

Hmm, what about the 600,000 job losses in the public sector that still have to be made this spring and will have to be paid for out of a shrinking GDP, rising wage demands from the private sector, fuels costs going through the roof and VAT at it’s highest ever 20%!

However you look at the current situation the immediate future does not look too bright!

Amongst all the coalition division and noise about quangos, cuts, student fees, interest rates and inflation, the UK Government has this week raised Insurance premium tax to 6%. With the cost of Insurance already at record highs as companies try to build up lost claims reserves, maybe they thought we’d not notice more indirect taxation!

The future doesn’t look too orange for Corporal Clegg and his Liberal lackies either who are currently enjoying their lowest popularity level for 30 years.

Meanwhile David Cameron is making noises about the housing sector while failing to enforce the necessary lending from the banks that would inject some momentum into a recovery, he has spoken out about plans to clamp down even further on mortgages in the name of responsible lending.

Tory Housing minister Grant Shapps has said that under the new  FSA’s Mortgage Market Review (MMR) proposals, he himself would have failed to get a mortgage.

Now Cameron has said that lenders have already gone too far in preventing ‘good risk’ buyers from getting mortgages.

The Prime Minister warned that the housing market was ‘stuck’ and would not improve until banks and building societies got back to ‘respectable’ lending.  Cameron said the reaction to the crash had now gone too far.

He said: “The pendulum has now swung too far the other way. If you are a single person, you are earning a decent salary, you go to the bank or building society, you are actually quite a good risk, they won’t give you 80% of the value, they won’t give you four times your salary.

“So we are working with them to try and say, of course we don’t want to see the unsustainable boom of the past, but we’ve got to get proper lending, respectable lending, going again.”

Cameron made it clear that he did not want to see a return to 120% mortgages and loans based on seven or eight times earnings.

He said: “We don’t want another housing boom where prices rise out of people’s reach, but the housing market is a key part of the economy. You need a housing market where people are able to sell and people are able to buy.”

Yeah and one where banks lend money! It wasn’t irresponsible lending to UK homeowners that caused the current recession, if this was the case then repossessions would not be at the levels they are! Moreover bad banking and buying toxic debt from the USA were the root cause. With the same people in control, these banks must be forced to lend to both homeowners and businesses alike if we are to see any real recovery in the housing and employment markets in the UK in 2011.

The effect of the Budget upon the UK Insurance market

The hatchet man Chancellor George Osborne has spoken and the little red box opened to reveal one of the most stinging budgets in recent memory, already named the austerity budget, with huge public sector job losses, spending cuts and tax rises for all!

On the face of it Insurance escapes fairly lightly with Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) raised for the first time in over ten years to 6% from 5%. 

 IPT is chargeable  on every insurance policy sold within the UK,  although Insurance is currently VAT exempt. 

This rise will harden the market with slightly raised premiums,  however it is suggested by many in the City that the percentage increase will mostly go un-noticed by the majority of the insurance buying public.  A spokesperson for specialist car insurance company Car Insurance TV said that ‘this increase in IPT will add just a few pounds to the cost of an average car insurance policy, however levels of competition will often see this absorbed by the Insurance Companies trying to win your business’.

A major impact upon the supply of Insurance and adding further inflationary pressures, will be the raise in the basic level of VAT from 17.5% to 20%.

 The rise in VAT will add additional costs to the supply of insurance. Most distributors of Insurance such as Insurance Brokers are UK VAT exempt and therefore unlike VAT registered businesses, cannot claim back their VAT expenditure against their VAT income.

This will mean that all the additional costs of running the business such as bought in services like marketing and IT support, are likely to be passed onto the consumer in higher premiums.

Another major problem and potentially the biggest ticking time bomb for the UK Insurance market, will be the inevitable lack of demand for financial services products , as unemployment rises and demand falls, with cuts to public sector jobs and welfare across the board. This will naturally lead to further rationalisation of the market with the expected loss of up to 60,000 financial services jobs…. in addition to the thousands destined to go from the FSA!

Insurance Blog is of the opinion that  if the ill thought out measures announced in the recent UK budget and due to be delivered this Winter, don’t lead us into a double dip recession… then nothing will!

Insurance Companies must be held to account for the Recession

Who really calls the shots – The Government or Big Business when it comes to setting the direction and flow of the future economy?
You don’t need to look much further than the Insurance Industry to see that new forces are in play in a new world economy, driven perhaps by Government steering rather than a cyclical wave of uncertainty created by the money markets who are ultimately the owners, underwriters and profiteers of the multi national corporations.

The Insurance Industry which is at the top of the triangle of the money market distribution, is renowned for it’s slow reaction to change.
You’ve only got to ask a dynamic young business analyst or insurance product underwriter how difficult it is to implement solutions that would ultimately bring an Insurance Company competitive advantage……
Insurance Companies are naturally cautious and are able to absorb external change over time through their ability to control the provision of products and the levels of competition within the market.
They do this by controlling the rates at which they sell their products to the retail market through various differing distribution channels.
The rates that Insurance Companies set for Insurance are typically determined by the levels of profit that the investment side of the company is making.

This level of profit is ultimately determined by the Base Interest Rate set by the Government above which the Insurance Companies can not only sell you products with hiked up rates such as mortgages and pensions, but much more importantly make the bulk of their profits from reinvesting your money in very large chunks, for guaranteed long term profits.
For example ,the current Government borrowing deficit of 165 billion pounds sterling has mostly been underwritten by Global Insurance Companies buying up the bonds.

Incredibly the money was borrowed, to bail out many of the private corporations who created the recession but who are now profiting from the debt.

Even more incredibly the Insurance Companies are crying ‘Please don’t tie us in with the banks – We’re not the baddies’!

Well I’ve got news for you Insurance companies!
Thanks to the policies followed by all those chairmen of the Insurance Companies throughout the 1990′s of agglomeration, Cartels, price fixing and that word that they now pretend never existed ‘Banc-Assurance‘ …

You are the bad boys- You and the Banks are the same thing!

And where are all those Chairman of the Bank Assurers who created and introduced risk into the Economy now?
Yes, all sitting pretty in the House of Lord’s, unelected and having further say ion the Country’s future. Outrageous!

Back to the point, Insurance Companies must now adjust to the new economics.
In the past they have had the arrogance to talk about fixed seven year cycles between hard markets where they can increase the rates to high profit levels and soft markets where wider levels of competition keep the prices down. At the end of the day the volume of business is exactly the same and the levels of claims homogeneous, so why the fluctuations?

Purely for profit!

Now though these very same companies are stuck between a rock and a hard market as they no longer have either the control over the flow of money or thanks to Global business and The Internet, the number of entrants able to enter the market,

In the past when Insurance Companies were making losses or wanted to make super-profit, the Insurance market would Cartel like, hike it’s prices across the board. A so called hard market. They are no longer in a position to do this!
Furthermore the profits they make from their investment vehicles are down due the Interest rates sensibly being held low by the Bank of England.
It won’t be long before the Insurance Company shareholders start screaming when they don’t get the dividends they expect or deserve! The Insurance Companies are already moaning about how incredibly unfair the Base Rate is to their investment vehicles!

Remember these are the same people – The Banks – who would like to charge you 15% on your mortgage debt and make super profits – if they thought they could get away with it. They’re already charging you more than that on your Credit Cards!

The Car Insurance Market is traditionally the first to harden it’s rates, with you and me the motorist suffering, but with increased number of distribution channels and the ability to shop around, it would be a foolish insurer who hardened his rates and expected to keep his book of business in the current economy.

You can expect similar resistance to unfair and unwarranted commercial insurance premium hikes, especially when the business had carried out good risk management and claims loss prevention.
Why should they pay more?
Because they are in a poorly managed risk pool?
Shop around Shop owners!

If the collective Insurance industry try to impose a hard market on the public during a recession they will create untold social problems as individuals and businesses under insure and health and safety practices go out the window.

Insurance Companies have to develop a real sense of social responsibility not just some hyped up marketing blurb about planting tress or paying to brand yourselves with Athletics and Football!

Insurance Companies have got to learn to be symbiotic and not Parasites on the State and it’s People! Restricting their profits would be a good place to start!