Monthly Archives: April 2015

On Monday we will see the first birthday of the Mortgage Market Review. It was 5 years in the making, took many different directions before being born and now MMR can blow out its solitary candle on the proverbial cake. You can’t deny that MMR was good for both consumers and intermediaries as its reason for being, to bring advice to anyone wishing to take on a big debt, ticks a lot of boxes. We all know it was too easy 10 years ago to let the desire for credit outweigh the ability to pay it back and, for many, the low interest rate environment has given them the breathing space to sort out their finances and get back to the understanding that a home is just that – somewhere to live and not just a pile of equity against which you can borrow more and more money against.

The proud parents of the MMR, the Regulator and the Treasury, must be looking at what they have produced and be pleased. Despite several different ways of handling MMR across those that have the responsibility for its upbringing, the market has grown, and confidence has returned. There have been the usual teething problems with some trying to work out how much people can afford to borrow based on complicated models, moving away from the traditional building blocks of the three times table. And, of course, there will always be the group that will throw the dummy out of the pram when the outcome doesn’t meet the expectation. But ultimately MMR will mean more business for the hard working mortgage intermediary and less attention paid to the retail arms of the Lender.

So Happy Birthday MMR, and let’s see how you develop in your second year in the mortgage world when you get joined by your sibling MCD.

Neil Hoare

Commercial Director

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Weekly Round-up, 24th April 2015.

Lending grows.

The latest research form The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) estimates that gross mortgage lending reached £16.5 billion in March. This is 21% higher than February (£13.6 billion), and 7% higher than March last year (£15.4 billion). Gross mortgage lending for the first quarter of this year was therefore an estimated £44.9 billion. This represents a 12% decrease from the last three months of 2014, and a 3% decrease on the first quarter of 2014.

CML chief economist Bob Pannell suggested that the underlying lending picture is stabilising highlighting sentiment and activity showing early signs of improvement, which should be further supported by the effects of stamp duty reform. The CML expect to see lending strengthen over the next few months, albeit from a relatively sluggish start in 2015.

Getting more confident.

While house price growth continued to slow in March 2015, consumer confidence in the outlook for the housing market has rebounded to its highest level since July last year, according to the latest quarterly Halifax Housing Market Confidence Tracker as measured by Ipsos MORI.

Consumer confidence in the outlook for the housing market has bounced back to a net balance of +64 in March from +60 in February. Conversely, house prices increases have slowed over the same period and in the three months to March this year house prices were 8.1% higher than in the same three months a year earlier, compared to 8.5% in January 2015, and 10.2% in July 2014.

As to just how confident consumers are in the outlook for the housing market over the next 12 months, a third (33%) are expecting the average property price to be higher by up to 5%, while a quarter (25%) anticipate increases of between 5% and 10%. There has been an increase in the net proportion of consumers who believe mortgage interest rates will be higher in 12 months’ time (+41 compared to +35 in February). Nevertheless, only one in eight (12%) spontaneously cited concerns about interest rate rises as one of the main barriers to being able to buy a property; down from one in six (15%) in Q1 2014.

The main perceived barriers to homeownership are the ability to raise enough deposit (61%) and concerns about job security (44%). A year ago, 60% and 51% respectively identified these as among the main barriers.

The Tracker finds a net +33 of consumers think the next 12 months will be a good time to sell, compared to +24 at end of December 2014. This is the highest score on this measure since the survey’s inception in April 2011. At the same time the proportion who believes it is now a good time to buy has slumped from +26 at end of December 2014 to +21 as at end of March 2015.

Regionally, house price optimism is strongest in the South East of England, where a net balance of +79 think house prices will be higher in 12 months, compared with only 40% who say this in Wales. While +69 of those living in London expect the average UK house price to be higher in a year’s time, this is lower than the same time last year (+75).

1.8 million living with cancer.

Macmillan Cancer Support says those living with cancer and another long term condition are more likely to have practical, personal and emotional needs than others with the disease.

There are an estimated 1.8 million people in the UK who have cancer and at least one other long term health condition, such as hypertension, obesity, or chronic kidney disease, according to new research, released by Macmillan Cancer Support.

The research commissioned by Macmillan and undertaken by Monitor Deloitte shows that 70 per cent of people with cancer are also living with a long term condition, and that people with cancer are 31 per cent more likely than people without the disease to be living with a long term condition, even after taking age into account.

The research also found that around 700,000 people are living with cancer and three or more long term conditions.

Macmillan has previously learned that living with a long term condition is likely to reduce a person with cancer’s chance of survival as well as increasing their need for support. Today it warns of an urgent need for health and social services to provide a holistic person-centred approach for people with cancer. It estimates that the overall number of people with cancer and another long term condition could swell by one million over the next 15 years, placing a major strain on the NHS and local authorities.

The research comes a month after the charity warned that a lack of social care support was leaving hundreds of thousands of people with cancer housebound, and unable to wash or dress themselves.

To find out more about the research visit www.macmillan.org.uk/Aboutus/News/Latest_News/18millionpeoplearelivingwithcancerandanotherlongtermcondition.aspx

Exeter Family Friendly pays 94% of income protection claims in 2014.

Mutual income protection insurer Exeter Family Friendly has released its claims statistics infographic for 2014, confirming a headline figure that 94% of all claims received were paid.

The Exeter based provider went on to explain the detail behind the statistics. Injuries and accidents were the top cause of claim, accounting for 36%, followed by back & spinal problems (14%) and other musculoskeletal problems (excluding back) next with 13%.

Commenting on the release, Director of Distribution and Marketing Simon Philp said:

“In 2014 we continued to deliver against our promise, with 94% of all claims paid. Our statistics again show that despite what some may think, often ill health is simply as a result of bad luck – 36% of claims were made as a result of injury or accident.”

Exeter Family went further with their statistics, detailing the reasons for those claims that were declined. 34% of declines came as a result of claimants still being able to work in their own occupation, followed by 29% of declines where the claimant had suffered no loss in income. Non-disclosure and breach of contract accounted for 8% of declined claims.

A big thank you.

HLP has been named the UK’s Best Network in the Financial Reporter Awards for a fourth consecutive year. Unlike other industry award programmes, these awards rely solely on votes from industry professionals, without a panel or shortlist – in Financial Reporter’s words:

“Our awards truly represent the industry’s opinion on who deserves recognition for their work.”

On behalf of the entire HLP Team, we would like to thank everyone who voted for us this year.

And finally…

72 and healthy

Gyms might be the kind of places associated with fit, young people in their 20s, but a leading gym chain has said it is septuagenarians who are leading the way with the most work-outs each month.

Nuffield Health said 72-year-olds are their most frequent gym-goers, making an average of eight visits, while those in the 70-79 age bracket go 7.5 days a month on average. Those aged 25-39 go an average of six times a month, while the 20-25 age group category makes slightly more visits at 6.5.

The healthcare company, which has 75 gyms across England and Scotland, said the figures highlight the growing importance of fitness and health to the older generation. It comes as a study was published last week concluding that middle age now begins at 60. Nuffield Health said just under 10% of its 211,000 gym members are aged over 65.

In Scotland, the most frequent gym users have an average age of 75, while London has the lowest age of gym goers visiting the most, at 65. Edinburgh, St Albans, Sheffield and Glasgow have the highest numbers of octogenarians gym members in the UK, while on the whole 74 year-olds in Leicester are the most frequent gym users, averaging 14 visits per month.

Weekly Round-up, 10th April 2015.

Lifetime expenses.

UK households will spend almost £138,000 on basic household bills throughout their lifetime, according to new research from Santander Current Accounts.

The analysis also reveals that the average price increase in the last decade between council tax, TV, phone & broadband, gas, water and electricity is 81 per cent – over twice as fast as the 37 per cent increase in inflation as measured by the Retail Prices Index (RPI) over the same period.

Gas prices are the biggest driver of household bill increases, rising 185 per cent in the last 10 years. Electricity has more than doubled (up 120 per cent) and water bills have risen by 66 per cent. Council tax and TV, phone & broadband prices have still risen, but at a slower rate than inflation.

Further research commissioned by Santander found that one in eight (13 per cent) bill payers have never supplied a meter reading or couldn’t remember the last time they gave one for either their gas and/or electricity. On average, the last time bill payers reviewed their providers for a better offer was more than a year ago (13 months) which means households could potentially be missing out on hundreds of pounds worth of savings as a result of these factors.

February slowdown.

According to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, home-owner house purchase lending declined in February both compared to the previous month and February 2014. The number of loans advanced totalled 40,600, down 1% on January and 16% compared to the same month in 2014. These loans totalled £6.8bn, which was down 3% on January and 13% on February last year.

There were 18,700 loans advanced to first-time buyers – down 1% on January and 16% compared to the same month last year. These loans by value were £2.7 billion, which was down 4% on January and 13% down on February 2014. Home movers were advanced 21,900 loans, a decline of 2% compared to January and 16% down year-on-year. These loans totalled in value £4.1bn – 2% down on January and 13% down compared to February 2014.

Remortgage lending was no different with a month on month decrease with 21,500 loans advanced – down 16% on January and 14% down on February 2014. The value of these loans (£3.3 billion) also decreased month-on-month by 20% and was down 11% year-on-year compared to February 2014.

A positive in the numbers saw 15,900 buy-to-let loans in February – albeit down 13% on the previous month but up 11% on the same period in 2014. These loans came to £2.2bn in value, down 12% compared to January but up 16% on February 2014.

Mobile shopping.

Consumers are set to spend £53.6 billion a year using their smartphones and tablets by 2024, compared with the £9.7 billion spent today, according to new research by Barclays.

However, the influence of mobile on spending is expected to more than double this figure from £18.4 billion to £112 billion over the same period. This means that nearly half (42.4%) of all retail sales will involve a mobile device in some way or another, making mobile the fastest growing retail segment.

If you were to equate mobile sales in terms of store numbers, in five years’ time it would require a chain of around 30,000 stores, nearly three times the size of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, which has 11,000 outlets worldwide. Within the next decade, the number of stores required will rise to nearer 48,000. This is against a backdrop of predictions for single digit growth across the wider retail sector. In 2014 the value of retail sales reached £325 billion. During the next five years’ time the sector is forecast to enjoy 8.1% growth taking sales to £351 billion with the figure rising to £391 billion by 2024.

The number of tablet users has doubled in each of the past two years, with almost half of adults now owning one, while smartphone penetration has rocketed since 2007 following the launch on the first iPhone. In 2009, 14% of consumers owned a smartphone. By 2014 the number had more than quadrupled to 61% and by 2019 around three quarters of adults are predicted to own one.

Interestingly, when consumers were asked what they most wanted, more than half (57%) suggested that all shops offer free hotspots with a further 42% saying they are always on the lookout for free Wi-Fi hotspots when out and about.

Pension Freedom.

According to the Association of British Insurers this week, their members handled over 200,000 calls from customers in the first week following the introduction of the pension reforms.

Between Tuesday 7 and Friday 10 April: ABI members received 229,932 phone calls from customers interested in finding out more about their pension options under the reforms. This was a 214% increase in average call volumes that would be expected during the period when compared to the same period last year, equating to an average of 57,483 calls each day. After a peak on Tuesday, call volumes have fallen but were still well above the average.

Over 10,000 written and email requests were received each day, more than double the average when benchmarked against the whole of 2014. Providers’ experiences in the early days have underlined that, for customers wanting to take cash, there are three important points they should consider to help them make an informed decision. Even if they think they’ve made up their minds about releasing cash, it’s still important customers speak to Pension Wise and their provider to make sure they understand all the implications. People should be sure they will have enough money for their retirement if they cash in their pension now.

Savers turning their entire pension pot into cash could face a sizeable tax bill, reducing the amount of money available to them. Customers who want to release several lump sums should expect to see emergency tax imposed on these payments, which they will then need to reclaim from HMRC. The tax system works by taking tax up front and correcting any over-payments later.

And finally those with a valuable guarantee in their pension, such as a Guaranteed Annuity Rate (GAR), are required by the Government to take financial advice before they can transfer or take cash, if these safeguarded benefits are worth £30,000 or more. This is to ensure they are aware of the value of this option before deciding whether to give it up.

Events.

We’re on the road again and registration is now open! Hot on the heels of our Protection Workshops, we’re back out on the road again in May for this summer’s Business Development Forums.

We’ll be joined by a host of the Lenders and Providers who help advisers deliver good customer outcomes, so make sure you register today. HLP members can register in the usual way via the Members’ Area splash screen. If you’re not an HLP member, but would like to come along an get a taste of what HLP has to offer, visit our events page to apply for a space or call the Membership Team on 01903 602 664.

Dates & venues:

Tuesday 5th May – Manchester, AJ Bell Stadium

Wednesday 6th May – Holiday Inn, Milton Keynes

Tuesday 12th May – Aztec Hotel, Bristol

Wednesday 13th May – Crowne Plaza Hotel, Crawley

And finally.

A tricky maths question set for 14-year-old students has left the world scratching its head in confusion after going viral on social media. This ambiguous question is a logical one which involves identifying a birthday from a select amount of information. The question, which was initially given to child students in the Singapore and Asian Schools Math Olympiads (SASMO), has quickly spread round the world after TV presenter Kenneth Kong posted it to Facebook.

If you’d like to have a go, here it is:

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates:

May 15, May 16, May 19

June 17, June 18

July 14, July 16

August 14, August 15, August 17

Cheryl then tells Albert and Bernard separately the month and the day of her birthday respectively.

Albert: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too.

Bernard: At first I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know now.

Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is.

So when is Cheryl’s birthday?

Kong’s Facebook post received over 5,000 shares and he was contacted by the executive director of the SASMO who provided some background on the question. It was the 24th of 25 questions and was designed to sift out the better students from the weaker ones. But it’s clearly stumped the majority of the world’s adults as well. Henry Ong, SASMO’s executive director, went on to say that he was pleased at the interest the question had generated on the internet.

It might look easy at first, but it’s actually pretty tricky. The clever types at Singapore’s Study Room unravelled the question and were able to tell us when Cheryl’s birthday is. First we need to figure out if Albert knows the month or the day. If he knows the day, then there is no chance that Bernard knows the birthday, so it must be that Albert knows the month.

From the first statement, we know that Albert is sure that Bernard doesn’t know the birthday, so May and June should be ruled out (the day 19 only appears in May and the day 18 only appears in June). In other words, if Albert had May or June, then he cannot be sure that Bernard doesn’t know, since Bernard could have had 18 or 19.

Following that statement, Bernard knows that May and June are ruled out.

Then, Bernard is able to know which month it is. So it must be either July 16, August 15 or August 17 (not 14th as then he can’t know). Since Albert subsequently can also be sure of the date, he must know it’s July. If it’s August, he can’t be sure as there is August 15 and 17.

So the answer is July 16.

Election fever stops us getting out of our houses

I’m wondering why the UK population seems to put their plans on hold whilst almost three thousand five hundred people go for job interviews at Westminster PLC, hoping to bag one of the 650 positions available?

This week, research out from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors suggest homebuyer enquiries and house sales have flat lined as we wait to see who’ll be performing a doorstep interview with us. It appears we don’t want to miss the opportunity to grill prospective candidates so much that the number of properties coming onto the market fell for the second consecutive month, pushing prices rapidly upwards. In most parts of the country, the supply versus demand imbalance led to 21% more surveyors reporting a rise in house prices in March (up from 15% in February) and 15% more surveyors expecting prices to increase over the next three months compared with 10% in February (albeit the results for both are significantly lower than in March 2014). Industry pundits warned at the start of the year that the Election might put a growing mortgage market at risk, the £220bn predicted seems a long way off especially as the prospect of a base rate rise in 2015 is looking less likely, although not impossible.

Promises by all parties to maintain a growing property owning population have been plentiful over the past couple of weeks, whether it’s the return to Margaret Thatcher style right to buy or the financial inspiration for builders to put more bricks on the ground. The debate will carry on about the role of property in the right up to May the 7th and, looking at the current polls, probably beyond as meetings happen behind closed doors to get the right mix of colour.

Let’s just hope that once the X’s are in the box, 650 people have their future secured for another 5 years, and those that didn’t make the grade return to their day jobs, we can all return to some level of normality selling and buying houses that are both available and affordable.

Neil Hoare, Commercial Director

Weekly Round-up, 10th April 2015.

Mortgage news.

Buy-to-let lenders who are members of the Council of Mortgage Lenders are adopting a new statement of practice, designed to provide clarity about how responsible buy-to-let lenders operate.

The statement, released this week, reflects existing good practice and aims to ensure that there is a clear explanation of the obligations of buy-to-let borrowers on their mortgages. It signposts additional information from other organisations about the responsibilities of being a landlord, and is endorsed by the Residential Landlords Association, the Association of Residential Letting Agents, the Association of Mortgage Intermediaries, the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders Association, and the British Bankers Association (BBA).

31 lenders representing an estimated 90% of the buy-to-let market have already adopted the statement of practice. All CML members who offer buy-to-let mortgages are expected to adopt it over the course of 2015. The statement sets out the over-arching principles that individual lenders use in determining their own lending strategy and practice in relation to:

Lending principles

Information given to customers

Customer responsibilities

Lender responsibilities on affordability

Handling financial difficulty

Fraud prevention; and

Complaint handling.

Next year, when the “consumer” buy-to-let lending framework is established under the FCA to comply with the Mortgage Credit Directive, buy-to-let lending will fall into one of three types:

Mortgages regulated by the FCA like residential mortgages. These are when the property is either partly occupied by the borrower or let to an immediate family member.

Mortgages regulated by the FCA under the Mortgage Credit Directive Order 2015. These are “consumer” BTL as defined by the Order.

Mortgages not regulated by the FCA. These are mortgages which are predominantly for a business purpose.

The statement of practice will cover any residential buy-to-let lending not otherwise covered by FCA regulation.

Protection news.

Best Doctors.

For over 25 years, Best Doctors have been recognised and respected in the medical field. That’s why Friends Life Protect+ customers have access to their valuable Second Opinion service, and why the Insurer has introduced their unique Global Treatment option. Through these additional benefits, customers will have the right information to make important decisions about their health. Plus they could now also benefit from world class treatment in a leading overseas hospital.

Second Opinion gives you:

Expert confirmation of diagnosis and treatment recommendations

For use at any time during the policy term

Automatically included with all Protect+ covers

Covers your client and their immediate family

With Second Opinion, if a customer needs medical reassurance, the invaluable expertise of Best Doctors is just a call away.

Climbing to new heights with Aviva’s ALPs system.

Underpinned by the belief that everyone deserves to understand – and prepare for – the financial risks they face, Aviva has launched a brand new end to end system. Allowing multi-product applications, you can use the new system to meet your client’s protection needs in one go.

Interactive underwriting is designed to process your client’s application in the quickest time. As a result, Aviva are expecting a straight through processing rate of around 75% for applications made using the interactive mode. The interactive underwriting mode is built on a bank of 500,000 questions covering 600 conditions. As you enter information about your client, interactive underwriting intuitively knows the next question to ask, stopping when it’s captured enough information to make a decision. The result? Aviva only ask your clients about the things they really need to know.

Knowing what’s happening with your clients’ cases is vital. So once you’ve submitted a signature free application, Aviva’s new self-serve system puts you in control with real-time case tracking. You’ll be able to get updates on both applications and existing policies 24 hours a day. And Aviva will tell you if any cases need attention, giving you a readymade to do list. You can also create your own watch list for those priority cases you want to keep an eye on.

A new product set includes income protection on a two year limited term basis and stand-alone critical illness cover. With the introduction of a stand-alone critical illness policy, the level of cover no longer has to match the amount of life insurance. There is now family income cover and increasing cover – and a wide range of guaranteed insurability options.

With a new and improved end to end system, underwriting engine and product set, the launch of ALPS is going to transform the way you do protection business with Aviva. To find out more, speak to your usual Aviva contact.

Get Wise with Pensions.

For those approaching retirement age, they need to start thinking about their income in retirement. This week saw both new pension freedoms and the Government launch its guidance service called Pension Wise. It’s a free service designed to give impartial retirement guidance service that’s open to everyone seeking information about how they can turn their pension fund into a retirement income. It’ll help pension savers understand their options, something that’s particularly necessary given the reforms – retirees now have more choice than ever when it comes to spending their savings, and the complexity of the various products means it’s vital to understand the options available.

Pension Wise will outline what you can do with a pension pot, covering the new rules and the various options, including leaving the money invested, taking an annuity or a lump sum, or generating a flexible income. The service will explain the tax implications of each, will help retirees work out how much money they will need in retirement and will explain how to avoid pension scams, and crucially, it’ll explain that, by shopping round a customer can find the best product to suit their needs, and where to go for advice.

It may not offer regulated advice, but it can be a valuable first step that can help a customer understand the full range of options available, and an idea of what to do next. They will probably still want to speak to a professional financial adviser afterwards, but the customer will be able to do so with a lot more information under their belt.

The service has been designed to offer three key methods of contact – face-to-face, over the phone, or online. The simplest option for many will be the online version, which can be accessed by heading to www.pensionwise.gov.uk, but those who would prefer to speak to someone will still have the option.

Quarter on Quarter.

According to the latest House Price Index from the Halifax house prices in the first quarter of 2015 (January-March) were 2.6% higher than in the final quarter of 2014 (October-December). The quarterly rate of change increased for the third consecutive month. It is now at a similar rate to September 2014 (2.7%) prior to a marked slowdown in the last three months of 2014.

Prices in the three months to March were 8.1% higher than in the same three months a year earlier. This continued the steady decline from 8.5% in January and is significantly below the peak of 10.2% in July 2014. House prices increased by 0.4% between February and March, offsetting February’s 0.4% fall.

The purchase market showed signed of a resurgence as home sales rose for the second successive month in February with a 2.5% increase compared with January. This follows a steady decline during most of 2014 with sales in February still 8% lower than in February 2014. (Source: HMRC, seasonally-adjusted figures)

The volume of mortgage approvals for house purchases – a leading indicator of completed house sales – rose for the third consecutive month in February. As a result, approvals during the three months to February were 2% higher than in the preceding three months. This recent improvement follows five successive monthly falls in approvals between July and November 2014. (Source: Bank of England, seasonally-adjusted figures). New instructions fell again in February suggesting that the trend remains down following January’s modest rise, which was the first increase in six months. Overall, the supply of homes on the market remains low. (Source: Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) monthly report)

81% of residential stamp duty revenue raised in the UK in 2013/14 was in the four regions of southern England – Greater London, South East, South West and East of England, according to the HMRC. This was significantly higher than their 71% share in 2007/08 when total stamp duty revenues were at a similar level (£6.68 billion in 2007/08 against £6.45 billion in 2013/14). London alone contributed 42% of all UK stamp duty revenues in 2013/14 compared with 28% in 2007/08. Indeed, London was the only region to see an increase in revenues between 2007/08 and 2013/14.

Time for a spring clean?

The latest research from Lloyds Bank shows that as falling food and energy prices are easing the pressure on household finances, more than a third (37%) of people are planning to make the most of their extra cash this spring. Those who are planning a spring clean are looking at a variety of ways to tidy their finances, from switching providers to searching out the best deals in the market.

Over three quarters (78%) of people surveyed continue to have at least some disposable income and a fifth (21%) believes they will have more money in six months’ time. Whilst over half (53%) tend to spend any spare cash they have, the report shows a marked desire to want to save more money in the future. The most common actions people are considering include switching energy provider to lower fuel bills (29%), paying off existing debt (23%) and moving savings for a better rate (22%).

Over one in ten (13%) plan to switch current account providers as part of their financial spring clean, with around 10% saying they will be opening a high interest current account to use for savings.

Critical to Life.

Friends Life has revealed that for the first time it paid out more in critical illness claims than for life insurance. In 2014 it paid £122 million in critical illness claims – £1 million more than for life claims. Overall in 2014, Friends Life paid out over £265 million in individual protection claims to more than 7,000 customers and their families – the equivalent of £1 million every working day.

Friends Life claim statistics for 2014:

94% of adult critical illness claims paid (up from 91% in 2013) worth £122 million, plus £1.7 million paid to 88 families in child claims

99% of life claims and terminal illness claims paid worth £121 million

86% of income protection claims paid (up from 85% in 2013) worth £20 million

£550,000 paid for fracture claims

The percentage of claims the Life Insurer has been able to pay out has increased for both critical illness and income protection reflecting new business and underwriting processes as well as improvements in the quality of the information and detail provided on application forms.

Cancer remains the largest cause of a claim but there was an increase in the number of heart attack, stroke and multiple sclerosis claims paid. Over £600,000 was also paid to customers under Friends Life diabetes cover.

Spring Business Development Forums.

May sees the return of the popular Spring Business Development Forums where members get together to hear both the latest from Lenders, Insurers and the team at HLP, are share ideas. This year the support from our business partners has been overwhelming and should provide members with a valuable opportunity to discover new ways of further developing their business. The dates and locations are as follows:

May 5th: AJ Bell Stadium Salford

May 6th: Holiday Inn, Milton Keynes

May 12th: Aztec Hotel, Bristol

May 13th: Crowne Plaza, Crawley

HLP members can register via the splash screen in the Members’ Area.

Intermediary non-members are welcome to attend our BDF roadshows, space permitting, and can enquire via the events page of our website.

Taking Protection to another level.

Next week sees the launch of HLP’s first series of protection training workshops. Supported by Aviva, Friends Life, L&G and Vitality Life, topics covered include New Thinking, Business Protection, Value Added Benefits and the Evolution of Protection. We’ll also have the opportunity to look at Assureweb and the new HLP Protection proposition.

HLP members call the Membership Team on 01903 602 664 for more information.

Closing today

Nominations for the 2015 Financial Reporter Awards, the only financial services awards programme which gives you the freedom to put forward whichever company or individual you feel is a deserving candidate, close today.

To cast your vote visit the Financial Reporter website.

First past the post.

A 104-year-old man believed to be Britain’s oldest and “unluckiest” punter has backed AP McCoy to win his last Grand National so they can both “retire gracefully”. George Atkinson met the 19-time champion jockey ahead of Saturday’s big race at Aintree as the veteran gambler bids to end a run of seven decades without success.

The centenarian, from Swaffham, Norfolk, has placed bets religiously on the Grand National each year since the 1940s but has never backed a winner. He has now pinned his hopes on Shutthefrontdoor, ridden by 40-year-old McCoy, who is competing for a record-breaking 20th time in the world famous horse race before he retires this year. After the pair met at Southwell racecourse in Nottinghamshire, Mr Atkinson said: “How fitting would it be if Tony won his last National in what could well be my last chance of winning too.

Mr Atkinson, a widowed father of seven, grandfather and great-grandfather, placed his first ever bet when he was just 12, when his bookmaker grandfather took him to the Epsom Derby. Believed to be Britain’s oldest punter, he has been given a £104 bet – £52 each way – by bookmaker William Hill as he tries to fulfil his dream of a Grand National win.

William Hill is expecting to take more than five million bets on the Grand National this year and accept more than £30 million in wagers.

When it comes to protection, are we backing the wrong horse?

With the Grand National taking place this week concern must be breaking out in the weighing-in room following the news that shorter people are more likely to have coronary heart disease. A study from the University of Leicester has found that for every 2.5 inches change in height, there is a 13.5% change in risk of coronary heart disease. While the correlation has been previously known, the study of 200,000 people has shown that the link is not due to nutrition or other factors. One in six men and one in ten women die of coronary heart disease currently, 73,000 deaths annually as a result of the disease, with 2.3m people in the UK currently having the disease, 1.4m men and 850,000 women.

The research highlights why the NHS is again at the center of political campaigning as the demands of the UK population outweigh the resources available. We all know that people are living longer so it’s not surprising that we have seen Friends Life reveal for the first time it has paid out more in critical illness claims than for life insurance. In 2014 it paid £122 million in critical illness claims – £1 million more than for life claims, £265 million in total meeting the needs of more than 7,000 customers and their families – the equivalent of £1 million every working day.

Typically the UK population tend to look to protect the family in case of death but is it time to turn this on its head and ask should we be protecting the family in case of life? Decreasing term is cheap but cheap isn’t always right, certainly when it comes to the future needs of all members of the family. Friends declared that they had paid £1.7 million to 88 families for child claims which wouldn’t have happened if the market moves purely to a price led proposition where the value of a protection solution is secondary to the cost of the policy.

William Hill are suggesting that £30 million will be riding on the Grand National this weekend – just imagine how many people are betting on their horse coming in. But are they really gambling on their and their family’s financial future by backing the wrong horse?

Neil Hoare, Commercial Director

Do It Yourself?

The sad news this week that B&Q is to close 60 of its stores across the UK signalled a raft of debate on the radio about the death of Do It Yourself. DIY has been replaced by GSI or Get Someone In. It does make you wonder whether regulatory change such as the Retail Distribution Review and the Mortgage Market Review, which has ultimately led to the exiling of execution only sales, may have contributed to the demise of our ability to take matters into our own hands. Other obvious factors to take into account include the age at which people now get onto the property ladder, the rise of new build and the “time poor” situation many of us find ourselves in on a daily or even hourly basis. This may be why the rate of remortgaging remains low although the British Bankers Association reported that Remortgaging and other approvals increased in February, albeit they are still some 16% and 31% lower respectively than a year ago.

Of course we may see a jump in remortgaging as the home-owning public wake up to the European Banking Regulations which appear to fly in the face of transitional arrangements under MMR. We’ve had M-Day, I- Day (not sponsored by Apple I might add) and G-Day (Gender pricing not an Australian welcome). We now have E-Day (Europe Day where we all enjoy “the final countdown”) where your choice of lender at remortgage is decided by your financial position and not your needs. If all I’m doing is looking for a cheaper deal, no additional finance, just a reduction on my monthly spending, then transition doesn’t apply; it’s my existing lender and no-one else if I don’t stack up financially at the point of application. We all saw the rush to protect ourselves when we thought gender pricing was going to push premiums up, will we see the same before March 2016 as remortgage choice starts to disappear for many in the market. Hold onto your hats when the news breaks, it could be either be a busy quarter for advisers re-visiting client banks or new work for statisticians who can start to recalculate the number of mortgage prisoners trapped behind bars with their existing lender. Interesting times ahead.

Neil Hoare, Commercial Director

Weekly Round-up, 2nd April 2015.

Trending upwards.

According to official figures from the British Bankers Association, deposits with high street banks weakened in February, possibly due to alternative investment in the new pensioner bonds, where some £10.0 billion of sales have been reported.

Annual growth in unsecured borrowing is at its highest rate since late 2008, at 4.4%. Gross mortgage borrowing in February was £9.6 billion – 17% lower than in the same month last year.

Despite slower demand in the second half of 2014, the overall mortgage stock is 1.3% higher than a year ago. House purchase approvals are starting to trend upwards, though February was 20% lower than last year, early 2015 is seeing higher demand.

Remortgaging and other approvals also increased in February, albeit some 16% and 31% lower respectively than a year ago. Approvals overall were therefore slightly higher than in January, but some 20% lower than the same time a year ago Stronger demand for personal loans continues to reflect greater credit availability and improved household finances. Over the past two years, net borrowing through personal loans has been on a rising trend and expanding notably over the last twelve months.

Two Rungs for the thirty-somethings.

The property ladder is getting shorter, with people in Britain owning fewer homes over their lifetime than a generation ago, according to a new study.

The research, from LV Home Insurance, reveals that rising house prices and stricter lending criteria has resulted in Brits making fewer moves up the property ladder. It’s estimated that today’s twenty and thirty-somethings will own just 1.7 homes on average over their lifetime, compared to the over-50s who will own almost twice 2 as many (3.2).

These findings echo official HMRC data showing that the number of property sales in the UK has fallen by a fifth (21%) since 2005 3, suggesting the downward trend is ongoing.

This means that today’s under-50s have much lower expectations of home ownership than their parents’. Most homeowners born after 1966 (i.e. aged under-50 today) believe they will own less homes over their lifetime than their parents did, while those born before 1966 believe they will own more. This partly due to people renting for longer as home ownership has become less attainable.

Renting rather than buying a property has become the only option for a large proportion of the population. Around a quarter of the population (25%) currently rent their home and have never owned a property, with most renters doing so because they are unable to buy. In total, almost a third of renters (28%) want to move to a bigger house but can’t afford the deposit.

While many can’t get on the property ladder, there is a significant number who have ‘fallen off’. Almost 2.4 million adults1 have previously owned their own home but now live in rented accommodation. Some of these say they like the flexibility of renting (28%) but for many the reasons are financial, such as struggling to get a mortgage due to stricter lending rules (12%), not being able to afford a home in the area they want (11%) or struggling to afford the deposit they need (7%).

However, the decline in home ownership isn’t solely due to there being more renters. Around a third of homeowners (32%) want to move to a bigger property but are unable to, as house prices are so high. A fifth of homeowners (21%) can’t afford the deposit needed for a bigger home, and 16% are waiting for prices to drop before even contemplating a move. In fact, moving house has become so unattainable that many Brits believe they are already in their ‘forever’ home, including one in five people in their 30s (19%).

Source: LV= home insurance commissioned ICM Unlimited to conduct research among 2,000 British adults. The research was conducted on 25 and 26 February 2015.

1. Source: ICM research. 5% of adults said that they have previous owned a property but now rent. UK adult population is 47.7 million, 5% of 47.7 million = 2,385,000.

2. Source: ICM research. This figure was calculating by asking homeowners whether they believe they are currently in their ‘forever’ home, i.e. the last home that they will ever own. This was then compared with the average age of the homeowners and how many homes these homeowners have previously owned.

3. Source: HMRC. According to the HMRC’s UK Property Transaction Statistics released on 24 February there were 1,443,660 residential property completions in the UK in the financial year 2005-2006, while in 2013-14 this had fallen to 1,140,170, a decline of 21%. The HMRC report can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/405860/UK_Tables_Feb_2015__cir_.pdf

Escape to the Country.

Residents of Rutland enjoy the best quality of life of any rural area in Great Britain, according to the 2015 Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey.

Quietly nestling in the tranquil East Midlands countryside, Rutland is well known for Rutland Water and an array of unspoilt villages and charming market towns. As an idyllic rural destination it has many attractions for tourists and is now officially Britain’s best rural place to live.

The annual Halifax Rural Areas Quality of Life Survey takes a wide range of factors into account, including residents’ good health and life expectancy, crime rate, weather, employment, school results, broadband access, and personal wellbeing. This is the first time Rutland has come top, although prior to this the East Midlands had made the top ten on three separate occasions , coming second in 2014, and seventh in both 2013 and 2012.

Residents of Rutland tend to be fit and well – over 96% reporting good or fairly good health, the employment rate is high with four out of five of 16-64 year olds in occupation, with many residents enjoying high incomes with weekly average earnings of £623, and inhabitants live in relative security with one of the lowest crime rates in the country.

There is a relatively good climate – less rainfall per year than the national average (681 mm against 879 mm) and more weekly sunshine hours (30.4 hours against the national average of 29.5 hours), and98% of all households have a good level of broadband access – compared to 87% for the Britain as a whole.

Importantly, the ONS survey on personal well-being indicates the Rutland adult population is among the most happy, satisfied and content in Britain. On the flip side, the cost of living in Rutland is higher than in many other parts of Britain – with an average house price that is 6.7 times the average annual pre-tax local income, compared to the national average of 6.2.

Chiltern has moved up six places in 2015 to second in the list of desirable places to live, up from eighth place in 2014. The inhabitants of this Buckinghamshire local authority district tend to be in good health, with a high average life expectancy of 82.2 years and 97% reporting good health. The employment rate is 80% and those in full time occupation typically enjoy high incomes with weekly average earnings of £941 – the highest amongst rural areas in this survey. School performance is also strong with 85% of 15+ year olds achieving five or more GCSE results at grades A-C.

There were several other big climbers in the top 20, with Huntingdonshire rising thirty six places to ninth spot, South Oxfordshire up nineteen places to tenth, Babergh in South Suffolk moving from forty-second position in 2014 to eleventh in 2014 and West Oxfordshire moving twenty seven places to thirteenth position. The main reason for these changes is that personal well-being of adults has improved since the last survey; adults are more satisfied, happy and less anxious about their lives.

Family number 5.

The Seven Families campaign has announced the latest beneficiary of the campaign, Graeme Snell, who had worked as a health and wellbeing practitioner. Until last summer Graeme Snell was a fit and healthy Hartlepool United fan. He worked full time as an Advanced Health and Wellbeing Practitioner and described himself as being very fit.

In July 2014 he had a double stroke and although he hasn’t worked since he has been described by medical staff as a ‘walking miracle’.
Graeme said: “There is no doubt that my level of fitness helped the recovery, and I dread to think what condition I might be in if I didn’t keep fit. There are some ongoing symptoms but overall I’m keen to return to work as soon as possible.

“The money from the project will help with day to day life. I will be taking voluntary redundancy in the spring and would like to return to work in some capacity before the end of the year, which is why the rehabilitation and support also provided by the project could be so important.”

Peter Le Beau MBE, spokesperson for the Seven Families campaign, said: “The campaign provides a tax-free income for one year and Graeme will receive £1,500 per month. Each family will have access to financial advice from a range of volunteering financial advisers to help with basic finances and budgeting and they will also have the opportunity to benefit from independent living, rehabilitation and counselling services.”

Protection training.

HLP is launching a series of training events together with our four carefully selected key partners Aviva, Friends Life, L&G and Vitality Life, to give members help and insight into developing their protection business.

At the first in a series of workshops, attendees will hear about how by adopting the right psychology for selling protection, understanding the advances in product benefits and the protection needs of the business community, they can create good customer outcomes that overcome objections and provide for a secure financial future.

And finally…

April Fooled – were you?

This year companies went to town on their stories in an attempt to fool the UK population. Cab app Hailo claimed it was launching a new app feature that allowed users to hail a specifically trained human piggyback, who will arrive in a matter of minutes to transport you to your destination. Apparently the cab app has recruited only the most athletic and knowledgeable piggybackers to carry you around, ensuring you never arrive late.

Dogs can now apparently pay for their own treats at the checkout with the world’s first ‘dog-only’ self-service payment machine. Pets at Home has launched innovative new checkouts across the country, following a successful trial in the North West. To pay for their treats, dogs just need to ‘boop’ their nose on the machine’s scanner – with each dog’s unique nose print linking back to the owner’s account, pre-loaded with funds.

Groupon have gone one step further Groupon by offering a new six-week course trial period, which has been developed by the Pet Auditory Welfare Service (PAWS). PAWS analysed more than 2,000 different barks from 150 different breeds – from beagles to boxers, which means customers can now learn how to understand what their pooch is trying to tell them, by studying the length, pitch and loudness of the woofs.

Longleat Safari Park in Wiltshire is bringing in an unprecedented measure to make sure those monkeys don’t get your window wipers – wrapping their visitor’s cars in bubble wrap. Reports are that the safari park has become the first to offer visitors such protection for their cars.

Pizza Hut has created an exciting new ‘Scratch and Sniff’ menu, allowing customers to order food by selecting their favourite smell. Scratch and Sniff invites customers to use their sense of smell alone to select their meals with twelve different aromas that have been infused into the special food and drink menu, including garlic bread with cheese and bacon and even Pepsi.

And finally news emerged that the World Cup final ball from England’s 1966 victory has been given to the German National Football Museum after proof emerged that it did not cross the line. During regular conservation work recently, a member of the museum collections team spotted a previously unrecorded tiny white mark on the ball and decided they needed to send it off for scientific testing to see what, exactly, it was. After weeks of analysis, scientists proved beyond doubt that the small mark was undisputedly chalk from the Wembley goal line. Experts have said it proves that the ball bounced on rather than over the line, when Geoff Hurst’s famous shot bounced off the crossbar and hit the floor in the 1966 final.