Weekly Round-up, 2nd September, 2016.
Whistle while you work
New rules come into force next week for Banks and Building Societies designed to improve the ability of their employees to raise concerns about poor industry practice. Called “Whistleblowers”, these employees play an important role in contributing intelligence crucial to action taken against firms and individuals.
The new rules are designed to build on and formalise examples of good practice already found in parts of the financial services industry and aim to encourage a culture in which individuals working in the industry feel comfortable raising concerns and challenge poor practice and behaviour.
The rules on whistleblowing, which take full effect this month apply to deposit-takers (banks, building societies, credit unions) with over £250m in assets, and to insurers subject to the Solvency II directive; they are non-binding guidance for all other firms the Financial Conduct Authority supervises. The FCA has seen an increase in the number of reports it receives; for example, there were 1340 whistleblowing disclosures recorded for financial year 2014/15 against 1040 in 2013/14 (28% increase). In the financial year 2007/08 the then Financial Services Authority received only 138.
Steady but possibly windy
Gross mortgage lending held steady in July and was an estimated £21.4 billion, according to the Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML). This closely matches June’s gross lending total of £21.5 billion and is 1% lower than July last year (£21.6 billion).
The CML suggest that their indicators are likely to provide truer readings of market conditions the further that the mortgage market moves away from the distorting effects of April’s stamp duty change. The subdued nature of property transactions and mortgage lending in July are consistent with a less positive backdrop for house purchase activity post-referendum.
Commenting on market conditions the CML have highlighted the Bank of England’s expectations of stronger economic headwinds to build as we move into 2017, and the Monetary Policy Committee’s package of monetary policy measures represents an effort to lean against these on a timely basis. The MPC has penciled in a further cut in Bank Rate later this year, but aims to avoid negative interest rate territory.
According to research from the Over-50’s Life Insurer SunLife, Insurance customers fail to read 85% of the information sent to them by providers. The insurer said on average insurance products come with “more than 25,000 words of explanation written in PhD level language.”
SunLife has found that if customers were every insurance policy we’re sent in full, they would spend an entire month of their lives reading about insurance. In general customers are just actually spending 27 minutes reading through policy documents.
The research also found that the average insurance product comes with 25,669 words of explanation – more than Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – and takes as much effort to understand (Romeo and Juliet is 24,545 words long, the average insurance document is 25,669 words according to sample of 30 products). If you started reading your travel insurance policy when you took off from Heathrow on a flight to Malaga, you’d finish the document when the plane touched down in Spain (3 hours 33 minutes). And a typical Health insurance policy may take longer to understand (3 hours 15 minutes) than to run a marathon.
SunLife warned that customers are skimming through the vast majority of the text and reading just 15% of the content meaning they will not fully understand the cover they’re paying for.
Cheese and wine
Three hundred and fifty years ago this week, Samuel Pepys buried his wine and Parmesan cheese to protect them from the Great Fire of London. These days people are more likely to want to save credit cards, cash and photographs than anything else, a survey by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has found.
The ABI survey also showed a third of people would reach for their mobile phone, but only 16 per cent would save jewellery or other valuables. And just 1 per cent would emulate Samuel Pepys by snatching up luxury food and drink.
September 2nd 2016 is the 350th anniversary of the start of the blaze which destroyed more than 13,500 homes and 87 churches in London while burning for four days. It is also the event which created the modern property insurance industry and, in turn, the fire service.
According to the ABI, the Great Fire of London caused damage on an unprecedented scale. Unlikely as it is, if such a fire were to tear through London today they estimate it would cost £37 billion to rebuild the city.
And finally…Mr & Mrs Royde, I name this child “Emma”
Almost one in five parents would pick a different name for their child if given the chance again, a survey has suggested. The main naming regret, chosen by a quarter of respondents, was how commonly the name was used by others, while over a fifth (21%) said the name they chose just “doesn’t feel right” for their child.
Another fifth admitted they were pressured into choosing a name they had “never liked” while more than one in 10 cited frustrations with spelling and pronunciation.
One mother said her daughter’s name “was taken by a terrorist group soon after she was born”. The survey was conducted by parenting website Mumsnet and comes as the annual report on baby names is released this week by the Office for National Statistics.
Almost a third (32%) of participants said the remorse kicked in within the first six weeks of their child’s life, while just under a quarter (23%) said it was when they started nursery or school. One mother said she regretted naming her daughter Elsa – the protagonist of Disney film Frozen – when the animated movie became wildly popular. A quarter said they knew someone who had picked a first or middle name for their child and then changed it, yet just 2% had actually gone as far as to do so themselves.
The survey was carried out between June 15 and 20 with 1,362 participants, and was open to all UK Mumsnet users with at least one child. The data was not weighted.