Personal Finance: Loose Change

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Indy Lifestyle Online
BIRMINGHAM MIDSHIRES, the building society recently bought by Halifax, has introduced a new five-year discount mortgage that allows borrowers to save pounds 1,000 a year on a typical pounds 80,000 mortagage. The discounted rate shaves 1.25 per cent off the lender's standard variable rate, currently 6.89 per cent, until 2004. It allows homeowners to cut chunks off their mortgage by repaying up to 10 per cent of the outstanding balance each year. Payments are penalty-free and can be made either once or twice a year. The mortgage is available exclusively through brokers. There is a pounds 299 arrangement fee.

SCOTTISH LIFE is planning a stand-alone business unit to help consumers gain straightforward, cost-effective mortgage advice from IFAs. The new division, Scottish Life Mortgages, will absorb the company's existing mortgage operation, ScotLife Home Loans, and forms part of the group's plans to secure a greater share of the market. The new unit will be operational in the first half of next year. Scottish Life, which is based in Edinburgh, has 500,000 policyholders and more than pounds 8.4m of funds under management.

NATIONAL SAVINGS is to launch new two-year savings certificates to increase the choice of tax-free savings available. Five-year savings certificates have always been a popular choice for investors seeking guaranteed returns over the medium-term. The shorter-term paper, which either carried a fixed or index-linked interest rate, will be available from 8 October to anyone aged seven and over who wishes to invest between pounds 100 and pounds 10,000 at a time. National Savings has also made it easier to reinvest in two or five- year certificates once they have matured by cutting down on the paperwork to be faced by customers seeking to renew the investment term.

SAVE & PROSPER, the unit trust group that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Flemings, is to launch a new corporate bond fund on 20 September. The Save & Prosper Income Generator can be held in an ISA and has an estimated gross yield of 7.5 per cent. The fund will not invest in equities or volatile emerging markets, but will, instead, focus on bonds issued by UK companies. Investors who sign up between the launch date and 29 October will receive a 50 per cent discount on the initial 3 per cent charge. The annual management charge will be 1.25 per cent.

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