Sam Dunn: Financial services are still in the Jurassic era
Sunday 23 April 2006
Debates don't get much more impassioned than the one over whether to teach creationism and intelligent design in the classroom.
Fresh furore was provoked last week by the arrival in British schools of John Mackay, an Australian geologist who claims he has fossil evidence that disproves evolution, and will give lectures on his beliefs.
One part of the UK that could desperately do with a touch of evolution to shed its dinosaur approach to the way it often treats customers is the financial services industry.
Its reputation for sharp practice, being commission-driven, having rotten complaints handling and general shiftiness - in short, being huckstersaurs - is peerless.
You don't have to reach into the fossil record for its most recent misdemeanours.
In the past two weeks alone, the insurer Royal Liver Assurance has been fined £550,000 for mis-selling with-profits savings policies to elderly customers, and the Advertising Standards Authority has rapped the knuckles of British Gas for a TV spot that misled viewers over whether to switch to a rival service.
"Whoah!" I hear the cry go up, "you can't punish an entire industry - property, savings, pensions, investment funds et al - for the actions of a few bad apples."
Unfortunately, if you don't remove the bad apples immediately, the rot spreads. Let it go too far, and the reputation becomes well-earned.
A different sort of voice, that of the average consumer, reflects this. The anguish some financial customers feel. Seeking help for an endowment mis-selling query, a reader expressed anxiety about where to turn: to the insurer itself or the claims company?
In fact, he has no need of either, but his lack of trust prompted him to first get in touch with the Money desk.
Trust - or rather the absence of it - is a chronic problem for the financial services industry.
Baroness O'Neill of Bengarve, principal of Newnham College, Cambridge and an expert on the philosophy of trust, said in a lecture last month that the relationship between companies and customers was becoming critical, and fragile.
John McFall, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, suggests that high-street shops like HMV are now more trusted by individuals than banks, insurers and building societies.
The committee is to interview members of the financial services industry next week as part of its inquiry into the design and regulation of the proposed national pension savings scheme. Alarmingly, insurers - those behind pensions and endowment mis-selling scandals who have largely abandoned cheap stakeholder funds because they're not profitable enough - want a major role running it.
The shape of the scheme is being forged over the next few weeks, and I share consumers' fears about trusting this part of the financial services industry.
Life companies may have the infrastructure to deliver but they have rotten form. I'd rather see the retail fund managers have a shot - the pensions industry needs somebody else in charge.
food + drinkMichelin-starred Tom Sellers on being this year's hottest property
tvParents (and kids) rejoice! A new wave of fantastic family entertainment is here
booksGeese, gorillas, grandads... and growing up
food + drinkHow one grocery e-tailer is gearing up for the Yuletide rush
food + drink
travelFor broadcaster Mishal Husain, a long-haul Club Med holiday was a chance for her family to explore its sense of 'zen' and 'animation'
- 1 Hundreds arrested as Canadian police smash worldwide paedophile ring
- 2 Sherlock series 3: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman provide teasers for the biggest comeback in British television
- 3 Why Barcelona chose Everton to educate their latest prodigy
- 4 Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis
- 5 Japan cracks down on leaks after scandal of Fukushima nuclear power plant
- < Previous
- Next >
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C++ Server Dev...
£300 - £350 per day: Harrington Starr: Leading Electronic Trading Software Ven...
£80000 - £100000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Project Manag...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Harrington Starr: Business Analy...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill
A Grade II-listed property with five bedrooms and unique tower, overlooking Hastings Old Town
A charming five-bedroom detached family home, set within half an acre in Kew
A two-bedroom maisonette set on the top two floors of a period building, close to Kentish Town Tube.
Take advantage of the extra space provided by former stables and outbuildings at this five-bedroom farmhouse.
This three-bedroom Victorian terrace is near to Queen’s Road Peckham station, Nunhead station.
A five-bedroom modern house with terrace, swimming pool, Zen treehouse and large carp pond
An unexpected gem with four bedrooms, remarkable vaulted reception and a galleried study area
A five-bedroom house in one of Lymington's most sought after tree lined avenues, moments from the marinas and sailing clubs
A grand early 19th century B&B close to the historic harbour, with four en suite bedrooms
A four-bedroom, 17th century home with walled gardens, a landscaped terrace, cellar and open fires
A six-bedroom house with five bathrooms and four reception rooms spread over 4,000sq ft of luxury living space
A stunning three double-bedroom apartment with two decked terraces in the exclusive gated community, Bromyard House
A 10-bedroom period, family home amid beautiful surroundings in the centre of the Wentworth Estate in Longcross village
A stylish three-bedroom apartment with two bathrooms and private landscaped garden, moments from Fitzroy Square
A Grade II-listed Elizabethan barn with landscaped gardens, exposed elm beams and four bedrooms, all with lovely views
A six-bedroom family home, dating back to 1280 with four reception rooms, barn, swimming pool and tennis courts in Harwell
A spacious two-bedroom flat, refurbished to a very high standard with private landscaped garden, close to Kentish Town station
An exceptional two-bedroom apartment with balcony and underground parking in the centre of Richmond
A one-bedroom, luxury, duplex apartment in the grand landmark building, Imperial Hall
Run a fabulous boutique shop, live above it in a one-bedroom flat and let a second one-bedroom flat that comes part and parcel
A Grade-II listed, thatched cottage in Hundleby village, with five bedrooms, a coach house and three and a half acres
A spacious two-bedroom flat in the heart of Hoxton Square with wooden floors and roof terrace
A five-bedroom family home with stunning pool and gym complex set among two acres of land
A six-bedroom period house with heated swimming pool and a separate two-bedroom annexe cottage in Townlake, £795,000
A spacious and contemporary two-bedroom flat arranged over three floors, with garden patio close to St George Square, £600,000
A one-bedroom flat in a beautiful Regency building opposite the beach in Kemp Town, £190,000
A two-bedroom flat with London skyline views close to Surrey Quays. £395,000.
A seven-storey tower with three bedrooms and a stunning roof terrace. Guide price: £850,000.
A 16-bedroom country pile with nine reception rooms, four self-contained flats and a 13th century Peel Tower. £850,000.
A classic six-bedroom Victorian Manse house 10 miles from Edinburgh. £495,000.
John Lennon's childhood home in Liverpool to be sold at auction. Guide price: £150,000-£250,000.
A six-bedroom detached period property with secluded gardens, ample parking and a double garage in Rye, £675,000.
A large split-level property with three double-bedrooms and roof terrace, close to Crouch End Broadway, £625,000.
A charming barn conversion in the picturesque Cotswold village of Ilmington with three bedrooms, a detached garage, workshop and beautifully manicured gardens £675,000.
A three-bedroom new build, ground-floor flat with two bathrooms, close to Bermondsey tube, £445,000.
A three-bedroom house in an enviable new development moments from Oxshott High Street, with secluded garden and decked area, £385,000
A two-bedroom split-level flat with stunning south-west facing roof terrace in the popular Brondesbury Conservation Area, £549,950.
A charming 16th century, three-bedroom detached house in Bidborough with picturesque garden