Julian Knight: More pain on way for savers as Carney takes the helm
Sunday 16 December 2012
Brace yourself if you are a saver. Incoming Bank of England chief Mark Carney has been talking about the possibility of shifting from the UK's inflation targeting to economic growth benchmarks while making the most of his preparedness to adopt "unorthodox" monetary policy. In English that's more money printing and a one-way street to inflation and suppression of savings rates. To date, the transfer of wealth from savers to borrowers since the financial crisis is over £100bn, and it will probably get bigger when Mr Carney takes charge.
Hospital pass for Sants
Hector sants sure does pick 'em. After seven years at the Financial Services Authority, facing up to the biggest and longest financial crisis in living memory, he is off to Barclays in a new role ensuring the bank deploys better ethics than was present at the time of the Libor rate-fixing scandal.
Barclays has very much become a whipping boy since the Libor scandal. While its actions are rightly castigated, it is far from alone in transgressing. The appointment of Mr Sants, who has been critical of the culture of Britain's big banks, should indicate that Barclays is serious about its ethics. But I do worry that with the size of Barclays, probably the most varied banking business in the UK, that he is dedicated full-time, rather than just a figurehead. He will have his work cut out, no doubt, but at least Barclays weren't that active in two areas where I can see substantial mis-selling claims coming in, down the line: interest-only mortgages and packaged current accounts.
Give me the rock's approach
There are some times when you just have to shake your head and marvel at an organisation's ability to cock things up. Just such a moment occurred last week on the news that Northern Rock borrowers are due £270m in payouts because the Rock failed to correctly inform customers of rule changes and didn't include the right details on annual statements. This is a massive price to pay for what is in effect a stupid administrative blunder. Just to make it worse, it's ultimately the taxpayer which will have to fund this, as it falls on the non-Virgin Money part of the Rock, which is being wound down.
You ought to be furious about this £270m. It's actually more than could have been raised through taxing Google, Starbucks or Amazon properly. The only bright side is that at least it will go into customers' accounts, which will mean that they are either less burdened by debt or they will have some extra money to spend in the shops.
I am, though, struck by the contrast between the Government's approach to this and the Clydesdale bank, which in 2010 was found to have completely messed up its customers' interest repayments. It chose to hammer its customers due to an error it was completely responsible for. In retrospect, despite the sickening cost, I prefer the Rock's mea culpa to the Clydesdale's grubby money-grabbing.
No blow for equality
It's now only a matter of days before G-Day, or gender directive day (I know that does sound like the dullest day in the history of mankind). It refers to 21 December, when gender can no longer be taken into account by insurers when quoting. It will mean more expensive car premiums for women and slightly lower pension income for men.
The fact is that gender is actually quite a decent determinate of longevity, and therefore risk has been sacrificed on the altar of EU political correctness. This is no blow for gender equality. It's just a loss for common sense.
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