Sam Dunn: Great financial ideas - a queue is forming
Sunday 16 July 2006
That old saw about buses, an age waiting and then three pulling up at once, was at work last week.
Waiting next to me at a local bus stop were a couple of lads (not hoodies) who grew greatly agitated as our bus failed to materialise. When, after at least 20 minutes, three rolled up at once, they were only too eager to lambast the driver.
Although their language was a tad industrial, I did share their sense of desperate joy that - having been short of resources - we now had a surfeit.
The same principle has also been at work in the financial services industry. After a prolonged spell of the usual doom and gloom, three startlingly good ideas emerged in the same week.
The first came from the Social Market Foundation and concerns the equity-release market, where pensioners free some of the cash tied up in their home either by selling part of it or taking out a loan secured on it. The think-tank wants the Government to step in and help create a new equity-release product for those on lower incomes.
Its proposed "Homesaver" plan would be shorn of the complexity that currently surrounds equity release. It would be sold by specially trained advisers and suitable for those who wouldn't normally qualify for such schemes.
The foundation also calls for greater transparency in the selling of the plans; more "mystery" shopping exercises by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) to catch out the bad apples; and heavier fines for those firms that break the rules.
Next up, a plea from the Financial Services Consumer Panel (FSCP), a consumer-protection body funded by the FSA. It's keen for the City regulator to police adverts for financial products more tightly, after research into newspaper ads unearthed "worrying levels of rule breaches".
One Saturday in February this year, it reviewed 220 financial promotions and found that 57 per cent did not comply with FSA rules. The worst offenders were ads for insurance products such as car cover - which featured confusing abbreviations and illegible small print - followed by mortgage ads and investment promotions.
Other cases of non-compliance with rules included loan ads for consumers with a poor credit rating, which didn't advertise the interest rate, and mortgage ads that didn't devote enough space to the consequences of failing to make repayments.
Financial promotions are not strictly covered by the rules of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) - a "quirk of the set-up", according to the FSCP's chairman, John Howard. As a result, errant companies won't be named and shamed unless full enforcement procedures are enacted by the FSA. In the case of most other industries, by contrast, the ASA is happy to publish details of any alleged infringement, no matter how minor.
Mr Howard - rightly, in my view - wants the City regulator to adopt the ASA's practice to encourage better behaviour in the financial services sector.
The final bright idea, from the National Consumer Council (NCC), is probably the best of all for consumers: a telephone and internet-based "one-stop" shop for anyone falling victim to ID theft. Today, it's up to the individuals who are targeted to pick up the pieces, working with the police and with often hostile banks to prove their innocence. The NCC wants banks and businesses to pay for its proposed service.
It has floated this great idea before and got no- where, but it says new research shows more people are suffering, reinforcing the need for a central help point.
It's no surprise that not one of these proposals was dreamt up by a financial services company. As always, the path to higher standards for all comes from pressure applied from outside.
This is an industry renowned for creating products that make a lot of money, and it would be wonderful to see some of this creativity redirected towards better consumer care. Hopefully, like the buses, it will arrive. And sooner rather than later.
Donald MacInnes: Who would want to be a Barbie girl in a non-Barbie world?
Mark Dampier: How to get an income now that savings are past the 'use by' date
Thousands of UK investors could lose out following collapse of Secured Energy Bonds
Bargain Hunter: Fly off for a winter break in France or Portugal for well under £100
Millions in line for compensation after being sold unnecessary credit card cover
- 1 Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
- 2 City traders pay £200 for a quick hangover cure
- 3 Venezuela Expo Tattoo 2015: Extreme body art from 'Vampire Woman' to 109mm earlobes
- 4 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 5 Ball pool for adults opens in London
Stephen Fry explains what he would say if he was 'confronted by God'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Liberal Democrat minister defends comments suggesting immigration causes pub closures
President Putin is a dangerous psychopath - reason is not going to work with him
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...
£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...
£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...
Day In a Page
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion