Sam Dunn: Tomorrow's leaders - don't copy today's
I have great hopes for the finance sector's new recruits
Sunday 08 October 2006
The howls of despair at vertiginous house prices continue. Now it's the turn of UK graduates to express their dismay at the cost of getting on the property ladder, with more than half unable to buy a home, according to a new survey.
Even the potential solution of "buddying up" with a friend or partner to pool finances and buy isn't seen as practical, insurer Scottish Widows has found. This is because the cost of one housemate leaving and being bought out by the other is still too high for most.
At least the jobs market for graduates is buoyant. Starting salaries for trainee positions in many industries hover around the £23,000 mark - not too far off the average UK wage.
It might not surprise anyone that graduates are most drawn to those industries that pay very well. These are, principally, banks, the City, fund managers and accountants, reports the Association of Graduate Recruiters.
I have great hopes for this latest crop of fresh-faced recruits to the financial services industry. Many will have emerged from university with huge debts on student loans, as well as owing thousands on credit cards or personal loans.
The struggle to cope with all this should have instilled a considerable sense of responsibility towards their personal finances, and how to look after them.
As future managers and executives, they'll certainly find it hard to do a worse job than those in charge right now.
Take a glance at all the regulatory inquiries under way. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) is analysing mortgage fees and the Office of Fair Trading is looking at current accounts and payment protection insurance, having just forced credit card lenders to slash their penalty fees.
Meanwhile, to counter accusations of opaque terms and conditions, the Association of British Insurers is engaged in a campaign to persuade providers to present critical illness policies in a clear way.
Sales of equity-release products - complex loans secured on borrowers' homes - by financial advisers are also being "monitored" by the FSA.
And finally, the Equitable Life debacle rumbles on in Europe as campaigners for recompense for lost pensions take their fight to an international court.
As the graduates settle into their new company roles, I'd like to imagine some of them will look ahead to the days when they're decision makers, and think differently about the way in which consumers should be treated.
Love lost at Lloyds TSB
Here's a thing: transfer any outstanding debt on to a Lloyds TSB credit card and you'll pay a balance-transfer fee. Nothing unusual about this, given that all the debt you're shifting over won't earn interest for nine months. But that's not the end of it.
Not content with the balance-transfer fee alone, Lloyds TSB now charges interest on it as standard policy. So while you pay 0 per cent on the transferred debt itself, the fee incurs interest at 15.9 per cent - the rate for new purchases.
Say you switch £1,000 to the bank. There's no interest to pay on this but you'll pick up a £25 balance-transfer fee.
Over the next two months, minimum repayments of 2 per cent won't just be allocated to paying down a chunk of your original debt. They'll also have to whittle down the balance-transfer fee and the interest charged on it.
Sure, the fee interest is small: in the above example, Lloyds TSB calculates that it's no more than 36p. But in terms of brass neck and complicated - even cunning - ways of clawing back money from custo- mers, it takes some beating.
Imagine 10,000 borrowers switching to Lloyds TSB with an average balance of £5,000 - instead of just one customer with £1,000 to transfer. The money begins to add up.
A Lloyds TSB spokes- woman says its rates, charges and fees are "completely transparent" and "set out very clearly".
That may be, but none of its major rivals charge interest on their balance- transfer fee during the 0 per cent period.
Given the strong competition in the market - as well as everyone's need to keep costs to a minimum - this is the sort of behaviour on which consumers should turn their backs.
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