The making of an analyst - in just one day: Nic Cicutti finds a firm aiming to set customers on the way to riches

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WOULD you like to earn vast amounts of money by winning rebates on bank, telephone, gas and other utility bills on behalf of business and other customers?

A small Hampshire company claims to be able to teach you how in just one day - at a cost of pounds 6,500 plus VAT.

The one-day course by Bank & Utility Cost Analysts offers to provide any would- be analysts with all the material they need to build up a lucrative business.

Prospective punters are sent information showing how a mere handful of rebates could earn a new analyst as much as pounds 200,000 within four years.

Yet BUCA's claims have been met with scorn by top utility analyst companies already operating in Britain.

Philip McVan, a director at Inenco, a Lancashire company employing more than 200 staff, said: 'We recruited six graduates last September.

'For the first six months, until they had completed our initial training programme, they were not even allowed to go near a customer.

'Our staff spend all that time in full-time training. We believe it takes up to two years of continuous learning before someone can play an active role.

'I feel sorry for anyone who pays this kind of money because they may well be disappointed.'

The brochure explains tantalisingly: 'After training you will have the know-how and the ability to participate in one of the best money-making opportunities now available.

'This includes highly acclaimed 'intuitive analysis', specialist bank analysis programme (and) training in the various aspects of the business.'

Analysts trained by BUCA, based at Farnborough, visit prospective customers and offer to go through their accounts without charge.

If no savings can be made there is no charge for the service. If a saving is identified, the amount - plus any backdated refund - is split evenly between the customer and the analyst for the next four years.

Some 50 people have so far decided to take BUCA's one-day training course, which is followed by three further one-hour interviews.

For those who are unemployed or don't have a ready pounds 6,500 to hand BUCA even offers to help them obtain a Government-backed career development loan.

Philip Wilkinson, a marketing executive at McKinnon & Clarke, another analyst firm, said: 'We have 170 staff, of whom about 70 are analysts. The training takes between 18 months or two years. And even then there has to be engineering and other technical support. We have just spent pounds 250,000 in new software to assist our staff.'

Andrew Johns, a director at National Utility Services, added: 'Trying to break into this market is not easy. You need to be highly specialised. You can't afford to come over like some cowboy outfit.

Barry Thornton, the founder and owner of BUCA, defended his creation: 'Our opposition are quite upset at what we are doing. We have taken quite a lot of work off them in the past couple of months.

'We have a chartered accountant who came to us a week and a half ago and we went through those accounts and found pounds 180,000 for him. This means that he would share half that.'

Mr Thornton disputed suggestions that his one-day course plus manuals was not long enough. 'The one thing about a lot of this industry is that you want to build up a lot of mystique,' he said. 'They are putting guys out in the field some of whom are inexperienced.

'This kind of business only attracts those guys who see this as an intangible. Nought times nought is something. We are confident that we can earn our living from this.'

(Photograph omitted)

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