Personal Finance: How an insurer is raising the standard for rates next year

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The Independent Online
Further evidence of an intensification in the savings rate war in 1998 came this week as Standard Life, the largest mutual insurer in Europe, announced plans to set up its own bank, offering a direct access telephone account with some of the highest rates available.

The new account will pay up to 7.3 per cent gross on deposits over pounds 50,000, falling to 6.76 per cent on sums over pounds 1. No penalties or withdrawal limits will apply.

Standard Life Bank's entry into the savings market is the latest in a series of announcements from insurers and supermarkets, all of whom are challenging the traditional high street banks and building societies.

Telephone selling of financial products is also poised to grow in influence with the expected launch next year of a personal pension product by Direct Line.

The welcome result is likely to be a savings war, as traditional providers are forced to respond to their new competitors. All of which bodes well for next year.

bargain basement

Norwich and Peterborough Building Society is increasing rates paid on its HeadStart Savings Bond, a young people's account available to those aged 23 or under. The account will now pay 6.75 per cent gross on deposits between pounds 250 and pounds 999, rising to 7.6 per cent gross on sums above pounds 25,000. Minimum investment is pounds 250. No notice is needed for withdrawals. Call 01733 372372.

PEP Direct, the Wolverhampton-based execution-only broker, is offering rebates on NPI's new with-profits bond, which pays income of 8.5 per cent interest until March 1999 and a standard bonus thereafter. A rebate of 3 per cent is added to investments up to pounds 25,000, and 4 per cent above that. The rebates in effect raise returns in the first year to 12.5 per cent. The bond carries withdrawal penalties of 9 per cent in year one, falling to 1 per cent in year five. Call 0800 413186.

Cheshire Building Society is launching a new fixed-rate mortgage offering a choice between 6.99 per cent until March 2003, or 7.59 per cent fixed to the same date, with an additional cashback of 3 per cent, to a maximum of pounds 6,000. Cheshire's fixed rates also have no valuation, arrangement or application fees. Compulsory insurances apply. Call 0345 550555.

The Mortgage Operation (TMO), a home loan "wholesaler", is offering a fix of 3.95 per cent pegged until January 2000. TMO's loan, called the New Millennium Fix, levies a pounds 395 fee at completion. The mortgage is available at up to 90 per cent of a home's value. For loans-to-value of up to 95 per cent, the rate is 4.35 per cent. Details from 0171-571 2400.