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Tuesday, 24 February 2009


So, after many an internal battle, I have decided that the current housing market presents such an opportunity that I would be a fool to consider travelling over buying a house. (A dilemma faced by many of my peers).

Whether the market recovers to the fully (over?) inflated price it stood at last September (+10% on today’s figures) or whether there it will rise to a level that is more realistic isn’t too much of an issue at present. The real point to making the decision is that the market continues to fall to a level where I (along with my current housemate) might be able to enter in to joint ownership of a house that is comfortable both in terms of size and repayments. With tracker rates out there beginning at 3.88% we would be fools not to… But, (and as you an see that is a “but” with a capital “B”!) where on earth are we going to find the 40% deposit that is necessary to secure this rate? With both of us being only 18 months out of university, and despite both being in well paid employment, there is no way we will be able to find the £79,200 (based on average house price of £198,000) to take advantage of this. Unfortunately, it seems that those who would truly benefit and are willing to take advantage of the current market simply don’t have the finances to get started. Indeed, I doubt any first-time-buyer does. And as long as that trend continues, I’ll be keeping my passport valid and my eye on airline costs.

Diane Gracie
Project Manager

Friday, 20 February 2009

40 years to retirement

As a young man, I like to think that the fact I have been making a contribution to my pension from the moment I was able is a savvy move. When I started I ticked the “high-risk” box for my investments, which, considering I have at least 40 years ahead of me before I can retire, was a savvy move. This was, however, in March 2008… and I cant help but wonder where my pension might be now (I am waiting for my latest password to come through so that I can evaluate the performance). While waiting for access, I cant help but wonder, just how “high-risk” my pot is…. I imagine now, in light of all that has happened it is actually relatively low-risk (as everything is). But for someone with at least 40 years of investment ahead of them, should I be taking my pot into my own hands and begin to look at heavier equity investment? After all, equities are bound to recover in the next 40 years… which means I have plenty of time to switch my investments to safer options at a later date.

The question is, while an opportunity it may be, is such a volatile economic climate the appropriate stage for my first foray into investment management? I will keep you posted (so be sure to check back when I retire!)

Nick Tuckwood
Project Manager

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

McFall shows his true colours

After inflicting his derision on an undeserving Governor of the Bank of England we waited with baited breath for John McFall’s outpouring of pure venom on the leaders of the UK Banking community.

Instead we saw his most gentle and self effacing treatment of these unqualified, overpromoted destroyers of a once proud financial industry. McFall failed, once again, to identify the difference between a Bank and a Banker.

Within a day or so he and the "select" committee were to confront, the Prime Minister, and this time we witnessed sycophantic verbal backslapping all witnessed by an apparently unbelieving Chancellor of our Exchequer.

In all of these encounters no-one reflected even casually on the fact that our Banking Industry was and still is in the hands of people who have no qualifications such as Finance of Foreign Trade, Practice of Banking, Monetary Theory and Practice, Law Relating to Banking or Accountancy.

Media, press, radio and television commentators have all fallen into the same trap, led by Robert Peston and Jeremy Paxman. They've all jumped onto the bandwagon and have done as much damage as possible to a Banking Industry that was once led by truly qualified professional people and was the envy of the commercial world.

John Maxey
(Ex Bank Manager, Nat West)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Interesting recession initiatives are food for thought

Have you seen that Barclaycard has cut interest rates for those struggling with finances and will not contact late payers for up to two months, as long as they are actively working to sort out their financial difficulties? And TUI has announced that Thomson and First Choice will offer redundancy cover on holidays and flights? TalkTalk has also launched the Emergency Plan which waives the £6.49 monthly charge for Internet and phone access.

The question is that when it comes to insurance or savings or pensions are we doing enough to help customers manage and keep covered? Simple stripped down products, premium holidays at no charge so people can keep covered or saving could be really useful and be seen as truly Treating Customers Fairly. Come on, let’s think like retailers!

Jo Parker
Chief Executive

Monday, 16 February 2009

It’s time to move away from relying on consumer PR surveys

It wasn’t long ago that financial services companies weren’t using consumer research to get their brands talked about in the news sections of national newspapers. Now there isn’t a day gone by, where there isn’t another survey or index covering a variety of topics - from telling us how confident we are about saving (or not), to how many of us are travelling abroad this year (or not). I am not saying that there isn’t a place for this, but in these difficult times, where trust in our sector is at an all time low, we need to find bigger platforms, create adult debates which will give longevity to a brands point of view, rather than the poppy, one-hit wonders these surveys can be. It’s about bringing public affairs skills to play with a keen sense of what consumers are interested in. In my view that’s the model of good PR in these times.

Jo Parker
Chief Executive

Friday, 6 February 2009

Stopping recession becoming a depression

At an MGGB dinner on Wednesday night Lord Mandelson talked about stopping ‘the recession moving to a depression’ and how confidence and tone are critical.

Well, clearly major structural issues are affecting our economy (such as the lack of credit insurance, or support for our knowledge and creative industries and the split between private taxation and public spending – I could go on but won’t rant) and these fundamental issues must be addressed.

However, I do think that from a communications point of view, tone is critical in the current volatile times. 2008 was a record breaking year for London theatre with 14 million people going to visit a play or musical, resulting in £480m of ticket sales. Hollywood blossomed in the Great Depression. So let’s not forget consumers need positive, confident communications that entertain, not to hear a replay the issues and difficulties they are facing. Do we need to really tell them they need to save more for their retirement or that they could spend as long in retirement as they did in work? Rather let’s focus on practical and positive solutions!

Jo Parker
Chief Executive