Friday, 17 March 2017

Mind the gap on house prices

Least and most affordable areas in England and Wales, from ONS, comparing now with 17 years ago...

Thursday, 16 March 2017

ABTA cyber attack

The travel agents organisation ABTA says 43,000 members and travellers may have had their personal information stolen in a cyber attack.

It says the attack was perpetrated by an external infiltrator on its web server on 27th February.

ABTA says most of the information taken is what it calls "low risk", including email addresses and encrypted passwords.

But up to 1,000 holidaymakers who uploaded documents to do with holiday complaints may have been more seriously affected.

In their cases photographs, addresses and phone numbers could have been accessed, although ABTA says banking details would not have been available.

Also, more detailed information about 650 travel agents could have been hacked, along with documents supporting their membership applications.

They are being told to monitor their bank accounts and to be vigilant about online fraud.

ABTA says the vulnerability in its server has been identified and dealt with. It wasn't able to identify the infiltrator was, saying that was now a matter for the police.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA's chief executive, apologised for the anxiety and concern the incident had caused.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Self-employed underpaying by £5bn? Really?

What did the Chancellor mean when he said in his Budget speech that...

"The lower National Insurance paid by the self-employed is forecast to cost our public finances over £5 billion this year alone"?

Some might have though he was implying that if only the self-employed paid what employed people pay then the Exchequer would be £5bn a year to the good.

But it's not quite like that.

Yes, Mr Hammond is simply totting up what he would get if all the self-employed were employed - and subtracting what he receives from them at the moment.

He reckons he would be £5.1bn a year better off.

Yet most of that large sum would come from the National Insurance paid by employers, the so-called tax on jobs.

Employer NICs are a substantial 13.8% of pay.

That's not money deducted from wage packets, even if employers see it as part of the cost of taking on staff.

The self-employed do contribute less, £2.80 a week and 9% of pay over £8,060, compared with the straight 12% contributed by employees.

But not £5bn less.

In fact some would argue that they are pushed into self-employment by companies who want to avoid having to pay employer NICs.

Even so, it was individuals whom the Chancellor targeted in his short-lived National Insurance hike, not companies trying to trim their tax bills.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Top cash machine providers

Here's the pecking of the of the biggest operators of free cash machines. It shows how the balance of power has changed. Independent ATM companies occupy two of the top three places. They're the ones outside supermarkets, railway stations and many garages and convenience stores. It means that banks have to pay them 25p a time if their customers find themselves at a shop and want to take out some cash. With so many cash withdrawals now being made at convenient spots where people happen to be shopping or travelling, it means banks are having to pay large sums to other ATM operators - and some bankers don't like it.

10,387 free cash machines - Cardtronics (Independent)
8,127                                     RBS/NatWest
5,821                                     Note Machine (Independent)
4,948                                     Lloyds/Halifax/Bank of Scotland
4,019                                     Barclays

In fact non-bank "independents" operate 2 in every 5 free cash machines.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Friday, 25 November 2016

Bereavement rights for unmarried parents

Earlier this year Claire Harris told me about the terrible loss of her partner, Gary, and the shock of finding that, because they hadn't been married, she and her kids were not entitled to bereavement benefits.

This was even though they had lived together for 16 years and had 3 children together before he died suddenly of cancer at the age of 36.

Now she is starting a campaign to raise money for a legal case. If she wins, she is hoping it will pave the wave for better rights for unmarried parents.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Bank which manages your life...

Here's a sneak preview of what our future banks might do for us:

*start a savings pot for friends' birthdays or a holiday, after checking your Facebook or what air tickets you're looking at.

*tell you what energy or insurance deals will save you money and switch you over

*alert you that an account you're sending money to might be fraudulent and block the payment temporarily

*tell you you're paying for two music services which overlap and offer to cancel one of them

*warn you to stop spending if you've used cards, cash or loans too much, even if they're with other banks

These are some of the features -- useful to some, a bit creepy to others -- to be offered by the new app-only bank, Tandem, one of its founders, Ricky Knox, has been telling me.

Tandem is in development-mode, operating credit cards and loans for friends, family and early backers before launching to the public some time next year.

The plan is to offer a current account but, interestingly, Tandem envisages including your existing current account from another bank within its own app.

That might sound awkward and you wouldn't be able to operate the account normally as things stand.

But new standards on open banking will allow banks and internet start-ups to combine a variety of accounts one platform.

This makes complete sense if you are a new bank challenging the High Street players, because people are still very sticky when it comes to switching current account providers.

If you can't persuade them to switch, why not move their old account lock, stock and barrel onto your app?

The new app banks or would-be banks, like Tandem, Atom, Monzo and Starling, have slightly different approaches but the key for all of them is the smartphone, which Knox argues provides greater security. 

After the recent security breakdown at another challenger bank, Tesco, that's an important assertion to make.

Knox says at the customer's end safety is enhanced because they have to use a fingerprint to log in on a mobile, while - behind the scenes - the service is so automated there is less risk of human failure at head office.

Let's hope he is right!