Spectator money

The interesting histories behind the Rathbones and Smith & Williamson merger

The proposed marriage of two mid-sized wealth managers, Rathbone Brothers and Smith & Williamson, has not made City pulses race. But it will create a business with £56 billion under management, following a trend of sector consolidation in search of economies of scale that kicked off with the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen Asset Management. And though the new couple’s names won’t mean much unless you already happen to be their clients, they have interesting histories. Rathbones began as a timber-trading venture in Liverpool in 1742 and is the family firm of a dynasty of Quaker social reformers, including the formidable proto-feminist Eleanor Rathbone (1872–1946). Smith & Williamson, an

Jane Austen finds a surprising fan in the Bank of England’s Mark Carney

Winchester Cathedral, where Jane Austen was laid to rest 200 years ago this week, was the venue chosen for the unveiling of the new £10 bank note, which will feature a portrait of the English novelist. On a humid July day, tourists, pensioners, banknote geeks and a few noisy children packed the aisles. The atmosphere was expectant, as worshippers gathered to get a glimpse of ‘Reverend’ Carney at the pulpit. Smartphones were whipped out as soon as he started speaking. I travelled with my family as an off-duty journalist and was expecting the rather dry and technical explanations favoured by the Bank of England governor in the inflation report. But

The debt elephant in the middle class sitting room

At some point in the last ten years, since the financial crisis (for that life-changing decade is an anniversary we are approaching), a change in perspective occurred: we went from seeing unsecured debt as something that is undesirable but occasionally necessary to something that is both unavoidable and normal. Credit cards and loans, once something for emergencies, are now a vital way to get through the month until payday for millions of people. Research from GoCompare found that 22 per cent of the British public relies on credit cards to live. The average consumer credit debt was £7,349 in April this year – £543.70 extra per household on a year

How to beat villa holiday scams

There’s been a surge in fake villa rental websites setting up since January, with fraudsters targeting properties listed on the popular Villa Plus and Airbnb websites, according to this week’s Sunday Times. The scam sites use stolen images of real villas listed on legitimate rental websites and list them under bogus names to entice holidaymakers to part with their cash by bank transfer – often thousands of pounds. Villa Plus told the newspaper that at least 10,000 of its images had been stolen by scammers and pointed to paradisevillaholidays.com as one alleged fraudulent website. The site, which was still accessible when Spectator Money looked at it, features a property named Villa

Who is most at risk of identity theft? The answer might surprise you

If asked, who would you say are the type of people most vulnerable to identity theft? The young and transient, whose credit cards find their way to the doormats of long-left flat shares? The elderly and vulnerable, who unwittingly reveal personal information to fraudsters? How about the savvy and entrepreneurial? A new report by Cifas reveals that around 20 per cent of identity fraud victims are company directors, even though they make up less than 9 per cent of the UK’s population. Cifas, a not-for-profit company which works to protect organisations and individuals from financial crime, says this makes company directors one of the most at-risk groups for identity fraud crimes.

Executive pay: Nationwide Building Society makes a retrograde move

Let’s not beat around the mulberry bush. Nationwide Building Society is a force for good in the murky world of personal finance. It is more consumer-centric than its banking rivals and believes in delivering customer service par excellence. Virtues sadly lacking across swathes of the financial world. It has even opened a new branch this year – Glastonbury in Somerset  – an unlikely but welcome step given most banks are retreating from the High Street at a great gallop. Also, unlike rivals – including the State-owned Royal Bank of Scotland – it does not believe that in order to run an efficient financial institution you have to outsource key parts

Where there’s a will, there’s a way

Once upon a time, there lived a very bored (but exceptionally diligent) paralegal. Everyday she would head to the office and stare at the same Excel spreadsheet. It contained a litany of things that really don’t belong in an excel spreadsheet – friends and family members, photographs, old records, engagement rings, a collection of saucy novels, a Constable painting, and boxes filled with the detritus of faded memories – theatre tickets, thank-you cards and wedding invitations. Every day, as she populated this spreadsheet with yet another illegitimate child or meaningless trinket, she wondered…could someone not have tapped Mr Plonker (obviously his real name) on the shoulder and said, ‘now you

Don’t be apathetic – take charge of your savings

It’s obvious to see how far cash savings have fallen over the years and how increasingly difficult it is to avoid inflation eroding your nest egg. In stark contrast are the striking potential returns that can result from investing in stocks and shares. But it’s worth remembering that fund values can fall as well as rise – so if the market drops, it’s bad news for your original investment. Those who are not prepared to gamble their cash may have to think differently. Cautious savers putting money aside may still prefer to invest in cash to get a simple return of interest as a reward for investing with that provider.

The price of being single

The average cost of attending a wedding is £800 per couple, according to a press release from Nationwide which landed in my inbox earlier this week. The building society completely ignored the fact that single people attend weddings too. Nationwide says wedding attendance costs can really mount up ‘especially if you’re going as a couple’. Er, no, you idiots, no no no. Simple calculations confirm going to a wedding solo costs loads more than going as a couple. Unless you can find a pal to split costs with, you’ll be stumping up for petrol, accommodation and a present all on your ownsome and out of a single salary. To be

Spend your pension pot wisely

There was an almighty hoo-ha when George Osborne introduced pension freedoms. In the biggest change to pensions in a generation, anyone aged 55 and over is now allowed to take their entire pension pot as a lump sum, paying no tax on the first 25 per cent and the rest taxed as if it were a salary at their income tax rate. I was among the naysayers and one of those who thought the then Chancellor was absolutely bananas for implementing the new rules. The temptation to blow the lot on a round-the-world cruise or a fancy car must be overwhelming, and falling back on the State in later years

How to avoid a holiday from hell

As the UK basks in beautiful sunshine, it’s tempting to abandon all thoughts of a holiday abroad and opt for a staycation. But we all know the vagaries of British weather. It’ll probably be raining tomorrow. With this in mind, the financial information company Defaqto has taken a close look at potential nightmare holiday scenarios – and has advice on how to avoid them. We all want a stress-free summer break but even the best-laid plans can go awry. That’s where a comprehensive travel insurance policy is vital. But according to Defaqto, of the 918 single trip and 943 annual policies on the market, cover for those unpleasant holiday experiences varies

Home ownership fall is driving wealth inequality

Consider this: 1 per cent of adults own 14 per cent of the nation’s assets. That’s some 488,000 people in ownership of about £11 trillion. At the other end of the financial scale, 15 per cent – 7.3 million people – either own no assets at all, or are in debt. It’s safe to say this throws the UK’s wealth inequality into stark relief. These new figures come courtesy of the Resolution Foundation thinktank which attributes them to a reversal of the spreading of property wealth across Britain in the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Essentially, the fall in home ownership is fuelling the return of increasing wealth inequality across the country. Conor D’Arcy,

Fraud hotspots revealed by Which?

Norfolk is the dating fraud capital of England and Wales, Surrey is the hotspot for investment scams, and mid-Wales suffers cold calling computer cons. That’s according to new analysis by Which?. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Which? collated thousands of fraud reports from Action Fraud, the main reporting body for UK fraud. The data also reveals Dorset as the capital of computer virus, malware and spyware scams, while Northamptonshire is the capital for online shopping and auction fraud reports. Elsewhere, Dyfed-Powys was the capital for computer-repair fraud reports. In this type of scam, a fraudster phones pretending there’s a fault with your computer and then demands a fee for fixing it.

How to keep your dog safe from thieves

Five dogs are stolen every day in the UK and only one gets reunited with its owner, according to police data analysed by insurer Direct Line. In 2016, there were 1,774 reported dog thefts, with just 21 per cent recovered. The number of thefts was up 19 per cent compared to 1,491 just two years earlier. However, these figures are likely just the tip of the iceberg – further research conducted by Direct Line found that 1.5 million people have had a dog stolen from them within the past five years. Of those bereft owners, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) said their pet was stolen from their garden, 11

Now it’s cheaper to use your mobile phone abroad

Praise be, there’s some good news on the financial front this morning. Roaming charges for the use of mobile phones while overseas have been abolished as from today. Under the new European Union law (the Roam Like Home legislation), British mobile phone users can now make phone calls, send text messages and use data in other EU countries without incurring a further charge. The new rules mean that Britons will be subject to the same prices they pay at home. However, it still won’t be possible to call local numbers when abroad for no charge. The new regulations apply to calling or texting other British mobile phones. The European Commission said: ‘Each time a

How to navigate the information overload

As humans we are endlessly called upon to make decisions based on the information we have, and we are defined by those decisions – as individuals, in business and as a society. Living in the ‘Age of Information’, one would hope that people’s decisions would be more informed and less biased, more based in fact and less on emotion. But instead it seems increasingly that the opposite is true. At what stage did the knowledge economy go from boom to bust? The Age of Information seems to have proliferated into the ‘Age of Information Overload’, with a torrent of data being disseminated indiscriminately to vast, unknown audiences. In an increasingly

The risks of being a modern landlord

The spate of terrorist attacks in London and Manchester has made many landlords and their insurers nervous about the risks of letting strangers rent houses, flats or even rooms without even closer checks. This is not about getting money upfront, though that can act as a deterrent. No, it is the still thankfully tiny but nevertheless horrific danger that your property will be used as part of a terrorist cell, exposing it to potentially huge damage if an explosive experiment goes wrong, along with the possibility that it will be out of bounds during a police investigation and the neighbourhood’s reputation blackened for years. Until recently, the government was all

What the election result means for your finances

Well, I don’t think anyone expected that, least of all Theresa May. As the country picks over the result of the general election, financial experts are weighing up what it means for our money – and it’s not good news. Faith in the economy has been shaken, share prices for housebuilders and retailers have fallen, and the pound is down against the dollar and the euro. None of this makes for positive reading when it comes to disposable income. Pensions ‘A hung parliament is the worst possible outcome for pensioners and people saving for their retirement,’ says Tom Selby, senior analyst at AJ Bell. ‘We will now have a period of limbo