If you can’t trust your bank……

It seems to me that the BBC’s Panorama programme is getting a little lightweight. The June 13 program about banks’ selling practices was a good example of an opportunity missed.

It ‘s fairly common knowledge, at least in the industry, that product mis-selling has been going on amongst our high street banks for years, so the program wasn’t really telling us anything new. What they could have done, especially since they used undercover reporters, was go much deeper than they did.

For example, and quoting from Panorama’s site comments:

“ I was a Lloyds Bank manager who was glad to take early retirement in 1992, when the rot had already set in. As an example, shortly before I retired, Lloyds managers were told the bank prohibited them to grant a personal loan to a customer unless Payment Protection Insurance was sold, although customers could not to be told of this requirement as it was illegal.”

That’s pretty damning stuff and I suspect there’s a lot more where that came from.

Yet in this program, Panorama simply relied on a couple of individual cases, where the facts and dates were not fully set out, and then added some talking heads. The ”experts” brought on board to comment comprised (a) an IFA, (b) a representative of BestInvest, which is mainly an execution-only seller of investments, and (c) some old chap who called himself a claims adviser. Not one of those experts could be considered to be impartial.

The fact that one participant noted that she received full compensation after a successful claim with the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), but was still £000’s out of pocket due to the fees (or was it commissions?) paid to a claims adviser, was ignored by the reporters. Indeed they failed to point out to the viewing public that it costs nothing to complain to the FOS oneself.

I suppose the programme reinforced the general advice that banks are not always acting in your best interests. At no time did they suggest the alternative of using independent financial advisers, but they did, dangerously in my view, appear to promote the “do it yourself” approach since they found a smart recent retiree who had invested her own fund and was happy to do so. It’s not that easy, nor sensible, to try and go it alone, especially if you need that money to get by on.

Panorama could perhaps have mentioned, in a programme about complaints on financial products, that IFAs only account for about 1.5% of complaints raised with the FOS, but hey, that isn’t exactly a headline grabber.

Anyway, if Panorama are looking for any more IFAs to dish the dirt on the Banks in exchange for free advertising of one’s practice, I’m available! Otherwise, if you want a sensible portfolio of investments which matches your personal circumstances and appetite for investment risk (or lack of it), with no surprises, hidden charges or small print, you know where to come.

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