View more on these topics

Correspondent’s week

This week by personal finance writer Neasa MacErlean

There is plenty in the Saturday morning papers about financial scandal but nothing on personal finance. You might be wondering what planet I live on – planet Earth, country Italy. Murky tales linking politicians to dodgy business dealings are at their height as Italy prepares for its April 9 general election.

Reading UK papers online, I find that is playing up again today – erratic web systems. If you have heard of my home town I would be surprised. Sondrio is in the Alps, halfway between Davos (hosting Bono and the bankers) and Milan.

With snazzy technology – a Vonage phone, Skype, Real Player, etc – I research and write all my UK stories just as easily as if I was there. Most people I speak to do not realise that I am in Lombardy as I can use UK phone numbers, for which I pay 10 a month, and no one who rings me pays any extra.

I have to declare that I am in saddo workaholic phase on Sunday. I write a council tax article while passing through the Alps and by Lake Como on the way to Milan. Former Personal Investment Authority ombudsman Adam Samuel is in town. Over dinner (20 for both of us and fantastic, of course), we talk about why so many scandals still happen despite the army of regulators and compliance officers.

Too many compliance bods are yes people, chosen so they do not rock the boat, he suggests. I agree. Political correctness takes many unfortunate forms in financial institutions and one of them may be that devil’s advocates are often seen as being unhelpful and not team players.

Almost a day off on Monday although I have a slight dalliance with a pension planning piece I am writing. Go for usual run in the Alps – in preparation for a cross-country race on Sunday, where another participant is Olympic steeplechase gold medallist Ezekiel Kemboi. Running gives you a high and gives you lots of ideas – even on personal finance. Ask my fellow runner Jeff Prestridge.

Finish pension piece on Tuesday. Talk to Observer business editor Frank Kane about energy articles. If we are serious about climate change, cheap flights will go but are we serious? Not yet. And politicians would fall off their chairs laughing at the idea that they would throw away a general election by stopping the voting public cheap flights. Please do not ask me about how often I fly.

I work on energy pieces on Wednesday and whether cheap flights will wither away, speaking to Tyndall Centre, British Airways and numerous others. Some companies are very uncomfortable with my line of quest-ioning. More than one person gives that response indicative of rising hackles – just where are you coming from on this?

Today programme on Thursday reveals that ID fraud is costing 1.7bn and that Govern-ment departments are fighting each other over climate change strategies. The Govern-ment is worried about taking the steps it should logically take on climate change – making motoring and flying more expensive, for instance.

On Friday, I begin scribbling another pension story on occupational schemes. My long-term plan may include writing more about fraud. Now that I understand Italy better, I do not think the UK should play the holier than thou card. All our UK misselling scandals are hardly an adornment – and most Italians seem as honest as Brits to me.

I am developing a theory that Italian corruption is often an excess of family or local pride rather than pure old-fashioned greed. Have treat of dinner in really good restaurant. It has been a hard week on the energy invest-igations and I need a bit of indulgence. Ciao.

Any Out of Contexts or Diary stories? Send them to Diary editor Paul McMillan, email: or telephone: 020 7970 4776


FTB sales up 15 per cent next year

Home information packs will increase first-time buyer sales by 15 per cent next year according to Spicerhaart.The estate agent says every FTB will save around 1,000 following the mandatory introduction of Hips next June, no longer having to pay for local authority searches, environmental searches and home condition reports.FTB sales fell below 30 per cent […]

Standard revamps year-old loan plan

Standard Life is revising its loan plan to mark its first anniversary adding a cancellation deed that the client can sign to bring the loan to an end, creating a lifetime gift for IHT purposes.

Aegon Benefit Solutions reserves web offering for IFAs

Aegon Benefit Solutions has decided to offer its web-based service exclusively to IFAs. ABS says its software will extend the services advisers can offer their corporate clients and will create cross-selling opportunities. The platform comes with an online adviser facility that puts the scheme member in touch with an IFA in just three clicks through […]

CGT entrepreneurs' relief

Entrepreneurs’ relief is due, subject to meeting certain conditions, in respect of capital gains arising on ‘material disposals of business assets’. These ‘business assets’ include: Read more


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up


    Leave a comment


    Why register with Money Marketing ?

    Providing trusted insight for professional advisers. Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and thought leadership.

    News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
    Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

    Money Marketing Events
    Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

    Research and insight
    Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

    Have your say
    Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

    Register now

    Having problems?

    Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

    Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm