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Romantic killjoys: How financial services PRs are spinning Valentine’s Day

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There is nothing more romantic than tax. Well, that seems to be the view of HM Revenue & Customs at least.

In a Valentine’s Day press release today, HMRC warns couples they must inform the taxman if they move in together, as if you move in with your partner then your tax credits could change.

In a cheery message for lovebirds, HMRC director general for benefits and credits Nick Lodge says: “Moving in together can be a busy time, but make sure you don’t forget to tell the taxman or you could end up facing a penalty or even a prosecution.”

Meanwhile Nest, partly funded by a taxpayer loan, has splashed out on Valentine’s research on talking about finances. It even hired a life coach Jo Barnett as a rent-a-quote for its long winded press release.

The unromantic tome points out one quarter of 20 to 35 year olds have lied to their partner about finances while 5 per cent have “secret savings”.

Nest is well trained in spinning after claims its charges would be 0.5 per cent within 10 years were exposed as “smoked and mirrors”. Maybe it should spend its PR budget on cutting charges instead of trying to ruin happy occasions.

Valentine’s Day is by no means the only big event seized upon by PRs for cheap publicity. There is big money in financial services PR and it can be more effective than advertising.

Last year, we saw the birth of Prince George spark a flurry of press releases about his insurance and pension needs.

Firms commission specific research or polls to ensure they get some easy publicity on the day. The problem is much of financial services is about protecting income or saving which needs negative disturbance tactics to catch attention. It is the nature of the beast but it can be a killjoy on a happy occasion.

Another Valentine’s special comes from Thinkmoney Personal Accounts, which has commissioned cheery research warning only one third of couples share bank accounts in light of growing “relationship uncertainty”.

Thinkmoney’s Ian Williams says: “Increasingly, choosing to share your life with somebody doesn’t mean that you will share your finances with them too.”

Sainsbury’s Bank published data showing 38 per cent of people are planning alternative dates tonight as it promotes using credit card rewards. 

Halifax Home Insurance is delighted to issue warnings about insuring expensive gifts this Valentine’s Day by using scary data about potential for theft.

Breakdown provider AA research says one in 33 marriage proposals take place in a car so make sure you are insured. 

Last year, Nationwide research even helpfully pointed out 15 per cent of people have broken up with a loved one around Valentine’s Day in a tenuous bid to promote current account switching.

It’s not the nicest thing to read on the day of love but it must work because millions are pumped into the PR machine to keep it spinning. Unless its on senior bonuses, banks don’t spend money without returns.

Finally, while the Forum of Private Business appreciates “love is in the air” its press release contains stern warnings about falling for a co-worker.

FPB business adviser Jo Eccles says: “While love may just be waiting by the water cooler, getting some advice on an office romance policy can help make things clear from the start and help to avoid any trouble in the workplace later.” 

Forget the flowers and chocolates this Valentine’s Day and focus on the truly romantic things; studying your employer code of conduct and writing to HMRC about tax.

Samuel Dale is politics reporter at Money Marketing – follow him on Twitter here

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