Card benefits: an untapped potential for bank to enhance customer satisfaction?

Bank cards often come with embedded insurance and assistance products and services such as purchase protection, roadside assistance or travel insurance. But are customers really aware of these benefits? Do the benefits offered meet customers’ expectations? A recent study by Allianz Partners conducted into different types of payment means and their perceived benefits in 13 countries reveals some striking findings – especially when looking at bank cards as one such payment mean.

Selected few really know about their benefits

Bank card benefits are a significant pull for new customers, with 74% of all those surveyed by Allianz Partners saying it is an important factor when signing up. Yet despite this, Bank card benefits are not known about by all UK customers, with about 26% of the respondents declaring that they do not know that there are benefits associated with their cards.

“Better communication and education is crucial in showcasing how valuable card benefits can be, all the more as those benefits are key elements when signing up for a new payment method, as highlighted by our study. Banks have an important role to play here.” says Jérôme Joubert, Chief Marketing Officer for Assistance at Allianz Partners.

However, demonstrating the impact of card benefits on consumers in the UK, those that do use them expressed “total satisfaction”. This was particularly strong for Roadside Assistance as a benefit; 93% were “totally satisfied”.

“Banks could use their cards and associated benefits as real assets because they can greatly impact customers’ overall experience especially in difficult daily life situations such as accidents, fraud, etc. An amazing customer experience generates recommendation to peers, hence greater customer retention and new customer acquisition,” Jérôme Joubert continues.

Taking advantage of digitalisation to meet new needs

An increasing number of people would like access to their benefits digitally, such as via mobile app. Today customers are seeking immediate and proactive digital services: 75% would find it useful to have proactive travel claims management (automatic refund in case of means of transport delay or loss of luggage by an airline), 74% are interested in geolocation of hospitals and doctors, 73% vote for cyber assistance for recovering digital data.

“With these findings in mind, we are adjusting existing benefits and tailoring new ones to enable banks to better address customers’ emerging needs and expectations and to ensure real customer satisfaction. Digital expertise can make a real difference, and we are supporting partners and investing in innovative solutions to support customers and make their lives easier” comments Jérôme Joubert, Chief Marketing Officer for Assistance at Allianz Partners.

Almost half of UK parents face pester power in the lead-up to Christmas

As the UK prepares for the festive season, research from the Money Advice Service reveals that 45% of parents1 say their children are more likely to pester them for money or to buy them things in the lead up to Christmas.

Pester power is the ability children have to convince their parents to buy something, by asking for something repeatedly2. A third of parents (33%) say pester power regularly gets the better of them, and worryingly, a third (33%) report that giving in to pester power has caused them to over-stretch their finances, meaning they’ve been overdrawn or taken on new lines of credit to pay for the extra expense.

Sarah Porretta, Director of Financial Capability at the Money Advice Service, commented:
“It can feel like there is a great deal of pressure to spend over Christmas, but it’s never worth putting yourself through stress and worry in the New Year or getting into debt you can’t manage.

“An effective way to manage your child’s expectations is to include them in the Christmas planning process. Our research shows that including children in the budgeting process teaches them the value of money, which helps resist pester power.

“And if you are worried about getting into debt over the festive season, don’t wait to seek out assistance. There are lots of free advice services across the UK to help you find advice in a way that’s best for you, which can be accessed via the Money Advice Service website.”

The Money Advice Service offers the following tips for families to reign in their spending this festive season:

It’s ok to say no
Remember that it’s perfectly okay to say no to your children when they ask for things. It’s important they know the difference between needs and wants. Just make sure you explain why – take this as an opportunity to teach them that we have money for certain items, but not always for sweets or toys.

Set a budget – then make a wishlist
When it comes to buying your children Christmas presents, set a budget you can afford. Then ask your children to make a wishlist based on items that fall within that budget – not only will this set their expectations, but it will also help them learn about the value of money.

Make a list before you go shopping
Involve your children in drawing up the Christmas shopping process. Giving them a little money and assigning responsibility for a small part of the Christmas shop can help them feel included and give them an important role to play come Christmas.

Get your children involved in the Christmas day planning
Task your children with helping you choose the food you’ll be serving on Christmas day by doing a taste test. Swap expensive food options for more affordable alternatives such as supermarket branded items. You would be surprised at how much money you can save – especially since you’ll often be unable to tell the difference in taste. Do a blind taste test with your kids and you might find you can swap to cheaper foods for the Christmas celebrations.

Seek advice if you’re worried about debt
The sooner you seek out debt advice, the better. Most people who have got debt advice have reported they feel less stressed or anxious and more in control of their life again. Our free debt advice locator tool on our website outlines services that are free, confidential and hold a standard accredited by the Money Advice Service.

Target Group Comments: FCA publishes findings on long-term mortgage arrears

Terry Baxter, Director of Risk and Compliance at Target Group, said: “The FCA’s findings on how mortgage lenders treat customers who have long-term arrears is a timely and important study. There has been a movement by a considerable number of stakeholders to assess the practices used and ensure they are suitable for specific customers. This is undoubtedly positive and the more the industry puts its customers first, the better.

“It is crucial that lenders who are not sure on what best practice looks like, or have any concerns around their service offerings, review and adapt their processes effectively. Having thorough case monitoring and reviews in place, solid frameworks to assess a customer’s vulnerability and accurate communications are all key to ensuring customers are treated fairly.

“The FCA highlighted that some firms adopted poor practices that meant client communications were not always accurate, or other payment measures were not considered. It is important, particularly in the current business context, that lenders are confident in their systems and employ robust practices, and if not, look to outsource particular functions to ensure customer service remains excellent.”

Revealed: The UK’s Most Generous Spouses at Christmas

When it comes to spending on spouses at Christmas, there aren’t really any hard and fast rules. Some couples don’t exchange gifts at all, while others go all out.

A recent survey by thatsweetgift.com revealed that the average spend on Christmas Gifts for spouses or partners is £96.64. But there are some wide variations from region to region.

Northern Ireland, it would seem, is home to the most generous spouses and partners with an average spend of £120.72. Meanwhile, this figure falls to £80.40 in the South West of England.

As a part of the survey, more than 2,000 over 16s were quizzed about what they spend on gifts, what their most wanted gifts are and what really happens to those unwanted Christmas presents by the gift experts.

It is indeed partners who receive the lion’s share of the Christmas gift. Sadly, dad seems to get the short straw with a gift value of just £40.65, whereas mum fares slightly better with presents worth £49.30 piled up under the tree each year.

When it comes to the most desirable Christmas gifts, traditional presents trumped technology with jewellery topping the list for women at 55% and 40% of men stating that they would be happy to receive clothing under the tree this year.

The figures also reveal that on average, Brits buy eleven presents over Christmas and receive just seven in return.

One of the most interesting results from the survey focuses on what we do with those unwanted gifts, with one in five respondents confessed to posting their least favourite presents on eBay, 20% have returned or exchanged a gift without the giver ever knowing and shockingly almost 25% have re-gifted something they have received for Christmas to someone else.

Daniel Chabert Pfefferkorn from thatsweetgift.com, said, “Christmas is all about giving. And we seem particularly happy to give generously to our spouses and partners. A word of caution though. Be careful what you spend that £96.64 on. You don’t want your gifts ending up resold on Ebay!”

Do not overdo it this festive season – Spend Wisely!

This year has been quiet a difficult one for some people as we have seen the petrol price hikes, VAT increases, interest rate increases, electricity increases etc making the cost of living very difficult for consumers whilst the total outstanding gross debtors book for consumer credit was R1.80 trillion as at June 2018, says Jimmy Golele, Acting Manager: Education & Communication at the NCR. The gross debtors book represents what consumers owe in terms of mortgages, vehicle finance, unsecured credit, store cards, credit cards, overdrafts, short term credit etc.

“We are advising consumers to be cautious of their spending during this festive season and only spend what they can afford.” Consumers should not overdo it, says Golele. During the silly season you would find people spending unnecessarily on things that they do not need and sometimes wasting as they have additional income in a form of bonuses, stokvel payouts etc. “Additional income such as this can be used to settle debt and also be saved in platforms that will grow the money unlike spending it on things you do not need and those that will finish your money”, advises Golele.

When spending during the festive season, consumers should think about the new year which will be upon us sooner that we can realise. The new year comes with its own expenses such as school uniform, school registration fees, transport costs, food costs and many other costs. “If you failed to plan and spend wisely during the festive season, you will find yourself cash strapped in the new year and it will be difficult to get out”, says Golele.

He says consumers should only use registered credit providers when seeking credit because using unregistered lenders can end up being their worst nightmare in the near future. “Unregistered lenders will take your identity documents, bank cards / PINs and SASSA cards and withdraw your money immediately after you get paid. They will literally pay themselves first and leave you with change to get by for an entire month”, he adds. Golele says this will lead to a debt-trap and make such consumers dependent on these lenders for a very long time.

Unregistered lenders often charge consumers unlawful interest rates that are more than what the law specifies. The danger of being charged unreasonable interest rates is that consumers will battle to finish repaying the loan, meaning they will be stuck with that lender. “This means that you will be enslaved to the micro-lender”, cautions Golele. “According to the National Credit Act, each and every one who gives out credit and charges interest must register with the National Credit Regulator”, says Golele.

During the silly season, consumers should be wary of deals such as “buy now, pay after three months” and then incur additional credit during those three months, cautioned Golele. “Do not be afraid to request for a pre-agreement statement and quotation when applying for any type of credit, remember, it is your right according to the National Credit Act.” A quotation will inform consumers on how much the new credit will cost them prior to putting their signatures on the contract/credit agreement. It will also enable consumers to shop around and do a comparison.

“Use your bonus to reduce your debt burden by paying off existing debt. Remember as soon as you settle outstanding credit that you are blacklisted for, the listing will be removed from your credit report thus giving you a better chance of getting new credit for asset building purposes such as getting finance for a mortgage bond, says Golele.

To consumers who have lost their jobs, please inform your credit providers about your situation. If you were paying for credit life insurance, contact your credit providers for assistance as the aim of credit life insurance is to pay the consumer’s debt either in full or a portion in case the consumer dies, gets retrenched or disabled whilst still owing that particular credit, says Golele.

Below are tips to assist consumers to spend wisely during the festive season:

· Draw a budget for the month and include all debt, rent, electricity, water, insurance, transport, gifts, entertainment, etc;

· When going shopping, have a shopping list to avoid buying unnecessary items;

· If you didn’t budget for a holiday earlier in the year, it might be too late and risky in terms of finances to go on holiday this year;

· Prioritise your home loan and rent;

· Before you cancel any insurance, speak to a financial advisor;

· If you borrow money, make sure you borrow only for what is strictly necessary, and ensure that you can afford the repayments;

· Start saving for next year’s projects that you would like to undertake such as holidays, renovations, studying, big sales, etc;

· If you are battling with your debts, contact a registered debt counsellor for assistance; and

· As much as possible, during the festive season keep to your normal spending patterns. Don’t make drastic changes that may leave you over-indebted in the new year.

AI moves beyond human vision

Breakthrough innovation specialist Cambridge Consultants today announced DeepRay™, a ground-breaking Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology that creates clear, undistorted views of the real-world from a damaged or obscured moving image. Based on recent advances in deep learning, DeepRay’s power to see clearly in difficult, unpredictable situations could transform numerous machine vision and imaging applications, from autonomous driving to empowering healthcare professionals with more accurate medical imaging.

Machine vision systems have progressed rapidly in recent years, however performance can quickly deteriorate if a view is obscured by rain, smoke, dirt or other obstructions. This has serious implications for real-world applications where image quality can be degraded by environmental factors or damage to camera-based systems.

DeepRay learns what real-world scenes and objects look like and also how they appear with various image distortions applied. When presented with a distorted image it has never seen before, the technology can then form a real-time judgement of the ‘true’ scene behind the distortion. Having this “mind’s eye” ability means that DeepRay will outperform humans and existing machine vision approaches in reconstructing clear images under difficult conditions.

Tim Ensor, Commercial Director for Artificial Intelligence at Cambridge Consultants said: “This is the first time that a new technology has enabled machines to interpret real-world scenes the way humans can – and DeepRay can potentially outperform the human eye. This takes us into a new era of image sensing and will give flight to applications in many industries, including automotive, agritech and healthcare. The ability to construct a clear view of the world from live video, in the presence of continually changing distortion such as rain, mist or smoke, is transformational. We’re excited to be at the leading edge of developments in AI. DeepRay shows us making the leap from the art of the possible, to delivering breakthrough innovation with significant impact on our client’s businesses.”

DeepRay is the latest technology to emerge from Cambridge Consultants’ Digital Greenhouse™, a unique experimental environment where data scientists and engineers explore and cultivate cutting-edge deep learning techniques. Leveraging this capability to deliver world-changing commercial applications led to Cambridge Consultants being named the first NVIDIA preferred deep learning delivery partner in the EMEA region.

DeepRay uses unique extensions of the Generative Adversarial Network (GAN) architecture. Training requires six neural networks to compete against each in teams, inventing difficult scenes and attempting to remove distortion. Effective end-to-end training of so many networks together has only been possible in the last two years but is yielding radical new capabilities.

Secure Trust Bank added to Paradigm lender panel

Paradigm Mortgage Services, the mortgage services proposition, has today (4th December 2018) added specialist residential mortgage lender, Secure Trust Bank, to its panel.

From today, Paradigm member firms will be able to access Secure Trust Bank’s range of mortgage products which are designed for cases where high-street lending isn’t the answer.

Secure Trust Bank operates a discretionary lending policy and individually underwrites all residential mortgages cases, providing products to the self-employed, contract works, older borrowers, and those with complex incomes or those who have experienced a credit blip.

Its latest product range comes with rates from 2.14%, offers loans up to a maximum LTV of 90% and a maximum loan size of £2m. It lends to borrowers up to age 85, offering interest-only, part and part, and right-to-buy product options.

Secure Trust Bank offers both flexible criteria and fast decisions plus it is 100% intermediary-focused.

It is the first UK bank to hold the Government’s Customer Service Excellence standard.

John Coffield, Head of Paradigm Mortgage Services, commented: “It’s always our aim to work with lenders who show a real desire to lend and to work with our member firms in order to ensure they have access to quality products which are relevant for today’s UK borrower. That is certainly the case with Secure Trust Bank who are both flexible and have a real commitment to delivering mortgages to those who might not necessarily fit the criteria of the mainstream, high-street lenders.

“As the working environment shifts and we have many more borrowers who in no way fit the traditional notion of a ‘normal’ borrower, it’s important that advisers have access to lenders who are ready, willing and able to work in this space. We believe our member firms will find much to interest them in both Secure Trust Bank’s product range and its approach to the residential market. We are looking forward to working closely together and warmly welcome them to the Paradigm lender panel.”

Tony Hall, Sales & Marketing Director (Mortgages), said: “As a relatively new lender, we’ve been working hard to grow our distribution and being added to the Paradigm lender panel is a key milestone in our expansion. It’s great that intermediaries using Paradigm can now benefit from our ‘unordinary’ lending proposition as we strive to position ourselves as the first choice specialist lender.”

Experian boosts credit card market transparency with Real Rates

Credit card customers will know exactly what deal they’re getting with Real Rates from Experian.

In a transformative change to the way consumers shop for credit cards, those using Experian’s comparison services will now see a guaranteed rate when shopping for cards with certain providers.

Credit card and loan providers only need to offer their headline representative Annual Percentage Rate (APR) to a minimum 51% of customers that apply.

The remaining 49% can be offered a different deal at a more expensive rate – and customers often won’t know what that is until they’ve completed an application, which will also leave a mark on their credit report.

The move will be a major boost to transparency in the credit card market and help consumers make more informed decisions about their finances.

The introduction of the service comes after Experian launched real rates for loans in May. Providers which offer real rates include Likely Loans, Zopa, Lendable, and Shawbrook.

Two major credit card providers are signed-up to Real Rates with Experian, Virgin Money (including Virgin Atlantic) and Capital One, while customers which are pre-approved for cards from Aqua, Marbles, MBNA and Barclaycard, will also see the rate they will get before applying.

Amir Goshtai, Managing Director of Experian Marketplace & Affinity, said: “We see offering guaranteed rates as a true game-changer in the highly-competitive credit card market.

“We are already in discussions with other lenders to offer real rates. It’s not right that nearly half of those looking for a credit card may not get the rate they see advertised – and often won’t know what deal they’ll get until after they’ve applied.

“We are pleased to have extended guaranteed rates from loans to credit cards. Improving transparency for consumers so they know what they’ll get is something the industry should be striving for. Experian is determined to help consumers make better decisions for their personal finances.”

The service is now available to all users of Experian. Customers should look out for “APR Guaranteed” next to their results when searching for credit cards to know that the rate they see is the rate they’ll get.

Masthaven choose Dock9 as their digital development partner

Dock9 is delighted to announce that Masthaven has chosen Dock9 as digital development partner, following an initial discovery and prototyping project.

Masthaven is an intermediary only lender, and one of the UK’s newest challenger banks, with a mission to help more customers find an affordable mortgage solution. They launched as a retail bank in 2016 but are not new to lending, with a track record providing short-term bridging options, development finance and secured lending since 2004. Their products are designed to be flexible, simple and not reliant on a credit score for customers who are underserved by mainstream lenders.

Jon Hall, Managing Director of Masthaven, commented: “Since launching, we have always known that to grow further and meet the needs of our intermediary partners and their customers, our digital offering required significant expertise and an experienced digital agency would be needed. We are delighted to have appointed Dock9 to work with us on this exciting stage of our journey and have been impressed with not only their credentials but also the fresh ideas that they have brought to our business.”

Mark Lusted, Managing Director of Dock9, commented: “Dock9 is excited to have the opportunity to work with a forward-thinking bank like Masthaven. Our team have been inspired by their future vision during the initial discovery phase and we are looking forward to helping implement this vision. We hope this is the start of a long and successful relationship for both parties.”

OMS partners with The Mortgage Lender on its specialist lending platform

One Mortgage System (OMS), the seamless single-input enquiry to completion processing platform for brokers, has boosted its specialist lending offering with the addition of The Mortgage Lender (TML).

The partnership between TML and OMS will allow users of the system to gain faster and simpler access to TML’s extensive product range. The integration will open-up an online avenue for intermediaries to carry out a full decision-in-principle, without the need to rekey any data.

The Mortgage Lender caters for a wide range of borrowers including employed, self-employed, those with impaired credit, lending into retirement and buy-to-let investors.

OMS was the first system to develop a full two-way integration with several specialist lenders. It offers automated valuation models, changeable workflows, drag and drop facilities, and gives its users access to documentation and application forms for almost 30 different lenders.

Neal Jannels, Managing Director of One Mortgage System (OMS), commented: “The Mortgage Lender has a distinct presence within the specialist lending marketplace and is doing a great job in relaying the message that ‘special’ really is the new normal, or real life lending, when it comes to freelancers, the self-employed and for those with slightly more complicated circumstances.

“It’s great to be working so closely with TML and the ever-growing OMS user-base will greatly benefit from the addition of its competitive, flexible products and excellent service values. OMS has quickly become an integral addition to the working lives of lenders, distributors and intermediary firms of all shapes and sizes, and we are not resting on our laurels. With several exciting announcements in the pipeline OMS will only go from strength-to-strength in making the mortgage journey even more simple, effective and inclusive for the intermediary community.”

Peter Beaumont, deputy chief executive at The Mortgage Lender (TML), added: “We’re delighted our products are now available on the OMS platform. Partnering with OMS gives more brokers streamlined access to our products and underwriting enabling them to improve their service levels and find lending solutions tailored to their customers’ real-life circumstances.”