• The Flood Re Scheme: countering the commercial exclusions

    ‘Somerset Levels’ – two words now synonymous with serious and regular flooding in the UK. And après le déluge? The invoice, naturally. Annual flood damage costs are in the region of £1.1 billion. Already 5.2 million properties are at flood risk in England – 300,000 of them business premises. The new Flood Re Scheme – guaranteeing affordable flood risk cover for at-risk homeowners – will be introduced in June 2015. It replaces the original flood insurance deal struck in 2000 between government and insurers that is about to expire. Sounds good in principle but it’s not that clear-cut. With Flood Re, there will be exclusions – lots. From Band H council tax properties in England and their equivalents elsewhere in the UK, through to homes built after January 1 2009, commercial properties, buy-to-let, holiday homes, residential leaseholds, housing associations and small to...

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  • Employer’s Liability insurance for Sub-Contractors

    Employer’s Liability (EL) insurance: we all know it covers compensation costs for employees who injure themselves or become sick as a result of the job. In construction, the key thing is managing the difference between labour only sub-contractors and bona-fide sub-contractors. Get it wrong and you end up paying for insurance you don’t need – or breaking the law by not having the right insurance in place. It’s a topical subject at the moment: HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is clamping down on main contractors claiming to have self-employed contractors on their books who are, to all intents and purposes, employees. This all takes place within the framework of the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS), which was significantly overhauled in 2007. CIS sets the rules for payments by industry contractors to sub-contractors - based on each sub-contractor’s HMRC tax status - and covers...

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  • Oval Financial Services Investment Commentary April 2014

    Last month’s viewpoint was pretty optimistic about stockmarkets and the benefits of a medium to longer term investment strategy. Events in March demonstrate how both sentiment and volatility can change over the short term. Isaac Newton said “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people”. I would hesitate to suggest any link here with Vladimir Putin(!); but Russian action in Crimea certainly caught markets on the hop. As Churchill said “jaw, jaw is better than war, war” and, with annexation of Crimea effectively complete, one hopes diplomacy can once more regain the upper hand. Such an action does reinforce the fact that stockmarkets do not operate in a vacuum and are inevitably affected by political or global events. As a result, there has been much Press comment about the security of European energy sources and such aggression must precipitate...

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  • Oval Acquired by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co.

    We are pleased to be able to confirm that Oval Ltd has today been acquired by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (AJG), together creating one of the largest commercial retail brokers in the UK. AJG & Co. is also one of the world’s largest insurance and risk management firms, employing over 16,000 people with operations in 25 countries and offering client service capabilities in more than 140 countries through a network of correspondent brokers and consultants. Within the UK alone, where it is known as Arthur J. Gallagher, the company employs well over 4,000 people across its specialty wholesale, commercial retail, personal lines and underwriting divisions. By becoming part of AJG, our UK footprint will grow to more than 70 offices, where our combined several thousand expert staff will ensure our clients continue to receive the highest quality service and support. Peter Blanc, Group...

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  • Cyber Risk in the Charity Sector

    When I talk to our Charity clients and contacts, individuals who are usually operating at a financial or operational level, about how they manage Cyber Risk, I find it is being handled differently in different organisations. In some Charities, Finance Directors are keen to push the management of the risk back to their IT Director, whilst in other organisations Finance Directors have ultimate responsibility for IT, but rely heavily on their IT team for reassurance that Cyber Risk is being well managed, rather than treating the risk as they would any other. The subject of Cyber Risk can be daunting and certainly when the likes of Barclays and NASA can be hacked it is difficult to see how smaller organisations can possibly maintain sound risk management, but it’s not impossible – it just requires the usual application of risk identification and quantification in order to decide how...

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  • End to rip off pension charges

    After a long period of consultation, on 27 March 2014 the Government announced they will introduce a cap on the charges on pensions from April 2015. Specifically, a maximum of 0.75% p.a. on the default fund in the plan. Whilst the headline states a cap of 0.75% p.a, pension providers will also have to be transparent about other costs so that the whole total expense ratio (TER) is shown. Furthermore, the announcement goes on to say that other charges or costs like Active Member Discounts (AMD) and Commission payable to intermediaries will be outlawed from April 2016. Together with the changes to pensions mentioned in the Budget and not to mention auto enrolment, there is a lot to be considered with regard to the shaping of pension planning for the individual and the support an employer provides to help employees make the right choices for their long term financial...

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  • Underinsurance - are you properly protected?

    The impacts of business interruption are relative. A fire in the server room of an eBusiness may halt trading for a few hours while switching to back up systems: it’s painful but business is online again pretty quickly. A fire, flood or structural collapse on the factory floor that damages or destroys stock, plant and machinery? That’s another matter entirely. Production ceases - possibly for weeks. The supply chain seizes - business is lost, possibly for good. Even with the right level of Business Interruption cover, getting back on your feet is an anxious time. If you discover at the moment of truth that you’re underinsured, then getting back on those feet can be a vain hope. Couldn’t happen here? Only happens to someone else? Wrong - it can and it does. The truth is that 40 per cent of UK Business Interruption policies are underinsured - and the average shortfall in protection...

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  • Legionella & Toxic Mould - is your insurance bacteria-proof?

    ‘Sick building syndrome’ can be triggered by a number of pollutants – from flawed or faulty HVAC systems, outgassing by certain building materials to volatile organic compounds. There may be moulds, inadequate ozone ventilation, light industrial chemicals on the premises or poor air filtration. When it comes to your liability insurance, it’s bacteriological and mould contamination that are arguably most potentially dangerous - specifically legionella and toxic mould. Typically caused by the legionella pneumophila bacterium, there were 359 cases of Legionnaire’s Disease reported across England and Wales in 2010, resulting in 38 fatalities – and provisional figures for 2011 show 239 cases with 20 fatalities. Between 2007 and 2012, 71% of cases occurred in three main sectors: manufacturing, public services and local authorities. Cooling towers, hot and cold water systems, spa...

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  • Environmental Risk - are you insured or not?

    We take action against polluters. We will always act to tackle pollution where we can. In doing so, we have prevented harm to many wildlife sites, saved hundreds of thousands of fish and protected drinking water supplies for millions of people. We ensure that costs associated with our interventions are recovered from the polluter, under the ’polluter pays’ principle, wherever possible’. - (The Environment Agency) It’s the air we breathe. The water we drink. The land we cultivate and cohabit. The energy we consume. The waste we create. The ground on which we develop and build. There’s really only one thing to remember when addressing environmental liability: it’s the principle that ‘the polluter pays. In recent years, liability for environmental harm has become much more common and between 2008 and 2012 the Environment Agency brought 500 prosecutions and issued 400 formal...

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  • Chancellor Chops Away Complexity for Pensions

    In the Chancellor’s budget speech, he dropped the bombshell that those reaching pension age can now draw the funds out as they like, sweeping away the need to ‘buy’ a pension after taking out the tax free lump sum. Goodness knows how many times I have said this is the best way forward to make pensions more attractive to all of us and stop those voices saying “pensions are rubbish”, “they’re too confusing”. Pensions have always been a form of deferred pay but the tax rules covering them has spiralled to out of control proportions, which has persisted for many years. Congratulations to the Chancellor and the DWP for chopping away the growth of complexity around one of the most attractive savings schemes we have in the UK, pensions. Your employer contributes, you contribute, you get tax relief at the highest rate (you pay) and you can have the whole lot out in one go -...

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