Savings accounts and life insurance top the government’s wishlist of easy-to-understand and compare financial products
The government is urging financial services companies to offer a set of simple financial products to customers to encourage more people to save.
A report commissioned by the Treasury has outlined four accounts and policies that should be offered and standards they should meet before being put on the market. The products will be reviewed by the British Standards Institution and those that qualify will be given a kitemark showing they meet the standards on simplicity.
A steering committee led by Carol Sergeant, a former chief risk officer at Lloyds Banking Group, was asked to look at the implementation of simple products after concerns consumers were being deterred from saving by the complexity of products on offer.
It spoke to groups representing banks, building societies and insurers, and has outlined products which the industry has indicated it will be willing to offer. The Treasury will review the marketplace in 12 months to see whether providers are making the accounts available.
The first set of simple financial products will be an easy access savings account, a 30-day notice savings account, a regular savings account, and a fixed-term life insurance product, typically the type taken out with a mortgage.
Information on the products will be “straightforward and consistent” and the key terms and conditions will be the same for each product, making them easy to understand and compare.
The next product available should be a whole-of-life insurance policy, and the Association of British Insurers has been asked to look at how an income replacement policy could be added to the list.
Sergeant said: “We have known for a long time that being able to manage your finances effectively leads to increased well-being and a better quality of life, at every given level of income.
“I hope the simple financial products initiative will make it easier for people to understand and compare the key financial products they need and make good choices with confidence.”
The economic secretary to the Treasury, Sajid Javid, said: “The challenge now is to ensure that the work that has gone into the Sergeant review is transformed into tangible changes for consumers, and I look forward to discussing progress made with the industry and consumer groups next year.”
Richard Lloyd, executive director of consumer group Which?, welcomed the proposals. “Consumers should not have to tackle pages of terms and conditions and they should be told clearly what rates and charges apply, so they can shop around more easily and get a fair deal,” he said. “We now look to the financial services industry to deliver on these proposals.”
The head of the Building Societies Association, Adrian Coles, said his members had been pleased to take part in the review of the market but pointed out that there are other deterrents to saving.
“We understand that the current economic climate is challenging for savers and that squeezed household budgets coupled with lower interest rates are currently a disincentive to saving,” he said. “Nevertheless, the report makes some helpful proposals.”
Previous initiatives to simply financial products have fallen by the wayside. Sergeant said the lessons learned from past attempts had informed the report.
“It is clear that successful products need to be affordable for consumers as well as commercially viable; meet real consumer needs; be straightforward to understand, compare and manage ; and be supported by a wide group of key stakeholders,” she said. “Over 50 organisations have been involved in putting today’s recommendations forward, and we have the full support of consumer bodies for these products and the commitment of the banks and insurance companies to deliver them.”
Personal finance and money news, analysis and comment | guardian.co.uk
There are no comments yet. Why not be the first to speak your mind.