News Column

Financial Mail on Sunday, London, Jeff Prestridge column

July 6, 2014

By Jeff Prestridge, Financial Mail on Sunday, London

July 06--SURVEY after survey indicates a number of current account providers are now head and shoulders above the competition.

The latest study comes from comparison website uSwitch. Its poll of more than 10,000 bank customers concludes that when it comes to delivering quality customer service, engendering trust, making switching as pain-free as possible and delivering value for money, two providers stand out from the crowd.

Step forward Nationwide Building Society and First Direct current account providers that in recent weeks have also come out well from similar surveys conducted by consumer website Fairer Finance and financial magazine Moneywise.

In contrast, it will come as no surprise to learn that those banks that fare badly in uSwitch's analysis are Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland.

With the Post Office slowly extending its current account offering to more of its branch network (186 now, 239 by September) and both Tesco and Marks & Spencer muscling in on the act, the dominance of the big banks is under threat like never before.

Although the migration of customers from the euro ˜big four' banks is more of a drip than an almighty rush for the branch exit doors, the message is clear. Unless the big banks start shaping up, the current account empires they have built so successfully over the years will crumble under their very feet.

BOOMING stock markets have proved a blessing for many investors since the financial crisis of 2008. And the US and the UK have led the way.

Last week, on the back of encouraging economic news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average -- the stock market benchmark of America's leading companies -- reached record heights, nicely timed to coincide with Independence Day.

Despite the fact that some commentators say many US equities now look overvalued, there are others who swear blind the bull market has further to go.

One such euro ˜bull' is Mike Williams, founder of Chicago-based investment house Genesis Asset Management. He was in London last week to talk to clients of respected financial adviser Alan Steel Asset Management and he was in ebullient mood. I went to see him in the flesh and was almost blown out of the room by his enthusiasm.

Williams, whose aim is to ensure he makes enough money for his clients so they can all fly business class, is confident the Dow Jones index will double in value over the next five years as the American recovery continues, companies start spending some of the cash they have amassed since the financial crisis, and the so-called euro ˜Generation Y' (primarily young people in their mid-20s) start buying houses and new cars.

Indeed, Williams says the biggest risk that investors face is not being exposed to the stock market. He says: 'Good things are coming.'

His exuberance was a joy to experience. Of course, only time will tell whether he is right but, for the record, UK investors have long remained shy of the US stock market euro -- and have missed out on attractive returns along the way.

FINALLY, if you are in need of a personal loan, either to do home improvements or to fund the purchase of a new car, now is the time to get one as interest rates are probably as low as they are ever going to get.

According to product scrutineer Moneyfacts, loans are available at interest rates a tad above four per cent. On a pounds sterling 7,500 loan taken out over five years, monthly repayments are about pounds sterling 138 and the total repayment is around the pounds sterling 8,300 mark.

Best deals, says Moneyfacts, are from Hitachi Capital, Tesco Bank (although it has just shaved its rates) and M&S Bank.


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Source: Financial Mail on Sunday (London, England)

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