Tag Archives: Axa

Space Quest 2.5

It is an interesting setting; the reference comes from one of Sierra-on-Line’s most famous games called Space Quest, in this game we see the hero going up against Vohaul and his evil plan: to eradicate sentient life by launching millions of cloned insurance salesmen at the planet!

That game came to mind the moment I was treated to ‘Grenfell-type cladding on London flats to be replaced at insurer’s cost‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/09/grenfell-type-cladding-on-london-flats-to-be-replaced-at-insurers-cost), in this we all might seem relieved, but the truth is hidden in the subtitle with ‘Decision over New Capital Quay could have repercussions for other apartment blocks’. This is the setting and it was never going to be a win-win situation for the house owners. We see the emotional part with “A second family, which has seen the value of its London flat slashed from £600,000 to just £90,000 because of the Grenfell-style cladding, was thrilled to learn they no longer faced the bill“, I am happy for that family, I truly am, even with the first example the Guardian gave. Yet the hidden trap is not invisible, it does not hold out in camouflage. The simplest question gets you there. How much effort have you gone through to get your insurance money? I have been through it twice in my lifetime and in the end it costed me more than the premiums ever did. When it comes to insurances (beyond third party insurance) you tend to never ever win, or break even.

You see, getting an insurance firm to part with money is a bit of an issue. So when I see that they are footing the bill, all kinds of red flags went up. In Victoria (Australia) we saw in 2015 “Victorian Building Association (VBA) conducted an audit of 170 building permits following an Melbourne apartment fire that climbed 13 floors in November 2014, causing $2 million in damages, due to combustible wall cladding used in construction“, and until you get the headline ‘cladding hazard may nullify claims‘, you might not get the essential one. This is not any different in the UK. In addition there is (from another source) “However, a good number of policies stipulate that if you’ve told your insurer you have fire alarms, they must work. If an insurer finds that a home’s fire detectors weren’t functioning correctly at the time of a fire, they might reduce the claim pay out, or even turn it down altogether“, as well as “Did we have working fire alarms? Did we have a fire blanket in the kitchen and extinguishers in the house? Was there an up-to-date electrical inspection report? Luckily, we complied, but similar issues apply to almost any policy“. Now consider these parts with the Grenfell like issues seen in: “The Guardian has learned that another deficiency notice from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) was issued on 25 January in relation to all 11 blocks in the complex. It identified 16 fire safety issues, including a lack of arrangements to evacuate vulnerable and elderly residents, an ineffective maintenance regime, a broken firefighting lift and a broken fire hydrant outside one of the blocks. It found that “the procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons are inadequate”, raising residents’ fears about being trapped in the event of a fire“, which is given to us (at https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/15/further-defects-discovered-at-housing-with-grenfell-style-cladding).

So in these cases, we have an insurance problem, the building is not up to specs, and any fire voids the insurance, in most cases the home insurance is also affected, yet the insurers are covering it all this time. This is not merely the Grenfell setting, all the buildings are covered. Yet what we are likely to see is that this is a quick return on investment from the insurers. You see, there is every chance that the premiums will go up between £120 and £360 a year next year onwards. Now consider that this is not merely handed to those buildings fixed, it will most likely be an overall premium increase of 1%-1.5% for every building in London, which will give the insurance companies an expected £12m-£36m per year for the next 5 years at least. So the quote “Residents, who were facing a share of a bill estimated at between £25m and £40m for cladding and millions more for round-the-clock fire wardens, were elated with the news” gives us that the insurers will take an optional short term hit with the turning point in year 2 and large profits after that. It seems like a nice business deal for them, and in light of the avoided costs most will not blink at being happy, even when the new bills arrive.

Part of that danger is seen in things like “Common buildings insurance exclusions may include: Damage from general wear and tear & wilful neglect of the property“. That part matters, because the failing fire doors, non-working water pipes for firefighting as well as other elements. Now add the quote from the Conversation (at http://theconversation.com/yes-the-grenfell-tower-fire-is-political-its-a-failure-of-many-governments-79599), which was: “Worse, it has been reported that the London Fire Authority actually wrote to all boroughs as recently as April, advising them of their concerns on the use of some kinds of cladding panels. A number of expert reports have argued in favour of revising the building regulations, notably following the inquiry into the 2009 Lakanal House fire in Southwark in which six people died. The fact that the Lakanal House fire was eight years ago and building regulations have still not been updated demonstrates a complete failure to learn the lessons from previous disasters and take speedy corrective action“. We now see a clear path to both ‘Damage from general wear and tear‘, the fire doors and ‘Wilful neglect of the property‘ optionally the fire doors, the writing of the Local Fire Authority and the non-actions on the cladding. In these cases as well as most other buildings the insurance companies can basically walk away, leaving the tenants with a nightmare scenario. They did not and there is decades of evidence that insurance companies are in a black letter law cold environment in the heat of pretty much every fire. So this is about more than merely ‘a helping hand‘. This is about the SWOT where their position was in strength; the building cooperation as well as the local government were in a place of Weakness, the Opportunity is a nice premium rise giving them many millions a year more, with one year as optional collateral loss and the Threat is close to none, optionally the initial builders will get billed to some extend as well, making the optional losses for the insurance companies even lower than initially penciled in.

For this and the previous government it is a quick fix as well as a nice setting where everyone walks away without an invoice, the only thing that this government has to agree to is the coming premium rise and as the amount seems small, they will not oppose it, the one thing that bites is that all home owners will be likely to get that increase, cladding or not. And as we get bad news management through optimistic news, we see messages like “Flood Re confirmed that the announcement comes on the back of its decision not to pass on the annual increase to premium thresholds in April“, yet later this year we will with a decent measure of ‘most likely’ get news like: ‘The added risks as well as the additional costs of upgrading the buildings that have Grenfell like cladding have forced us to add a short term increase to all premiums, so that there will be no dangers to those currently in hazardous setting of coverage against fire’, yet I personally feel certain that all those not in those buildings, where the rule “Common buildings insurance exclusions may include: Wilful neglect of the property“. Those people will still take a hit on their claim if they have one.

I admit that a lot of it is based on personal experience (not fire based though) and in light of thousands of complaints in the past, my vision in what is likely to happen, might be correct and even conservative in the projected changes. Even as I am willing to grant the response that we see with: “Then we arrive and we are the big bad wolf, because the claim is not covered“, I personally see this as the people expect a spirit of the insurance setting whilst insurance firms see only a ‘black letter insurance policy setting‘. It is a view that the legal minds understand, but that might be the only group that does. It is an idiomatic antithesis that tends to settle in the world of laws (especially taxation laws). It is important to understand that I used to see the insurance companies as ‘white collar criminals’, but not anymore. I think that this is a deeper issue that we are all mostly ignorant to. It is almost a given that spirit of law and letter of law should be taught in secondary school. It is an important skill for anyone to have by the time they get their first house and get the insurances they need. It is an important view as this one setting in London giving us the realisation that the insurance companies are embracing the spirit of the insurance, not the letter of it; yet I personally believe that this is done to create a windfall that gives these companies millions down the track for a very long time to come. We can argue that they offer a cheaper solution for those who are faces with many thousands of pounds in cladding costs, yet others will not feel the same. I was not alone in this path, Reuters gave us last October “While they cannot change existing insurance cover, renewals, many of which fall due in Jan or April 2018, will give them a chance to adjust prices or policy wordings to mitigate their risks“, and so they already had something. The question becomes, what is the cost of mitigating risk? The people will find out when they get their news premium invoice in 2019. Then we can see just how conservative my numbers were. I do expect to see the changes being released earlier that year as it will be an option for insurance companies to poach new customers from those giving voice to higher than expected premiums.

So even as we were given “AXA had upgraded its administration so that information on the number of tall buildings it insures or the type of cladding they are using is more easily available, helping to identify risks quickly“, as well as “Zurich Municipal would work with customers “to help them manage these exposures”“, the question is what exposure?

Is that exposure to the expected risk, or to the risk of getting exposed to upgraded premiums?

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Law, Media, Politics

A solution by annexing greed?

In my previous blog I took a look at certain events from the SNS bank. Here I will be taking a look at possible solutions. Before we do this we will have to take a look at certain elements that are in this bad bank. Each of these bad decisions is very costly one. Now we must look at what is needed to turn this around. We do have an additional problem. The people who blew up the financial industry (aka Goldman Sachs) had a finger in this solution!

So, can anyone explain to me why people are giving ANY LEVEL OF CREDIBILITY to ANYTHING Goldman Sachs has to offer? Please explain to me why SNS Reaal went for advice to the company who lost 2.1 billion dollars and is one of the major parties behind the 2008 financial meltdown?

OK, let’s get started.

In 2006 Bouwfonds Property Finance (BPF) was acquired. When it changed hands part went to the ABO bank, and this part became part of SNS Reaal. Now, as mentioned by NOS, this part consists of a collection of real estate projects. It is interesting that many searches did not reveal a clear list. Much information is unclear as i was not able to find a complete property list.

A. Business property.
Any business property that is part of SNS or SNS Property Finance and is currently under any mortgage where payments are not up to date kept should be annexed into a government building society for either leasing or rent (no sale allowed). The reason for sale is that sales must be very closely monitored. I fear that certain parties would jump in for a quick deal under ‘dubious’ conditions that cannot be met after a short time, prolonging all this and in the end will stack up costs again and again.

A single example is Energy Business Park Arnhem. This was under mortgage with TNC which is now bankrupt with outstanding debts in excess of 20 million Euros. This is part of TCN UROP SE en TCN Assets B.V. both also bankrupt. This is just ONE example. Loss upon loss upon loss upon bankruptcy. It looks like one building seems to contain the infrastructure for several buildings, all costs, all needing Accountants, lawyers and nothing moving forward on the profit bar. The ‘Bad Bank Inc.’ portfolio is filled with these sorts of issues.
So, let us get back to annexing. These buildings are to be confiscated. Their infrastructure gets disbanded and we try to get some of the money back. If we look at the issues over 2012, than some might remember the complaint on how some of these building directors got way too much money. Well, now they get to earn that extra by turning around some of these places.

B. Consumer properties.
This is a bit harder. Many of these places are not in the Netherlands (Spain). Yet, Spain does remain the most popular holiday choice for the Dutch. I mentioned this place before. It is Mosa Trajectum (possibly more than one project). The question becomes how far payments were made, and how much is still uncovered. If not covered then I say Annex it for the Dutch Government and let they be sold in smaller parts and at reasonable prices. I consider 600,000 Euro to be severely overpriced. Some of these villas can never be sold, however, I think to let them out as holiday bungalows, and get some of the money back that way is not too far-fetched. This is what the original owner had intended. I personally belief he was not very realistic about the approach. Yes, likely some places could be sold to others for a nice fee, and yes, it will remain a loss, but at present someone is still getting some money out of a project that he is not entitled to (if the bills were paid this project would never have made it to the bad bank stack). In addition a sharper look should be taken if there is a possibility to take these places into different directions. I already mentioned that several of these places had an amateur approach to its sale (really bad websites and such). The governments through the courts should assign these places for sale with brokers who have proven to deal in good ways. All parties who have been involved in bad mortgage dealings (no matter how non-illegal) should be auto blacklisted.

This first part is all about trying to sell Consumer properties, renting out the commercial ones. However, the difference is that I want ALL middle men and all traders removed from this financial track. They have no business in a track that made it to the bankrupt pile. They failed, good luck, goodbye and have a nice day. There should also be an additional message attached as mentioned in the sale of consumer properties. Brokers and dealers are to be held accountable. That means those in dubious actions are to be withheld from new options. Their defence that they did nothing illegal is no longer an acceptable answer. It reeks like the German defence from 1945. “we were under orders (befehl ist befehl)” We need to change without softness, the atmosphere of greed driven, vulture approach of stripping places bare and walk away with a hefty handshake, money in the bank and walking with filled pockets towards another endeavour.

We have witnessed for too long how companies operated for years under the approach of conceptual profit and ending up with no revenue. This means that the monitoring efforts of treasury and taxation must change as well. This SNS example is not alone. When we look beneath the surface we see collection of events that go in similar direction. these thoughts come from the following article from the Newspaper Trouw (meaning: faithful) reporting on the 10th of October 2006 that the sale of BPF had gone to SNS Reaal with net profits of 87 million Euro in 2005 and 46 million Euro for the first 6 months in 2006. When we look deeper at this we see two optional paths. In the first path, as presented by all matters of web publications that This person Ronald Ras would be investing 250 million Euros in building a 4 star resort. In addition he had a new investor. An American that would be providing 1000 million in funds (not one billion). And what currency is that in? The article did not mention that. This was an article in April 2012. The source was the IAGTO a golf promoting website. So where are the hard facts? When seeking through web search you can find all matters of web news. Yet, when we seek the sources we should rely on (Reuters, newspapers, on-line news providers) we see that their commitment to facts is lacking completely. This is not about going after Mr. Ras. I personally do not care about the individual. I do care about large organisations like banks that seem to provide annual reports balanced nicely, that they do NOT seem to keep a proper handle on matter. The excuse that the forms look correctly should not hold any water.

This is about solutions, and this is part of that. Banks need to start doing their proper homework. From what I have been searching, reading and discovering in the last 48 hours, it seems to me that there is a massive gap in that area. We should all agree that many facts might not be on-line. However, the parts we read on-line do not seem to add up and red flags should have been raised all over the place. It will be up to the Dutch Justice department to consider the needed steps and actual steps in calling these parties to court, to give evidence and hand over documents proving correct steps were taken. A 10 second message ‘blunders were made’ should not be allowed to cover it. For the former boss “Sjoerd van Keulen”, to silently walk away, dropping his tasks as Chairman of the Holland Finance Centre looks like a joke. The Dutch Finance minister was very outspoken into confiscating previous commissions is a stronger step, and he did mention on the NOS news (2nd Feb 2013) that parts are currently not achievable as the law changes are pending at present. Those changes would give him a lot more abilities in this matter. I would suggest that Mr. Sjoerd van Keulen is placed in a public parliamentary enquiry, where he must show evidence and answer public questions by ministers and Banking CEO’s on his choices, his actions and events. This too is aimed towards a solution. For the simple fact is that the Banks think they can just walk a nice walk. Over the last three days many sources had the same line: “SNS Reaal is the smallest of four Dutch banks designated as systemically important and too big to fail, by the Dutch central bank”. It seems that they auto assumed a government injection of cash, so that they could make a mess a little longer. I think it is important that these citizens see these people live on TV. My only worry is that not unlike the passport scandal in the late 90’s the only response given will be “I do not seem to recollect the details to those facts”. The Jurisprudential fun fare will be complete at that point, but it could push the citizens into forcefully demanding massive banking changes. That is the aim. This scares banks (well more the people receiving fat checks). As long as the people are not awake, they walk away.

The Dutch could set a tone for other governments. This would include France, Italy, Spain and the UK. The simple reason is that I feel certain that this tidal wave WILL CONTINUE! My fear is that the damage will just add and add.

So far the property branch! Let’s take a look at insurances.
Two additional sides are to be seen here.

They acquired SwissLife and Axa. Interesting was that SwissLife was purchased at 16.3 times the annual profit, totalling at 1.5 billion Euro (Source: NRC Handelsblad, a Dutch Newspaper). This happened in 2007. Now, can anyone explain to me how this was a decision anything less than utterly insane? A bank agreeing to a business matter that takes more than 15 years to break even. When I was living there I could not even get a mortgage past 3.5 annual incomes. The insane part is that it has been known to be a bad bank decision less than 4 years after purchase. So this buy was conceived by….? (I am utterly clueless how this became a reality!).

Yet, this is still about solutions. The Netherlands has a few issues with healthcare and Mental Health care, so we could unite the two. Consider the possibility to get 2,000,000 people switch now to SwissLife/Axa, which is roughly 8% of the population. Making these funds all government, we get two things.

First is that the government gets a MASSIVE financial injection. Yes, it comes at the expense that healthcare costs will go up too. Consider however that several of these funds have a board of directors with a very fancy fat check and commission. All that money will now go into the treasury. More important is that those profits could pay for the needed mental health care that is now being scrapped as there are no more funds. This is obviously not a perfect solution, but it is a possible stronger move forward. In addition, the events towards SwissLife/Axa might help to stabilise certain retirement funds. As Swiss life and Axa improve either other funds MUST do better, or their customers would move to SwissLife/Axa. This would mean that retirement funds go towards a non-commercial, government controlled side. Very much like the Swedish system. This might not be a bad idea. I will be the first to admit that many complaints will go up; however this is about more then moving forward. A fundamental change is essential here, and we might as well consider going into another direction all together. In the end if this does work, then SwissLife/Axa can be sold again for with a good profit, which is also nice to add to the empty treasury. I kept the two together as any solution for SwissLife and Axa might require a solution in the same direction.
These sides all need new and adjusted legislation. They need guarantees in place. However, consider that the people are no longer funding some person’s fat check, but it goes on the big stack benefitting all. This means that millions are already saved. Not a bad way to achieve Social Justice.

My ideas remain (highly) debatable, but I feel strongly about two sides. The first is that some financial institutions like Goldman Sachs are to be blacklisted. We seem to revisit places for advice that are at centre of the mess we got into in both 2004 and 2008. In addition, why should nations keep on funding US businesses, whilst its government will not get a decent handle on these corporations, their own debt and their own impending bankruptcy? Several experts in this field keep on claiming that rules and more regulations are not the solution. I am not sure whether they are right or wrong. I do know that those presently in charge are all about greed. THAT is a massive reason for many problems and until those people are under control, they should not have any control at all. We are heading to massive changes. Not just in Europe, but also in most Commonwealth nations. Without those greed icons we might have a chance. With them our chances are zero. In addition, I am not some Social Justice type who opposes Capitalism. I believe that Capitalism can propel any industrialised nation. But this has gone over the top. When it becomes about revenue and shares, and no longer about actual profit, there is no Capitalism! We remain with nothing more than greed and a vulture based decay. Those two I do oppose strongly.

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance