Savings giant NS&I has not been my cup of tea for a while. Over the past 18 months, its customer service standards have reached lows that few rivals have ever plunged to. And as my colleague Tony Hetherington reports here, issues remain.
Its policy on savings rates has been equally chaotic with rates one moment stupendously attractive, the next as unappetising as a rotten apple.
Yet, the savings behemoth deserves a couple of brownie points for recent decisions it has taken on interest rates and customers’ financial security.
‘NS&I has seen the light’: NS&I’s move is in line with our ‘Give Savers A Rate Rise’ campaign
First, it is leading the way on responding to the increase in Bank base rate to 0.25 per cent. As we report here, unlike the big banks, it has already said rates on its variable accounts will increase by either 0.2 or 0.25 percentage points to 0.35 per cent.
Although its rates can be bettered elsewhere, NS&I’s move is bang in line with our ‘Give Savers A Rate Rise’ campaign.
So we applaud its promptness in giving customers a better deal while simultaneously lambasting the banks for their universal tardiness.
The other brownie point relates to its (belated) decision to tighten up the security governing access to customers’ accounts.
This time last year, I criticised the organisation for being behind the curve when it came to protecting savers from fraudsters.
I found it somewhat disturbing that NS&I was not requiring savers to use two-factor authentication when logging into their accounts – a process widely used by the banks, which requires a customer to input a one-time passcode sent to them before they are allowed to log in.
NS&I has seen the light. Such a security measure is now being wheeled out. A result for NS&I savers who can feel a little more reassured that their accounts will not be plundered by fraudsters. And, of course, a result for The Mail on Sunday.
An NS&I brew is beginning to appear a little more appealing.
Failed fund manager Neil Woodford might not be managing money for UK investors any more, but he keeps popping up in the news.
Woodford, it seems, is keen to resume his investment career, even if it means running portfolios for international clients.
Yet, for all of Woodford’s determination to start afresh, it must not be forgotten that the mess he left behind at Woodford Investment Management has yet to be cleared up some 30 months since flagship fund Woodford Equity hit the buffers.
Neil Woodford seems keen to resume his investment career
Thousands of investors still feel aggrieved, having lost money through his actions – and those of fund overseer Link.
Meanwhile, the lumbering elephant that is the Financial Conduct Authority has yet to determine what sanctions (if any) should be imposed on him and whether a redress scheme should be put in place – as it is setting up for victims of pension mis-selling at British Steel.
Claims specialist RGL has confirmed it is inching closer to going to court and seeking damages on behalf of Woodford investors.
Not against Mr Woodford, but Link and Hargreaves Lansdown that was promoting Equity Income up until the day the fund was suspended. In a letter just sent to clients, it says a court claim will be issued early next year.
It would be nice to think that 2022 is going to be the year when the Woodford boil is finally lanced – and we can all move on (including Mr Woodford).
But my tea leaves are telling me otherwise.
Happy New Year.