Has your home been your top investment? ASK TONY: Farcical Virgin Media can’t decide if I’m deep in no deposit bonus forex uk pound or owed hundreds of pounds! Can I be made redundant while I’m on maternity leave? When Equitable Life’s 2011 accounts thump on to the doormats of policyholders next month they are unlikely to be greeted with much joy.
After all, Equitable investors are used to nothing but bad news from this mutual life office, which ten years ago nearly went bankrupt and is now closed to new business. 6billion, 249-year-old mutual is in better shape than for years, with enough capital to survive most doomsday scenarios. Indeed it is in such good health that it is giving away part of its capital to investors who cash in their policies. And the board is even thinking about a future where it is the hub of a number of merged, mutually owned closed life companies that want to distribute capital to members. DAN ATKINSON: Why bring on refs if the game if over? The mutual’s financial health and the boardroom’s attitude to executive remuneration today is a world away from the situation not so long ago when Charles Thomson was chief executive and the subject of strong criticism over his bonuses. Refusing to criticise Thomson publicly, Wiscarson is adamant that this is not the right time to receive bonuses.
When the society’s remuneration committee sat down in December and looked at what I had done it thought I had performed satisfactorily,’ he says. 5billion compensation package from the Government. Many of these people are elderly, have been waiting ten years for redress and are struggling to pay their energy bills. The payment of compensation is one of the key issues of Wiscarson’s reign. Liberal Democrat and Conservative Party manifestos. On speeding up compensation payments, he and his team are in constant dialogue with the Treasury.
When I met with them before Christmas I said the plane was still on the runway and needed to take off’, he says. About 10,000 policyholders are being brought into the compensation net every week although so far only 100,000 have received payments. Another key issue is the mutual’s costs. Wiscarson is keen to shrink the costs in proportion. That means about 50 staff will go this year from a workforce of 500, and a further 50 in 2013. He is hoping most redundancies will be voluntary.
And then there is the society’s financial position. 300million it had when Lehman Brothers went bust in September 2008, sending the world’s financial system into a tailspin. It is also more than is required by the regulator. Wiscarson and the board have started paying back this capital to policyholders as a 12. Longer term, Wiscarson wants to increase the capital repayment, but that depends on the performance of the mutual’s assets, which are mainly invested in low-risk UK gilts, corporate bonds and cash. It also depends on the wider global economic picture. If Greece were to break out of the euro in a disorderly fashion, we might have to revise our strategy, although a double dip recession is the one scenario we fear the most,’ he says.