Friday, 30 September 2011

Frustrating rewards

During my early days in the financial services industry I remember being told the level at which one is remunerated is, in general, influenced not only by the expertise of the individual concerned but also by the level of frustration  endured throughout their working day.

While patiently awaiting the imminent opening of a retail superstore this morning, I was amused to hear a gentleman behind me say they were ten seconds late in unlocking the doors.  Hearing these pedantic words prompted me to take stock of the ongoing delays my own fruitless efforts have encountered recently and left to me conclude the acquisition of any reward is not without its frustrations,

This week alone I have endeavoured to,

·        Deliver my ten year old son to a paint ball party only to have my car driven into while stationary

·        Go out for coffee with a friend only to have my windscreen shattered from a stone thrown up by a speeding police car

·        Tidy my sixteen year old son’s pit of a bedroom only to injure my back   

·        Wear the only remaining piece of gold jewellery I own only to lose it

And

·        Accept the offer of a garden shed and tumble dryer from my parents who lives two hundred miles away only to find a daily conversation with the courier is getting me nowhere.

Reluctant do anything for fear of seeing more of my well intentioned efforts unravel,  I took a moment to reflect on my frustrations and while doing so remembered that also during this week I have been,

·        Gifted a beautiful set of patio furniture from which I can enjoy the wonderful Indian summer that has come our way,

·        Accepted three invitations to dinner and lunch from friends

·        Received a “new to me” winter coat I couldn’t like more had I chosen and purchased it myself

·        Acquired two shelves of beautifully bound literary classics for my son to aid him in his English Literature degree next year

·        Received a link to a spoof website that lightened my mood immensely

And

·        Received an apologetic phone call from my overworked courier to make arrangements to collect and deliver the long awaited, and to date impossible to acquire, shed.

Knowing all too well success is a road that is always under construction this week’s frustrations have illustrated that if my ship doesn’t come in immediately, it isn’t always necessary to spend every last ounce of energy swimming out to meet it. Sometimes, a tide on the turn together with a fair wind will achieve some satisfying results and leave me, like my adjudicator from the Financial Ombudsman’s Service, with a few days off before returning to minor daily irritations, and her with two weeks holiday ahead of her before she has to address the questions I have posed about HBOS in my eight page letter .

Monday, 26 September 2011

Disproportionate benefits

"Voltaire once said, “The art of the government is to make two thirds of a nation pay all it possibly can for the benefit of the other third” and it is clear from Simon Duke’s Mail On line piece  that Eric Daniels has benefited immensely from an initiative of this kind.

While the government led and tax payer fed bale out for LLoyds Banking Group remains 9.3bn in the red, largely due to the gross misconduct of HBOS's risk mismanagement strategy, ousted Daniels former HBOS CEO has succeeded in adding to last year’s total remuneration package of 2.57 million pounds by securing a further £561,000 over the last nine months for doing absolutely nothing. With a pension fund of 5.03million pounds to look forward and an income of £210,000 per anum set aside for Daniels' retirement, it is clearly very "nice work if you can get it".

In contrast, I , along with many other HBOS victims, have repeatedly been told by Eric Daniels’ Executive office to face up to financial responsibilities and repay shortfalls created as a direct result HBOS's flawed business strategy because legal and contractual rights are all that counts and a duty of care to a customer is irrelevant. Beyond legally enforcable morally obligations, HBOS are at liberty to pursue not only me but many other trusting individuals who have fallen foul of a unique and detrimental interpretation of their fair business practises while HBOS's 
bureaucracy and red tape continue to be this errant banker's customers whipping boy. Discharged HBOS Chief Executive, Eric Daniels on the other hand has not only remained cushioned from the economic recession by the obscene bonuses of the past but until recently he has continued to be financially rewarded for his part in bringing both HBOS and Lloyds bank to near destruction.

Incensed by the unaccountability of the untouchable HBOS Executives who wish to inflict the consequences of their actions on their customers, I have,

·        Fine tuned my Ombudsman’s reply of eight pages in the hope they may support my arguments and bare its teeth on my behalf.

·        Submitted another complaint to the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority informing them of further misdemeanours on the part of HBOS agents, Merrils Ede Solicitors.
Ever hopeful there is someone of consequence left at HBOS who believes,“True leadership must be for the benefit of the followers and not the enrichment of the leaders” I, along with unprecedented numbers of other FOS complainants now wait for an outcome which favours us for a change and not just the banking fat cats. In reality I can't help thinking.....fat chance.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Fall Guys

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know”.  After reading last week’s report that Swiss bank UBS have found someone to blame for their two billion dollar losses, along with many an article lamenting the government’s tepid support of banking reform, I cannot help but reflect on the impact the cowardly fears of the greedy have had on the current economic crisis both at home and abroad.  Feeling aggrieved that regulatory bodies and governments alike prefer to leave ethics and moral obligation out of their investigations, I can only conclude their cowardly consent to banking malfeasance is set to continue while the perpetrators remain unchecked.


Fully aware that it seems to be common practise amongst regulators to leave out more than they put in when it comes to contentious banking issues, I have asked the Financial Ombudsman to address the following simple questions,

·        Why did HBOS choose not to inform me, at outset, of the arrears on my mortgage?

·        Why did HBOS neglect to offer me any form of debt counselling in an effort to explore the merits of alternative solutions other than forcing a sale on my home?

·        Why did HBOS refuse to allow me to secure a three year tenant whose rent was more than enough to pay my mortgage interest plus regular and substantial sums towards the arrears?

·        Why did HBOS choose to force me to sell my home and create a massive unrecoverable shortfall as opposed to follow their own guidelines which state they must secure the best return possible for their shareholders?

I await the Ombudsman’s reply.

In addition, I am delighted to report that sending my “All I need is you letter” to Antonio Horta Osorio and the HBOS company secretary Harry Baines (at Ian Fraser’s suggestion) has at last secured me a meaningful, albeit incomplete reply.

 It appears HBOS’s Mortgage Recoveries Team leader plans a full investigation into their appointed solicitor, Merrils Ede’s handling of my case.  Having been greatly relieved on receipt of the Ombudsman’s news that Merrils Ede are to be removed from my case, it didn’t occur to me that Merrils Ede might actually be the subject of an investigation themselves.  Remembering all too clearly the two years of verbal assaults I have endured at the hands of Merrils Ede’s resident Rottweiler, I cannot help but raise a smile as write these words.

So, with many things in hand but still awaiting the replies, I am all the more determined not to let regret for the past and fear of the future steal my life. To this end I am embarking on a number of  more domestic issues for next few days as I wait hopefully, but not very patiently, for some resolution on the debt fighting front.

This week I plan to,

·        Write “Friends of the school” letters of welcome to all parents letting them know of our numerous forthcoming fundraising events.

·        Escort my daughter, her two overseas school friends who board, and my mother to a local fashion show.

·        Take delivery of a kindly donated and much needed garden shed

And

·        Battle with our insurance company because we have no independent witnesses to the fact that we were stationary when another vehicle piled into the front of our car.

Hoping that my ongoing trials and tribulations at the hands of HBOS have not prevented me from learning more from looking for life’s answers rather than finding the answer itself, it has amused me to read that “democracy is the process by which people choose the man who’ll get the blame”. While, for the moment, my personal concerns rest with whether or not our insurance company will accept we are not to blame for the damage to our car, I cannot help but wonder who really believes, in the case of the UBS fraud or the HBOS Reading scandal that these examples of gross misconduct are truly the responsibility of a few misguided individuals rather than a greedy but cowardly corporate banking initiative.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness



According to government research, the recipe for human happiness has three ingredients, “meaning, mastery and autonomy” and as I take a moment to evaluate my position and make plans for the coming week, I realise how fortunate I have been to have had the perfect blend of all three attributes throughout the summer months. This period of respite has been largely due to the fact the Financial Ombudsman’s Service has been investigating my case against HBOS throughout July and August leaving me a very welcome period of thumb twiddling on the debt fighting front.  

Now that autumnal high winds have replaced gentle summer breezes and a week of the school term is already under our belts, I am aware the time has come to pick up the proverbial baton once again.  Hoping, in the words of  Rich Dad, Poor Dad author, Robert Kiyosaki, “the size of my success is measured only by the strength of my desire; the size of my dream; and the way in which I handle disappointment along the way”, I have endeavoured to,



·        Restore order to the homely chaos that goes hand in hand with having three children, and frequently several grandchildren, at home over the school holidays.

·        Kick start the Friends of the school’s schedule for the coming year by ensuring I can answer a whole plethora of questions my fellow committee members do not yet know they wish to ask.

·        Encourage a sense of urgency in my teenage son for the completion of his university application form, personal statement and campus visits.

·        Embark on all manner of lodger related cleaning and furniture moving in anticipation of the arrival of a new tenant.

·        Mount an attack, with the help of my invaluable friend Chris, on the pile of debt and Ombudsman related paperwork which has been waiting for some child free time to induce clarity of mind

And

·        Research scholarships and bursaries for September 2012 in an effort to secure my daughter’s education in an independent senior school.


Although each and every task carries a unique demand on my ever expanding need for expertise, the hurdle of my daughter’s ongoing schooling has consumed me with an over whelming sense of trepidation not least because, in the case of  bursary assistance, the all important autonomy is most definitely the province of the bursary provider.  In order to explore the chances of securing funding, not only will I have to suffer the indignity of repeatedly disclosing the gory details of my current financial position and aggravate old wounds which are still struggling to heal, but in addition to laying myself bare, I must then listen attentively to the answers I will receive.  Sadly, experience dictates, not everyone wishes they could help.


Over the past three years I have been told by people working within the independent sector,


·        Embarking on the education of my children in a fee paying school, without having secured funding for its completion may well result in them being irreversibly damaged psychologically should they have to leave and enter the state sector before their education is complete.


·        Allowing my children to mix with the those of superior affluence during their school years could cripple their self-esteem for life.


·        Procuring bursaries for the independent education of my children when my husband is unable to repay his business debts is not a lifestyle choice  that endears bursary support.


·        Accepting an independent school place with financial assistance yet without the means with which to fund extracurricular lessons and extracurricular school trips will leave my children feeling ostracised and second rate citizens throughout their educational years.


·        Keeping my children in their prep school increases the risk of the devastating effects of  bullying if they return to the state sector should I be unsuccessful in securing an ongoing bursary funded place for secondary education.


Needless to say these comments all came from schools declining bursary assistance for my daughter because they made a personal judgement about our indebtedness. Thankfully, however, there are also individuals working within the independent sector who, on hearing my sorry tale, appear to have thought, “There, but for the grace of God go I” and it is from these people I have heard the following words of kindness,


·        Bursary and scholarship places are a fundamental part of the Independent Educational Sector and not only do they facilitate the charitable status of these schools but they provide a valuable opportunity to offer education to a broad socioeconomic group.  Bursaries are designed to aid people in your circumstances and it delights us to be able to help.



·        Your daughter will greatly benefit from what we have to offer and would undoubtedly be a credit to our school.  For these reasons we look forward to having an opportunity to help.



·        We are in the fortunate position of being able to offer charitable funding to assist people suffering financial hardship and are very sorry to hear about your difficulties. We are happy to help and hope your financial position improves very soon.



Hoping, this time, when I embark on my bursary quest the size of my success will be measured only by,

·         the strength of my desire to find independent education for my daughter,

·         the size of my dream and not the size of my purse

and

·        the way in which I have handled disappointment and social prejudice along the way,

I made the decision to approach my daughter’s current prep school Head with my dilemma.


To my great relief, not only has he suggested which school I should consider for her but he has also assured me that his personal introduction, extolling the virtues of my daughter’s caring disposition, integrity and scholarly application in all her endeavours, will make her a very attractive and bursary worthy prospective student. His selfless commitment to support me in this matter has instantly restored the autonomy I lacked in the pursuit of my daughter’s educational happiness while providing me with a welcome opportunity to preserve my dignity from further extremely uncomfortable and degrading assaults.


 For this simple act of kindness and gift of human happiness I am truly grateful.


Ernest Hemingway once said, “ In order to write about life, first you must live it,” while William Wordsworth  insists one should “fill the page with the breathing’s of your heart.”  Ever hopeful that I may have succeeded in achieving both I can only conclude that for me finding a bursary for my daughter and writing my blog have proved to have much in common.  The words of newspaper columnist Walter Wesley “Red” Smith describe the process perfectly.

 “Writing is easy. You simple sit down at your type writer, open a vein and bleed.”

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Consequences

When speaking of his concerns for the future in 1900, William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army said, “I consider that the chief dangers which confront the coming century will be;

·        Religion without the Holy Ghost,

·        Christianity without Christ,

·        Forgiveness without repentance,

·        Salvation without regeneration,

·        Politics without God,

·        Heaven without hell”

I cannot comment on the whereabouts of Christ or the Holy Ghost but on all other counts it appears the bankers are set to benefit from the absence of the very same moral guidelines Booth feared would be lacking in his modern world more than a century ago. 

While David Cameron prepares us for watered down banking reforms instead of the fire and brimstone promises surrounding his election, not only are the individuals responsible for wrecking our economy sitting pretty, but they are also set to continue to enjoy fruits without labour.  Carefully crafted economic scaremongery has some speaking of the proposed retail bank ring fencing being deferred as late as 2019 so they will also be unlikely to be required to repent or regenerate.  Because of this I can not see how they will ever be made to suffer the consequences of their greed driven actions.

I, on the other hand, am expected to pick up the pieces of my life with a hellish £217,000 shortfall hanging over me, take the consequences of HBOS’s decision to create this unrecoverable debt squarely on the chin and accept the words of Antonio Horta Osorio’s very junior lackey from Mortgage Recoveries when he says, in response to my “All I need is you” letter,

“I would like to place on record that I feel that Halifax is fully entitled to pursue you for your liability and has not done anything wrong in this matter.”

With deny, deny, deny remaining firmly on the tip of every HBOS tongue and omnipotence as its guide, I cannot imagine anyone within Lloyds or HBOS thinking twice when laying the consequences of the financial crisis firmly at the feet of the individual while expecting us and the taxpayer to suffer the fall out for their actions for years to come.

This is hardly surprising when those at the top, having appointed a scapegoat or two, have succeeded in keeping their jobs along with their enormous remuneration packages and in so doing cunningly “ring fenced” themselves and their families , together with their personal financial futures, against an economic crisis they created.  Powerless in the face of their own funding shortfalls, governments and regulatory authorities alike continue to keep the feral elite sweet by paying lip service to the radical changes and reforms required to bring this omnipotent banking culture to task.  Because of this, and no doubt after much posturing on all sides, I can see that, yet again, we will find ourselves advised it is safest to dance to the untouchables tune while the economy burns even if  the impoverished individual has no alternative but to pay the price.

William Booth said, “To get a man soundly saved it is not enough to put on him a new pair of breeches, to give him regular work, or even give him a University education. These things are all outside a man, and if the inside remains unchanged your have wasted your labour. You must in some way or other graft  upon the man’s nature, a new nature which has in it the element of the Divine.” I and my family have put on the new breeches, found regular, albeit menial, work and grafted on a new nature with which to face our changed world. It is clear the banks have no intention of doing the same.