Scottish Widows ?

In 1812 “a number of eminent Scotsmen gathered in the Royal Exchange Coffee Rooms in Edinburgh to consider setting up ‘a general fund for securing provisions to widows, sisters and other females”. This is quoted from the web site of Scottish Widows plc.

SW is currently hooting about the fact that it is 200 years old. What they are not hooting about is the fact that it was set up by the altruistic gentlemen as a “mutual”, such that all profits went back into funds for distribution to members. Nor are they hooting about the fact that SW was “demutualised” in 2000 and became just another speculator corporation within the Lloyds Banking Group of speculator corporations.

This means that proceeds now go to speculator shareholders who are unlikely to be widows or other disadvantaged women.

The demutualisation took place because the organisation had been infiltrated by enough speculators to sway the decision to go for short term gain over both historical moral objectives and longer term gains.

In 1986, SW introduced the ‘living logo’, the Scottish Widow, and launched the ‘Looking good for your money’ campaign. SW now claims that this “was probably the boldest marketing move the financial market had ever seen. The Scottish Widow was created as an icon that confronted all the negative values associated with the word ‘widow’ and presented the positive values – strength, reliability, integrity, innovation and heritage.” And apparently, public “awareness” jumped “from 34% to 92%”. Now, they reckon, “our brand is reflected through similar values – expert, stable and caring.”

In 1990, one of my Parishioners was foolish enough to take out an “endowment policy” with SW. He did this in part because he knew what a mutual was and trusted the model more than the average speculator corporation.

Round about 2000, he started receiving letters from SW warning of “a possible shortfall” in the projected return on his policy.

In a letter dated 7/2/2000, he wrote:

“Dear Scottish Widows

re: Mortgage Endowments - your ref: 51XXXXX

Further to your letter of January 2000 in which you inform me that there is the possibility of my policy not being “on target” to repay my mortgage loan, I wish to inform you that I am not at all best pleased.

I would very much appreciate a response to the two following points:

1. Given the state of the stock market generally over the past few years, it would have to be a particularly inept fund manager who could achieve the levels of underperformance required. Is anyone being held to account?

2. Further, it would appear that the performance of Scottish Widows has been undermined by recent merger activity. As recently as October last year SW was issuing assurances that their policies were “on target”. Now, suddenly, they are not. Is there a connection?

I would very much appreciate a detailed response (not a pre-published fact sheet) at your earliest convenience.

Yours sincerely,”

Since February 2000, despite writing again and again, he has not received a satisfactory response.


/ to be continued....


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