Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is your money safe in the bank?

Mike Shedlock, in The Daily Reckoning Australia today, raises a point we should all consider - how far your cash deposits are protected by law. This is NOT an academic question - a hard-working and thrifty truck driver has recently lost over $300,000 of his life savings in the Metropolitan Savings Bank in Lawrenceville.

For British savers, here is the current position:

"Financial Services Compensation Scheme

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) was created and put into operation in December 2001. It was brought in to replace the Building Societies Investor Protection Scheme, Deposit Protection Scheme and several other schemes previously in place. The FSCS was introduced to protect customers of firms that go into liquidation or out of business.

The scheme is activated when an authorised firm goes out of business or the Financial Services Authority (FSA) considers that an authorised firm is unable or unlikely to be able to repay their customers.

Most customers are partially protected under this scheme and are entitled to the following amount of compensation:

100% of the first £2,000
90% of the next £33,000

The maximum amount of compensation each individual can receive is £31,700.

The compensation limit applies to individuals and covers the total amount of all their deposits held with that firm. Each individual in a joint account is eligible to receive compensation up to the maximum limit in respect of his or her share of the deposit. The FSCS assumes the account is equal and splits it 50:50 unless evidence shows otherwise.”

Source: (accessed 17 Aug 07)

From this you can see that for your savings lodged with any one deposit taker, any excess over £35,000 for a single account holder, or £70,000 for joint (50:50) holders, is not protected.

Some may say, "It can't happen here", but it did in the Isle of Man in 1982, where the Savings & Investment Bank collapsed, losing £42 million of depositors' money. International bank BCCI collapsed in 1991 with debts of £10 billion, hitting 6,500 British depositors - and the legal case against the bank ultimately collapsed as well.

Savings schemes are not safe, either. About £41 million was lost in the Farepak Christmas hamper collapse last year.

The strategy is to know your rights, and to diversify. As Antonio says in The Merchant of Venice:

My ventures are not in one bottom [i.e. ship's keel] trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year:
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.


Nick Drew said...

Sackers, you post so much it is impossible to respond consistently

but I must say this post is a cracker, a genuine public service

when teaching derivatives I always make a detour to mention diversification, and stress that it applies to individuals as well as companies

and though insurance is of course technically not the same thing, there is that wonderful quotation from Churchill that deserves to sit alongside Antonio's

there is a piece to be written about this, I may do so myself on CU

but in the meantime, thanks again for this one

Sackerson said...

Nick, thanks for your encouragement.