Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Political fall-out

Crikey, a rather striking headline from today's Financial Times:

"Trident upgrade to be used against Tories"

I know there has been some disgruntlement with Coalition life on the government benches of late, but didn't realise the Lib Dems were contemplating the nuclear option...

Monday, 23 May 2011


Ryanair announced increased annual profits this morning in spite of higher oil prices and the recession (particularly in its native Ireland, of course).

Reading through the newly released annual report for a quick article on Closer Analysis, I came across this chilling but rather illuminating statement:

"Higher oil prices [in the] winter...makes it more profitable to tactically ground up to 80 aircraft (40 last winter) rather than suffer losses operating them."

So if, like me, you've ever been stranded at a far-flung airport after a cancellation blamed on bad weather — in spite of the weather being pretty ordinary at both ends of the flight — there's a good chance this is the reason. We've long suspected it, but it's, er, refreshingly honest of Ryanair to put it in writing for us.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Getting closer

We're now in the later stages of building the technology platform under Closer Analysis, so I'm reviving and re-branding this old blog to support the new business.

I first set up this blog a couple of years ago, mainly as an experiment in the feasibility of regular posting while working full time as a financial services strategy consultant. The feasibility was pretty low, as shown by the infrequent posts. But now that writing for the Web is central to my job - well, we'll see.

Closer Analysis is all about insights from data. This blog is designed to be a forum for the other ideas and comments that are inspired by, but not directly driven from, the statistics.

I imagine it'll also be a wish list for more data I'd love to see the government and/or trade bodies gather and publish, to improve the quality of our insights still further.

We'll keep you posted, as it were.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Solvency II: An iron fist in a verbose glove

I've been meaning to have a look at the original content of the EU's Solvency II directive, and today I finally got around to downloading it from here. This is an important document: on it apparently rests our best hope of avoiding financial institutions overstretching themselves in ways we don't understand and bringing the rest of the economy down with them. We should all have a grasp of what's in it, certainly those of us in or around the financial sector.

It's going to be a real page-turner, as they say: in fact I'd turned 69 such pages until I finished the table of contents. Good to know the financial crisis is generating employment somewhere.

Friday, 30 July 2010


So let me get this straight: New high street bank Metrobank is targeting people who find it difficult to open bank accounts, have a hungry dog, need access to an indoor loo and have regular requirement to consolidate big volumes of small coins. So they’ve opened their first branch round the corner from the YMCA at Centrepoint.

Well, it’s a segment...

Seriously, it's such a shame that their proposition differentiates itself only on pointless trivia when there are real opportunities here. Hopes now rest on Walton & Co.

Monday, 14 June 2010

A frenzy of DIY investment

There was an interesting piece in the Financial Times on Friday entitled Investors opt for DIY over advisers, citing various recent surveys showing a significant rise in execution-only investing. Given many people's poor experience of IFAs - dating back well before the market crash - this is not particularly surprising and hearteningly rational.

The worrying bit is the observation that online investors are ‘making 3x as many share trades as 18 months ago’: maybe the FT’s headline should say “Now retail investors churn their own portfolios so IFAs don’t have to.” Let's hope we've all learned to buy at the bottom and sell at the top.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Ending compulsory annuitisation: a good idea?

Fairly well buried in the Con/Lib coalition agreement was the news that the government will be removing the requirement to buy an annuity at age 75.  While we welcome this new freedom, we're still having a debate in the office and with industry players on what the implications will be.

Do people only buy annuities because they are forced to, and will they shift to drawdown products?  They'll be able to pass the fund on in their legacies, but the 'pooled mortality benefit' will be heavily eroded.  This could start a further slide in annuity rates and hasten the end for these products.

Or are most retirees going to carry on as before?  Trust and understanding of the industry being what they are - dismal - people just want the certainty an annuity provides.  Most are shocked by how little income their defined contribution fund buys them though...