HBOS scam, stranger than fiction

HBOS scam, stranger than fiction

Yesterday I wrote about Venture Capital Trusts and explained that any business is reliant upon its management. You might recall my use of the new Trainspotting film T2 as an illustration of poorly suited characters for management of any business. If T2 is 20 years on then this must surely be Trainspotting 40 years on…

As is often the case, reality can be stranger than fiction. On 2nd February 2016 there was finally a successful conviction of fraudsters Lynden Scourfield and David Mills. They are guilty of a £245m loans scam. Scourfield was a manager at HBOS, supposedly tasked with helping struggling businesses. He was bribed by David Mills to pressure HBOS business clients to use a business services company called Quayside Corporate Services. Quayside was owned and run by Mills and his wife Alison. Together they set about extracting huge sums in fees from HBOS business clients who were being told that they would lose HBOS support and sources credit finance if they didn’t comply. Many ended up going bankrupt.

Like Characters from Trainspotting…

These three and three others (Mark Dobson, Michael Bancroft and John Cartwright) have finally been sentenced to prison, having spent huge sums on all the typical cliché trappings, all evident in both Trainspotting films. They ruined various businesses, who were trapped within the Bank, who issued fairly standard penalties which evolved into eviction notices with employees of the bank deceiving their own internal systems which then kicked in to the normal processes for how to handle a failing business (which you can imagine). Under pressure people do strange things, and a number of the business owners that were scammed, gave away control and or ownership of their own businesses. However this appears to be largely due to the complexity of the scam and a classic confidence trick, regularly reassuring the HBOS customers that the Bank was agreeing their finance.

Ripped off Businesses that were ruined

This is a deeply disturbing case of a major bank failing to understand that its own staff were scamming its customers. According to reports, the scam may have amounted to around £1bn, although official reports suggest £245m, all over a 4-year period between 2003-2007 (just before the credit crunch). Thankfully the six involved, have been rewarded with a collective 47 years and 9 months in prison. You may recall that HBOS was rescued by Lloyds TSB having notched up £45bn of bad debt and at one point it was reliant on a £25bn lifeline from the Bank of England. Well done Thames Valley Police.

 

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

HBOS scam, stranger than fiction2017-02-03T10:33:34+00:00

Investing in a Business

Investing in a Business

One of the ways that Government attempts to create jobs is to encourage and stimulate small businesses, start-ups or recently started businesses. The Prime Minister wants these to scale up, not simply start up. So as a regular investor (which in my world we call a retail investor) there are various ways that you are incentivized to be part of this wealth creation.

Tax effective incentives

Venture Capital Trusts, Enterprise Investment Schemes, Small Enterprise Investment Schemes are all such investment structures designed to encourage you (with tax incentives) to invest into new businesses. Generally, though not always the case, these would be businesses looking for money, to which traditional banks don’t, can’t or won’t lend. Since the credit crunch, despite the Government pouring billions into the system, most lending to small businesses has not increased. Indeed any chart on the topic would suggest that Banks are positively less than helpful.

A Different Approach

As we approach the end of the tax year, various specialist companies will produce offers for these tax efficient investments. The rules for them are fairly complex, primarily because they  (the rules) seem to get changed each year. It would certainly be true to say that the degree of investment risk is generally much higher than say investing into most normal investment funds that track an index. As with most things, there are good and not so good and some downright awful. Despite being 3 or 5 year investments, in reality they are long-term investments, where the positive rewards may take some years to bear fruit, and as with almost every business, extracting money from them requires a carefully considered exit strategy and ideally several potential buyers.

The company you keep

In the latest Trainspotting film, (T2, which is a return to Edinburgh and the characters from 20 years ago) two of the characters (Renton and Simon) decide to have a proper go at running a “business”. Despite being “creative thinkers” and possessing “the gift of the gab” rather more is required to run a successful business.  Sadly, their skill set and personal focus do not lend themselves to a successful outcome. Some investors could be forgiven for thinking that the degree of risk being taken is similar to that of investing into non-mainstream investments. However the only thing in common is the capability of the management of the business. Good managers can turn a bad business around, but equally a good business can be ruined by bad management. We all know that there are some very unsavory characters in business, some even cross-over into politics. Trainspotting has a particularly nasty character. As is always the case, people are key. In this form of investing, it is certainly the case that a good business plan  requires a good management team to implement it.

Choose wisely

So (and here is where you imagine Ewan McGregor reading this) if you think that you might want to choose to invest in small businesses, choose to create jobs, choose wealth creation, choose something a bit different, choose a dose of tax relief, perhaps you should be thinking about choosing to invest into an EIS, SEIS or VCT. As with T2 it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, (or drug of choice).  Generally, you’ll need a minimum of £25,000 to invest. This is for those that do want to choose some of the companies that will make a mark on the next 20 years. Those that are comfortable with the risk. Those that are choosing to invest for the long-term and have a clear idea of what they are getting into. Then investing in businesses can provide a rewarding experience. But choose wisely. Here is the trailer for T2: Trainspotting.

Dominic Thomas
Solomons IFA

You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email info@solomonsifa.co.uk

Investing in a Business2017-02-02T13:21:49+00:00
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