Are your savings safe?

With so much uncertainty and panic in the financial sector at the moment even those of us who don’t normally fret over such things are considering where to shelter our savings from the storm.  But let’s not forget that we are protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in this country.

Visit their site for details but essentially if you have your savings in a UK bank or building society then the first £35,000 (set to rise to £50,000 sometime this year) is protected by the scheme.  If you have more than that in a single institution then it may be wise to spread your money across several banks so none holds more than £35,000.  Be aware that some different brand names are actually the same institution and you will only be covered once e.g. Abbey and Cahoot are the same and the whole of HBOS counts as one.  You can check this by looking at the FSA registration number on the website of your bank – if it’s the same on both sites then irrespective of the logo on the page it’s essentially one institution.

Foreign banks are different.  Make sure your bank is registered with the FSA and that it’s compensation scheme will cover you for the whole £35,000.  Of course compensation schemes are a last resort.  I’d rather my bank stayed solvent in the first place.

Do you have money in IceSave or Kaupthing Edge?

Icelandic banks were given a bit of a bashing by Moody’s this year who described them as fragile.  But then again what do the ratings agencies actually know?  Lehmans was rated A2 the day before it went bust! Financial instruments these days are so complicated and there are so many convoluted deals across the globe that even the bankers themselves have no clear idea what they are invested in and what risk they carry.  And that’s before you even mention frauds like Enron where you really have no idea of the risk.

Do you have money in Egg?

They are owned by Citigroup (they bought the poorly performing Egg from Prudential for around £575 million in 2007) who have been downgraded and are currently listed on Fitch ratings system as a negative outlook.  Should you worry more about that than the Icelandic banks?

Northern Rock – a nationalised bank

A year after the run on the bank it seems odd to say it but if any bank is safe it has to be Northern Rock.  We’ve already bailed it out at a cost of billions so the government just could not let it go under now and all deposits are 100% guaranteed.

National Savings – the original nationalised bank!

We tend to forget about boring old National Savings but your money is certainly safe there too.  The ISA rate looks pretty poor (at time of writing) but the index linked savings might be worth a look.