Jeff Prestridge  

In the adviser's arsenal

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

National Savings – or NS&I as it now brands itself – has a unique position in the personal financial space. A privileged place given it is an organisation underpinned by the Treasury. The safest of financial safe houses.

Although I often rant and rave about some of its failings – for example, a much savaged product range in recent years and a determination to sell online – it remains much loved. For every letter of criticism I receive about this monolithic institution – a financial behemoth – I get 10 in support. Love letters – and I do not get many of them about other savings institutions.

Indeed, my three sons will not have a bad word said about it. I bought all three heaps of Premium Bonds when they were nippers and they still enjoy receiving the occasional monthly prize. 

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I do think NS&I could have done more to help savers plunged into financial depression by the imposition of low interest rates. When new products have been launched, such as Pensioner Bonds, they have failed to provide the regular income most savers crave for – just a guaranteed return provided savers stay the course.

Index-linked saving certificates

Prior to the Autumn Budget – what a damp squib that was – I called for the government to use NS&I as a means to give savers a little cheer. With inflation refusing to go away, it seemed an ideal time for the restoration of index-linked savings certificates. It did not happen but then precious little occurred in a Budget beyond a little stamp duty help for first-time buyers.

In the organisation’s defence, it has already increased interest rates on its variable rate product range, including Premium Bonds. Something that cannot be said of all banks and building societies who have dithered and profiteered at savers’ expense. Scandalous behaviour. Talk about a financial epidemic of Ebenezer Scrooge’s.

This month, it has also taken me by surprise in wiping the dust off guaranteed growth bonds – and more splendidly guaranteed income bonds – and relaunching them. Dust that had been gathering for nigh on eight years. Their relaunch will go down well with Middle England, that’s for sure.

Now, you may be thinking at this stage: why is this journalist wittering on about NS&I? But then you might well not be because it is as important a piece of an adviser’s financial armoury as they are of a savings portfolio put together by a well-heeled resident of Chichester or Borchester. 

Something I should have twigged because when I passed my Financial Planning Certificate exams in the early 2000s, the examiners seemed besotted with NS&I.

I was reminded of this symbiosis between financial advisers and NS&I late last month when I attended the PFS Personal Finance awards.

Sponsors for the evening were none other than NS&I. In between risqué comments from our host for the evening Gyles Brandreth and attractive ladies performing rather dangerous tricks from ropes dangling from the Roundhouse’s ceiling, we were entertained by Ian Ackerley, chief executive of the august savings organisation.