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The Equitable policyholder action groups have been highly organised and effective. Always swift in their response, they present articulate, well-argued press releases and offer highly competent spokespeople. One would expect no less from the disaffected clients of what was once the most popular savings institution for the professional classes.
But if the well-heeled clients of Equitable Life are paid off by the taxpayer, it will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of the millions of policyholders of other closed-down life companies. These closed funds have, arguably, left their customers in an even worse position than those in Equitable, but their hopes for compensation are close to zero.
The closed funds - and countless billions of pounds remain in them - are the least scrutinised area of financial services. The companies usually shun the media and refuse to disclose performance figures.
So at the end of January I asked Jobs & Money readers to help us find out what's going on. Their woeful tales prove that Equitable Life policyholders are just also-rans when it comes to game of financial rip offs.
John Smiddy wrote to tell us of his policy with Crusader Insurance, which he took out in March 1984. Despite paying in for 20 years, through some of the best stock market periods in history, it now has a surrender value worth no more than the cash he has paid in. To make matters worse, in December he was told the policy would attract no more bonuses. "It seems that both the financial institutions and the government of this country is incompetent and self-serving," he wrote.
Andrew Dodge took out a personal pension with Target. Again, after nearly 20 years it has a value little more than his contributions. At least his Equitable Life plan, when he transferred it to Norwich Union, was worth £2,000 more than this contributions. His unit trust has fallen from £10,000 to £6,671 while his Scottish Widows endowment is projecting a £10,100 shortfall.
"I have lost all respect and trust for the UK financial services industry. Over the years, the only really wise financial choices I seem to have made have been those I made myself with absolutely no financial advice."
James Crowch told us of his policy with Lincoln taken
out in 1992. He paid in £5,440 but now it's worth just
£4,661. Peter Herman's Crusader endowment promised a cash
surplus of £13,000, but is now projecting a cash shortfall of
£8,000. Sandra Tweddell's 15-year Alba policy promised
£32,000; it paid out £22,000. In 1990 Klara Maxy
was told that her Alba policy would be worth £156,000, now
they say the total will be just £51,000. John Woolhouse's GRE
policy promised £30,000 but is heading for little more than
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