Tracking down the missing billions

Around �5 billion is lying in dormant bank accounts and �3 billion in unclaimed pensions. Picture: Bill Henry
Around �5 billion is lying in dormant bank accounts and �3 billion in unclaimed pensions. Picture: Bill Henry
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Almost 60,000 people have failed to claim shares or cash they were entitled to after the demutualisation of Standard Life a decade ago - but the deadline to act has finally arrived.

The Edinburgh-based insurance giant floated on the stock market on 10 January 2006 in a move that entitled its 2.4 million members either cash payouts or shares in the business in exchange for surrendering their mutual ownership of the group.

Eligible members were given a fixed allocation of 185 shares, plus an allocation of variable shares relating to the size of their with-profits investments and how long those policies had been held.

More than 300,000 failed to come forward initially, however, forcing the group to embark on a series of campaigns to raise awareness of the opportunity. More than 18,000 people have acted to claim assets since the current campaign was launched in October 2014.

Yet today’s deadline has been reached with around 58,000 people (including 36.500 in the UK) having failed to claim shares or cash worth an average of £960, although it said applications were coming in right up to the final day.

“We’ve been working hard over the past ten years to trace those who have a valid claim and have tracked down all but 2.4 per cent of those eligible,” said Kenneth Gilmour, group company secretary at Standard Life

“We’re seeing a steady stream of claims coming through as we head towards the deadline of 5pm on 9 July and we would urge anyone who has been contacted by our Registrars, Capita Asset Services, but has not yet responded, to contact them right away.”

Anyone with a valid claim still outstanding should contact Standard Life shareholder services or Capita Asset Services by 5pm today (SAT) (see below for contact details).

The firm is to invest the unclaimed shares in its charitable foundation, which will focus on work addressing the UK savings gap.

The deadline is believed to be the last relating to the payouts arising from the wave of demutualisations in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Halifax, Alliance & Leicester, Northern Rock, Bradford & Bingley were among the big mutuals to convert to bank status during the period.

Robin Fieth, chief executive of the Building Societies Association (BSA), said: “Not one of the demutualised building societies still exists independently today and most of the names have disappeared. It was a failed experiment with consumers and staff the losers.”

It’s not unusual for assets to go unclaimed. There could be more than £1bn of dormant assets including stocks, shares, bonds and pensions, according to government estimates. The dormant assets scheme has since 2008 released around £750m of money from bank and building society accounts that have been left untouched for 15 years or more.

The government is now looking at introducing a revised scheme to identify new sources of dormant or unclaimed assets. The Independent Commission on Dormant Assets is currently investigating and is expected to report by the end of the year, with the recommendations to include ways of using the funds to benefit good causes.

Around £5bn is lying in dormant bank accounts, £3bn in unclaimed pensions and £3bn in NS&I accounts, according to recent research by insurance provider Beagle Street. It believes many people have failed to claim on policies because they can’t find account information.

Anyone looking for an old account they’ve lost track of can go to www.mylostaccount.org.uk/, a free service provided by the British Bankers’ Association, the BSA and NS&I.

l Standard Life shareholder services: 0345 113 0045 or 020 3367 8224 (free of charge)

l Capita Asset Services: 0345 608 1478 or 020 3471 6853 (admin fee of 15 per cent plus VAT) For more information on dormant accounts, visit www.my lostaccount.org.uk or call 0207 216 8909 (bank accounts), 0207 520 5900 (building societies) or 0500 007 007 (NS&I).