Aviva’s logic-defying price rise

The coldest winter in 30 years just cost insurers a further £650m, hitting balance sheets already reeling from a string of extreme-weather-related losses. The vast majority of property damage claims related to homes – 60,200 claims out of 66,600 – so it’s not surprising that insurers are putting up prices for household insurance, raising policy excesses and, in some cases, pulling cover from the most vulnerable areas. Some, like AXA, have been open about it, saying premium levels are no longer sustainable. Its rate rises will be concentrated in the most exposed postcodes, for people over 50 who are most likely to be away at the coldest times of the year, and for second homes and buy-to-let properties. Others are more cagey: Aviva is investing in ultra-precise flood mapping technology to determine, for example, which houses within a postcode are at the bottom of the hill. But its spokesman was adamant that it won’t use this information to give higher quotes to vulnerable homeowners, only to offer better prices to the safer ones. Hmm…

Revealed: where the Lithuanian basketball team will be training in 2012

English universities have a problem – they haven’t got any money, and will have even less in future, but they must modernise their crumbling campuses to attract research funding and high-paying foreign students. So how on earth are they going to do it? In this article for Building magazine, I found that with space utilisation rates of just 35%, their greatest challenge may be coaxing academics out of their studies and into open-plan offices. Meanwhile, more enterprising universities are taking advantage of the 2012 Olympics to find other sources of funding.

Goodbye Bangalore

If there was a person you really, really wanted to impress, would you leave it to someone you barely knew to answer their calls? That’s the question insurers have been wrestling with as they review their claims outsourcing arrangements and realise they may be losing customers or missing opportunities to detect fraud. Outsourcing appears to be on the decline – only 5% of insurers questioned by Ernst & Young think it will continue to be a major trend. More foresee the rise of “in-sourcing”, even though it can cost insurers tens of millions of pounds to return to answering calls themselves. Something else I learnt while researching the piece: insurance claimants overwhelmingly prefer to speak to Geordies.

Let’s hope they’re at least reading the manual

Fitting a wind turbine or a solar panel might sound a bit beyond your average DIYer, but there are plenty of courses on offer to teach construction workers how to do it. But what about the managers running multimillion construction projects, bristling with state-of-the-art technologies? As I found out in this article for Construction Manager, they’re just kind of muddling through…