Business Personal Finance

Wednesday 18 January 2017

Paper prophet: Alan Simpson

Published 31/10/2010 | 05:00

With the arrival of the recession, have you cut back on any spending?

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Yes, I'm now more aware of prices than before.

What three things would you not be able to do without if you were tightening your belt?

An occasional bottle of decent wine, regular quality Irish meat and two daily newspapers.

Do you shop in Lidl or Aldi?

I shop at Lidl -- its fruit and veg are supremely fresh.

What's your worst customer service experience?

I took out an insurance policy to cover malfunctions in my satellite TV system. It developed a fault and I contacted the insurers, who promised a repairman. I waited at home for a week and he never appeared. So I contacted a local TV technician, who had the system repaired within an hour and I paid him myself. When I complained, the insurers responded by phoning me twice asking if I would like to renew my policy with them!

Which car do you drive, and how much does it cost to fill up the petrol tank?

A Citroen C4 Picasso. It costs about €90 to fill.

What was your first job and salary?

My first job was as a clerk in a builder's merchant. My weekly pay was £2 and10 shillings.

What would you like to achieve in work this year?

I have had two books successfully published with a modest financial return. It's the same for most authors, unless you are a JK Rowling. For me, writing is more of an ego trip and I have started a third book, hoping to get the thrill of an offer of publication.

Do you have any family connection with business?

No. Most of my family are in the public sector -- nursing and so on.

Which businessman or woman do you most admire?

Michael O'Leary of Ryanair. He will be the first to admit that he is not there to win personality awards. My wife and I lived in France for 14 years and with visits from family and friends, we probably used Ryanair 100 times. Our expectations were not high, we wanted to get from A to B safely, on time and at a reasonable price. Ryanair unfailingly delivered. Mr O'Leary changed European air travel forever and he is continuously in the black -- a place Willie Walsh, who runs British Airways, would dearly like to be.

What was your best investment?

I am fortunate to be the father of twin sons. I was determined to give them the best education I could so my wife and I put them into a fee-paying preparatory school, on to college and then university. During those years this made our family finances very tight and, much to the bemusement of my work colleagues, I drove old bangers of cars while they annually changed to the latest model. However, our sons are now both in well paid and hopefully secure jobs in London, are well-balanced personality-wise, very aware and can handle most social and work situations.

What's the biggest financial mistake you ever made?

Several years ago, I took out an insurance endowment policy and faithfully paid the monthly premiums for 10 years. On maturity, it paid out two-thirds of the promised sum.

Do you know what interest rate you're paying on your mortgage?

I am fortunate in having paid off our mortgage several years ago.

Have you switched your bank or moved mortgage in the last couple of years?

No.

If you won the Euromillions jackpot, what would you do with the money?

I'd buy and furnish an apartment for each of my sons in London, buy a modest villa in the Pyrenees for my wife and I, top up all our bank accounts and hopefully give half of my winnings to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London, where they do such amazing work for children from all over the world.

What have you got in your wallet now?

A debit card, about stg£50 -- and my bus pass!

If you could design your own euro note, whose face would you put on it?

Julius Caesar. The Romans were the first to have a common currency throughout much of today's Eurozone. However, this occurred about 200 years after Caesar's murder but his face is the one most people find synonymous with the Roman Empire.

What would you spend more money on each year -- petrol or restaurants?

Petrol by far.

Have you ever been overcharged by a bank?

Not to my knowledge.

Have you ever made an insurance claim?

Last year I reversed my car into a steel lamp post, causing considerable damage to my car. I phoned my insurance company and they delivered a courtesy car, took away my damaged car, returned it fully repaired, collected the courtesy car and only increased my annual premium by stg£40.

How much is a bag of chips?

About €2 I guess.

Alan Simpson was senior investigating officer in the case of the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane. 'Duplicity & Deception: Policing the Twilight Zone of The Troubles', is published by Brandon

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