latest online venture heads for profit
, who launched telephone banking businesses for RBS
, Standard Life and Halifax
, has taken a starring role in promoting his
latest online venture.
The "I'm Jim Spowart
" campaign is aimed at attracting customers to the peoples-champion.com website, and Spowart said yesterday: "This company is going to be profitable this year.
It is almost profitable now."
The business was set up by parent SMG, which is currently struggling to meet its banking covenants and faces a takeover negotiation with UTV.
admitted that the campaign on Virgin Radio, Pearl & Dean cinema advertising, posters, STV
and Grampian, was funded directly by SMG
and was probably "a £1m campaign".
The venture has only a handful of employees and is positioned as a gateway to the established consumer switching sites moneysupermarket. com and uswitch.com.
said it was moving towards offering its own-branded financial products, which would have to compete in comparison tables.
Uswitch was recently sold for £210m, while moneysupermarket.com
was originally slated for flotation at more than £500m, and the valuation has subsequently been increased to £1bn.
has signed five-year contracts with both organisations, including a tier one relationship with moneysupermarket
"Even if we are sitting on their coat-tails going forward, peopleschampion is going to do well," he
worked with Peter Wood at Direct Line Financial Services to set up RBS's
first telephone mortgage operation.
"These are highly pressurised situations," Spowart
, who was the brains behind Direct Line Financial Services before setting up RBS's
first telephone mortgage operation, expressed his
optimism as he
would be the star of his
own "I'm Jim Spowart" campaign, in a bid to attract more customers to the website.
, who also helped establish online and telephone banking business Intelligent Finance
, said: "This company is going to be profitable this year.
It is almost profitable now."
The website, which was set up last year by parent company SMG is run as a gateway to the established consumer switching sites moneysupermarket.com and uswitch.com.
said the site was moving towards offering its own-branded financial products, which would appear as competitors to the products listed in comparison tables on the site.
Since it launched in September, around 70,000 customers have used the website to buy a financial product - with half the business coming from motor insurance.
added: "Even if we are sitting on their coat-tails going forward, PeoplesChampion
is going to do well.
Jim Spowart, chairman of financial comparison website peopleschampion.com, believes the reason is 'pure banking greed'.
says it is time that card issuers were forced to spell out to borrowers that their rates are 200 per cent more than base rate.
If this happened, he
says, rates would start tumbling.
is dead right when he
says it is time credit card companies gave customers a fairer deal.
From Scotland on Sunday, 8 October 2006
calls for 'wealth warnings' on credit cards
Jim Spowart, who launched Standard Life Bank and the online mortgage bank Intelligent Finance, has written to Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, about "excessive" charges, demanding legislation.
Spowart, who is now chairman of the price comparison website, Peopleschampion.com, says credit card charges are now a major issue.
told Scotland on Sunday that there is "no justification for such rates other than pure banking greed".
said: "The US government has put in legislation about the cost of gambling - it's time we did something in the UK about credit cards.
said the cost of personal loans has come down significantly and some are available at 5.8%, yet credit cards have remained an easy cash cow for banks and lenders with the average at 15.9%.
INTERVIEW: JIM SPOWART, BY GUY DIXON
, 55, may have built a few empires - notably at Standard Life
and HBOS - but he
is a restless creator of new enterprises and wants to concentrate on his
is in a hurry to get on to his
central theme - what he
sees as a recent lack of progress in the financial services industry and how the new company he
has just founded, PeoplesChampion.com
, is going to turn the sector on its head once again.
"I have seen little innovation in the financial services sector in the last one-and-a-half to two years," he
tells the Business Forum, a networking organisation.
The website went live last weekend with little fanfare - a deliberate ploy, according to Spowart
has learned lessons from the launch of IF, which was postponed for several weeks in July 2000 because of computer problems.
"We did have problems with the launch of IF, and we learned from that," he
"I have been staggered by the volume of consumers who have done business with us since we opened the doors.
We have had 2,300 customers."
plan is to create a business which will be similar to The Motley Fool or Google
in its ubiquity and the first place people choose to look as a source of information.
It's highly ambitious, but Spowart
has a proven track record and an insider's knowledge of the industry his
Despite establishing four businesses, he
is said by friends to be "well off rather than wealthy", which may partly explain his
ambition in setting up his
After school, he started as a junior clerk in the old National and Commercial Bank in his home town of Cowdenbeath in Fife before joining Royal Bank of Scotland at the Edinburgh HQ.
talents were quickly recognised and, in 1993, he
helped found one of the first telephone banks, Direct Line Financial Services, working with Peter Wood.
approached him and in 1997 he
joined to oversee the creation of Standard Life Bank
, where he
pioneered the idea of flexible mortgages, allowing customers benefits such as withdrawals to buy other goods and payment holidays.
James Crosby, then chief executive of Halifax
, approached him and Spowart
hatched his biggest plan to date, Intelligent Finance
But the plans were pulled suddenly and Spowart resigned from HBOS in May 2003, in a move which stunned the banking community.
share of detractors within the close-knit Scottish banking sector, no doubt partly inspired by a degree of jealousy of his
Since leaving HBOS
has spent time helping the Maggie's Centre
in Dunfermline, and began building links with mainly small IT firms.
is also involved in the youth information network Young Scot, where he
is spearheading the Scottish Executive-backed initiative to offer new products and services to the country's 18 to 26-year-olds.
He received an honorary doctorate in business administration from Napier University last November and has been working on his next "big thing".
One of Spowart's
talents has been persuading some of the UK's biggest financial services companies to back each venture.
new company, the Glasgow media group, SMG
, is coming on board.
The owner of STV
and Virgin Radio is looking for new revenue streams as advertising revenues from its core analogue TV business fall, and it has taken an 80% stake in the website.
Spowart, Kenny Kemp, a former business journalist, and three executives from The Union, an advertising agency based in Edinburgh, hold the remaining 20%.
Kemp knew Spowart from his time as a journalist and three of the founding members of The Union - chairman Ian McAteer, creative director Andrew Lindsay and planning and research director Mark Reid - came on board after seeing the plans.
is evidently keen to emphasise that he
has the backing of a publicly listed company and the credibility this lends his
"PeoplesChampion.com was an idea I had that I bounced off Donald Emslie [acting chief executive of SMG]," he says.
"There's no risk to the consumer."
A UK advertising blitz will begin this month, starting in Scotland.
Despite having made a comfortable living from financial services, Spowart
is now critical of the hand that has fed him and claims innovation is being hampered by the need to increase profits.
says financial services companies are not doing enough to help customers ensure they get the best deal.