Millions of Britons lose track of old savings after banks swallowed by rival

Martin Lewis discusses UK regulated savings accounts

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Although the money is still out there and may be claimed, it can be hard to track down and could get lost altogether. The roll call of household name brands that have gone “extinct” in the last 15 years includes Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley, Birmingham Midshires, Britannia, Cheltenham & Gloucester and Northern Rock. Woolwich was absorbed into Barclays, while Norwich & Peterborough Building Society became part of the Yorkshire Building Society group. Many customers have failed to keep up to date with the various mergers and acquisitions and risk becoming disconnected from their bank accounts, savings and pensions.

One in four have an account with a now-defunct brand, with more unsure what they have, according to new research from Gretel, a free online hub that will help people reconnect with lost and dormant accounts.

Gretel calculates that almost 20 million have become disconnected from financial services products and risk losing “dormant” or unclaimed money worth more than £50billion.

Of those who have lost track of an account, half have lost savings while four in 10 have lost current accounts. Half of those who tried to trace their money have failed, saying the process was too difficult.

Gretel chief executive Duncan Stevens said: “Many became disconnected after moving house, getting married or divorced, or losing a loved one.”

He added banks and building societies must inform customers of takeovers but many ignore the paperwork or have moved house: “If your bank cannot contact you for a few months, your account becomes dormant.”

He said when Gretel launches it will help people identify lost pots of money in less than three minutes. Separate figures from pension specialist Aegon shows 6.4 million people aged between 22 and 65 may have misplaced some of their retirement savings.

Aegon head of pensions Kate Smith said the risk is likely to grow: “Smaller pots from earlier in your career are difficult to keep track of but do not underestimate their value.”

Smith suggested tracing lost schemes using the Department for Work & Pensions tracing service at Gov.uk.

Separate figures from the Pensions Policy Institute show that 6.6 million have £20billion in unclaimed pensions. Chris Hardie, financial planner at advisory firm 7IM, said: “The first step is to work out what you have and where it is. So keep a record of all assets, tracking down any that are missing.”

The UnclaimedAssets Register, run by Experian, charges a fixed £25 fee per search for lost accounts. Nathan Wallis, chief of staff at Wesleyan, said the money held in legacy savings accounts could work much harder: “Investing the money could help it outpace inflation.”

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