On 25th April, the FCA’s Executive Director, Sarah Pritchard, announced the regulator’s sharper focus on regulating the crypto industry.
When speaking at City Week, Pritchard commented on the FCA’s notion to advance their supervisory authority around crypto regulation in efforts to shape the crypto market by working directly with cryptocurrency firms.
This follows The Treasury’s launch of a consultation paper back in February, which sought feedback from stakeholders on how to regulate the sector.
The FCA is one of the main regulators for crypto in the UK and are currently responsible for authorising crypto firms and ensuring they comply with anti-money laundering and counter terrorism obligations.
The consultation paper therefore discussed the potential for a new authorisation regime, which would extend their authority to firms operating outside of the UK but serving UK customers.
Under current law, firms are required to demonstrate they have appropriate controls in place to manage compliance oversight and mitigate risk.
The FCA are renowned for its over criticalness of the sector, considering the many associated illicit risks with the industry. Indeed, cryptocurrency crime reached an all-time high last year when crypto received by illicit addresses reached $20.6 billion.
Only 41 crypto firms received authorisations from the FCA, with 195 either refused or withdrawn.
Many firms failed to meet the standards by not providing enough “sufficient evidence that they had robust anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing systems in place”, FCA Director of Payments and Digital Assets, Matthew Long, commented.
The shortfall of successfully authorised firms ensued many firms to move their operations outside of the UK after not meeting FCA requirements, but still continue to serve the UK customer base from overseas.
If the new authorisation regime does materialise this means any firms who shifted abroad would have to re-register with the FCA to gain approval to serve UK customers.
With a new regulatory stance on the crypto industry and to meet wider national aspirations for the UK to become a ‘crypto hub’, Pritchard declared the regulator has now started to liaise with industry advocates, experts and crypto firms at engagement meetings to inform fairer regulatory proposals to govern the sector.
With the construction of a new Cryptoassets Taskforce, bringing together The Treasury, BoE and the FCA, to focus on issuance, trading and lending of crypto assets, the regulators are now better positioned to assess the potential impacts of cryptoassets and create policies upholding the highest standards for protection
“Let’s work together to shape our rules and regulations to benefit markets, consumers and firms as crypto goes from niche to mainstream. Let us do it with our minds open to the potential gains and our eyes open to the risks,” Pritchard stated.
On 29th March, the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) published a Green Finance Companion Guide, aiming to support the implementation of its Code of Ethics, which requires members to act with the highest ethical standards and integrity.
The guide discusses the concept of Green Finance, with the intention of helping members to integrate Green Finance into their decision-making processes, and to act as role models for sustainability.
The CII didn’t restrict the guide to just their members, but aimed it at all members of the insurance and personal finance professions.
The CII aims to address the global sustainability problem and discusses the protection of the natural environment and adherence to SDG goals, whilst highlighting action plans, resources and commitments made by regulators, governments and federations across the world, with the goal of promoting effective change.
The Guide outlines the CII’s specific expectations of members in relation to each element of the Code of Ethics, including:
In addition to the guidance provided on incorporating Green Finance into decision-making and acting as role models for sustainability, the CII’s Green Finance Companion Guide also includes specific details on how members can further ensure compliance with the Code of Ethics.
The CII Chief Executive, Alan Vallance, stated; “This Companion Guide seeks to help insurance and personal finance professionals understand that their responsibilities when it comes to Green Finance are part of their duty to act ethically, and learn about how they can make a difference day to day to meet the needs of the planet, as well as the needs of their clients.”
Additionally, the Sustainability Director of Lloyds of London, Rebekah Clement commented “Now more than ever, businesses and individuals are expected to play their part in tackling the far-reaching issues facing society. Whether embedding sustainability principles deep within an organisation’s purpose or deploying our expertise, resource and aid in the face of a humanitarian crisis, the challenge remains constant as does the need for action.”
Cyber scams are rising, not just in volume but in sophistication. Although calculated scams are nothing new, the deceived authenticity is alarmingly growing through augmented personalisation and cloning.
Recently, there has been a spike in cyber criminals exploiting artificial intelligence (AI) to clone people’s voices to manipulate their loved ones into believing they’re in danger and hold naïve victims for monetary ransom or share sensitive information.
Voice augmentation has been gaining momentum in recent months with many people utilising the AI tool for entertainment purposes. Users have been able to create text to speech copies of celebrities’ voices across the web and social media. This impersonation has also been replicated at a higher degree with the introduction of deep-fake technology used to manipulate video imagery to resemble others; the launch of ITV’s ‘Deep Fake Neighbour Wars’ proliferating these capabilities.
Although these technologies at the surface have been ruse for entertainment, the scary abilities if in the wrong hands can be used for deceit, which is what is now occurring amid the recent AI voice cloning scams.
It is now possible for fraudsters to clone people’s voices and produce “authentic-sounding statements and conversations from them,” Chris Pierson, CEO of BlackCloak commented.
Just a short couple of seconds of a person’s voice is enough basis for AI generators to manipulate the “essence of that person’s voice and then create entirely original statements and conversations with the same frequency, intensity, harmonic structure, tone and inflection.”
This can be achieved through fraudsters access to any sort of short audio or video clip from a person’s social media, phone calls or other public web content.
As such, many have succumbed to scammers’ upgraded malware game, with one woman giving up millions to cybercriminals after they exerted a fake kidnapping scam on the mother and deceived her into thinking her daughter had been held for ransom. The mother reported to hear her daughter screaming for help, following a man demanding money or harm would be inflicted.
Vice reporters also successfully used AI voice generators to access their own personal bank accounts. The AI tool successfully impersonated them and was able to create human like audio responses to unlock their account, which has henceforth posed massive security questions for banks.
“As these tools evolve over the coming months and years, it will be extremely difficult to tell the difference between a real person’s voice and their AI clone,” Alex Hamerstone, Advisory Solutions Director at TrustedSec warned.
Suggestions to have a code word between family and friends to avoid falling victim to such attacks have been recommended by financial advisors. Companies will also need to train employees on trusted communication methods and experts have reiterated the crucial focus on critical thinking, as it has been warned even those most wise to cyber scams will find it increasingly harder to differentiate between the two realms.
Cyber security company Darktrace noted a “135% increase in sophisticated and novel social engineering attacks in the first months of 2023”, heavily influenced by the widespread adoption of ChatGPT and “at the same time there has been a decline in malicious emails containing links or attachments.”
Worryingly, AI “needs very little consent to be trained.” Robot scams can somewhat be identified due to dodgy email/phone numbers and a lack of personalisation, however with AI now being able to replicate people’s identity, differentiation from the fake or real has become shaded.
Unfortunately, AI use is now so widely accessible with the surge in companies launching generative AI technology, it’s becoming too easy for scammers to exploit the technology and use it for their own deceitful personal game.
Law enforcement and regulators have echoed the alarming sophistication of these attacks and confessed they are ill-equipped to combat the perpetrators due to tracing difficulties.
With an increased warning about the danger of paired use of AI tools for scamming ploys, it has been reiterated by many that; “Voice cloning, ChatGPT, image creators and deep fakes are all incredibly powerful tools in their own right, but when used in combination, they are likely to overwhelm even the most security-conscious person.”
When we consume news about technologies being used for nefarious means, there is always a tendency to think we have gone too far or wish it all away. However, technology development is something that cannot easily be stopped, as the knowledge is easily accessible and everyone in the world can be, and is, developing new software all the time. So, our best alternative is to learn to use it to our advantages and fight deceitful deployment of it.
The firepower of the technology described in the article is indeed scary. It makes it easier for well-informed people to be caught in a scam. But, like the previous generation of scams, it's mostly about the social engineering than the technology itself. Scamming is a cat and mouse game, where the scammer takes advantage of new ideas and technologies for a while, until the victims become aware of the game and the scam stops working. What today sounds like sci-fi, will become banal tomorrow.
However, whilst that process takes place, we do need to make sure nothing serious happens to our organisations and loved ones. Informing people of these new techniques and ways to avoid it are the main priorities. Tried and tested methods, like asking for a bit of information that only that person will know, goes a long way to avoiding the scam altogether.
Obviously, targets that represent higher returns for scammers, such as big organisations or high net-worth individuals, will be under more pressure. In these cases, beyond the basics, as always, technology will, in time, provide solutions to fight itself.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has projected the UK to become one of the worst performing major economies in the world this year and the worst among the G20, even following “sanctions-hit Russia.”
This follows the UK’s impressive post-pandemic rebound in 2022, where the country triumphed over all other G7 members for its GDP growth.
Now, the IMF forecast a huge downward spiral as the UK is set to become the worst of the ‘advanced’ economies following a crippling shake up.
Predictions for the UK economy to shrink by 0.3% have been announced, the weak performance influenced by the continued recovery from the pandemic, Ukraine war effects on gas prices, hampered trade performance and cost-of-living crisis.
The IMF have also suggested the recent major bank collapse scandal to be adversely affecting the country due to ensued heightened interest rates.
The Government also warned household incomes to fall by 6% this year and next, with the drop representing “the largest two-year fall in living standards since records began in the 1950s,” commented Richard Hughes, Chairman of the OBR.
Inflation is also at its highest for nearly 40 years due to rising energy and cost-of-living prices. In response, the BoE has been raising interest rates, and last month increased them to 4.25%.
It is predicted living standards will not fully recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2027.
Even though the UK has seemingly avoided the immediate recession predicted by OBR last year, Rachel Reevs, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, argued the estimates show “just how far we continue to lag behind on the global stage” and called out the Tory Government for the dramatic worsening of economic performance.
“This matters not just because 13 years of low growth under the Tories are weakening our economy, but because it’s why families are worse off, facing a Tory mortgage penalty and seeing living standards falling at their fastest rate since records began,” Reevs continued.
In contrast, Andrew Bailey, BoE Governor exclaimed his “hope” for the UK economy following forecasters shifted stance on the chances of a recession.
Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, said “The IMF now say we are on the right track for economic growth. By sticking to the plan we will more than halve inflation this year, easing the pressure on everyone.”
The FCA released its next 12-month business plan on 7th April, detailing commitments to deliver the promises outlined in its ‘Our Strategy 2022-2025′.
The proposal outlines the measures and initiatives pledged to achieve the three-year strategy, whilst considering disruptive trends, ESG obligations and current market volatility.
“The longer-term impact of Covid continues to be uncertain. Low levels of financial resilience and rising costs mean many people are at risk of serious financial problems. And this is happening against a backdrop of rising inflation and interest rates and major geopolitical uncertainty. The impact of these factors will be felt by consumers and firms over the coming year and beyond.”
The plan details 3 core commitments to achieve the wider business goals:
REDUCING AND PREVENTING SERIOUS HARM
SETTING AND TESTING HIGHER STANDARDS
PROMOTING COMPETITION AND
Within the paper, the FCA also commented on investments into data, D&I and national expansion.
A key focus within the next year is the ambition to become a data-led regulator, driven by the proliferation of technology and AI in the marketplace, it has committed to exploit emerging trends to strengthen the market and accelerate growth. To kickstart this strategy, the FCA promised to release its data strategy in the coming months.
Aims to increase diversification of its workforce have also been outlined, with two key goals – 50% of SLT identifying as female by 2025 and 20% of SLT identifying as minority ethic by 2025. Figures recorded at the end of 2022 position them in good stead to achieve this, with a 47% and 15% headcount reported on the segments respectively.
Expansion into Leeds has also been envisaged, accompanied with a 100 colleague headcount increase to support the move and a promise to double Edinburgh workforce in the next 2 years.
Following the business plan release, the financial services sector now awaits promised initiatives to accelerate, protect and enhance the industry.
Insurers in the UK have been warned by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) to ensure they are prepared to have their environmental “homework” assessed.
The Executive Director for Financial Stability Strategy and Risk at the Bank of England’s PRA, Sarah Breeden, suggested the regulator has been clear in what was expected from insurers to address climate risks.
Although “significant progress” has been made, Breeden stated that more action is needed to meet the PRA’s expectations.
Breeden stated; “A distance remains to the end-point and all firms need to invest to make further progress”, when speaking at Chapter Zero’s fourth anniversary dinner hosted by the Global Association of Risk Professionals.
Breeden also discussed the PRA’s ‘Dear CEO’ letter from October 2022, which called for Boards and Executives to demonstrate that their business is integrating climate considerations into its strategies, planning, governance structures, and risk management processes.
Additionally, insurers need to ensure that their counterparties are also managing their climate exposures by developing new products and services to change their business’s carbon footprint over time.
Compliance Consultant, Branko Bjelobaba, stated; “ESG isn’t a competition. It is doing what is right for that insurer to ensure that they are behaving the very best way possible in many different ways. We all know what we should be doing.”
Bjelobaba went on to comment that ESG standards allow us to measure “a business’s impact on society, the environment, and how transparent and accountable it is” and discussed the vital role insurers play in ESG.
“I haven’t seen a list of what they are all doing collectively, like they have to publish Financial Ombudsman Service statistics”, he added.
“These are huge employers and have given thought to the company car fleet, recycling, local infrastructure, how their employees are supported and how they in turn support others – in and out of the sector.”
We are pleased to announce that our in house technology team have completed the automation of regulatory data from BaFin. Users of REG Network who trade with German insurance businesses can now access full regulatory profiles of authorised firms in Germany on a continually monitored basis and receive instant alerts on changes to their German trading parters.
There are 81 life, 46 health, 202 indemnity/accident and 28 reinsurance companies operating under the supervision of BaFin. They form 90% of the German insurance market.
Primary insurers are known as “Erstversicherer“, who sell coverage to legal or natural persons. “Rückversicherer” are other insurance companies who are the primary client base of reinsurers.
The team at REG continues to connect our customers with instant, reliable data direct from source, enabling them to meet their legal and regulatory requirements without hampering trade.
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The impact of civil unrest has been significant, with over $10bn in losses for insurance and reinsurance companies globally since 2015, compared to terrorist attacks which have caused less than $1bn in losses; causing concern in underwriters and triggering a spike in insurance costs.
In Howden’s recent report which discusses “rising discontent” caused by social pressures such as the cost-of-living crisis and fuelled via social media, it commented on the increasing frequency and scale of claims on strikes, riots, and civil commotion insurance.
Tom Bradbrook, Executive Director at Howden’s speciality insurance business, stated; “We have gone from a relatively loss-free market over the past 20 years to a market that is suffering serious losses.”
The report also discusses some recent and significant incidents of civil unrest including demonstrations in Chile in 2019, which resulted in violence and looting that caused damage to supermarkets, pharmacies and transport infrastructure.
In the year after, the Black Lives Matter protests in the US led to unrest in multiple cities, with some cases of vandalism and looting leading to insurance pay-outs across 20 states.
Another recent example is the unrest in South Africa in 2021, which also caused significant losses for insurers.
The significance of civil unrest-related pay-outs represents a big change from 1990s and early 2000s when terrorism was the primary concern in the wider insurance market that covered political violence. Now, terrorists have since shifted their focus to targeting civilians in attacks that result in much less insurance damage.
The report also indicates in recent years, insured losses from strikes, riots, and civil commotion have surpassed those from natural catastrophes in South Africa.
This has caused some insurers and reinsurers to pull out of the market, causing prices to significantly rise across the industry.
In the political violence insurance sector, which includes coverage for properties damaged by war-related incidents, prices have jumped by 80% since hitting a low in 2018.
Russia’s invasion in Ukraine has also had a significant impact on insurers dealing with political violence claims. Typically western companies have been operating in Ukraine and pay outs have been mainly focused on destroyed buildings.
With protests in Brazil and Peru resulting in further losses related to civil unrest, Brackbrook commented that this year had has “ominous start”. The pension protests in France and the Black Lives Matter unrest demonstrated that these disruptions are becoming a growing concern for insurers.
In their report earlier this year Allianz also stated “incidences of strikes, riots and civil commotion” had “not only increased in recent years, but have become more intense and catastrophic.”
Head of Political Violence and Hostile Environment Solutions, Srdjan Todorovic, noted that the “rapid galvanising effect of social media means unrest can occur in multiple locations simultaneously, and retail chains, for example can suffer multiple losses in one event.”
The FCA and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), have joined forces with a former Love Island contestant, Sharon Gaffka, to caution fin-fluencers about the risks of promoting deceitful financial products.
The parties teamed up to create an infographic explaining the risks of promoting illegal financial products.
The aim is to be able to provide influencers and their agents with clear guidance about how to spot an illegal financial promotion.
The infographic was designed for influencers to act as a checklist that they should use when deciding which brand deals for financials products or services.
This follows a rapid growth in the influencers promoting products on social media which cause concerns for the FCA and ASA about the potential for misuse and harm it could cause to followers.
It was revealed the the FCA intervened on 8582 illegal financial promotions in 2022.
The infographic discusses what to look out for, what is currently regulated or not and the penalty for promoting unlawful products, which in some cases includes jail time.
The Executive Diretor of Markets, Sarah Pritchard, stated “’We’ve seen more cases of influencers touting products that they shouldn’t be. They are often doing this without knowledge of the rules and without understanding of the harm they could cause their followers.”
“We want to work with influencers so they keep on the right side of the law, as this will also help protect people from being shown scams or investments that are too risky.”
This was supported by statements made by the Director of Complaints and Investigation: Miles Lockwood: “’We’ve worked hard to ensure that influencers are equipped with the training and advice they need to help them advertise responsibly. From setting up a dedicated webpage to highlight those who are publishing misleading content, to using cutting edge data science to process more ads than ever, we’re seeing influencers increasingly understanding and following the rules.”
“But we recognise that there are still problems, particularly around financial products. That’s why we’re pleased to be partnering with the FCA and Sharon Gaffka to help educate influencers about the risks and responsibilities around marketing these products.”
Sharon Gaffka gave the other perspective and discussed the view of Influencers: ‘When you leave a show like Love Island, you are bombarded with opportunities to promote products and work with brands, if like me, you’re new to this kind of work, it can be a little bit overwhelming.”
“This campaign with the FCA and ASA will hopefully make sure other influencers stay on the right side of the law and prevent them from unknowingly introducing their followers to scams or high-risk investments.”
Recently we’ve seen a trend of influencers almost becoming famous through aggregating millions of followers overnight, especially from reality TV shows and from the effects of TikTok. With so many different products throughout the market it's often just easiest to rely on the advice of these figures we aspire to emulate and therefore are susceptible to trust their promotions. However, in the past it has not always been clear that they are being paid to promote products.
When people have a platform and significant influence over what products their followers may use, influencers then gain some responsibility and are expected to promote products that will not cause intentional harm.
Influencers are often thrown in at the deep end and are instantly presented with deals from hundreds of brands and it is important that they make sure they are not promoting illegal services. This is why this partnership between Sharon Gaffka, someone who experienced the social media repercussions of overnight fame, and two regulatory bodies could be massively beneficial in helping influencers make the right choices.
The infographic acts as a clear checklist that asks important questions at each step of creating brand deals and if used, will help prevent the growing risks of illegal financial promotion.
Aviva has become another one on the growing list of companies to cancel its membership with the CBI following a second rape allegation from a woman working at the organisation.
The CBI, one of the UK largest business groups, admitted to allowing “culturally toxic” staff members to be employed and failure to fire the “very small minority” of staff that sexually harassed female employees and believed they could get away with it.
A spokesperson from Aviva stated, “In light of the very serious allegations made, and the CBI’s handling of the process and response, we believe the CBI is no longer able to fulfil its core function – to be a representative voice of business in the UK.”
“We have therefore regrettably terminated our membership with immediate effect.”
On the 11th of Aril, the director general of the CBI, Tony Danker, was dismissed by the organisation following the disclosure that there was an ongoing investigation into “specific complaints of workplace misconduct against him.”
The City of London police was already investigating a prior allegation of rape at a CBI staff party that occurred on a boat on the Thames in 2019.
Three after staff members have already been suspended following a further investigation being made by the law firm Fox Williams.
Rain Newton Smith has taken the place at the top and has said she is “profoundly sorry” for how the situation had been mishandled resulting in the victims being let down by the CBI.
She continued to state that she knew there was “so much to do to win back the trust of our members, our colleagues and wider society.”
“But I believe in the work of the CBI and our people, and I am determined to rebuild and reimagine our organisation to regain that trust,” she added.
The CBI is an organisation that claims to represent approximately 190,000 companies and its role is to advocate for its members and lobby the government on their behalf.
BIBA and Zurich are also firms that have joined the list companies across a wide range of industries that have announced their departures from the CBI. Other companies from the insurance and financial services sector that have quit or suspended their member include Lloyds of London, Phoenix Group, NatWest, Mastercard, Deloitte, Sage, the ABI, Lloyd’s bank, PwC, Schroders, EY and Santander.
Following government plans to regulate artificial intelligence, Insurtech Chiefs have raised warning about how this could create a barrier to regulation.
In the first budget announcement, UK Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, discussed the government’s aim for the UK to become a technology “superpower”, starting with early plans for a new “quantum strategy”.
An “AI sandbox” will be launched, which will allow a £3.5bn cash investment in tech and science to encourage AI research.
The UK government recently unannounced a white paper on AI, titled “A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation”, the government promised to introduce “a new framework” to provide clarity and coherence to the AI regulatory landscape.
However, concerns have been raised by insurtechs over whether regulating creative industries such as AI could limit innovation, especially if firms are unable to access capital.
Genasys’ CEO, André Symes, raised concerns that funding is “drying up” and firms may not be able to present their innovations due to a lack of cash, which was not addressed in the paper.
Additionally, Symes believes that trying to create an AI sandbox for start-ups in a controlled environment is challenging as big tech firms already have wider access to data.
Symes discussed having a sandbox for young start-ups to test their ideas could be crucial, as without an opportunity to present and nurture them they could be “lost” entirely. But then also expressed concern that it could actually end up “caging” their ideas.
The white paper discusses that a “heavy-handed and rigid approach” to regulation can stifle innovation and slow AI adoption, and has promised a “proportionate” and “pro-innovation” regulatory framework will be put in place.
Peppercorn’s CEO, Nigel Lombard, welcomes the UK government’s commitment to an AI sandbox, but echoes Symes’ concerns about funding. He stated “ “Preparing UK businesses is a critical first step, as the acceleration of AI is inevitable across all aspects of our lives. Ultimately though, the devil is in the detail in terms of implementation.”
EIS’s global head of strategy, Rory Yates, discussed that the emphasis could be placed further on insurers as they have a “massive role” in developing the framework for AI, which offers incredible opportunities for insurers to harness the technology’s power.
Yates, went on to note the white paper acknowledges the significant impact AI can have on people’s lives and highlights insurance as an area, it fails to recognise specific opportunities within the sector.
He argued that although there have been some front-end enhancements, the insurance industry has mostly missed the digital revolution and is playing “catch-up”, which will cost both the industry and its customers.
Commercial Director at IS2, Joe Sultana commented that while the use of AI is interesting, it remains to be seen how it will be fully utilised in insurance and mentioned the need for “trial and error”.
He also noted that despite recent advancements like Chat GPT, consumers are still sceptical about the new technology as it is still in its infancy and described now as “an interesting and exciting time to be in the tech sector.”
The Biggest annual rise in car insurance premiums has been seen in over a decade.
Research by Confused and WTW has revealed that in the last 12 months, car insurance premiums have risen by 20%, an average of £107, meaning motorists are paying £657 on average.
The last time the average cost of a comprehensive car insurance policy was this high was in 2011.
The first quarter of 2023 saw a 4% increase making it the sixth consecutive price rise. It was revealed that biggest increase in price were for drivers aged 17-20, who experience an increase of more the £300.
The research also discussed the rate of inflation in the UK which has sat above 10% for six consecutive months and has almost hit a 40 year high.
The UK of P&C pricing, product, claims and underwriting at WTW, Tim Rourke stated “Fast-paced inflation throughout the UK economy has driven up the costs insurers face in fulfilling claims, such as rocketing motor repair, parts and labour prices, that have in turn seen premiums surge.”
London was the area that saw the sharpest increase in comprehensive car insurance costs, with a rise of 23% annually. Average premiums in inner London cost £1,067 and £845 in outer London.
Drivers in the southwest of England and Scottish Border experience the smallest annual increases of 16% which is still consider a significant rise, average premiums now cost £434 and £428 respectively.
Confused and WTW also report significant increases for drivers of cars up to eight years old, who experienced average increases of 20%. Drivers of three-year-old cars were hit worst with average increases of 27%.
Significant increases were also seen for drivers of higher priced cars, annual increases averaged around 30% for cars over £30,000 and 37% for cars over £40,000
Female driver age 17-20 saw the largest annual rise in premiums with a percentage of 30% and male driver aged 17-20 followed closely behind with average rises of 29%.
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