Readers of Insurance Times were treated to a slicker looking paper when they came back from the Christmas break. But there was a familiar story i ...
Readers of Insurance Times were treated to a slicker looking paper when they came back from the Christmas break. But there was a familiar story in the first edition of the year. Hurricane-force gales swept through Northern Ireland and Scotland over the holiday, causing losses of £50 million.
The first front page story of the year was grabbed by premium finance house TIFCO, which was offering some of its policyholders preferential rates - provided they tell brokers to continue using its service.
But the big running story of the month was the outburst of criticism that brokers levelled at the software house Penta, a subsidiary of the giant corporation Mysis.
Behind the grumbles that Penta was not yet Year 2000 Compliant and its service levels were fast deteriorating, lay bigger fears that Mysis would cease to support its subsidiary's software and would instead focus on updating its own products.
Broker trade body BIBA held top level talks to try and restore confidence in the service but to no avail.
Stephen Ross of Professional Insurance Brokers and Richard Mikula of Topaz Insurance Services were not swayed. It was a story that was to run throughout the year.
BIBA also started the ball rolling in its campaign to scrap mortgage-linked insurance. Chief executive Mike Williams branded the practice 'unethical' and unearthed a Coventry homeowner to prove his point.
The poor chap was paying out £30 a month for his compulsory contents insurance, which failed to cover the most expensive items in his house, but he had just been offered an alternative by a broker which covered everything and only cost £11.
There was a valiant attempt by Royal & SunAlliance to keep the British insurance industry British. It made a £3.5bn bid for Guardian Royal Exchange, which had earlier declared it was needing a buyer. But the GRE board was split over whether it should recommend shareholders to accept.
Norwich Union, in the middle of a ferocious Government attack on insurers over the pensions mis-selling fiasco, wisely averted any future conflict of interest by selling off its professional indemnity book to The St Paul.
There was a notable departure at Lloyd's when chief executive Ron Sandler quit after four years to pursue a "wider career in business". He later resurfaced at NatWest. Sandler's boots were filled by Nick Prettejohn.
The former scourge of the broker, Neil Utley, also changed track. Utley, who made direct writer Privilege "the fastest growing insurer in history", now became the head of the retail division of Cox.
After months of speculation, the future of Guardian Royal Exchange was finally settled in February. It was bought by the French giant Axa.
Axa paid £3.4 billion for the composite insurer, propelling itself up the UK insurance league tables to fourth place. The old GRE brand disappeared under the Axa name, with the exception of health insurer PPP. The French giant predicted savings of around £20 million in the first 12 months and £50m a year thereafter, but jobs would have to go. But it was not all smooth sailing for Axa which, along with Lombard, was threatened with sanctions by a 25-strong group of brokers.
The cause of the furore was the insurers' backing of a radical new commercial lines scheme. Called Pay as U Claim, it offered policyholders a 50% discount from the annual premium, which is only paid in the event of a claim. Clients were tied in for three years.
The scheme was set up by south-east broker Steve Burrows, director of Burrows Keith. But rival brokers said it would drive down premium prices and accused the insurers of hypocrisy as they had been trying to talk the market up. Their anger was stirred when Pay As U Claim mail-dumped 15,000 leaflets onto their clients.
Axa backed out of the scheme a week later, but Lombard weathered the brokers' anger and their sanctions of no more new business for another three months before the scheme was finally scrapped.
Meanwhile, broker trade body IIB surveyed its members, finding an "overwhelming majority" were in favour of retaining the Insurance Brokers Registration Council, which the Government intended to scrap.
Insurance Times also broke an exclusive tie-up between Independent Insurance and premium finance house Premium credit - estimated as being worth hundreds of million of pounds to Premium Credit.
There was further consolidation in the loss adjusting industry when one of the oldest firms, Pycraft & Arnold, was bought by Miller.
Three former GAN chiefs, Keith Morris, Sandy Dunn and Angus Ball, became intermediaries. They bought Rosborough Insurance Services Limited (RSL) and changed the name to BDML Connect.
Cornhill general manager Denis Loretto bowed out in style after more than 45 years with the insurer. The general insurance arm was awarded Investors in People status in the same week. DAS chief Tony Holdsworth also stepped down after 23 years.
Finally, Tony Baker, deputy director general of the ABI, warned that the industry was at a critical point and could lose its separate identity within a few years.
The General Insurance Standards Council (GISC) dominated the headlines in March. Major events included the appointment of new chief executive Chris Woodward - formerly chief executive of the Securities and Futures Authority.
The IIB also published the results of its survey into the future regulation of the industry. A third of all broking firms responded - of which 94.8% said they had renewed or intended to renew their IBRC registration. Of these, more than 83% claimed they were doing so to preserve exclusive entitlement to use the title "insurance broker" under statute. Also, some 62% of respondents felt that the GISC would be detrimental to insurance broking interests from a commercial perspective. Andrew Paddick said at the time that he would be informing the Government of these results as he was convinced that it would "wish to reconsider its earlier announcement to repeal the Insurance Brokers' (Registration) Act". However, nine months on, repeal and the introduction of the GISC now seem inevitable.
Later that month the GISC revealed a strong response from both the insurance industry and consumer groups to its consultative exercise.
Outside the regulation clash, other news in March saw the Royal Commission's long-awaited report on long-term care receive a mixed response from the industry - many felt that the report would confuse the issue for many years to come.
Under barrage also was the Misys subsidiary Penta, with news that up to 40 brokers were considering legal action over the software's deteriorating service levels. After consideration, however, the brokers in question decided the move wouldn't be financially viable, although murmurs of discontent continue to emanate from the broker world today.
Travel agents were caught in a backlash this month after the Office of Fair Trading carried out a further probe into linking insurance deals to holidays. The new investigation followed a survey by Direct Line which showed that 10 million holidaymakers could be "arm-twisted" into buying holiday insurance this year.
Other news included condemnation by the ABI of the chancellor's 25% hike in the rate of Insurance Premium Tax rate to 5%.
The GISC continued to be the flavour of the month in April. Its new board comprised five insurers, four insurance brokers, four independent intermediaries and two public interest figures.
This, however, was criticised by IIB director general Andrew Paddick, who described the new body as "a totalitarian regime". In a letter to Insurance Times he said he was disturbed by the lack of democracy in appointing the new 15-strong board. Paddick added that his major fear was potential GISC bias towards insurers.
This view was shared by 60% of readers when Insurance Times conducted a straw poll the following week. But Woodburn was quick to dispute this by saying it was "a misconception that insurers will become quasi-regulators". In an interview with Insurance Times he claimed that he was determined GISC would be open for business on January 1 2000. Not much time left then!
Other major stories in April included premium finance provider Prompt joining the personal lines sector - an area dominated by Premium Credit. The company claims the launch has been successful so far.
Lloyd's also hit the headlines with news that Lloyd's broker Stirling Cooke Brown and a group of managing agents were facing charges of racketeering in the US. A writ was served by London-based Odyssey Re alleging they had improperly taken million of dollars in management fees and brokerage commissions. The case still continues.
Travel agents came under fire again when Aiib chairman Michael Slack warned that many of them would be unable to comply with GISC standards. As a result, many would not be able to obtain a GISC licence when the regulatory body's powers start in earnest. Slack said that thousands could be on the verge of financial disaster.
The industry also began to get ready for the Woolf reforms. So far fears of a backlog of claims have proved unwarranted.
May is the month most remembered in the industry for the dramatic announcement by Axa of its planned cutbacks following the take-over of Guardian Royal Exchange.
The headline screamed "Axa the Axer" as Insurance Times heard that some 2,000 of the enlarged group's staff were to be axed and 24 regional offices closed over the two years to 2001. Worst hit by job losses was Kendal in Cumbria, where GRE was the second largest employer. The losses, which include 1,500 voluntary redundancies, will represent about one-sixth of the enlarged group's workforce.
There was also pressure on Parliament this month to re-think the regulation of general insurance following a call for the Financial Services Authority to regulate mortgages and long-term products. As a result, All Party and Financial Services Group chairman John Greenway MP said: "There could be trouble on the Labour benches. They might not be persuaded that a self-regulating GISC, even with wider powers, is appropriate regulation."
Although regulation might have been at the forefront of the IIB's mind, this feeling wasn't shared by many when its planned "Great Debate" over future regulation was snubbed by the rest of the industry. The rally was supposed to take place in Birmingham and no representative of Biba, the AiiB, the CII, the ABI or the proposed regulatory body GISC was willing to attend.
Penta was also back in the news when at least £100,000 worth of the firm's monthly update disks had to be dumped as soon as they reached Penta users. Penta said it had to phone 300 brokers to tell them to bin their rate update disks - for which they pay about £350 a month - as the information became corrupted when the disks were copied. Hundreds of brokers and potential quotes were affected. This prompted Biba chairman Mike Williams to say: "I wouldn't blame Penta users for looking elsewhere."
The future of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund, worth £250m, hung in the balance this month when a clear majority of solicitors voted for the open market. Nearly 20,000 solicitors called on the Law Society to allow them to make their own professional indemnity arrangements. Good news for PI insurers, but there are now fears that the market will not be as open as it seems as approved insurer status has to be achieved.
Other news this month included Lloyd's admission of downward trends in business with pure year losses predicted for 1998 at £60m. According to Ron Sandler, chief executive, the £60m loss was likely to worsen but he added that the figure should not be treated as reliable as "these are pure year figures and don't take into account prior year figures. This is an overview of our global results." Up to now, Sandler's prediction was right - new estimates place the loss at £434m.
It was a month of comings and goings. The biggest arrival was Tesco's. The country's leading food retailer decided to have a punt with motor insurance, linking up with Privilege. In 52 pilot stores, it sold 500 policies in a week - extrapolated, that's 350,000 in the first year without even really trying.
The move sent shock waves through the market, however bravely brokers tried to shrug it off. Throughout the year, rumours grew stronger about other big brand household names itching to get into insurance.
Axa pulled out of the social housing market, saying: "It is extremely difficult to make money here and we are not going to cross-subsidise any more." At the same time, St Paul pushed into the medical defence arena - the first time a major insurer had attempted to break the mutuals' long-standing stranglehold.
Elsewhere, British Gas waved goodbye to its affinity provider Privilege, which was piloting a massive household insurance deal. Axa was the reason - it pinched the contract by offering a very keen price. Perhaps that one was worth cross-subsidising.
An equally big loss - or win - took place at Post Office Counters, where CGU lost its three-year travel insurance deal to Aon.
At Bradstock, chief executive David Young parted company with his new chairman, Alan Williams. As ever, it was "perfectly amicable".
Also coming in a big way was Towergate, the rapidly expanding schemes specialist. It unveiled three further acquisitions that took its haul to 19 companies in the 18 months since the company was formed.
Aon launched a media blitz designed to promote its risk management and consultancy services. Regional brokers who know they should do something about marketing one day could only gawp in amazement as the multi-million pound spend blitzed their TV screens and newspapers.
Walter Merricks, an industry favourite despite his role as Insurance Ombudsman, won the race to become Lord God High Almighty - sorry, Financial Services Ombudsman.
Broker Direct reported a healthy trading improvement, pulling back £1.7 million of losses to just £796,000. "It's all as predicted in the business plan," said Andrew Paddick.
It was a good month for Arnott Insurance, which acquired Century and entered the ranks of the top four UK intermediaries.
The month started badly for brokers with news that CGU was preparing a bid for RSA. Howls of anguish rose from brokers across the land. The thought of yet another merger was too much to bear.
Fortunately for long-suffering brokers and intermediaries, the talks got nowhere - probably because of monopoly concerns. However, this was unfortunate for the insurers. Compared with the giant German and American beasts that stalk the globe, our boys are just too small for comfort. The urge to merge nagged away at insurers all year. Brokers knew it was only a matter of time before the next one came along.
A new face arrived at the ABI. Mary Francis, fresh from Buckingham Palace and, prior to that, Downing Street, came in determined to improve the industry's image. Fat chance, said brokers, when service standards are in freefall.
More mergers occurred when Groupama-Gan unveiled its new "integrated senior management team". Tony Lancaster from Gan was chairman and chief exec (how very unCadbury) and Kenny Maciver from Lombard was managing director. "Integrated" was a funny choice of words - putting the two companies together was not generally good news for ex-Lombardites. Sure enough, Maciver was gone just a few months later.
Also gone a few months later was Admiral - gone, that is, from the Brockbank Group, thanks to an MBO. It was in July that we revealed a sale was imminent.
The ABI unveiled its masterplan for tackling the haemorrhaging of insurer cash that is the credit car hire trade. Two car hire companies - Enterprise and National - were nominated. Unfortunately, CGU and Norwich failed to toe the party line and carried on with their old arrangements. Welcome to the Association of British Internecinaries, Ms Francis.
The month ended as badly for brokers as it had started. We revealed that CGU was planning to sell insurance through digital TV. Even worse, brokers' friend Policy Master was the software house CGU had teamed up with.
What a cruel world it can be.
August was the month for stories alleging sharp practice and poaching of beleaguered brokers' business. Wholesale brokers and mortgage lenders were seen as the main culprits for "unethical" approaches to brokers' existing clients.
But an attempt by BIBA to crack down on the problem by issuing a code of conduct was criticised by the AiiB for being impossible to police.
Brokers were also troubled by the sale of their self-styled champion, NIG Skandia, by its Swedish parent company.
Meanwhile, legal expenses insurer DAS launched a blistering attack on intermediaries and brokers who benefited from feeding claims to uninsured loss assessors. DAS urged the Lord Chancellor to widen his inquiry into the ULR market.
Axa found itself in the embarrassing position of sealing an affinity deal with a union representing workers it was making redundant. Axa had invited members of the 400,000-strong MSF union to sign up for its financial counselling service; it then swung the axe at 2,000 insurance jobs, half of them MSF members.
Figures released by the advertising industry showed Direct Line topped the spending league for insurers with its £16 million campaign in TV, radio and newspapers. Trailing behind the direct writer in the advertising stakes was the AA, spending more than £7 million and Swinton the broker on £3.7m. Other big spenders were Churchill and Admiral, each topping £2m.
Five of the biggest insurers were planning to raise their premiums after they became liable for the cost of accident victims' NHS treatment.
The insurance industry had a boost at the box office with the release of two Hollywood blockbusters featuring the glamorised antics of insurance investigators. Rene Russo and Catherine Zeta-Jones starred in Entrapment and The Thomas Crown Affair, giving chase to gentlemen thieves (Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan).
In the real world, the insurance market was circulating with rumours. There was news of the possible sale (strongly denied) of mutual insurer Iron Trades after it asked its American advisers to review its future.
And Lloyd's found itself at the centre of a maelstrom when reports surfaced in the national press of its planned "demutualisation". The story was swiftly denied by Nick Prettejohn, who said reports had confused his call for a radical overhaul of the Corporation of Lloyd's, the market's administrative arm, with the market itself. The storm was replaced by a silver lining when Equitas, the reinsurance vehicle for Lloyd's, declared a surplus of £772m.
And Names received encouraging news that they might be in line for a huge tax windfall, following Lloyd's victory in a tax case against the Inland Revenue.
Unhappy news was given to Crawford THG by the Pru, which axed the loss adjuster from its panel.
IIB director general Andrew Paddick announced his organisation's intention to join the internet bandwagon with the launch of its Brokerdirect web company in 2000. Joining the massed ranks of insurance trade bodies was the newly-formed British Damage Management Association, created to set industry standards.
Among the people making news in August was Tony Cornell, head of broker relations at CGU, who retired after 40 years of service - he now provides a consultancy service to brokers. And over at the Treasury, mandarins welcomed new insurance minister Melanie Johnson, MP for Welwyn Hatfield.
September was the month when brokers discovered they might have to forfeit £500 for every client complaint made against them or face having their licence to trade revoked. The proposal by the fledgling General Insurance Standards Council provoked fury at a meeting of AiiB members in Essex.
More heartening news for brokers was that their share of commercial lines business had increased by 10% to 81% in the past five years. This was tempered by the fact that direct writers had reduced their share of personal lines business by four per cent to 28%.
The CII's concerted push for chartered broker status lost some support when it said it was considering ruling out grandfather rights for experienced brokers and membership was to be based on examinations only.
BIBA went for a pre-millennium makeover by unveiling its new lion's head motif, unkindly compared to the Disney character Simba the Lion King by some insurance wags. Back at the office, Royal & SunAlliance pledged to dramatically cut its paperwork burden for small commercial business. Successful trials of its Enterprize initiative in the Midlands had slashed the quote turnaround times to between 24 and 48 hours.
CGU was among insurers criticised for poor service standards, caused by problems from its merger in 1998.
HSBC launched its digital interactive service selling financial products. BUPA was on TV too, with a £5 million campaign to raise awareness of its brand.
Direct Line was keeping up the pressure in the insurance market with the launch of its internet site supplying motor, home and car breakdown insurance 24 hours a day. And the Cooperative Insurance Society earned a cheer from its one million policyholders by cutting its household premiums for the fifth year running.
At the same time it was revealed that rising storm damage claims had pushed the household insurance market more than £350m into the red last year.
On the downside, legal expenses insurer DAS embarked on a massive review of its 3,500-strong broker network that was aimed at obtaining efficiency savings.
And Cornhill pulled out of the £2 billion health sector after six years citing unprofitability of its health insurance operation.
Uncertainty gripped NatWest's bancassurance tie-up with Legal and General following the intervention of Bank of Scotland. People on the move included John Bissell, who stepped into Tony Cornell's shoes as head of broker relations at CGU.
Two trains, operated by Thames Trains and Great Western, collided near Paddington on October 5 (right), killing more than 30 and injuring hundreds. Both trains were insured by The St Paul.
The company organised separate teams to act for the two train companies and put £200,000 into an emergency fund to help passengers in the immediate aftermath. Total liabilities could be as high as £25 million.
Ecclesiastical stepped in to the fray over the mandatory £500 Ombudsman handling fee with a promise to provide financial assistance to "favoured" brokers who fall foul of the system with one of its policies.
Elsewhere, premium finance provider Prompt announced it was to increase its presence in the personal lines market with the takeover of the new business of rival company Premium Payment Plan.
There was bad news for brokers when CGU told us it was to withdraw as a CSC Key Choice Panel insurer, a move which will affect almost 700 brokers.
Controversy over standards of service insurance companies give brokers was sparked by remarks made by Biba's Simon Bowlam at the CII annual conference in Harrogate. "In implementing their mergers they've lost focus on servicing he needs of brokers and intermediaries," he said. Our letters pages were inundated with messages of support.
There was a breath of fresh air, however, when ex-Independent people Keith Rutter and Robert McCracken launched a new commercial insurer, The Underwriter, along with Peter Wood, the brains behind Direct Line. The new commercial insurer aims to generate £100m in premium annually over five years.
Direct Line was also in the news, having spent £220m buying Green Flag. It said it would not exploit the company's 2.5 million customer base to sell insurance.
In other news, Royal & SunAlliance was named largest UK insurer with an AM Best total revenue figure of £4.375 billion. The cost of membership of the GISC provided the sting in the tail end of the month when its consultation document was launched at a poorly-attended function in Glasgow.
The major proposals are a charge of 0.1% of commission and fees for membership, an increase in broker PI to a minimum of £1m with a £10,000 excess and onerous raining and consumer protection requirements for those who wish to continue trading after the IBRA is formerly repealed.
The month was again dominated by GISC. First there was news that the agency was in talks with the Office of Fair Trading to avert legal challenges over membership. The GISC had asked insurers to stop doing business with brokers and intermediaries who failed to register.
Then a row broke out between representative bodies the AiiB and the IIB over the future of the IBRC. The IBRC is favoured by the IIB, which believes it to be a better regulator than GISC can ever be. The row culminated in the AiiB secretary general branding Andrew Paddick a "Luddite". Paddick had earlier said he did not want his members involved with an organisation whose ranks were swelled by mere "peddlers of insurance". Eventually the IIB retained a QC to give opinion on whether its members could be forced to join up.
The IBRC threatened hundreds of its members with expulsion for failing to re-register. The organisation said that members were mistakenly questioning the organisation's relevance because of the GISC.
Elsewhere, former senior underwriter with Charman Underwriting Agencies Jane Hayes lost an industrial tribunal case at which she argued she had been unfairly deprived of £2 million worth of shares after taking maternity leave.
The Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine welcomed the code of practice on rehabilitation for accident victims as "a first-class initiative" in the House of Lords. The code aimed to reduce the cost of claims by ensuring that, when both sides are agreed, the injured party can benefit from early rehabilitation. He also reported a 35% drop in cases coming before the courts since the Woolf reforms took effect in May.
Later in the month the National Consumer Council caused a stir when it released a report saying consumers preferred to deal direct with an insurance company rather than go through a broker. There was a last-minute rush by 19 Lloyd's syndicates and five management agents to increase their capital base by the end of the month or have their underwriting capacity cut. All managed to meet the deadline.
The Office of Fair Trading cleared the PMI market of uncompetitive practices, though a number of providers were asked to clarify patients' rights to treatment. "Consumers are entitled to clear and well-presented information on their rights under their policies, in particular where they can be treated and by whom," said OFT director general John Bridgeman. Meanwhile, Norwich Union found itself involved in an unseemly row over allegations that one of its health policies might encourage NHS staff to accept bribes. The allegations were made by MP David Hinchcliffe and were aired on Radio 4.
The month ended on a sombre note for Duncanson & Holt Syndicate Management, which faces a desperate bid to find new capital for four of its syndicates. US insurer UNUMProvident reversed an earlier commitment to guarantee capacity for 2000 because of poor future performance projections.
And so we come to the final month of the year. No mention of December can be made without reference to the glittering Insurance Industry Awards held in Birmingham each year.
This year's winner of the Best Overall Insurer went once more to Independent - jubilant chief executive Michael Bright (below) picked up the award for the sixth time in seven years. The company walked away with eight other awards. Other winners included Tony Cornell, formerly CGU's head of broker relations, who was named Insurance Personality of the Year.
Independent also dominated the front page in the second issue of the month with news that five members of its London market PI team had defected to The Underwriter.
The team of two underwriters and three support staff will take up their new roles in June next year. The Underwriter was only set up seven weeks ago and is headed by chief executive Keith Rutter. Since its launch it has already written around £1 million worth of premiums and has "almost been trying to duck the demand from brokers".
Elsewhere, Lloyd's guaranteeing broker Edgar Hamilton Wellard slapped an injunction on Highway when the Lloyd's syndicate attempted to transfer its brokers to two other guaranteeing brokers. The developments came to EHW's notice when some of its brokers had written to them saying it would be asking HSBC and Holmans to take over EHW's role from January 1 2000.
Biba's Mike Williams also lashed out this month when he accused insurers of "dumbing down" by selling purely on price. He said: "Insurers are pouring millions into branding their products but they're not supporting their distribution channel. Instead they're choking to death because 'Price is King'."
And with just weeks to go until the GISC's final consultation period ends, the ABI is seeking written confirmation form its insurer-members that they will cancel the agencies of intermediaries that will not sign up to the new body. Some have already said they will agree to cancel agencies, subject to certain conditions.
Other news includes new research that reveals the makes and models of cars which are most involved in cases of whiplash.
The aim of the research, conducted by the industry-funded research centre at Thatcham, is to cut the number of personal injury claims, which last year cost the insurance industry £500m. The results could lead to higher premiums for people driving cars that leave them vulnerable to whiplash injuries.
On a final note, with the millennium just around the corner, New York actuaries Milliman and Robertson have predicted this month that Y2K-related claims will not be as easily dodged as many have predicted.
It believes that $10 billion (£6.2bn) will be spent by US insurers alone in the next ten years in legal costs over disputed cases. Watch this space.
The 'man from the Pru' is instantly recognisable these days - by his red face. A thief walked away with a Lowry painting worth an estimated £100,000 from the Pru's head office. Poor old Pru chief Sir Peter Davis had the painting insured for just £75,000.
Spare a thought for Reg Brown's wife Shirley, who finds insurance bashes tedious in the extreme. No doubt she has to attend her fair share of them. The only consolation is that her hubby agrees. "There are still too many boring dinners," he told us. "One of the big challenges for the future... is how we can create the perception that there is more to us than insurance."
Controversial artist Damien Hirst, famous for suspending animal carcasses and goldfish, recently caused a stir in the insurance world by paying his dentist with a sample of his artwork.
Rather than shell out hard-earned cash for resolving his molar mayhem, Hirst paid his dentist, Dr Mullish, by giving him a bathroom cabinet (not your standard MFI number, please understand).
Mullish had the cabinet valued for insurance purposes at £6,000. However, after noticing in the newspapers that Hirst had sold a similar cabinet for £175,000, Mullish quickly got the cabinet revalued - at £160,000. He also significantly upgraded his security.
Mullish will not sell the cabinet, apparently - he likes it. He is, though, eagerly looking forward to Hirst's next visit in six months' time. Not surprising.
Beatles fan and Royal & SunAlliance chief executive Bob Mendelsohn was photographed drumming up support for his company at the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool.
Staff at Insurance Times had fun wondering which Beatles songs he might have been playing: could it have been 'A Hard Day's Night' or even 'Help!'?
A Darlington broker is proving a bib is not just something a baby dribbles down. Five of the staff have had babies in the past year, and one more is expecting. The name of the firm - BIB. "We have always felt that BIB was a fertile breeding ground for staff development but the results in the past 12 months have proved remarkable," said managing director Martin Littleton.
Groupama boss Tony Lancaster was presented with a dilemma - what to do about his number plate. His Jaguar has the reg number A1 GAN. Not exactly the most relevant under the new Groupama regime.
A touch of international football hit the industry when the Autoglass call centre in Bedford found itself inundated with fans wanting to buy tickets for the England v. Scotland match in Glasgow because of a fault on the phone lines to Wembley. "They were a bit bemused when they were asked if they wanted us to send someone out to replace their windscreens," said Karen Tovey of the firm. One Autoglass member who actually phoned Wembley looking for a ticket ended up talking to one of his workmates.
A public house called The Underwriter underneath the CGU tower in the City found itself getting lots of phone calls looking to talk to someone called Keith Rutter, who is not a barman. It seemed that directory enquiries were referring callers looking to get in touch with the new insurer to the pub of the same name.
Footballers were a sore topic of conversation with the revelation that they are prone to knee injuries - not from sliding tackles but from sex. The FA cried foul over the story, which first appeared in The Lancet, because only five players were used in the medical study.
Still, special sports insurer Sports Leisure and Entertainment said that at least footballers would be covered for injuries sustained both on and off the field.
The tabloid press had a field day with the story that the Queen had claimed on Diana, Princess of Wales' life insurance to bring her body back to Britain.
Prince Charles had reportedly attempted to stop the claim when he discovered his mother's decision.
The royal haggling ended when Prince Charles was overruled by his mother, who ordered palace officials to press ahead with the paperwork.
Cornhill reaped a bumper crop of publicity when the company decided not renew its sponsorship of English cricket.
The seasoned insurer decided after an innings of 22 years that it was time to quick the summer game just as the England team went down to defeat against New Zealand.
Chubb came to the rescue of Anthea Turner's latest beau when thieves snatched his £20,000 Rolex watch.
TV presenter Turner reportedly put up a fierce struggle during the West End robbery but was unable to ward off the attackers.
Her pal Ivor Jacobs praised Chubb for handling his claim "sympathetically and efficiently" following his traumatic experience.
Welsh screen goddess Catherine Zeta-Jones was named as men's favourite choice of car companion in a survey by Longford Insurance.
Just under one-third of men questioned said they would choose the actress because of her line of chat.
More surprising was the revelation that nearly 10% wanted to introduce Jones to their parents.
Agricultural Insurance was possibly a'moo'sed to receive a claim for crop damage caused by raving cows.
Throbbing music from an outdoor party had upset a herd of bovines, causing them to trample a path through farm crops and hedges.
Story of the Year - October 1999
It was the story that no one would put on the record. When Biba chairman Simon Bolam used a CII platform in October to speak from the heart about service levels, he opened the floodgates in a dam of pent-up broker frustration that had been building for months.
Pulling no punches about the problems insurer mergers were causing brokers and intermediaries, he added: "Morale amongst insurance staff is at the lowest level I've ever known.
"Many of these people despise the arrogance of their head office. They see them as out of touch with what's really going on."
The letters of support for Bolam poured into our offices for weeks afterwards. Bolam said he'd never before had such supportive feedback.