The Insider finds out who looks like a ghillie, follows Andy Homer’s training fun and – shock, horror – learns of fisticuffs at Lloyd’s

Aviva laid out the red carpet for its brokers in Berlin last week. They duly obliged by tucking in to plenty of grub and booze. It is all part of Aviva’s attempts to woo small brokers (the big boys get extravagant cruises around the Med, and I’ve enjoyed a few of them in my time). Aviva’s director of regional brokers, Gareth Hemming, did his best to pump up the crowd, banging the drum for the independent broker. He emphasised how wonderful they were, a point that needed good promotion to the wider public (hmmm, now where have I heard that before?). To ram home the point, Heather Small, the former M People singer, took to the stage, and in a truly edifying experience for the brokers, sang her classic Search for the Hero. One tipsy broker whispered in my ear: “Now that's what I call slick marketing”. Quite.

Joe’s mind is made up: the client is boss

Talking of banging the drum for a cause, Willis boss Joe Plumeri has been on the warpath once again over contingent commissions. In a recent interview with a US business magazine, he admitted Willis was once taking in $80m (£50.7m) in contingent commissions fees. But, even though the ban has been lifted, Willis won’t be taking contingent commissions again. “There are analysts who think we’re giving up revenue and leaving money on the table,” he says. “Of course I want to get paid. But when you’re representing the client who’s looking for insurance, that’s the person whose interests you uphold. You can’t serve two masters.” Hmm, this is one campaign that isn’t going to die down.

It’s so uppercut at Lloyd’s

It will come as no surprise to anyone that Lloyd’s is a cut-throat competitive environment, with underwriters all squabbling for business. However, I heard a story the other day that made even me raise an eyebrows. Witnesses tell me that some years ago now, tension between two Lloyd’s syndicates got so bad that underwriters literally came to blows. Not shocking enough for you? What if I said that the two syndicates belonged to the same company?

Seattleites in same orbit

Given the tight-knit nature of the insurance industry, there’s no shortage of small-world stories knocking about, but this one’s a corker. Mike McGavick, who runs XL, went to the same Seattle school as his predecessor, Brian O’Hara. Sadly, however, they attended said establishment 10 years apart, so I can’t regale you with any tales of McGavick and O’Hara knocking seven bells out of each other in the playground. I wonder if they’ll end up at the same retirement home …

Who’s the yeti? And do I shoot him?

Insurers like a good scrap with each other now and then, so they must have been in their element when the Surveillance Group organised a paintballing event in the woods recently. According to my source, it turned out to be a bit of a bloodbath, with RBS pitted against Admiral – and tough gunslingers LV= pretty much against everybody. A few law firms were in the mix, too, and things got decidedly messy. Keoghs partner Andrew Underwood chose to dress in a camouflaged yeti-like ‘ghillie suit’ – he was like a duck to water apparently. And little wonder, as diving for cover was probably the best option for many that day.

Adventures of a long-distance Homer

Towergate chief executive Andy Homer is running a half-marathon for charity on 10 October. The indomitable Homer has, in characteristic style, had quite a few adventures while training. Regular readers will remember that he brushed up against Katie Price’s wedding while out running. He’s also chased after a “fit-looking Swedish woman” in Spain and caught a throat infection from Mark Cliff. Go to Towergate’s charity website at to read all about it. IT