It’s all been happening for The Insider in a thrill-seeking week of rugby moves, bobsleigh runs and mind-bending rollercoasters

It was left to president Barry Smith to provide the gags at the CII’s annual dinner at The Guildhall in London – we certainly weren’t going to get any from guest speaker Robert Peston. Those at the back were running a sweepstake on who on the top table – Mssrs Smith, Hanks, Galbraith or Homer – would tap the BBC front man on the shoulder to remind him he was addressing an audience of insurance blokes, not bankers. Peston just went on and on … and on. Our Barry put on a real show, despite the recent high-pressure announcement of Fortis’s results and rebrand, even recalling the Guildhall gas leak traumas of the previous year’ dinner. Peston, meanwhile, took precisely 16 minutes to utter the immortal words “Northern Rock” – and then the ego took off. Which is more than we can say for any future documentary-presenting ambitions Peston may have. Andrew Marr is in a safe job for some time yet.

Putting the armour into Groupama

You’ve just got to love those boys from Bollington, haven’t you? I’ll leave your imagination to picture the scene: the banter of a Bollington quarterly board meeting with Groupama chief executive FXB. Anyone in any doubt that Bollington is not an independently run broker – despite the French insurer maintaining a significant share in the group – should defer to the notoriously shy management team of Stephen Wall and Paul Moors, who are still eyeing a buy-back equity. And they’re not the only ones – several other brokers in the group are on the case as well, I understand.

Keeping up with the Utleys

That man Neil Utley. Latest word on the street is that he’s interested in buying stockbroker KBC Peel Hunt, although sources linked to the high-flying entrepreneur have poured cold water on the idea. “It just doesn’t make much sense,” one bemused mole told me. The same can’t be said of his ambitions for Provident. I’m told Utley is red hot for the broker-only car insurer, and has even moved ahead of Marketstudy in the race to seal a deal. He has been in Australia recently on business, but I bet he can’t wait to return to the UK for some more wheeling and dealing.

Slippery slope

Joe Henderson has been a busy boy of late. But the Henderson boss and die-hard Yorkshireman, who spends his every waking minute aggressively growing his Leeds-based firm, recently spent time chillaxing in Canada for the Winter Olympics – or so you would have thought. He was there to support the British women bobsleighers, sponsored by Henderson, as they tried to retain their gold medals. Unfortunately it didn’t work out for them. And the break didn’t work out for Henderson either. He was overheard saying on his return: “I’ve come back to work for a rest.”

£1 cover for scaredy-cats

Being the committed thrill seeker I am, I was more than interested to read about a terrifying new ride at Alton Towers. The ride, known as Thirteen, is set to open this weekend and is described as the world’s first “psychoaster”. Concerned theme park bosses have even taken the precaution of offering an optional ticket that includes health insurance. So for an extra £1, riders will be covered for physical and psychological trauma and will have access to a medical expert who is being stationed at the ride. That’s got to be one of the cheapest policies around – until the hard market comes, that is. Any idea who is underwriting this?

Time to tackle poor dressing

Meanwhile, down at Lloyd’s, England rugby union star Danny Care recently turned up for the launch of QBE’s sponsorship deal for the team. The scrum-half, who turned up in jeans, was clearly not aware of the dress code. But there must have been a rugby fan on the door that day because Care was allowed into the building, making him perhaps the only denim-clad man to ever make it through the Lloyd’s front door. IT