It’s been a cut and thrust week for The Insider, complete with war cries, fighting talk and high-flying antics

Now, I thought Markerstudy boss Kevin Spencer’s strengths lay in fashion: he’s been spotted wearing some wonderfully coloured shirts recently, which go nicely with that trademark tan. But Spencer, it turns out, has other hidden talents. Looking to get some practice as a helicopter pilot, he made a recent flight to see Hastings chairman Neil Utley. Utley gave Spencer the co-ordinates and set up a big ‘H’ on his lawn to serve as a landing point. He even went outside and waved two table tennis bats, Top Gun style, to guide Spencer in. However, Spencer’s navigation skills are clearly not quite as sharp as his suits – he touched down in a garden a few doors away. And as it’s apparently against aviation rules to take off without the permission of the landowner, Spencer had to knock on the neighbour’s door to ask for the green light to take off. God only knows what the neighbour must have thought.

What’ve the A-Planners ever done for us?

I bumped into A-Plan founders Tom Duggan and David Saville the other day. Saville is a friendly fellow, polite and unassuming, while Duggan is right up my street – sharp dresser, cut-glass English accent, full of quips and generally laughing a lot, mainly at his own jokes. Well, I suppose you can afford to laugh when you’ve banked millions from the sale of your company. But don’t be fooled by all the levity. Duggan’s approach to business is all about aggression. On backing the Hastings management buy-out last year, his advice to directors was: “Rome was not built by meetings, it was built by killing people”. Well, that is certainly no laughing matter.

Pay attention, class

Neil Utley appears to be a keen historian. Last year at the Hastings annual get-together he talked us through the Battle of Hastings. This year it was the English Civil War, as he compared Hastings to the New Model Army – the lightly armoured, fast-moving unit that smashed the Royalists with innovative fighting tactics. However, as I recall from my own history lessons, New Model Army leader Oliver Cromwell eventually ended up with his head cut off and displayed to the public. Let’s hope that’s where the history lesson ends, then.

Power breakfast

I?must confess, I had a near-career change experience the other morning. Enjoying my kippers and coffee, I noticed in the Sunday Times an advertisement for an intriguing opportunity. “The Association of British Insurers is one of the country's leading trade bodies,” it announced. Well, yes indeed. “The director-general leads an organisation of 100 staff and over 300 members, reporting to a board of the insurance industry's leading chief executives.” I straightened my tie, reached for my cufflinks and thought: “This could be me.” Then I remembered the last DG’s brief time in the job and turned hastily to the sports pages.

Meerkat forces

That pesky meerkat, Aleksandr Orlov, just doesn’t know when to stop. Not content with taking over our TV screens, getting us all to say “simples” and launching a hit toy, he’s only gone and written a book. A Simples Life: The Life and Times of Aleksandr Orlov is being tipped to rival the works of Tony Blair, Stephen Fry and Nelson Mandela as a bestseller this Christmas. Now, as a broker, I can’t say I’m a number one fan of annoying aggregator gimmicks. But to see a meerkat above Tony Blair in the book charts, now that’s got to be worth it.

Case for the defence

I had hoped to see my bon ami, Philippe Maso, at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham recently. The AXA UK chief had been all set to bang the industry drum about greater flood defence spending at an ABI fringe meeting at the event. However, a summons from high command in Paris prompted a late change to Philippe’s travel plans. And, as we all now know, Monsieur Maso is now unlikely to be too bothered about the UK’s flooding problems. IT

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