Oscars week has found The Insider in leisure mode – mixing with the stars, celebrity spotting and improving various ball skills

Sounds like Willis and Deloitte are singing from the same hymn sheet when it comes to boosting staff morale. It turns out both firms have entered an ‘office choir of the year’ competition, beating off – or should I say singing off – competition from other corporates to make it through to the final. I wonder if Willis boss Brendan McManus will be making a guest appearance in the final? He may look like a tough northern lad, but I bet he’s got a great voice on him when he tries.

The entertaining side of Minghella

Here’s a nice coincidence for Oscars week. I was surprised to discover that Loretta Minghella, chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, is none other than sister of the late film director Anthony, who passed away just under two years ago. Anthony was a much loved figure in the film-making community. But that’s a feeling unlikely to be felt by many in the broking world towards his sister, judging by the backlash against her organisation’s recently announced levy hike (see news analysis, page 14). The fee increases have left many intermediaries feeling more like The English Patient – the title of the film that won Mr Minghella his Academy Award for best director back in 1996.

Feelers out for Sid

They seek him here, they seek him there … The entire industry seems to be abuzz with speculation about Sid, the new blogger for my friends over at Insurance Times. Paul Meehan has been tipped as a hot favourite for the anonymous industry insider, as has Grant Ellis. I couldn’t possibly comment – but what I will say, is that the broker who suggested that Sid and I are one and the same is sorely mistaken. I’ve never been so insulted …

Rolling in the aisles …

And so to Brick Lane, for ACE’s annual ten-pin bowling event where the press get to meet the team, knock back free drinks and chuck heavy objects around – now, whose idea was that? As ever, my twinkle-toed friends at Insurance Times were demons on the alley – though credit must go to the ACE bowlers too.

… and rolling out the barrel

On to a different kind of match: England’s crucial friendly against Egypt at Wembley Stadium, at which Groupama played host to a select bunch of journalists. Sadly, Groupama’s own top team, Laurent Matras and François-Xavier Boisseau, were not to be found at the event. Apparently, the pair prefer to follow the egg-shaped ball rather than the round one. I hear they took a trip down to Toulouse in the not-so-distant past for a big rugby match. But what started out as a relaxing weekend soon turned wild and, in the spirit of all the best rugby outings, they came back looking a little worse for wear.

Into the abyss

Those tales from the murky world of loss assessing just keep on getting better. When David Williams from Axa landed at a scene of major flood damage last year, it seemed assessors dressed in high-viz coats and armed with clipboards were already hard at work. Their alleged efforts included tipping cars further into the flood water, so the vehicles would be indisputably written off. They were also witnessed moving brand-new pieces of furniture to and from skips around the town, and then photographing them for different claims to drive up the cost of settlements. It seems a lack of imagination is one thing the loss-assessing sector could never be accused of. IT