Igal Mayer’s departure last week sends the gossip mill into overdrive, Oval is in the frame, while IIB goes fishing

At the Tory party conference in Manchester, the insurance industry was never far from any debate. That was thanks in no small part to the ABI’s director of general insurance and health, Nick Starling, who at any spare moment could be found studying the fringe guide and plotting his next assault. In fact, I hear that Starling was even boasting about raising an insurance issue at a meeting focusing on the engineering sector. Let’s hope he didn’t put a spanner in the works…

New Aviva chief exec is having a ball

I hear Mark Hodges, the new insurance supremo at Aviva, is a diehard fan of Norwich City football club. He joins a small but dedicated band of people in the insurance world who are fans of the Coca Cola League One team. So it would seem that, despite some difficult times over recent years, the Canaries will not need to worry about losing their shirt sponsors for the foreseeable future.

Joyful reunion on the cards

Will the consolidator chief executive who was infamously removed from Aviva HQ when things got a little heated with Igal Mayer now be let back into the building? Surely it is time for a clean slate. Or even a whole fresh round of negotiations? Reports that said chief executive was seen jumping up and down with joy upon news of Mayer’s departure are as yet unconfirmed.

Post-Mayer party begins

Talking of unconfirmed Igal Mayer stories, they just keep on rolling in. I hear that Towergate chairman Peter Cullum was also fairly gleeful over the news of Mayer’s departure. Apparently, Mayer once called Cullum on the Friday to inform him that he had cleared his own diary for the following Monday morning and insisted that Cullum must come in to see him. Now, it’s not as if Cullum is a busy man himself, is it? Meanwhile, reports that Towergate’s chief executive Andy Homer was spotted skipping down the high street and phoning all his mates to break the news of Mayer’s departure are, of course, highly exaggerated.

IIB tackles its strategy

It appears that Aviva’s sales and marketing director John Kitson is not the only senior market figure to enjoy a spot of fishing. I hear that IIB chief executive Barbara Bradshaw has taken an insurance delegation, including CII boss Sandy Scott, to the Tay for a few days’ respite.

Apparently the venue was a great love of the late Andrew Paddick and, as such, the IIB has decided to continue with the trip to honour the tradition. Bradshaw, however, reassures me that proceedings will focus on all matters “strategic”.

Oval absorbed into the inner circle?

It started off as just a rumour but now the whispers are growing louder and louder. Could one of the big brokers, Marsh being the main name on people’s lips, be interested in Oval? Oval’s business would be a rather nice fit for one of the big three looking to expand their footprint in the UK SME market space.

Analyst firm Advisen fed some grist to the rumour mill this week, saying: “Consolidation will continue at a brisk pace … rich acquisition targets for the largest brokers remain in abundance.” In addition to this, Oval’s minority shareholders are clamouring for a cash conversion of their minority stakes.

Would you bet against something happening within the next six months? Watch this space.