Backchat Insider shares the gossip from two industry events as well as rumours of rats in the London market...

Those brokers are a tough breed. They don’t give up anything, not even for the Queen. The poor lady, now aged 84, was left standing at Newbury Racecourse because one of my old broker pals, BJP founder John Finch, had pinched her seat in the royal box. Red-faced officials eventually found her a place in the Champions Suite, though that’s hardly the grandeur she expects. Yet Johnny stood firm. “I had arranged to rent it last July so there was no way I was going to pass it up,” he told me. Ah, times have changed. Whatever happened to giving up a seat for an old lady?

The great and the Goodwood

And so to Goodwood, where RSA gathered the great and good of the broking world for an update on its new commercial team. They laid on fine wine, top-quality grub and first-class entertainment at Goodwood House. The brokers loved the lavish surroundings of the country estate. There was even a Spitfire zooming above the grounds as pre-dinner entertainment. It was especially good to see RSA’s Paul Donaldson back on his feet and looking well. He told me that in his spare time he’s been reading copies of the Beano and Insurance Times. Well, I don’t know about the Beano, Paul, but certainly you can’t go wrong with Insurance Times. As it turns out, he’s making good progress and he might even make an appearance at the Biba conference. Paul, there’ll be a pint waiting for you at the bar.

Run this up the flagpole

St George’s flags were fluttering in the cool April breeze at many great institutions on England’s national day. But not at Lloyd’s, which was sporting its usual two flags: the Union Jack and the Lloyd’s market blue ensign. I’m a proud Englishman and would have loved to have seen a St George’s flag hovering above the world’s greatest insurance market. In its defence, the Lloyd’s building only has two flagpoles. Now, I know some Lloyd’s insurers have suffered a rough ride recently – but surely that’s the first place they should have found some spare capacity?

Swiftcover changes tune

There were red faces at Swiftcover when it emerged that the broker did not offer policies to musicians – despite its high-profile advertising campaign fronted by punk icon Iggy Pop. Apparently, some viewers were so incensed that they complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the “Get A Life” campaign. Still, the marketing bods were quick to act and assure me that Swiftcover does now offer insurance to musicians – though whether Iggy Pop is among them remains unclear. And it must all have been worth it, because the broker proudly announced this week that it has seen its sales increase by almost a third in the first quarter of 2009.

All part of the drill

When I popped my head round the door at the ABI’s Parliamentary reception on flooding recently, Conservative MP Anne McIntosh was in full flow. She was praising ABI director general Stephen Haddrill for a visit to her constituency to see a dentist who, to his disbelief, was unable to obtain insurance. And the upshot? “Well, he still didn’t have insurance,” said Anne, “but he felt a bit better about it.”

Big ones, scrawny ones, scabby ones

Life in the City really is a rat race. When I bumped into a old friend who works for one of the major brokers, she’d just had a nasty encounter with one of the verminous creatures. And I’m not talking about a banker.

“A large rat just ran across my foot,” she said. Apparently the beast came from the direction of a certain prominent broker’s building. And the joke going round at the rival firm? “It was leaving a sinking ship.”

How very unfair.