Does Barry Smith have a secret life? Is Richard Ward an international man of mystery? The Insider investigates ...

Rumours that Barry Smith fancies a change of scenery have been vehemently denied following the publication of a photograph and article in one of the London freesheets last week describing Smith, who is of course chief executive of Fortis UK, as chief executive of Fortis Bank in the Netherlands. Still, Barry, I hear Utrecht is lovely this time of year.

Mistaken identity, case file 2

These are confusing times indeed. On a recent trip Down Under, an Australian journalist mistook Richard Ward, chief executive of Lloyd’s, for the boss of bank Lloyds TSB. Despite the error, Ward answered the question but, given recent events, no doubt he’s very glad to be in charge of the “right” Lloyd’s.

Don’t panic Mr Mainwaring

I’m staying in my country retreat this week: late breakfasts, long lunches and brandy in the library. So I can’t help but pity my London-based pals, who are terrified at the prospect of rampaging pinkos attacking anything in a pinstripe. I’ve told them not to worry too much – it’s the bankers these anarchist-chappies have really got it in for. Little surprise, then, that one chief executive has had considerable trouble tracking down his bank manager. His personal assistant attempted to arrange a meeting for Wednesday morning, only to be told that the banker wouldn’t be available. How about Thursday then? No? Friday? “What about never?” came the reply. “Will that work for your boss?”

No longer in a pickle

It’s been a long time coming, but I hear the famous Gherkin building in the City has secured its final tenant – nearly five years after it opened. My contacts in the property world tell me that AXA Insurance has let the 20th floor, joining the likes of Allianz and, of course, Swiss Re, which commissioned the skyscraper officially known as 30 St Mary Axe.

Ugly business

Meanwhile, over at that other iconic City building, Lloyd’s is getting a facelift. Beautysure Insurance, which is being underwritten at Lloyd’s, will pay out to victims of botched plastic surgery. Over the years, I’ve seen it all in insurance. Brokers with breast implants, receding hairlines restored through transplants and a few large noses that have shrunk under the knife. Perhaps Beautysure should advertise itself in the pubs around Leadenhall Market. I’m sure it would pick up a customer or two.

Would you like Sugar with that?

Sir Alan Sugar is a man after my own heart: successful, pragmatic, tough. Clearly, he’s popular at AXA too, as this week’s corporate catering challenge is set at the insurer’s headquarters in Old Broad Street. The timing wasn’t right to give you the results – Insurance Times went to press before this week’s episode of The Apprentice was screened. So you’ll have to watch this space to find out who got the wooden spoon ...

Your face here

Well, I’ve nearly reached 100 friends on Facebook and I’m almost halfway to winning the bet against my son. He thinks I can’t get more friends than him before the end of the year. Looks like he might have to wait a little longer to get his hands on my silver Bentley. Back due to popular demand are a selection of my friends. Join them and help me get over the ton. Backchat Insider is the name.