The Insider puts his ear to the door of ABI Towers, hears of some high-speed spinning, and senses love in the air at AXA …

From caretaker to new broom?

It must be fun working over at Brit these days. I hear a lucky crew of staff were out in Australia over the new year, celebrating England’s rare Down Under Ashes victory. Brit, the team’s sponsor, hosted a dinner for the players on New Year’s Eve, and despite having already scooped the urn,

the players were so keen to win the series outright, they were up bright and early the next day, training at 8.30am. I wonder if the Brit staff were up and working that early? Anyway, the shirt deal has been a huge success. It puts the pressure on Aon’s £80m four-year shirt deal with Man United. Chief executive Greg Case must be on his knees praying they win the Champions League.

Six months on from Kerry Kellie’s sudden resignation as ABI director-general, there’s still no puff of smoke from ABI Towers to indicate the appointment of a replacement. My spies in the building tell me that Maggie Craig is widely thought to have done a good job in her second spell as caretaker DG. But does she have enough support among the association’s greybeards to get the full-time job? In light of the ABI’s tribulations last year vis-a-vis its top office holder, they could clearly do a lot worse.

Biba gets shunted

Meanwhile, I hear of The Thick of It-style shenanigans over the news that the government is implementing its pledge to crack down on uninsured drivers. Motoring minister Mike Penning was due to make the announcement in front of the transport select committee’s motor insurance investigation, with carefully choreographed supporting statements from Biba. But my spies at the brokers’ body tell me that a spin doctor at No 10 decided the announcement would be a tasty morsel to serve up to the Sunday papers. Cue a call from a red-faced Department for Transport official early on Monday morning to the association’s head of corporate affairs, Graeme Trudgill, apologising for denying him his time in the sun.

Feel the love

I couldn’t help but smile when I heard that Amanda Blanc’s first day in the top job at AXA Commercial would be on Valentine’s Day. How appropriate that AXA’s big-money signing from Towergate will make that emotional return to her former employer on the day typically spent serenading your loved one. The appointment has been given the thumbs-up by many of her close pals at the French insurer, so I’m sure she can expect to be greeted by heart-shaped cards and dozens of red roses. And, of course, Bluefin chief executive Stuart Reid will be keen to impress on his new boss’ first day. Don’t worry Stuart, there’s still plenty of time to book a string quartet …

The elusive Mr Giles

Chris Giles has been keeping a low profile recently. Gone are the days when he was seldom out of the headlines. The Giles chief executive is becoming a bit like Roman Abramovich (although not quite as rich) – a mysterious figure that likes to stay out of the limelight. Instead, he wants to make managing director Sarah Lyons the public face of the company. However, I hear that he’s still very much pressing the flesh in the background. Rumour has it that he’s talking to some of the most powerful names in broking, thirsty for that transformational deal. Could 2011 be his year?

Scent of a broker

By golly, those private equity boys are hungry for broker action. As you will recall, I tipped private equity interest in brokers and, hey presto, suddenly Towergate is thrashing out a reported £200m deal with Advent International. The latest outfit on the prowl is Exponent, a tidy little firm consisting of Oxbridge types. Competition is fierce with Bridgepoint, Gresham and Duke Street all sniffing around. So who will they throw their cash at next? Answers on a postcard please. IT