Endless bubbly, roast turkey, gaudy decorations, industry gossip … The Insider will be reaching for the indigestion pills this season

Christmas came early for Towergate’s Clive Nathan and Tim Johnson, seen out on the town in great good cheer following Amanda Blanc’s departure from the business. While the chaps will no doubt miss their colleague, they’ve suddenly become that much more valuable to their bosses. Towergate chief exec Andy Homer makes an unlikely Santa Claus – but for Nathan and Johnson, it’s a case of jingle all the way.

Money sloshing like seasonal spirit

There are people in high-powered places, my connections tell me, that are very interested in ploughing investment into insurance brokers. One name that keeps doing the rounds is Bridgepoint. As you can imagine, the folks there are staying tight-lipped. But I can tell you this: they’ve got lots of money and are keen to make deals. The phones haven’t stopped ringing for broker chief executives. It’s all quietened down in the run-up to Christmas, but you can bet it will kick off again in the new year. Watch this space.

All spruced up

Over in the Willis building, staff are keen to inject a little Christmas spirit into their surroundings, but one of my broking pals got a shock when he popped a mini festive tree on his desk. Apparently, group policy dictates that the reception area is the only place where Christmas decorations can be displayed. After being made to take the tree down, my pal’s exact words were: “I feel like I’ve been slapped in the face with a wet fish”. But it’s not all ‘bah, humbug!’ on Lime Street: after completing a permissions-for-decorations form, and a tense wait while the relevant board deliberated, his wish was granted, allowing him to display his tree until the new year. Phew!

New year’s sneak preview

As ever, the Insurance Times Awards fired the starting gun on party season, and the past week or so has been filled with Yuletide celebrations. First up was DAS’s private view – but my journalist pals were devastated to miss chief executive Paul Asplin, who was held up on unexpected business overseas. His top team were very much in evidence though, preparing to do battle over the Jackson Review next year. Expect some old-school skirmishes to come.

Hot fizz

And so to Swinton’s annual bash at London’s Waldorf, where the Heidsieck was flowing and the great and good were out in force. As well as Clive Nathan, Towergate’s Peter Cullum and Andy Homer were spotted, clearly determined to prove that the show must go on following Amanda Blanc’s defection to AXA. Swinton boss Peter Halpin braved the hall’s acoustics once again to deliver a punchy speech – and some choice words for motor insurers that have been hiking premiums at unheard-of rates. But the tense moment soon passed as glasses were refilled and the party took its usual course on into the night.

Blanc check

Finally, the boys from Bluefin were on good form last week, enjoying an early Christmas tipple. The team quickly moved to quash rumours of an ambitious mega-staff raid on a rather large rival. Chief executive Stuart Reid expressed his excitement about working with his new boss, Amanda Blanc. Marketing chief Peter Elliott appeared, right at the cutting edge of fashion, sporting a very Parka-like jacket (my grandson tells me they’re back in fashion). Chief operating officer Mike ‘the brain’ Bruce made predictions for the market in 2011, and I wouldn’t dare to disagree with them. All in all, they were a lively bunch and, I can tell you, all revved up for 2011. Exciting times ahead, don’t you think, Amanda? IT