The icy conditions held some people back this week, but it hasn’t stopped the Insider from warming to news from industry pals

My driver guided the Bentley through the wintry weather to get me to the two-day Broker Network conference in Harrogate this week. Executive chairman Grant Ellis took to the stage to welcome the attendees, and started with a couple of interesting facts. He said attendees were expected to down 3,000 cups of coffee during the course of the event, and to drink 1,000 bottles of wine. “It was going to be 1,500 bottles of wine,” Grant went on, “but a few of the Scots weren’t able to make it down.”

Who needs mountains when you’ve got Cliff?

To Harrogate on Tuesday for the first day of the Broker Network conference, which opened with a film of mountaineers struggling to scale a wintry peak. After spending 10 torturous hours battling through the snow and transport chaos to get to the conference, Ageas managing director Mark Cliff would have felt some empathy with the climbers. Starting out in Southampton, he got to Gatwick airport only to find that his flight had been cancelled. Not to be put off, the plucky MD slogged through increasingly heavy snow to get to Harrogate by train in time for his presentation. Just as well the panel was joined on the second day of the conference by legendary polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes – Cliff probably had a few tips to pass on to Sir Ranulph after his own ordeal.

Leics is more

Undaunted, Mark Cliff was also to be spotted at the glittering Insurance Times awards the following night. But for others, getting to the London event was touch and go. Earlier in the day, our friends from Brett and Randall had tweeted from Leicester station that all trains heading south had been cancelled. But on the evening itself, I’m pleased to say I bumped into their chairman Ashwin Mistry himself. Well done!

Tune in to Radio Atwal

More congratulations – and a big thank you – to Comparethemarket managing director Kal Atwal, who placed the highest bid at the awards charity auction. Her £10,000 donation to Help for Heroes won her host Chris Evans’s autobiography, the chance to read the weather on his Radio 2 breakfast show and a game of golf at Wentworth with the DJ and his chum Ronnie Irani, followed by a pizza with his “gorgeous” (Evans’s words) wife. I’m not the sort of chap who usually listens to popular beat combo radio shows, but I’ll have to keep my ears peeled for Atwal’s radio debut.

Kitson’s kiss and tell

And last but not least, there I was, sitting in front of my fire sipping a 40-year-old Scotch, when an email appeared from my old pal John Kitson. Aviva’s former head of sales and marketing has been out of the limelight for almost a year now, so I thought I’d share with you his update on what he’s been up to – call it a ‘backchat exclusive’:

“No BlackBerry to light up … no strategy away-days to strategise … no heated phone calls on commission to listen to … no press releases announcing yet another consolidation to smile at … no fingers-crossed moments the latest weather means no bonus yet again … no meetings with the horrible partner who is just going to lambast everything you do … no prying press asking you for off-the-record comments on Broker A … no numbers to count … no costs to cut … no awards to host … no conferences to run … no Ellen Bennetts to avoid … no egos to rub … no speeches to make … no suits to wear … no cowtowing to do … Just fishes to be fished … books to be written … football to shout at … coffees to be drunk … headhunters to be turned down … Insurance Times to be grinned at … investments to be monitored … You name it … je ne regrette rien … And I won’t be back anywhere ever … John x” IT