The Insider listens to gossip about Aviva, hears that NIG is still not popular and finds why Mike Smith’s challenge is one to avoid

Now I’m never one to turn down a quality corporate event, especially if there’s good food and fine wines on offer. But my broker pals have a somewhat different view, especially if it involves NIG. The RBS-owned insurer is running a prize draw to win tickets to the Abu Dhabi grand prix race day, being held at the F1 Williams headquarters in Grove, near Oxford. Entry to the competition is, however, conditional on placing new business with NIG. When I told a pal of mine about it, he shot back: “I’d rather they reinstated my personal lines division, to be frank.” It looks like NIG still has a lot of grovelling to do.

Saved by the strike

Aviva – to be or not to be? The latest gossip is that a bunch of insurers including RSA, Allianz, Zurich and Resolution were wanting to carve up the business between them – but Resolution pulled out and the deal fell through. However, RSA is still thought to be interested. My pals at Insurance Times were expecting to have a chat with Aviva’s general insurance director David McMillan about a new phase in brand development at around the time the news broke. Sadly, he couldn’t make the chat because of “transport problems”. Could there be more to it, I wonder?

Use my pic. It’ll be good for you

Talking of Aviva, I’m loving its new £20m marketing campaign. If you upload a picture of your face online, it will be projected onto some of the most recognised buildings in the world, such as London’s National Theatre. Aviva can take 250,000 entrants, who don't have to be policyholders, so get going. Money raised from the project goes to charity. I've uploaded my offering, albeit the armchair picture you see in front of you. I’m a very powerful man, so they had better accept the picture, or face some very grave consequences.

Anybody up for drinks with Mike?

It must be lonely being Mike Smith, the boss of Giles-owned underwriting agency Ink. Smith threw down the gauntlet to Insurance Times and a few others to take up the Circle Line challenge. This involves a rather wobbly-legged journey around London, popping into a pub at every stop on the Tube’s Circle Line. (I prefer a lazy cruise around the champagne vineyards of north-east France, to be honest.) Unfortunately, Smith, a bulldozer of a man, is still waiting for somebody to take up the opportunity. Perhaps potential challengers have been scared off by the hit film, The Hangover, and the prospect of making their very own UK version.

Conference raises Nick’s heckles

This week’s sojourn in the Midlands followed a flying visit to the socialists in Manchester last week. There, I was saddened to find that the ABI business reception at the Radisson hotel, inside the conference security cordon, had been cancelled. ABI general insurance director Nick Starling explained, when I bumped into him, that the cost of the room couldn’t be justified. No mingling with the great and the good, then. In fact, Starling had just been heckled by a delegate for daring to put the case for the provision of private insurance social care solutions. Shame!

Towergate’s bog-standard jolly

Over in Portugal it’s the annual Towergate conference. I’d love to be a fly on the wall in some of those sessions. Towergate’s execs planning the consolidator’s strategy for the year ahead: that will be a mine of information! Not forgetting the golf on some of Vilamoura’s finest courses, a dip in the pool and a nice cold glass of Sagres.

But this year’s extended away day is less of a corporate jolly and more a sign of the times. One Towergate insider tells me: “We’re flying on EasyJet and staying in a bog-standard hotel.” I’m guessing the menu will be more sausages than sardines, then. IT