The Insider sternly resists scurrilous and inappropriate talk, but keeps an eye on Aviva and skims the new Towergate bible

Bluefin chief executive Stuart Reid has been keeping an uncharacteristically low profile in recent months. So it was with some surprise that the Insurance Times team trooped off to the back room of a bar in Paternoster Square, summoned by his new City PR outfit. Reid, not normally known for his retiring shyness, was spotted sitting in the corner of the room while his lieutenants were introduced to the assembled hacks over warm white wine and buckets of beer. Apparently, one of his PRs thought it was about time that some other spokespeople from Bluefin got to know the media. Reid didn’t seem to mind too much, though – my spies tell me he left after a couple of drinks and was no doubt to be spotted later that night quaffing champagne in Dion.

Deakin kept on tiptoe for Kitson’s shoes

Aviva: You’ve been warned. As everyone waits for the top brass to decide who will replace ebullient sales and marketing director John Kitson, the market’s choice is his number two, Janice Deakin. Even the best informed market watchers don’t know for sure which way chief executive Igal Mayer will jump. But if it’s not in Deakin’s favour, other insurers will be queuing up.

Enough tittle-tattle on Perkins Slade

Let’s set the record straight: any rumours of management buyout at Perkins Slade have been well and truly quashed. Chief executive David Slade firmly put the boot into the gossipers, blasting their tittle-tattle as “scurrilous and inappropriate”. The message from Perkins Slade is that the team is working hard to emerge from the recession in good shape. Well, you heard it straight from the horse's mouth.

Nearly 90% cut for Towergate chiefs

Towergate chief executive Andy Homer announced earlier this year that his directors would not be taking home bonuses. It’s all part of the company cutting costs and emerging from the recession intact. Interesting, but as they say, the “devil’s in the detail”. And so it’s been brought to my attention that Towergate directors took home £1.17m last year, compared with £10.8m in 2007. I’m just going to punch that in my calculator and tell you that’s near enough a 90% reduction. With all this talk about bankers raking in too much in bonuses, I’m sure Alastair Darling wishes we could live in a land of Towergates.

Permit me to sell you a copy

Talking of Towergate, my friend Peter Cullum told me the secret to success can be found in a great little business book called Permission Marketing. He recommends it to all his friends. Having whizzed through it, I can give you a summary. It’s by an American marketing guru called Seth Godin (he looks a bit like a bald Dr Spock, but I digress) who says the secret to winning customers is to get their “permission” first. It specifically relates to e-marketing – for example, online retailers will ask permission to send a newsletter to customers. If the customer says yes, they’re likely to be interested in the products. You still with me? Because the trick is, permission marketing can be used across all industries. So if you ever hear a Towergate broker asking a customer, “Would you like some advice from our friends at Towergate Financial?”, you’ll know where it all started.

Labouring the point

An old broker pal of mine has got the hump with Allianz. He likes to be left alone, to get on with his business. So imagine his discontent when an Allianz call centre rang him up and reminded him to pay his client fees on time. He promises that his record on payments is immaculate. He’s also sick of the Labour conference’s domination of the media and before long the two irritations are blending into one: “It’s like they’re some sort of Labour government, trying to monitor everything you do.” Now you know, Big Allianz is watching you. IT