The Insider can barely hide his envy of both Andrew Torrance’s brand new big screen and Martin South’s regal good looks

So who here thinks that Martin South looks a bit like Colin Firth? Firth picked up the Best Actor gong at the Oscars this week for his fine performance in The King’s Speech (I must say, any film with royalty in it really takes my fancy). Anyway, Marsh’s head of UK operations South was featured on our front cover last month, and a few people have remarked on the similarity to Firth, with one admirer purring: “Hmmmm, I suppose he is quite handsome.” Martin South, the sex symbol of insurance …

Allianz’s new box of delights

It seems my chums at Allianz Insurance are going up in the world. They’ve moved to swish new offices on Gracechurch Street in London, leaving their somewhat, ahem, ‘functional’ space in Leadenhall Street behind. As part of the move, I hear, the insurer had a television of epic proportions installed in the boardroom. This can mean one of two things: either the powers that be at Allianz HQ in Germany wanted to make sure they loom large over their UK couterparts during video conference calls; or chief executive Andrew Torrance wanted a bigger screen on which to watch his beloved Liverpool fail to get a Champions League place.

Tackled by his own side

Many rugby fans would have been glued to their TV sets at the weekend to watch England beat France, but for one lover of the sport, there was a more important game: Tonbridge vs Tunbridge Wells. My old chum Allianz director of claims Graham Gibson was refereeing the clash and, although I haven’t spoken to him since, I’m told it was an intense affair between the two local rivals. It can’t be easy presiding over these games.

I’m reminded of the time that an irate fan, disappointed at some of Graham’s decisions, screamed at him: “You need a pair of glasses ref!” To which Graham’s son, who was sitting close by, retorted: “My Dad does wear glasses, but today he left them at home.”

The hard man of Europe

Meanwhile, the appointment of Igal Mayer as the head of Aviva’s European general insurance operation continues to set tongues wagging. The Continental business is a rather dysfunctional operation, with different countries competing with one another rather too vigorously for the wider corporate good. It needs a hard man to bang heads together – enter Mayer, stage right. This means, I suspect, that he will have his hands full for a while, which is probably good news for Mark Hodges’ ambitions of inheriting the group chief executive’s chair.

Arguing over the service charge

I remember the good old days when brokers and underwriters were good pals, sealing deals over a bottle of vintage at a nice restaurant. All they ever seem to do nowadays is fight. Take this argument over London market brokers charging extra for additional services. Brokers have indicated that since they are having to develop e-services, rather than using the traditional method in London of going through the central bureau, XIS, they want some recompense. Hiscox chairman Robert Hiscox waded into the debate this week, basically accusing brokers of being too meek to charge their clients properly and instead trying to make up the shortfall by squeezing extra revenue from the underwriters. When a doyen of the market like Bertie gives brokers both barrels, you know this row is getting serious. The press has heard a lot from the underwriters, but very little from the brokers. Don’t these people have PRs? IT