The Insider is match-making – putting Utley behind the wheel at Provident and looking outside the box to find the next ABI boss

Is Neil Utley to become the next Simon Cowell? I’m hearing that Utley has invested in a pop group called Amoriste. For those of you that like your music, head to YouTube for their songs, Berlin and The Park is Mine. Please have a peek and ping a message to my Facebook page telling me what you think. Utley, who finishes as chief executive of IAG UK in October, has also taken a stake in a horse called Hugely Entertaining, which has its first race in September. I don’t know what class or weight it is, but I would love to see it race Chris Giles’s nag, Tricky Trickster, in a broker versus insurer race. Now that really would be hugely entertaining.

Get Utley in the driving seat

An MBO at Provident Insurance is becoming increasingly unlikely, I hear. My friends in the business tell me money is still tight, with the banks holding on fast to their cash. But there’s one open-handed chap still out there. The management team at Provident Insurance could do worse than to look to Neil Utley and his investor pals, if you ask me. Since leaving IAG UK, my old pal Utley’s been splashing the cash – and he’s got form with Provident. His co-investors are thought to include money men Tom Duggan and David Saville, the founders of A-Plan. That pair of old timers love a piece of motor … at the right price, of course.

Customer heroes wanted

Unlike our insurer friends, we old brokers know the importance of service. So how’s this for an opportunity: the search is on to find the UK’s first-ever Customer Champion. The Institute of Customer Service will pick one winner from nine UK regions to go through to the national competition and have the chance to take the crown. It’s also an opportunity to dispel some of those myths that the insurance industry doesn’t value customer care. Find me on Facebook – Backchat Insider – for more details.

Sink or be sunk

Now, one new trading room is very similar to another, in my jaded opinion – but my friend Grant Ellis insists that something special is happening in Harrogate with Broker Network’s. I’ve heard whisper there’s even been a bit of fun and games around the launch: to gee up competition between the underwriters, the network set up a version of the time-honoured children’s game ‘battleships’. Every time a company wins business, it gets the chance to lob a bomb at the competition. The network gets the chance to lob bombs too, if any of the room’s underwriters are late in quoting its brokers. Given that the whole idea of the initiative is to drive up service standards for its customers, the network is hoping it won’t win this particular game.

Ideas out of left field

So, for the second time in less than a year, the ABI headhunters are out searching for a director-general after Kerrie Kelly’s sharp exit last month. I’m still sulking because Kelly wouldn’t accept any of my invites to share a whiskey and a gossip. So who’s in line to replace her? Any would-be ABI director-general needs a good Westminster contacts book, and former Tory minister Angela Knight is widely deemed to have done a good job in difficult circumstances at the British Bankers’ Association. But one of the more radical suggestions I’ve heard is that the association could take a dip in the talent pool of recently unemployed Labour ex-ministers. Once upon a time, appointing an opposition politician would have been a crazy idea, but in these days of coalition government, it seems that just about anything goes. IT