The Insider sympathises with Nick Starling, makes another membership drive – and keeps his feet dry

To St Katharine Docks in East London for the naming ceremony of QBE’s Insurance Challenge, the two-man boat that will be rowed across the Atlantic later this year by QBE underwriter James Croome and his rowing partner Oliver Back. The QBE troops were out in force, despite the miserable weather. The main party was hosted under a canopy on the dockside by QBE chief operating officer John Neal, before the revellers moved indoors to Zizzi, a nearby restaurant. However the weather was not the only dampener. The two rowers crashed into a luxury yacht as they headed out for a tour of the Thames, leaving several underwriters wincing from their dockside shelter.

Plastic, not so fantastic

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but Nick Starling from the ABI would beg to differ. The director of general insurance is the victim of a nasty credit card fraud for the second time in the space of only a few years.

Nick was recently lumbered with a £5,000 bill after fraudsters went on a spending spree with his credit card – only a couple of years after conmen cloned his debit card.

Nick tells me that he was “surprised and mortified”, especially as he had been careful about his credit card in the wake of the first fraud. Thankfully, he was quickly paid the full £5,000. But I don’t expect he’ll be using plastic for a while.

Sunny outlook

Patrick Snowball has been putting his feet up before the big task of taking on Australian insurer Suncorp. I caught up with him as he enjoyed a “beautiful Croatian sunset”. He says he’s had a “tremendous amount of goodwill” from the UK insurance industry. Translation Patrick: you’re a lucky man, enjoy your years in the sunshine.

Moon talk

Forty years ago man landed on the moon. To mark this historic event, our friends at the CII have come up with some interesting facts, especially if you’re as long in the tooth as I am.

First, there was no insurance for the Apollo missions; they were all backed by the US Government. However, there was private insurance to benefit the families of the astronauts if they failed to come back.

Aside from the landing, the average UK house price 40 years ago was £4,640 compared with £211,388 today and women were just beginning to make their mark in insurance (there were 1,780 female CII members, now there are 26,495).

But, perhaps most importantly on Planet Insurance, a pint of bitter cost 1s 7p in 1969 compared with just over £2 today, making drinking a more expensive habit – even taking inflation into account.

UnFriendly rivalry

It’s been a while but it’s definitely time to plug my Facebook page again. For those who can’t remember, I’ve bet my son that I can get more friends than him by the end of the year. If not, he gets a spin in my Bentley. With 150 pals so far, I’m well on the way. But with the weeks ticking down I can’t take any chances and I still need your help. Find me under the alias Backchat Insider.

Seasonal supposition

The summer holidays are upon us and the rumour mill is in full flow. The latest, I hear, links Willis’ UK chief executive Brendan McManus with a return to his old stomping ground, RSA. The reason why depends on who you speak to. But maybe he’ll hang on for a bit longer in case another senior role at a major insurer becomes available…