Despite a written promise, there won’t be any show-and-tell from a certain Irish insurer at this year’s Biba conference …

I had a brandy and a cigar last week with one of Lloyd’s most colourful characters, Besso director and well-known adventure enthusiast Roddy Caxton-Spencer. Between racing across deserts, climbing mountains and pulling off bumper broking deals in Istanbul, he recently had to find time to write a best man’s speech. Any such speech needs a bit of spice, and Roddy certainly had a juicy target. It turns out the groom was the whistleblower who lifted the lid on MPs’ expenses. Of course, Roddy couldn’t resist a gag or two. Let me give you a peek: “Having to pay for the gift myself, I was rather disappointed to find the only two options left on the wedding list were rather expensive! A duck house and a contract for maintaining a moat.” You’re a brave man, Roddy. Remember, you’re dealing with someone who brought down some of the most powerful people in the country …

Roll up, roll up … you could be Quinns-in

“Come along to our stand and experience the difference for yourself,” screams the Quinn Insurance puff in the Biba conference bulletin, which landed last week. “Quinn Insurance will offer showgoers the opportunity to speak to senior company managers, as well as learning more about a new product specifically tailored to the insurance needs of tradesmen.” Tradesmen aside (one suspects that there may well be a few making their way down to London’s Excel Centre), I’m sure Insurance Times is not the only “showgoer” looking for a few words with the very same senior company managers at Quinn. After all, they seem to have gone into hiding for the past 10 days.

Distant horizons

And talking of Quinn, word reaches me that its troubles have caused some discontent amongst the Lloyd’s boys, with one insider pointing out the disparity between the original Quinn prices and the numbers quoted by other London market players attempting to pick up the business. But what’s really interesting, I’m told, is how a fair chunk of the Quinn business is now being actively switched to Thomond, a Gibraltan business run by former Quinn employees, and Gable Lichtenstein, another offshore outfit. It does make you wonder what kind of prices they have both been quoting. Answers on a postcard please.

Raising a few eyebrows

To the Insurance Times hustings, an event that Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman Lord Newby had been practising and preparing for all week with his colleague Vince Cable. Cable appeared alongside George Osborne and Alistair Darling on Channel 4’s Ask the Chancellors, broadcast live on the same evening as the Insurance Times event. Lord Newby apparently had been helping his old pal out by taking Darling’s role in mock sessions, and by asking and priming Cable for all the tough questions. It is unclear, however, whether he sported the comedy eyebrows to really immerse himself into the part.

Card tricks?

More noises off from the hustings: Conservative financial services spokesman Mark Hoban recalled his year’s secondment to the Financial Services Authority. One of his tasks, he said, was to vet company business cards to make sure that they complied with the regulator’s guidelines. It only took quarter of an hour, he said, but, as he reflected, there must have been better ways of using his time.

Primary numbers

So what’s been going on at Prime Professions? It’s interesting that the management shake-up, which saw Tony Blyfield exit stage left, happened a year after Primary gained a controlling stake in the firm. Could Primary have been unhappy about the financial performance of Prime Professions? In the year ending March 2009, the Lloyd’s broker notched up a small profit of £157,868. Some might think that’s reasonable for a firm that started in 2005, but perhaps Primary didn’t. Just a thought ... IT