The Insider gets stuck into Biba with characteristic gusto, as does Devitt it seems – while Plumeri reminisces about old happy days

Fresh from his recent adventure to the North Pole, Carole Nash boss David Newman is in tip-top shape. Since he’s been back, the Arctic explorer admits he’s treated himself to the odd glass of vino, but is determined not to let himself go. So if you’re wondering why the broker boss sloped off from the Biba conference an hour early last week, it was of course so he could hit the hotel gym. Perhaps Newman is already in training for his next adventure? Which brings me to next year’s conference, in Manchester – and approximately 10 miles from his Altrincham headquarters. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Brown demands ‘access all editors’

Late on at the O2 arena’s indigo bar with a mouthful of 300th-birthday cake, RSA’s Adrian Brown was celebrating in style. Top of his midnight birthday wish list was to interview the Insurance Times editors, with full editorial control. Now my pals from IT can’t guarantee it, but here’s a starting point for a negotiation: I’m told they’ll do it if they can get full quote and copy approval; regular access to Andy Haste; regular nights out with Paul Donaldson; and last, but certainly not least, better quotes from Adrian Brown in the future. The ball is in your court, guys …

Jitters before the titters

And talking of Paul Donaldson: on the night, it was a little bit difficult to see his smiling Irish eyes as he was introducing comedian John Bishop on stage at the O2 – PD looked more like a comedy white ghost from where I was standing.

Devitt raises the bar

The prize for the biggest party animal during Biba 2010? Step forward, Aaron Devitt. RSA really laid on the treats for the old birthday celebration, and Devitt, never one to shy away from a good time, took full advantage. Reports are circulating that RSA’s strategic relationship and sales director was seen propping up the bar at 3am ordering flaming sambuccas for his pals. One fun-loving mole slurred in my ear: “The man’s a legend. I’ve seen him drink 10 pints before and barely even flinch.” We hear you loud and clear: Dev, you’re unstoppable.

So where’s my tall, dark stranger?

Not to be outdone by the floating curtains and pink boudoir theme of RSA’s drinking tent, Towergate’s Biba stand came with palm reading, a cartoonist and a miniature golf course. It certainly proved popular with industry pundits, as they flocked there to do a spot of future gazing, perhaps hoping to see if the long-awaited hard market is to emerge any time soon. But when the young seer gazed at the paws of yours truly, she simply said there were “uncertain times” ahead. We’ll have to wait and see if anyone else got any inside information from the (supernatural) powers that be …

The suspense is killing me

To Queen’s House in Greenwich for Groupama’s Biba reception. Following a lengthy boat trip to the venue, dozens of brokers were met by a David Blane-style levitating trickster, a rather dull Alan Cleary auction translated into French (which nobody could hear or understand) and Towergate’s Clive Nathan discussing the merits of Avatar and Indiana Jones. What more could you want from a sophisticated night out?

Step into my office …

Finally, Joe Plumeri was in typically barnstorming form with his opening speech at Biba 2010. But Plumeri wasn’t always as warmly embraced by the British broking establishment, he reminded his audience. Recalling the reaction to his appointment 10 years ago, he said: “They thought Fonzie in a leather jacket had been given the reins of a 170-year old brokerage.” Oh happy days. IT