Creme de la crime

Despite the best efforts of Groupama big cheeses Francois-Xavier Boisseau and Laurent Matras – who could build quite a career in comedy if insurance doesn’t work out for them, what with their “Ooh, aah Groupama” routine – the entertainer “Keith the thief” stole the show at the insurer’s annual dinner at Somerset House last Thursday. Keith invited to the stage consolidator Alex Alway, broker boss Steve Lark and Groupama’s finance director Roy Sampson – and set about stripping them of all their assets. Alway lost his tie, Lark lost a bundle of cash and a phone and Sampson lost a little dignity as Keith rifled in his trouser pockets. Reports that Alway has retained Keith’s services for commission negotiations are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Adrian Colosso: friend of the stars

My pal Adrian Colosso was up to his old tricks at a recent industry dinner. While standing outside the venue having a sneaky cigarette with Ace boss Andrew Kendrick, the Heath Lambert chief spotted an opportunity for one of his trademark wind-ups. Just a few feet away was James Nesbitt, the actor and professional Manchester United fan, who was preparing for one of those oh-so lucrative after-dinner speaking gigs. The luvvie was frantically reading through his speech when Colosso shouted: “Bit late to be doing that, isn’t it?”, before ducking behind Kendrick. Nesbitt apparently glared at the innocent – though distinctively attired – Kendrick before declaring: “Who are you then, the f****** singer? Charming.

Spare some change for a cab, guv?

I keep getting phone calls about Fortis. Word is, les garçons over at AXA are looking to pocket the UK business. No one will confirm or deny, but those rumours keep flying. For one person at least, the deal would be like going home. Mark Cliff has only been at Fortis for a few months and now it looks like he could end up back on Broad Street. That might come as something of a relief. I’m told that, at a recent do, Cliff spent half an hour searching the room for someone to share his cab back to the City. They must be taking cost-cutting pretty seriously at the nationalised group.

Body of evidence

I couldn’t possibly name names, but the top dog at one of the biggest loss adjusters had a bit of a moment recently. When his student daughter told him she had been working on a cadaver, he nodded and smiled like the supportive dad he is. “A cadaver, dear. That’s nice,” he said. Of course, he had no idea what it meant. The wag who told me the story suggested the top dog should know all about dead bodies – because he has enough of them working for him. Now that’s not kind, is it?

Something to do with unicycles?

Our loss adjuster isn’t the only one struggling with hard words. Having been in this game for decades, though, jargon holds no fears for me. So I can enlighten a senior director of a large insurer who was bamboozled at a recent meeting with the boss. “We must avoid procyclicality,” the chief executive intoned. The director nodded and dutifully scribbled “avoid procyclicality” on his notepad. But he didn’t have a clue what it meant. Well, let me help him. Procyclical is the opposite of counter-cyclical and it means being tied to the economic cycle. Definitely something to avoid in these dark days.

So, let me ask you about item 15 ...

Which UK broker is getting a hard time from his gregarious but overbearing US boss? Apparently the poor chap, who is not known for pulling punches himself, has been ordered to implement tough cost-cutting measures, including a freeze on non-essential expenses. What our man was not expecting, however, was to receive a Sunday afternoon phone call scrutinising his own expenses form. Expect some fireworks in the new year, if not earlier ...