It’s cold out there, but the Insider’s phone line is positively red hot. And he’s going to tell you everything he’s heard

Snowball's chance

I imagine a few eyebrows were raised in the Towergate office when news broke that Patrick Snowball is behind a private equity bid for Royal Bank of Scotland Insurance.

I suppose he has scaled back his involvement in the consolidator, but has he actually pulled out of the independent financial adviser division altogether?

If he has, I think my friends at Insurance Times ought to know about it and, if he hasn’t, what the hell is playing at? I know he was responsible for creating some of these consolidators but surely he can’t keep a foot in both camps?

Meanwhile, Towergate boss Peter Cullum and his team of PRs have remained resolutely quiet over any connection to the Hastings management buyout. Towergate usually prides itself on commenting on such stories but this time it has been complete radio silence. Maybe they just didn’t want their friends in the banking world to find out about it? Guys, come on, you know you want to tell us ...

Position vacant

Salary is about £1m a year. Job entails rubbing shoulders with the big cheeses at Lloyd’s over a bottle of London’s finest claret. Applicants with experience at any large insurer will do.

Yes, Rolf Tolle is to retire at the end of the year as franchise performance director at Lloyd’s.

With that kind of pay packet on the table, I can’t imagine there will be any shortage of candidates to succeed him. Indeed, I hear the new director will be paid more even more than Lord Levene, the market’s chairman.

Tolle, who gave a lecture entitled the Capacity Conundrum at Lloyd’s last Monday, told his audience that he’d never heard of the TV quiz Countdown – Capacity Conundrum, geddit? – until a few days before.

Don’t worry, Rolf. I’m sure you will have plenty of time to enjoy Jeff Stelling (him off Sky Sports) and the new girl on your giant jewel-encrusted plasma TV next year.

Fame costs ... and NU starts paying

So the advertising blitz has started and by now the great British public should be well aware that some celebrities did not ascend to the dizzy heights of global fame under the names they were born with – and they might also have an idea that some insurance company is rebranding itself. But what I want to know is, how much does it cost to get Bruce Willis, Ringo Starr, Elle Macpherson and Alice Cooper on the payroll? Norwich Union isn’t saying, but experts estimate the bill at between £9m and £12.5m.

What the dickens

Who knew Joe Plumeri was such a literature buff. The Willis chief executive began his latest effusive missive to staff with a famous quote: “To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens, these are the best of times and the worst of times. I say the best because Willis is the best it’s ever been! I say the worst because we are facing unprecedented financial turmoil in the world.”

Perhaps the proud Noo Yoiker was attracted by the great author’s array of larger-than-life characters. If Plumeri ever gets bored of broking, there’s definitely a book in him.

Laughing through the pain

Peter Harmer’s had a pretty torrid week, what with the announcement of a record £5m fine from the FSA (see page 7). But the redoubtable Aussie has retained his sense of humour – not to mention his corporate discretion. Asked by one of my pals on Insurance Times how much Aon had spent on setting its anti-corruption systems and controls in order, he answered: “That’s like asking a lady how old she is.” Barum-tish! He’s here all week, you know ...