It’s high culture meets low farce this week, with Renaissance art, classic cars and the mysterious incident of the fraud at Biba

Blue day

A friend at Insurance Times had a lovely trip to Stamford Bridge last weekend with the boys from Towergate. It was all terribly civilised in the corporate boxes, of course, although some uncouth types have suggested Towergate are like the football hooligans of the industry, beating up Norwich Union over commissions and always trying to give those fellows at Giles a black eye. But enough of that.

What I really want to know is why the Towergate lads were watching the Roman army. After all, their boss Peter Cullum is a passionate Canary who even tried to take over Norwich City last year. Whatever next, Peter? Are you going to make Abramovich an offer?

Thrown with love

Some of my younger friends are getting excited about Norwich Union’s five-day conference for its top 500 brokers, to be held in June. No one knows the details, but NU’s marketing department has sent out a “message in a bottle” invitation to get the grapevine buzzing. Naturally, I have received an invitation. I wonder if the bottle has also landed at Towergate, Oval or Giles HQ?

Copycat crime

So I hear Biba has called in the police over a fraud in India. Apparently, someone on the subcontinent set up a website offering people jobs at the august institute, even though the vacancies didn’t exist.

Presumably the charlatans were hoping to receive some kind of fee from their victims for pointing them in the direction of Biba. Suspicious payments in an emerging market? Now where have I heard that before?

At least someone’s happy

Speaking of the FSA’s new hard line on third-party payments overseas, it has (no surprise here) been good news for the legal profession. A lawyer pal tells me his phone has been ringing off the hook with worried London brokers asking how they can keep the regulator at bay. No doubt those ingenious boys and girls will have a few tricks up their sleeves, as well as those sizeable bills.

You pay peanuts ...

As a trade body, it’s understandable the ABI doesn’t want to irritate members by frittering away their fees on designer office curtains or gold-plated pencil holders. But one has to wonder whether it shouldn’t pump a little more into the IT budget. A PR missive doing the rounds invites journalists to help the association decide how to revamp its website. Isn’t this the kind of consultancy work that’s usually charged by the hour?

For art’s sake

AXA threw a soiree at the National Gallery last week to mark its sponsorship of the Renaissance Faces exhibition. Enjoying the finest works of Raphael, Botticelli, Van Eyck and co – not to mention the excellent champagne and canapés – were brokers Stephen Lark and Stuart Reid, AXA’s Philippe Maso and Norwich Union’s Igal Mayer. Fortunately, the gallery has already found its £50m to save a Titian “for the nation”, so all the well-heeled guests made it out with their wallets unlightened.

Now that’s a car crash waiting to happen

Brokers do like their toys. One big cheese, I hear, has a particular weakness for classic cars. In fact, he owns quite a collection. The only thing is, his wife doesn’t know anything about them. He keeps his beloved automobiles safely garaged some distance from the house. Don’t worry, I won’t tell. Mrs Insider still doesn’t know about the pied à terre in Mayfair ...