The market laments the loss of the would-be Commercial colossus

The infamous Italian Niccolo Machiavelli famously opined that it is better to be feared than loved.

Almost five centuries later, little has changed.

In fact, if the case of Independent is anything to go by, he couldn't have been more right.

It is surprisingly difficult to find brokers who will criticise the insurer that left a thousand staff redundant, over half a million policyholders without cover, and tens of dozens of brokers with hundreds of millions of pounds of business exposed.

This pervasive sense of warmth applies equally to the small provincial outfits, wined and dined by Bright and his associates, to the heavyweight commercial players, who could at the very least be expected harbour a bitter taste in the wake of Independent’s unceremonious collapse.

But Paul Meehan, chief executive of Smart & Cook, insists he had no problems finding an alternative backer for his business.

“Insurers were quick off the mark,” he says. “We moved our book to Axa overnight. They took the business at Independent rates.”

As for the hospitality, brokers argue that it wasn't simply about spending vast wads of cash – even though now it is abundantly clear that the company would have to been wise to rein it in.

“They put their heart and soul into it,” a former employee, now with a large broker, says, adding that Bright's team gave brokers the two of the things they wanted the most: time and access. “We were a highly motivated team – and that was down to Condon and Bright.”

Even those who are not sobbing openly about the fate of the company - if not its leaders - express a certain degree of respect.

As one source said: “Feelings [about Bright] are mixed. Some found him to be very charismatic.”

Meehan adds: “They never gave me any reason to believe they lacked integrity."

"But who knows what the financials were.”

Beyond the bluster and nostalgia, this is the key point. Though everyone seems to know why Independent were such a success, no one seems to know why they failed.

A senior source wistfully concludes: “We are all wondering what led them to this stage.”