Zurich's runaway success at the Insurance Industry Awards 2000 rounded off a superb night celebrating everything that is great about the UK insurance industry. Award winners and runners-up alike revelled in one of the best events of the year.
Host for the evening Clive Anderson kept the 900 dinner guests entertained and rattled through the 30 awards, building the excitement and atmosphere until the final award of General Insurer of the Year was presented to an ecstatic Zurich.
Several companies scooped more than one award. Sheffield intermediary Hart Owens had a double celebration after Alison Hoyes picked up the Risk Management Initiative of the Year award for the firm's new risk management division and also walked off with the Industry Young Achiever Award.
Top people's insurer Chubb bagged a hat-trick of awards picking up the Consumer Advertising Campaign of the Year in the judged categories and punching above its weight in the voted categories to win the personal lines claims and the personal lines insurer of the year titles.
The UK's second-biggest insurer, Royal & Sunalliance, bagged a share of two awards, splitting the honours for private medical insurer with Standard Life and sharing the Best Broker Support Package award with Zurich Commercial.
But by the end of the evening the audience was left in no doubt about the identity of the overall winner after Zurich scooped no less than six awards before being crowned the UK's General Insurer of the Year.
David Roper, Zurich's personal lines head of sales and marketing, was jubilant on the night. “This is not down to the management, it's down to the staff,” he said.
Roper was adamant that Zurich would use the award to work to improve its service to brokers to make sure that it didn't just win because other insurers had failed. “We have to make sure we're not just the best of a bad bunch,” he said.
The omens that Zurich were in for a big night became apparent early in the evening when the firm's Claire Attwood was the lucky winner of six bottles of wine and a signed England football shirt from rival insurer Axa.
Axa had hosted a huge pre-diner reception with a predicting the future theme. All guests were given special tarot cards and two of them were meant to give the holders prizes. But one of the card holders failed to collect their prize so Attwood took the wine and the shirt. Guests sipped champagne while surrounded by billowing clouds of dry ice as wandering palmists, rune and tarot readers gave five-minute readings.
After the awards ceremony the partying continued with guests having bought phoney money to play at the casino adjacent to the awards hall. The gaming tables were soon packed as the crowd, not unused to measuring risk, exchanged their funny money for gaming chips from the businesslike croupiers. The proceeds from the evening went to a local charity, the Birmingham Children's hospital – a staggering £10,000 was collected.
A paddle steamer provided the stage for a raucous jazz band, which kicked off with a performance by a professional dance troupe and set the scene for some dangerous disco from black-tied insurers and their partners.
Following the casino, guests retired to the Hilton Bar and it was not until 4am that the crowd thinned and the last revellers could be seen reclining on the hotel reception lounges.