The backchat insider muses about the similarity between signposting … and dating

Dating for insurers?

Biba head of corporate affairs Graeme Trudgill had an apt description for the trade body’s recently announced signposting deal, under which insurers and brokers that are unable to insure the elderly for motor and travel insurance will pass on their details to those that can. “It’s like a dating agency,” the Biba stalwart said.

Hitting the right notes

Hasting Direct chairman Neil Utley tells me he’s keen as mustard on his latest music prospect. Utley, worth a cool £160m according to the Sunday Times Rich List, has just signed up Ben Montague for his label Nusic Sounds. Montague’s peachy voice recently supported The Wanted on their 14-day tour of the UK. Meanwhile, Nusic Sounds’ other signing, former Busted star Charlie Simpson, reached number six in the album charts. I look forward to more updates from Utley over a glass of claret.

As old as you feel

One gets the impression that Brit’s Mark Cloutier has been working rather hard of late – not surprising given the amount of change the insurer has undergone since he took the helm. When I recently remarked to Mr Cloutier that I hadn’t spoken to him since his days at Overseas Partners – a good 10 years ago – he quipped: “I feel a lot older today than I was probably feeling back then.” Still, hopefully he can rest a little easier now the QBE deal has gone through.

Floating on air

I’m hearing that although Direct Line Group is gunning for a flotation, private equity is testing its appetite for a straight sale. In fact, offers in the region of £2.5bn are being put before the bank by a certain private equity firm, one which last year pulled off a major insurance deal. It’s a starting point for negotiation, with potentially higher bids to follow, I’m told. Perhaps the Direct Line Group flotation is not such a done deal after all.


Men of my generation are more at home with face-to-face chinwags than Twitter, but I was amused by a tweet from AXA UK chief executive Paul Evans this week: “Week off. Wife gardening & I’m baking. So far bread (great), cheese straws (not great) and shortbread (grim) - guess tomorrow I’m gardening!” Stick to what you’re good at, Paul.

Newly weds

One gets the impression that Ash Bathia is a tad excited about QBE’s purchase of the renewal rights for Brit’s UK regional book. “It is a marriage made in heaven,” he gushed when asked about the deal’s rationale. He added that the deal had allowed him to put a “massive tick” against the criteria he looks for in purchases. Not that you can blame him: he has almost doubled his company’s UK retail book without taking on any additional liabilities.