The chief executive's departure caught many by surprise, including me, says Christine Seib

Is there anything worse than having to work on a Sunday? Well, yes, there is. It's being at work on a Sunday and reading a great story on two companies in your sector, written by another journalist, for another paper.

Worse still, the story turns out to be true. That's how I felt when I read at the weekend that Nick Prettejohn was leaving Lloyd's to run Prudential's UK business.

He won't be going for about three months and the corporation hasn't even started looking for a replacement - apparently Prettejohn broke the news to Lord Levene, the chairman of Lloyd's, only a few days ago.

But I suspect that I wasn't the only person who felt a little sad on hearing the news - and not just because I'd been beaten to the story.

Even an arch-cynic would find it hard not to have some respect for the Lloyd's boss.

Since taking over in 1999 he has dragged the market away from unlimited liability, steered it through 9/11 with its reputation enhanced rather than merely intact, encouraged underwriting discipline by establishing a franchise board and completed Lloyd's first subordinated debt issue.

Prettejohn has also overseen a reduction in the market's reliance on reinsurance - spend is down from £4.2bn in 2003 to £2.9bn last year - and helped Lloyd's to deliver a profit in 2004.

And this is despite what had been the worst-ever year for natural catastrophes.

His natural reserve made him a good partner for the ebullient Lord Levene. Hell, he even does charity work with children. But it's no surprise that Prettejohn should want a change.

Lloyd's is expected to consider internal as well as external candidates to replace him. Julian James, the urbane director of worldwide markets, is likely to lead the pack.

I may not have got the scoop, but Prettejohn's move is going to provide plenty of interesting copy for insurance writers for more reasons than just its impact on Lloyd's. It is also the first sign that Mark Tucker, who took over from the Prudential's ousted chief executive Jonathan Bloomer in May, is stamping his authority on the life insurer.

Tucker, the darling of Prudential's Asian business before he left just a year ago to become financial director at HBOS, says that since returning to the Pru he has identified a number of inefficiencies that he intends to sort out.

Mark Wood, who was chief executive of AXA UK before joining the Pru as UK boss in 2001, clearly decided that he didn't like the way the wind blowing and is bowing out.

Later this month Tucker will update investors on his plans for the business.

Now, if I could just get some inside info on that, I'd feel like a little bit less of a loser. IT