This is your guide to the key personalities from the major players: the people you’ll want to watch, listen to and learn from this Biba

Whether you want a straight-talking powerhouse, a down-to-earth industry grandee or an old-fashioned deal-maker with a great line in after-dinner speeches, the big names at Biba can deliver.

Janice Deakin, Aviva

Who is she? Aviva’s intermediary and partnerships director

What’s she like? Deakin is a down-to-earth, no-nonsense character and well liked by brokers. Well established at Aviva, she is widely seen as the face of the UK’s number one insurer. She has had significant success growing back Aviva’s commercial book under David McMillan and Mark Hodges. In March, Insurance Times wrote: “You can’t argue with the numbers, and Deakin’s popularity among the brokers speaks for itself. It must be nice to be back on the front foot after such difficult years, and to be able to sit here now and reflect upon it.”

Most likely to say: “Igal Mayer was misunderstood.”

Least likely to say: “Norwich Union.”


Chris Hanks, Allianz

Who is he? General manager, Allianz Commercial

What’s he like? Hanks is universally liked and respected. An industry stalwart, he won the Insurance Times Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, and is currently president of the CII. He’s also an astute businessman, winning Allianz a reputation as one of the best insurers to trade with. In September 2010, we said this: “Go to any industry party, and you’ll see Chris Hanks standing in the centre of the room. An insurance grandee with few parallels, he’s been at the centre of the UK market since taking the job as Allianz’s commercial lines director in 2003. It’s nice, then, that he’s stayed so down to earth.”

Most likely to say: “No, I’m not retiring.”

Least likely to say: “I’m leaving for pastures new.”

Amanda Blanc, AXA

Who is she? AXA commercial lines chief executive

What’s she like? Blanc is a formidable force: her decision to leave Towergate for AXA at the end of last year was a coup for group chief executive Paul Evans and a shock to the market. Blanc wasted no time in overhauling the senior management and structure of the insurer and the market is watching closely for her next move. In April, Insurance Times said: “She has a fantastic reputation among insurers and brokers, and is widely respected for her intelligence, straight talking and sheer energy. Six weeks into the job at AXA, she has taken the flea-ridden insurer by the scruff of the neck and shaken it down.”

Most likely to say: “AXA is open for business.”

Least likely to say: “Andy, can I come back?”

Paul Donaldson, RSA

Who is he? Managing director, broker

What’s he like? An old-fashioned deal-maker, Donaldson likes a joke and is not afraid to laugh at himself. He’s deadly serious about RSA, though, and with chief executive Adrian Brown has boosted its popularity among brokers, seeing it scoop the Insurer of the Year Award 2010.

In 2009, Insurance Times said: “Peers, colleagues and brokers all speak highly of Donaldson. At an RSA-hosted dinner at last year’s Biba conference in Glasgow, he brought the house down with gags and jibes about specific brokers and colleagues. It wasn’t nasty; he just has a common touch and an ability to bring people together and make them feel relaxed in his company.”

Most likely to say: “I’m a very boring kind of guy.”

Least likely to say: “Well, it’s an early night for me.”


Dave Smith, Zurich

Who is he? Commercial broker managing director

What’s he like? Dave Smith has been at Zurich 20 years and is a company man to the bone. He is the most public face of Zurich – at least, among brokers. In an April interview with Insurance Times, he said: “We’ve made a conscious decision that there’s a trade-off. You could send a single underwriter in to write all lines of business and it would be worse than useless. If you provide expertise in different customer segments, by definition, you are slightly more complex. But, in my view, a broker values talking to an expert underwriter that can take decisions. So, yes, we veer towards expertise rather than ease of dealing – particularly in commercial lines, where it’s more important.”

Most likely to say: “Let’s talk about numbers.”

Least likely to say: “Let’s talk about personal motor.”

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