The irony of playing the Mission Impossible theme tune as Financial Services Authority (FSA) insurance watchdog John Tiner took the stage at the Chartered Insurance Institute's (CII) debating chamber was not lost on the 300 delegates present. Tiner gave a wry smile - the audience tittered.
Talking in the confident manner of a management consultant, John Tiner - managing director, consumer, investment and insurance at the FSA - emphasised the need for the Treasury and the FSA to help promote a more responsible policy so consumers can gain better understanding of financial products.
Acknowledging his own difficulties in coming to terms with many technical financial instruments the insurance industry has to offer, he said: "The terminology in the insurance industry is a minefield and I'm keen to make the wording more open for consumers."
What he found most "worrying" was that 30% of the UK population have made no provision for their pension, long-term savings or adequate home and contents insurance. "There is a £27bn savings gap which needs to be filled for later quality of life," he said.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) director and specialist on corporate reputation risk management, John Browne, dangled a juicy carrot in front of the audience. If the industry cleans up its act and develops "socially responsible corporate governance," he said, "then it could triple the amount of new business coming into the market from £7bn per year to £21bn".
His own prediction was if the market embraced an ethical philosophy quickly, it "could reach £1,000bn in revenue by 2005".
The delegates were stunned. But not for long. third speaker Michelle Childs, head of policy research at the Consumers' Association, received a broadside. "You're talking twaddle!" some wag shouted.
Vicious stuff, eh? Even CII chairman Jennifer Jarrett remarked Childs must have been "heckled in far better places than this".