Tom Flack rounds up all that's new online.

And then there were four. The battle for the RBS insurance assets will be waged between European heavyweights Allianz and Zurich, and American goliaths, Allstate and Travelers.

While all the parties involved have unsurprisingly kept schtum on the subject, few have even cared to speculate on the reasoning behind the interest from across the Atlantic.

Not so for the continental players. Allianz, which has plans to scale up its personal lines book in the UK – currently worth around £560m – is understood to have made an approach for the RBS insurance assets last year.

The position of clear front runner Zurich, meanwhile, was complicated last Wednesday by the announcement that it would shed up to 900 of its 5,400 UK staff in an attempt to reduce its costs base. Could this be a prelude to adding a great many more?

What is certain is that conditions at RBS’ broker-only arm, NIG, have changed following the departure of commercial managing director, Michael Rea. The news, which appeared first on insurancetimes.co.uk, was the most read item of the week – a position held by RBS four times in the past seven weeks.

Ahead of the deadline for its £12bn rights issue, a whopping 400 million RBS shares changed hands on Tuesday last week (a third of the FTSE 100’s total traded volume) leading to a climb in the share price of 8.3%.

Consolidation also remained high on the agenda – albeit with the word ‘anti’ placed in front of it. Aviva’s £5.7m investment in SME broker Group Direct was met with a pledge to deliver high levels of organic growth – and a flood of traffic.

Somewhat ironic then was the timing of the release of Jelf and Towergate’s results, with the former detailing organic growth of 13%, the latter less than 5%. While both grew their revenues substantially year on year, far less spectacular were their pre-tax profits, with Jelf standing still, and Towergate not posting any figure at all.

New AXA boss Philippe Maso’s first interview, posted on insurancetimes.co.uk, was well received, as was Gocompare.com’s curious addition to the Biba fraternity and the FSA’s moves to ramp up its naming and shaming initiatives, while calling for the market to find its own solution to the commission disclosure debacle.

Rounding out the news list was the somewhat protracted conclusion of Cooper Gay’s acquisition of Heath Lambert’s non-core, and partly loss-making, assets. The future of the remaining back office and executive staff at Heath’s Global Business Solutions division remains a question of fierce discussion – both within the company and in the market.

MostRead

The most read stories this week on insurancetimes.co.uk:

1. NIG director departs

Commercial director to cover role until replacement found.

2. NU makes £5.7m investment in Group Direct

Insurer boosts Brightside Group acquisition.

3. Towergate to scale back acquisitions as growth fails to hit targets

Chief executive says company will not bow to insurer demands for lower commissions, as partial 2007 results are revealed.

4. FSA will back down on mandatory disclosure

FSA boss Hector Sants tells industry summit he would prefer a market-led solution.

5. Cooper Gay completes purchase of Heath Lambert divisions

Fate of Heath's international wholsesale business remains unclear.

MyFavourites by John Sims

www.topgear.com

Great fun when you get a spare moment.

www.google.co.uk

I honestly don’t know what we did for research before ‘googling’ came along.

www.insurancetimes.co.uk

Great for background info on people in the business.

www.totesport.com

I do love a little bet.

www.lorega.com

Shows new clients why they need us.

www.howstuffworks.com

Anything about anything, just fascinating.

John Sims is chief executive of Lorega

GoingPlaces

Liberty

Liberty International Underwriters (LIU), has appointed Gerard van Loon to the new position of managing director, continental European operations.

Van Loon has also been appointed to the Liberty Mutual Insurance Europe board in London. He will be responsible for developing and implementing the overall strategic direction of LIU’s specialty lines business in its continental European branches as well as continuing to manage the London based directors’ and officers’ and financial institutions product lines.

Beachcroft

Beachcroft has appointed six new partners and 22 new associates, taking total partner numbers to 144. The new partners are Kate Archer, Ben Nicholson, Alan Pratt, Dan Preddy, Owen Rees and Sakis Tombolis.

Stonebridge Corporate

David Fry has been appointed by Stonebridge Corporate as administration and servicing manager. He joins from Jelf in Guildford.

Primary General

Rob Aindow has joined Primary General in Harrogate and is responsible for the profitable growth of its broker panel.

Aindow has over 10 years’ experience in this role with AXA and with Primary General’s sister company Rural Insurance.

Matthew Jackson has also joined Primary General as a renewal underwriter. He was previously at Allianz.

Berrymans Lace Mawer

Berrymans Lace Mawer has promoted 26 new associates in Birmingham, Cardiff, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Southampton, and London .

Talbot

Talbot has appointed Mike MacColl as marine and energy claims manager. He was previously a director at Charles Taylor adjusting.

Topics