It’s that time of year again – and it just feels like one long Christmas party

Game of Twister anyone?

It pains me to say it, but we brokers are hurting at the moment, what with dwindling rates, lower demand and brutal competition. I’m alright of course – nobody would dare take my business – but I can’t help feeling that all this trouble is going to result in some serious M&A activity. There will be

teams shifting around, as always, but I’m thinking bigger. I get the feeling that Guy Carpenter is still miffed that Aon got Benfield, so my money’s on MMC making a play for Willis and giving Willis Re to Carpenter. There’s always JLT as well, which everyone seems to think is on the market. I know everyone views the Keswicks as unlikely sellers, but everyone has a price, don’t they?

It’s behind you …

In these tough times, it’s nice to hear someone’s doing alright – even if it is a rival. RFIB, which started out as Robert Fleming Insurance Brokers, recently celebrated its 30th year in the business, and by all accounts it’s still going strong. What’s just as pleasing to note is that this strong track record came from distinctly shaky beginnings. At one recent do, RFIB chief executive Marshall King recounted a tale of the excited RFIB broker who returned from the underwriting room 30 years ago with the company’s first fully signed slip. Only trouble was, the plonker had forgotten to allow for any brokerage on there.

Guessing games

RFIB is not the only one-time shy and retiring Lloyd’s broker making a lot more noise lately. The first issue of BMS’s new magazine – yes, you read that right – popped into my inbox a little while ago, stuffed full of interviews with senior executives. I have to say, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with where all this is going. I don’t mind slagging people off under the veil of anonymity, but the thought of having to make intelligent comments about the industry, accompanied by a big picture of my mug, is not so appealing.

What a cracker

Speaking of uncomfortable, I did wince a bit during Lloyd’s performance management director Tom Bolt’s speech at the Baden-Baden symposium this year. In an effort to illustrate the tight-knit nature of the London market, he said it was possible for brokers to fold their slips into paper aeroplanes and throw them into Lloyd’s. Then he added: “Sometimes it appears they have done so.” Ouch.

The big film

If you’re anything like me, you’re no fan of one-time New York attorney general and scourge of the insurance industry Eliot Spitzer. How much did he end up costing brokers? It’s therefore with some delight that I notice they have made a film about his little, ahem, indiscretions, called Client 9. Better yet, the makers got ex-AIG chief Hank Greenberg to put the boot in. One review says he gives Spitzer a proper tongue-lashing, even blaming him for the financial crisis. Good old Hank. I’m surprised he didn’t take his baseball bat to Spitzer years ago. The film’s not released in the UK yet, but I’ll definitely be going.

… and the royal toast

Some of you may have noticed that Lloyd’s insurer Novae was the principal sponsor of this year’s Prince’s Trust Rock Gala in London, which took place on 17 November at the Royal Albert Hall. As mastermind of the sponsorship deal, I understand that Novae chief underwriting officer Peter Matson and his wife got to sit next to Charles and Camilla for the performance, and even got to have a bit of a chinwag with the prince. How much did it cost Novae to sponsor the bash, I wonder? No doubt a princely sum. GR