I did a couple of days on Construction Manager in the run-up to press day, writing news stories and the funnies page. Highlights inlcuded asking the industry whether collaborating with China was really an option, getting to grips with new sustainability clauses in JCT contracts, and asking what kind of fry-up consists of only eggs, bacon, toast and ketchup?
Last time I wrote about the SME market for Insurance Times, small businesses were expected to be the biggest losers in the recession. When I revisited the issue in May, it turned out things weren’t so bad – though that could be simply because it’s so very big. In particular, the big three brokers are desperate to build their presence in a market that represents £1440bn a year and 99.9% of private companies, and are trying to use the UK’s many small brokers to help them. It’s not going that well – the likes of Aon, Marsh and Willis appear to have as much trouble getting in touch with the broking minnows as they do with their lucrative customer base.
I had a busy few weeks in April, writing four articles for Insurance Times’ supplement for the British Insurance Brokers Association conference. I interviewed a long-standing broker about the days of private fire-fighting services, insuring Boots the Chemist against zeppelin damage and staying in business for 130 years, got credit-crunch survival tips from firms who never miss an opportunity to find new business, made the missing link between loss adjustors and brokers, and got to grips with the latest complex EU legislation on pollution.
With bankers and their bonuses dominating the headlines, I reported on payouts and pay freezes in a less lucrative branch of financial services, for this Insurance Times news analysis.
The lack of trade credit insurance is one of the biggest issues affecting Building’s readers across the construction industry. I spoke to the firms struggling to survive, the brokers trying to help them and the insurers they claim have deserted them in their hour of need. Firms who’ve had their cover stripped accuse the insurers of profiteering during the boom, but delving into the finances and ownership of these companies, I found a more complicated picture…
Fraud costs insurers millions every year, so detecting it is big business. I investigated “voice stress analysis” software, which is supposed to monitor micro-tremors in your voice to suss out when you’re lying. Some insurers swear by it, but others have found their teams of former social workers and police officers consistently outperform any computer. Meanwhile, scientists in the US have said VSA is about as effective as astrology, and there’s even an application for the iPhone. Why not try it for yourself?