December 8, 2010

Towergate Insurance has got into bed with a meerkat.

Compare The Market will henceforward be chucking any crumbs of SME business that spill across its aggregative table in a Towergatewardly direction.

Commenting drolly on this exotic new partnership, Towergate retail chief exec Jonathan Walker puns knowingly on his own name, claiming that “this is an exciting step in moving forwards with a very clear and defined SME strategy based on ambitions to reach a GWP target of £100m in this space over the next few years.”

Mr Walker seems unlikely to win any awards for the Campaign for Plain English. But let’s just parse this jargonistically opaque statement and see if we can work out what he really means.

The word exciting flags JW’s intent to project positivity. “Moving forwards” makes clear that the step Mr Walker is so excited about is a step forwards rather than a step backwards, or sideways, or wherever. Well worth spelling this out, given that backward steps are generally frowned upon in the world of business.

Every journey begins with a single step, of course, but to what destination are Mr Walker and his colleagues now one step closer? His phraseology here is somewhat indirect. We learn only that Towergate are moving forward with a strategy based on some ambitions.

The ambitions on which the movement strategy is based seem, at first sight, pretty specific – although why the singular target of £100m GWP “in this space” should require ambitions in the plural we can only guess. But shouldn’t a “very clear and defined” strategy be more specific timelinewise than “over the next few years”?

Chief among the other intriguing ambiguities about Mr Walker’s utterance is the “in this space” qualifier attached to the temporally vague £100m target. Spaces come in many shapes and sizes, from the ever-popular inside of ping pong ball to the infinitesque unremarkableness of so-called outer space.

Could the space about which Mr Walken is talking simply be something as mundane as the UK SME market. Maybe. Maybe not. He may simply have fancied using words like “in this space” based on the perception that those are the kinds of thing today’s thrusting insurance executive is apt to say – along with things like “moving forward,” “ambition,” “strategy” and target.

Someone should perhaps have warned him, however, that talk of very clear and defined strategies is language more appropriate to defensive politicians quizzed on how they are planning to deal with issues they have barely begun to consider.


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