When you get to the summit, the only way is down


You always get a better class of speaker at the Insurance Ache Broker Summit. The very word summit, of course, implies something than which it is possible to get no higher. And so it was with this year’s BS (generously sponsored by Actoress, Ages, Axer, Cover’ya, MUM, NIGE and Bompo Falopious).

A rare public appearance by reclusive semi-legendary former cabinet maker Dave Plunkett, one of the leading lights in the now notorious Blair Rich Project had delegates quite literally on the edges of their seats.

We should all take more risks, DP told a rapped audience. “Instead of being averse to risk,” he continued sotto voce, leaving a long dramatic pause, then barking out (like the Sheffield backstreet hard man he once was): “We’ve got to manage it!” Cue: thrilled gasps quickly followed by rapturous applause.

Now truly hitting his stride, rhetorically speaking, as the cheers died down, Plunkett pressed on remorselessly, rousing his audience to still more elevated peaks of enthusiasm, reassuring them that risk is nothing to be scared of.

In fact, he suggested daringly, taking on risk – and helping others to face up to it – could even create business opportunities for brokers! By now, the crowd was well and truly caught up in a frenzy of risk-tackling ardour.

Taking what was clearly intended as a deal-clinching imaginative leap to stand, metaphorically, shoulder to shoulder within the massed ranks of brokers, Plunkett declared of risk:

“We’ve got to encourage people to be able to analyse it, to be sensible about it, and then to be able to reinforce taking the necessary steps to make that possible.”

But now, it quickly became clear, he’d gone too far. Where seconds before the cheering mass of brokers would have followed Plunkett to the ends of the earth, they suddenly fell silent. Ominously silent.

The Plunk’s normally flawless feel for audience sentiment had abruptly and inexplicably deserted him. He’d lost the room and he knew it. But where had it all gone wrong?

Was it that all that technical talk about encouraging, analysing and reinforcing that confused and baffled his simple-minded broker audience? Was it that his garbled syntax and rambling incoherence had carelessly broken the spell so painstakingly created with all those beguiling promises of turning risk into money?

Who knows, certainly not Bankstone News. But broken the spell most certainly was. He gamely struggled to continue. What about Europe, that’s always a crowd pleaser.

Don’t get me wrong, “I’m a Eurosceptic,” he declared, branding Brussels bureaucracy “extremely frustrating.” Polite silence, just about. But, he continued ill-advisedly, “it would be insane to withdraw from the European Union.” Angry mutterings. The first few seats are vacated.

What about that Donald Trump?, he proposed, against a rising tide of cold indifference and disaffection. It was “ironic”, he ventured, that Trump looks set to lead the Republicans while Jeremy Corby leads the Labour party. It was plain at this point in the proceedings that no-one either knew or cared what on earth he was on about.

Er… Cyber security’s really bad, isn’t it, he suggested, as the hall cleared quietly, but with increasingly urgency. “Economic disruption, espionage – in terms of stealing intellectual property – disruption of activity… the risk of actually being able to take down absolutely essential public as well private services is… simply the threat of tomorrow.”

The Plunkster soldiered on bravely, but by now, if he only knew it, he was talking to no-one but himself and a handful of visibly mortified Insurance Ache people silently wondering among themselves, with gestures and glances, at what point they should step in and say something.

Which just goes to show: you should never use big fancy words when talking to a room full of insurance people. Or, if you must, at least try to use some that actually make some kind of sense when you string them all together sequentially.


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