A day in the life of: Clare Spottiswoode

Holiday is a relative term for Clare Spottiswoode when she is representing Norwich Union policyholders. By James Moore


5.45am

Clare Spottiswoode groans. She is not a morning person at the best of times, and trying to explain "orphan assets" – the billions of pounds in surplus funds held by life insurers – during a radio interview at this time would tax a confirmed lark.

However, she can at least toast a partial victory during this morning's conversation. Norwich Union has agreed to divvy up £2.3bn of the excess cash in its life insurance fund and some 90 per cent of it will be paid as a special bonus to the policyholders she is employed to represent. Shareholders will get 10 per cent. That 90/10 split is how with-profits life insurance funds traditionally share returns between the two.

However, when the French insurer AXA carried out a similar exercise, policyholders only got just over 30 per cent. The High Court and an actuary argued this was fair but it sparked a furore and led to changes in the law that required companies trying similar tricks to appoint an advocate for their policyholders. At NU there is still as much as £3bn of surplus to be fought over, even after the £2.3bn has been paid out and this time the company wants much more than 10 per cent.

Trouble is, if the insurer ever thought Ms Spottiswoode would be a pushover when it appointed her to represent its policyholders – at an annual salary of £250,000 – it certainly doesn't any longer. Ms Spottiswoode has appealed to the company's board to allow her to present her case, but so far it has declined. Nonetheless, if NU continues to play hardball she has made it quite clear that she is prepared to say "no deal". This means that £3bn or so could well remain where it is as unowned, unclaimed "orphan" assets.



7.30am

Having conducted the interview, Ms Spottiswoode attempts to catch an hour of sleep. When she gets up for real, she says, she has to be careful to avoid blundering into the bathroom when her 17-year-old son is using it. "Having mum come in when he's in the shower is the last thing he wants at his age," she laughs. "I read the newspapers over breakfast before I squash into the Northern Line to head to NU's offices in Fenchurch Street."

Ms Spottiswoode describes having an office in the heart of "enemy territory" as "a mixed blessing". This morning, however, she won't bump into any NU staff until later in the day because she meets with her small team at a nearby Carluccio's for coffee. They have a morning meeting at the Financial Services Authority and she says the Italian restaurant is a more salubrious place to do the last-minute preparations than her office. Besides, she needs a hit of caffeine.

"We need to get out by 9.30am so we can get to the FSA for 10am. It's usually a race to see if we can fit getting the coffee in then paying the bill in time – the service leaves something to be desired," she says. It might be advisable for the staff to take note – Ms Spottiswoode is an engaging conversationalist but she's not one to be messed with. She took on the gas industry when working as its regulator, striking fear into the hearts of executives who have been known to refer to her as "Boadicea" and even "Herod".



10am

The FSA is key player in the negotiations, not least because it will have to sign off any deal struck between Ms Spottiswoode and NU. Of this morning's get-together she says: "It's a serious meeting. We are talking about an awful lot of money after all."

But she does not mince words about the FSA: "What we are trying to do is encourage them to change their attitude and approach. I used to be a gas regulator so I'm used to making sure you don't have conflicts and cross subsidies. I'm used to making sure the industry works for UK plc. The trouble with the FSA is they don't think of themselves as an economic regulator the way I did."

She explains: "What you have to do is think about what companies do and what incentives they have to operate in a certain way. If there is an incentive to misbehave they will do so and it is up to you as the regulator to make sure the incentive is not there. The FSA is not doing that because it does not see itself as an economic regulator. The trouble is the FSA seems to assume that competition is working when it is not and will not intervene to sort it out. But it wouldn't be difficult to sort out. You could write it one piece of paper."

A piece of paper that would say 90/10. End of debate. Still, she says, the meetings are cordial. "I always think that the way to deal with anybody is to make sure you have a professional relationship."



12.30pm

Ms Spottiswoode and her team retire to Bar M for lunch near her office to chew over the meeting. When she returns to her desk she has a series of papers to wade through from actuaries and lawyers, as the debate over the remaining £3bn or so heats up. She is currently preparing a 350-page report which will outline the arguments of her team with the help of her own actuarial, legal and accounting advisers.

The advisers will be in at 2.30pm to help go through NU's new business numbers. One of the discussions about the "surplus" cash is how much of it the company needs to support writing new policies and how much could be paid out to policyholders. The debate over this is fierce and so Ms Spottiswoode, her team and her advisers are paying close attention to NU's numbers. "We are going over them with a fine tooth comb," she says. "We need to make sure that they make sense, that they add up. We are not sure that they do make sense. I'm lucky in that I am a mathematician and I can get to grips with most of it." This exercise takes up much of the afternoon.



5.30pm

Ms Spottiswoode is officially on holiday now. However, in addition to her job battling on behalf of NU's policyholders, she sits on three boards as a non-executive director. One of those is Tullow Oil, the exploration company, whose remuneration committee she chairs. She now fires off a series of e-mails relating to this.



8pm

Tonight, though, Ms Spottiswoode is an evening off. "My second daughter and her boyfriend have invited the family over for dinner. All my three daughters have boyfriends so, along with my husband and son, there will be nine of us there to sample the cooking." Still, when she returns home, late, Ms Spottiswoode will still make sure she sends further e-mails related to her work. Holiday is obviously a relative term.

The CV

Name: Clare Spottiswoode

Job: Norwich Union Policyholder Advocate

Education: Cheltenham Ladies College; Clare College Cambridge, MA in Maths and Economics; Yale University (US), Mphil in Economics.

Career: 1977: The Treasury, working in economics forecasting.

1980: Set up Spottiswoode Trading importing cotton and silk products from Thailand.

1984: Sold Spottiswoode Trading and set up Spottiswoode & Spottiswoode, which created financial and secretarial software packages.

1988: Sold company but stayed on until 1990 when she left to have two more children although she lectures at the London Business School.

1993: Appointed by Government to run the gas regulator OfGas.

1998: Left to take up a series of non executive directorships.

2006: Appointed by NU to be its policyholder advocate.

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam