People and business: Insurance - it's thrilling, really, but nature calls

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The Independent Online
GOOD TO know that Gunther Gose has got off to a flying start. The new chief financial officer of Allied Zurich enthralled insurance analysts at a recent presentation in the Swiss city.

Mr Gose, a fascinating orator, held the experts spellbound for more than two hours with his musings about embedded value and the life business.

Given the spectacular success of the Swiss executive's speech, it is a shame that a small number of analysts had to leave the room early due to an urgent, and simultaneous, physiological need.

It is even more regrettable that the City number-crunchers took all their papers with them to the toilets and never returned to the scene of such a captivating talk.

PERHAPS Mr Gose should seek some oratorial advice from Robert A Lutz, the former president of Chrysler. In his latest book, modestly entitled GUTS - The Seven Laws of Business That Made Chrysler the World's Hottest Car Company - Mr Lutz recounts his efforts to wipe out gibberish management- speak.

He circulated to staff a "handy-dandy Lutz Language Guide" highlighting the gab-excesses of some managers. Here are some nuggets:

"Team-oriented interdisciplinary buy-in" meant "Everybody is interested". "Shared conceptual vision" meant "Agreed Plan". And, of course, "Enhanced conceptual vision" is "your superior's plan".

My favourite by far is "Interactive cross-organisational communication" for "sending memos back and forth".

"PROCEEDING swiftly to the next item on the five-year business plan" - in other words, moving on - I hear of a new chapter in the history of City law firm Clifford Chance.

After years of munching mince pies in one of the Square Mile's watering holes, Clifford's business development unit, headed by Kevin Geary, has decided to celebrate Christmas in style. The lawyers are all off to Covent Garden next week for a karaoke night to remember.

Mr Geary, coincidentally, will be abroad on business, so the limelight will be stolen by Tom Rose, one of the unit's managers.

He tells me that he is planning a rendition of "Fairytale in New York", the Pogues' hit. "But only if I can find a suitable woman colleague to duet with," he warns.

KARAOKE OR not, Leslie Ferrar, a partner with accountants KPMG, has a number of precious tips to avoid paying taxes on the office party.

She reveals that, provided that the Christmas bash is open to all staff (unattractive secretaries and spotty office boys included) and that it does not cost more than pounds 75 per drunken head, no income tax or National Insurance contributions need be paid.

Beware of cash bonuses, too. Ms Ferrar warns that if you get some Yuletide dosh you could receive a hefty Inland Revenue bill.

How to avoid the taxman? Go back to basics, advises the KPMG tax guru. Instead of vile cash, request a hamper or a turkey...

BIG CHANGES at Avis Europe. Alun Cathcart, the Ulsterman known as "Mr Car Rental", will relinquish his chief executive position in March. He will be replaced by Mark McCafferty, a recent recruit from Thomas Cook.

David Maloney, who missed out on the top job, will leave his finance director post in September to make way for Chris Cowan, a former Jardine Matheson executive.

After 16 years in the post, it was time for a change, says the 55-year- old Mr Cathcart, who will stay on as chairman. He plans to devote more time to his beloved opera and to improve his 7mph record on the treadmill.

Regrets? He has few. "There is nothing worse than for people who have stayed in a job for a long time to overstay," he says, with a strange glance in the direction of Marks & Spencer's headquarters.