People & Business: From Ambassador to insurance missionary

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The Independent Online
Legal & General has appointed David Kerr from Ambassador Insurance, a subsidiary of Lloyds TSB, to develop its private medical insurance business. PMI itself has been a casualty of the recession and rising costs of private hospital care. L&G went into the business of providing insurance to cover medical bills only 18 months ago, marketing it first to its existing personal customers. Mr Kerr's job will be to convince small and medium-sized companies that this is a cost-effective service to provide or subsidise, that will pay dividends in improved health and employee loyalty.

He also has to keep a close eye on the way the new Government's views on private healthcare develop. This is an unknown territory and L&G, like its rivals, is anxious to be constructive and co-operative and make a positive contribution to future policy without getting itself on the wrong side of Government policy on the subject.

Married with four children, the oldest of whom is a medical student, Mr Kerr is a compulsive acquirer of qualification. He is an ACIB from his early days in the private banking division of Lloyds Bank. He also has degrees in law and marketing, and is currently doing an MBA at Henley. His parents both started working in the healthcare industry even before the NHS. Aged 44, he still skis and runs, and completed the London Marathon in 1995 in a time of around 4 hours. Next time he hopes to have the confidence as well as the contacts to attract some useful sponsorship.

Grant Baird, the chain-smoking former Bank of England and Royal Bank of Scotland economist who now runs the Scottish Financial Enterprise, tells me the main concerns of Scottish business - now the devolution bandwagon is rolling - is that, just as the UK runs the risk of seeming semi-detached from Europe, so Scotland may be seen as semi-detached from England. This is at a time when foreign businesses are debating where to place their next investment project. Scottish companies also worry that tax-raising powers could disadvantage them and make it harder or more expensive to attract and hold their skilled workers.

The Referendum Bill comes at a time when Scottish companies are sharing the strength of the UK economy without suffering from attendant problems of inflation and soaring house prices. Excluding investment trusts, there are now 87 quoted companies run from Scotland, with 15 new listings in the past two years, plus another 19 traded on AIM. The Scotsman's index of Scottish share prices, irreverently known as the McFootsie, shows strong share price performances this year. Scottish banks and insurance companies are making the running in the buoyant financial sector.

I have to report, however, a dispute over the impact of bid fever on the strongly mutualised Scottish life assurance industry. Edinburgh-based Mr Baird takes the view that the takeover of Scottish Amicable by the Pru was largely beneficial. Alf Young, the legendary and long-time economics editor of the Glasgow-based Herald, called Mr Baird "Dr Pangloss". Mr Baird replied by comparing Young and his doom-laden warnings to Dad's Army's Private Frazer.

The eight-man crew of the yacht Mediatore that won the annual Hoya Round the Island race round the Isle of Wight last Sunday are all brokers for Sedgwick International Broking Services. For good measure they picked up three class victories and the Royal Thames Yacht Club Challenge Cup for their performance. A spokesman praised the will to win so common in the broking fraternity.

It helps, of course, that the Sedgwick Group owns the yacht which doubles as a competition yacht and a vessel for corporate advertising and hospitality. It also helps to have two sailors, skipper and helmsman Ben Nicholls and tactician Fred Blenke, who have represented Britain at the national and Olympic level. Another crewman, Chris Clarke, is an England A rugby player.The crew is now in training to meet other City crews in the Sedgwick Challenge.