A salesman who's the heart and soul of life insurance

Peter Rosengard's new autobiography details an extraordinary and "quite mad" life

Share

It's not every day that I get to have breakfast with someone who is in the Guinness Book of World Records. Peter Rosengard doesn't have the longest fingernails in the world, and nor is every inch of his body covered with tattoos (not as far as I know, anyway). He is, rather more prosaically, a life insurance salesman. A 67-year-old Jewish man who was raised in West London, and who, for the past four decades, has sold thousands of insurance policies to the rich, the famous, the infamous and the ordinary.

Peter, however, is an extraordinary character in several different respects, and not just because his office appears to be a breakfast table at Claridges. Every morning at 7.30, he takes occupation of the same corner table at this grand London hotel, orders himself bacon (extremely well done) and scrambled eggs, and proceeds to have a series of business meetings. Guests come and go - he has three or more sittings each day - and, in this rather unconventional way, he has built up a portfolio of clients that is the envy of the insurance world (or so he says, anyway).

Peter would be the first to admit that modesty is not one of his strongest suits, but he has employed his winning cocktail of braggadocio and charm in writing his autobiography - Talking to Strangers - which is one of the season's most unlikely literary successes. It's been near the top of the Amazon charts in both their business and humour categories, while John Lloyd, the TV producer responsible for Blackadder, said that Rosengard is “quite, quite mad - but is also brilliant and funny and can sell anything to anyone”.

I have known Peter for quite a few years - that's a lot of anecdotes and a lot of bacon and egg - and he has only once given me the hard sell. “Have I got a policy for you,” he said. “It's the Rolls Royce of life insurance policies. And the best thing about it is that you don't have to die. You just have to die a little bit to collect.” I never bought it, and as events unfolded, I have regretted it ever since.

Peter told me that he thought the greatest marketing genius was the man who coined the term life insurance. “What a brilliant ruse,” he said. “Life insurance! And it's to cover you when you die. Imagine how much more difficult it would have been to sell something called death insurance.” His book - whose subtitle is the oxymoronic Adventures of a Life Insurance Salesman - contains many such aperçus, and also tells of how he launched the Comedy Club, discovered a No 1 selling pop group (Curiosity Killed the Cat), why it's a very bad idea to take LSD and then go to a casino, and, yes, how he got in the Guinness Book of World Records for selling the world's biggest life insurance policy. The story of his selling a $100m policy to insure music mogul David Geffen in a cold call from a phone box is one of the most engaging tales you will read. Peter Rosengard is a true original, and for a man who deals in death, he's had quite a life.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Phone and data laws to be passed in haste

Andrew Grice
The first lesson of today is... don't treat women unequally?  

Yvette Cooper is right: The classroom is the best place to start teaching men about feminism

Chris Maume
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice