There’s something about public speaking that gives people a peek behind the psychological curtain – especially speeches which are, or are meant to appear, informal and off-the-cuff. They’re hard to do in their own way – though I much prefer informal talks to reading stuff off a sheet; you might as well just distribute the sheets and give everyone a break.

Maybe it’s this that makes glossophobia such a common complaint. Or it might just be a fear of making yourself look like a total roaster. Whatever the case, there is something about the particular focus and stress of giving an apparently off-the-cuff talk that means your own personality as opposed to the stage construct you’ve created can leak through and that’s what audiences really like. There’s a whole industry of public speaking coaches who tutor the people you see giving motivational speeches at the end of conferences on how to appear informal and relatable while still sticking very much to the carefully constructed script.

But you need to be careful in assuming that what you see is what you’re getting. Just as an actor in a play which isn’t connecting with the audience may fake a mistake or a forgotten line in order to build empathy, so a bumble in a talk isn’t necessarily all it appears. Sometimes it’s an appeal for attention; sometimes it’s the set-up for a joke; sometimes it’s throwing a dead cat on the table. Sometimes the speaker is just a buffoon.

Speaking of seeing behind the curtain, they say that there are two things you don’t want to watch the making of: laws and sausages. To that I think we can add ‘sale processes of storied mutual insurers with mathematical equivalence symbols in their name’. The sale process – if we can even call it a process – of LV= to either Bain or Royal London or someone else or no-one is a quite remarkable piece of dinner theatre. There’s a lot of performative outrage going on, a lot of sound and fury and not a lot of significance so far as I can see.

From what I can see it’s surely more likely that more members would prefer another mutual – but Royal London needs to welcome them in with membership rights otherwise the game is probably a bogey. But that’s not really the point. The furious lobbying and last-minute shenanigasms are pretty unedifying and no-one looks that good.

I’ve been watching it a bit as I’ve got a soft spot for Royal London as a former employer of mine and for LV= too. I don’t have a soft spot for Bain but nor do many people and I suspect it’ll probably manage to muddle through regardless of what I think about it. On current performance both suitors look pretty unsuitable on organising-a-pissup-in-a-brewery grounds.

I’m trying to work out, with all this behind-the-curtain leakage going on, whether what’s happening here is that a smartypants at LV= is chucking a dead cat on the table to catch everyone’s attention and then something fun and surprising will suddenly appear at the very last moment.

It might happen, but probably not. I remember the moment I found out in my very short corporate career that there was no magic, oak-panelled room filled with wise people who knew exactly what the score was and who had it all under control. The room existed, but the people were just folk trying to work out which way was up and avoid getting emptied before bonus time, just the same as those of us at the foot of the greasy pole.

However the LV= process ends up, and absent a dead cat (and we certainly don’t approve of those), this is a welcome reminder that sometimes things really are this chaotic despite legions of bright young MBAs with directional hairdos. Sometimes the speaker really is a buffoon.


  • HomeGames this week will be an interesting one (they’re all interesting of course but, you know). We’ve got Patrick Mill from the newly combined Novia/Amber/Wealthtime business. We’ll be getting into what the new group looks like, talking more about private equity’s role in the sector and much more. 12.30pm as ever, or on the YouTubes later. Can you believe this is session 72? Session 73 next week will be with serial HomeGameser Rohan Sivajoti on all things NextGen – you can pre-register for that here.
  • Lovely op-ed from general top bloke Ollie Smith at his new job at Morningstar here on financial education. Well worth a read.
  • Here’s a good piece from Sally Hickey of FT Adviser on the 60/40 portfolio and its wily ways. What if the things we think we know aren’t true and the basis on which not just Very Popular passive multi-asset funds are run but which underpins a massive proportion of the model portfolio market is on – as my old lifeco boss used to say – a shoogly peg?
  • Dave Ferguson is Thinking Things and now has a column to prove it. Well worth a gander.
  • And your music choice this week is a) good friendly violent fun (points if you get the reference) and b) too good a title to pass up. Here’s Bay Area thrash stalwarts Exodus with The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves.

See you next week