Today I have been sober for 39 days.
The saga of my absent wife continues. You may recall that she was originally scheduled to return home on Sunday night, but as of Wednesday, she still has failed to show. However, the houseboy has returned, and in my life he is more important than her, as he sometimes cooks for me and generally takes care of the house and garden and dogs.
Anyway, at around 4 p.m. she called me to tell me she was at her mum’s house waiting for her nephew to come home from school as she wanted to bring him to Pattaya with her for a few days. She said she would be driving home as soon as the kid got back from school. I mentioned that her houseboy had already returned in the morning, and she was momentarily confused, as she had no idea he had already gone back to Pattaya with her brother. This is in spite of the fact that he lives in the same compound as her mother and is in and out of her house all day long.
Of course she wasn’t there!
The houseboy had probably got tired of waiting for her to turn up to take him back to Pattaya.
So when she hung up the phone, I immediately called her mother and asked to speak to my wife. Her mother, who always covers for her, told me she was fast asleep in the bedroom, which if course was a lie as I had just spoken to her. Two minutes later the wife called back, and this time she knew all about her brother and houseboy coming tom Pattaya that morning – as advised to her by her Mum in a quick call, no doubt!
I suspect that the wife had dumped everyone at her village last Saturday evening and had then driven off for a few days in Bangkok with God knows who!
The saga didn’t finished there, as around 11 p.m. last night she called again, this time to tell me that she couldn’t leave as it was pouring with rain and her Mum told her not to drive in the rain. I can’t remember the wife ever doing what her Mum told her to do, and I have never known the rain to deter her from driving anywhere before. She tried to put her nephew on the phone to prove she was really at her Mum’s home (note, I had never challenged her on her whereabouts, but she obviously had a guilty conscience), but I declined to talk to him. So she probably really had arrived at her Mum’s house last night, and I suspect that she will be back today – but who knows?
As of 11.20 this morning, still no sign of her.
Yesterday afternoon I felt very bad. I don’t love her any more, but this web of lies and deceit that have been going on for years now is getting me down, and every time I am confronted with yet another lie, I get a pain in my stomach, and a desire to drink. I went out for a while in an attempt to make the pain for away, and after a few hours I felt much better and returned home at around 10.30., sober. The desire for a drink had faded and when my wife called again at 11.00, the lies no longer bothered me so much.
I went to bed soon after 11.00 and had a deep and refreshing sleep.
Now back to Mobi’s Story.
MOBI’S STORY – (PART 13)
THE INSURANCE YEARS (CONTINUED)
My new boss, the ambitious young reinsurance manager, was now in sole charge since the older man’s retirement and he and I formed a close partnership with the plan of turning this small, sleepy subsidiary into a major player in the London Insurance market.
Things moved agonizingly slowly at first. New, highly paid senior underwriters were employed, and they were charged with developing new lines of business, commensurate with their specialized skills and expertise. I have previously stated that the new insurance entity was now DTI authorised to transact both “direct” insurance and reinsurance business. The only business we could not transact was life insurance business.
This new team of dynamic new underwriters started taking the market by storm and added much new business to our books, often by re-establishing old business relationships that they brought with them to their new company. Additionally, we were now able to take on greater chunks of insurance “risks” as the capital of the company had been increased substantially following the reorganization and re-authorisation. The increased capital gave us access to insurance markets that had hitherto been closed to us, and our gross premium volumes started to steadily increase.
But the very nature of the insurance business means that with the best will in the world it takes years for business to grow. Even with the most basic ‘short tail” insurance business, (Such as private house insurance), it is at least a year after writing the business that a company can start to recognize any profits (or losses) from that business, as it will take a considerable period of time before any realistic assessment can be made on the number of claims that have been made, or may be made in the future, on that business.
And then , if we look at “long tail” business, (such as public liability insurance) it can take many years before it is even possible to assess to amount of claims that may arise on that business, and in the meantime, the results of that business are effectively held in suspense, until a proper assessment can be made.
Reinsurance business is much the same, only worse in terms of releasing “profits and/or losses”. If it takes time to a properly assess the claims on ‘direct’ insurance business, how much longer will it take for companies who reinsure that business to know exactly where they stand on the profitability of that business? They have to rely on reports submitted to them by the insurers they have insured, which will only be submitted months and sometimes years after the event.
So if we wanted to became a major player within five years or so, growing our business exponentially or organically would not be sufficient. The only way we could really achieve our aims was by acquisition – buying up ‘ready made’ insurance and/or reinsurance businesses.
And this we started to set about with great gusto.
So during the next few years I devoted a great deal of my time and energy to acquisitions, and these ranged from the simple buying of a ‘portfolio of business’ from another insurer who wanted to offload for various reasons, to the buying up of fully fledged insurers and reinsurers. We even took great pride in entering the Lloyds’ market itself by acquiring a number of Lloyd’s syndicates.
Of course it is easy to write in one sentence that we made a number of significant insurance acquisitions over the next few years, but this barely does justice to the amount of midnight oil that was burned in these endeavors, and every single acquisition became a major headache and business challenge from the very first day that we identified it as a potential target. Before we could even become serious about acquiring a target, we had to do a great amount of research on the business to really understand what it was about, it’s weak and strong points, it’s past performance, it’s potential going forward, possible duplications or benefits to our existing business, possible synergies, in depth analysis of the company’s reports, accounts statutory returns, etc .etc.
Much of the above work had to be carried out before we could even get the go ahead from our main board to formally approach the target to negotiate a possible take over. Once internal approval had been given, we then entered the negotiation stage with the target’s Managers, which often involved much due diligence on the target company’s records and business, and always involved long and drawn out discussions with the target’s lawyers. It is a very difficult and complex matter to acquire any business, and trust me when I tell you that insurance acquisition business is amongst the most complex that one could ever become involved in. Sometimes, we would spend weeks or even months negotiating a complex deal, only to have it collapse at the last moment, either due to another aquirer trumping us with a better offer, or simply failure to agree some of the “fine print” in the contract details.
And then, finally, when everything was agreed in principle, we had to trawl along to the FSA and present them with full details of our takeover offer, and also present then with a 3 year financial plan on how we would merge the acquired business with our existing business, and how we proposed to manage it.
For the first few years of our growth phase, we maintained our back up Service Company in Shannon on the West coast of Ireland, and much of the processing was carried out there. I became a frequent visitor to Shannon, and all the reinsurance accounting and back up work (such as claims processing) was carried out there. Also, our mainframe computers were maintained and operated from there. In addition, some Irish underwriting staff were based there, and they would travel to London and the continental insurance markets from Shannon to meet their customers (insurance companies), and obtain new business and renew existing business.
Under our new ‘regime’, we determined that the Shannon office was a sleepy backwater, and that it was was not the right place to base members of our underwriting team, so we set up a Dublin office, and moved all the Irish underwriters to the new location.
We then made the momentous decision to close down the entire back office in Shannon, and move some of the key staff to London with others being relocated to Dublin, and the remainder being laid off. The reason for this was the unacceptable inefficiencies of the entire Shannon operation. Many of the staff had been there for 10 years or more – long before we acquired the company. During that time there had grown up countless restrictive work practices, massive overstaffing, a very lazy and laid back work ethic, and much ridiculous overspending of the company’s hard earned money.
At first we made a very hard attempt to simply reorganize and streamline the operation in conjunction with the advice of a respected Irish consultancy company – one of their own – who we thought they would accept. But it wasn’t to be and you would have thought that a new Irish rebellion had broken out as we attempted to introduce changes. At the height of this “crisis” and during our subsequent reluctant decision to close down the whole operation and move it to Dublin, I was spending up to half my working week in Ireland, and the other half in London. The London based new business acquisitions were continuing apace , and on top of that I had well over half the company to manage, as just about every department, except insurance underwriting and claims management now came under my remit.
As the crisis in Shannon drew to a head, I was probably the most unpopular man in the west coast of Ireland, and I was even cursed from the priests’ pulpits at Sunday Mass. Nearly all the Shannon staff either lived in the nearby towns of Limerick or Ennis and the staff came from close knit communities from within those towns that had known each other for generations. Mobi was identified as the evil English bastard who was about to take away their livelihoods. I was even threatened, but in those days, with plenty of alcohol to give me courage, I feared no one.
Ironically, historically the staff from Limerick stuck together, as did the staff who hailed from Ennis. Two distinct groups of people who they hated each other almost as much as they hated me; but I became their common enemy, so for the first time in living memory, they joined together in a common cause – Mobi!!!
(Much later, I came to learn that the villages around Shannon were a hot bed of IRA terrorist groups who were living under cover and planning their next outrages in Northern Ireland and mainland England. If I had known this, I might not have been quite so brave!!)
So it doesn’t take much imagination to realise what affect this high pressure work and travelling was having on my alcoholic sickness. Travel time became drinking time, and as soon as I hit an airport, be it London City, Dublin, Heathrow or Shannon, straight to the business class lounge ands straight into the free booze, which continued as soon as I was air bound.
Evenings at the business hotels were notable only for the time spent at hotel bars, or maybe doing the rounds of some village bars in Ennis or Limerick. I often travelled with some of my senior staff from London or Ireland, and if not, there would always be local managers who would meet me and join me in my drinking sprees. The Irish are somewhat noted for their love of alcohol, and despite my unpopularity, I never had any problem finding local drinking partners.
When I was working in my London office, it was no different. My alcoholism was exacerbated by stress and the easy ability of booze (all claimed on expenses) and people to drink with, both during long lunches, and in the evening, however late I finished. Such was my position of power within the company that no one would dare refuse my invitation for a few drinks after work or at lunch time, so in those days, I rarely drank alone.
Every year, our internal “Three year Plan” to our head Office became more and more ambitious. After the a few years of successful, spectacular growth, we became discontented with just expanding in the UK and Ireland, and started to set our sights on continental Europe and even Eastern Europe, which at that time was starting to break away from the Soviet yoke that had restricted their development and access to the outside world.
This opened up a whole new world for me, and as the new relocated Dublin operation became finally bedded in, I started to turn my attention towards Western Europe and beyond. This gave new opportunities to travel, which I loved, and of course, more opportunities to punish my fast deteriorating body with yet more alcohol abuse.