Yesterday was not a good day for Munich Re. A German business newspaper broke a story which has been the most amusing thing I have had to report on for a while or in fact ever. For those of you who managed somehow to escape the story, still the popular news item on the BBC's website, in 2007 Ergo, owned by Munich Re, decided to hold a party in some baths in Budapest for employees who had surpassed themselves at work. Booze and plush surroundings were not deemed reward enough for the worker bees' efforts, so the generous insurer decided to spice things up by inviting 20 prostitutes to the shindig.
The coverage yesterday was immense - everyone from the Guardian to the Sun picked up on the story and gave their two pence worth. Insurance has never been so sexy.
I use the term sexy loosely as details from the event suggest the initial image I had of a hedonistic free for all Caligula would have been proud of were a little far out. Firstly there were reportedly 100 revellers so there must have been some kind of queuing system going on. Certainly efficiency was paramount - good old German fastidiousness led to the organisers colour-coding the event. Each "lady of the night" wore an armband, with yellow indicating she was available for sexual favours, red indicating that she was a hostess and white indicating that she was reserved for executives and top agents. The girls also received a stamp following each trick, so party-goers could know how busy they had been and perhaps to make cashing up at the end of the night easier. Not exactly the Playboy Mansion then.
A good point was raised on the Broker Forum - were there any female members of staff at the party and if so, did they get male prostitutes? It is likely that the only high performing ladies there were the ones wearing red arm bands with an impressive number of stamps running up their arms. I was called a loony feminist the last time I raised the point of inequality in the insurance industry so I won't beat that drum today.
Nevertheless it is interesting to wonder whether Munich Re is alone in how it has incentivised staff. Were other insurers and brokers shocked and disappointed that Munich Re has allowed events like this to go on? Or did the furore yesterday leave certain firms panicking that their staff night out to the Griffin with Sticky Vicky in 1998 would suddenly be splashed all over the papers?
You're the brokers. You tell me.
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