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Correspondent&#39s week

Sunday

6.30am (5.30am UK time), Meribel, France. Early morning call for a 7.30am taxi to Grenoble after a glorious week of powder snow, blue sky and back-country hiking while the kids are in ski school.

Winding mountain roads, a heavy breakfast and five green-gilled children. Mental note to lay off the booze at the next last-night party.

12.10pm. Arrive at Stansted in time for a quick journey home to watch Scotland beat France and start off my week on a happy note. Somehow, things seem to slide a little earlier than usual this week.

Monday

6am. Catch the 6.45am to Marylebone and the Circle Line to Broadgate. Half-term ski-lift queues are a doddle compared with Ken&#39s Underground.

10am and 127 emails later and it is time to concentrate on preparing for lunch with a trade website editor. Structured products, zero front end, the Isa season, stakeholder products and CP166 all seem likely areas for discussion.

11.30am. Lunch is cancelled so a baked potato from the staff canteen and a chance to catch up with the heads of marketing and admin.

Tuesday

Early start to make an 8am breakfast meeting with an expected 40 London-based IFAs.

F&C&#39s new kid on the block in the South-east, Mike Porter, delivers Tax Planning For Investments to a wrapped (!) audience. Tax-efficiency, lower risk and monthly income are his key messages after the generics.

Rather typically in London, numbers are disappointing. The downright rudeness of accepting and then a no-show without explanation never ceases to amaze me.

Cote Bruin, Mont Vallon and Cime de Caron are a fast-fading memory.

Lunch with Mike and then back to the office for a meeting with PWC and our man from HR (personnel to everyone else) to look at more imaginative ways to finance company cars and deny Mr Brown&#39s Exchequer a penny or two.

Wednesday

Meeting with Millfield to discuss T&C help for 2003 then back to the West End for lunch at Quaglino&#39s with a weekly investment publication&#39s bewhiskered news editor.

The subject matter ranges from product development (keep my powder dry) to views on the Isa season, CP166 and stakeholder products.

Good food and an enjoyable meeting then back to the office by 3.30pm to re-empty the dreaded in-box.

Thursday

Up at 5.45am to spend the day with Mike Porter in Colchester. Surprised to find Jos, my three-year-old, already up, dressed and watching The Fimbles in the playroom.

7.30am. The Police close the A12 at Chelmsford. I am the last car through before they attempt to clear the carnage of two trucks that seem to have blended into one. I make it to Colchester in time for Mike&#39s presentation.

Forty of Suffolk and Essex&#39s finest (good manners in the provinces – 100 per cent turnout on acceptances) battle through the jams to enjoy breakfast and the benefit of Mike&#39s wisdom on tax planning.

Mental note to cancel the kids&#39 part of the Sky package.

Friday

A busy seminar and workshop programm. We have three venues to present at in the South-east today so it is up at 6 am and around the M25 to Maidstone, where 35 Misys IFAs await.

Present a session on the analysis of structured products, looking at guaranteed investment bonds, stock-market bonds, income bonds and with-profits bonds.

Some of what I have to say seems to raise the hackles a little but I play a straight bat and nothing is controversial.

All is fair in love and war. I am constantly reminded that our real competition in a product-driven marketplace comes from the life companies and not necessarily other investment management groups.

Lunch with 10 of the delegates serves as a healthy reminder, if it were needed, that our clients are facing the toughest trading conditions ever.

Mental note to revise 2003 sales targets in my next paper to the executive committee.

4.30pm. Back on the M25 and receive a call from an old friend, Tim, asking if I fancy a boys&#39 week-end in the Alps. Don&#39t tempt me.

•”I want to get a shotgun to shoot all the birds round my house.” – Norwich Union&#39s James Evans on stopping the dawn chorus acting as an alarm clock to his children.

Simon Kirby has got his gripes over his Allied Dunbar pension out in the open through the internet. www.badpension.com is a one-man campaign by Kirby who reckons that front-end-loaded charges mean that what was worth £3,200 is now worth £1,600.

Dunbar parent Zurich says the salesman who sold the product has gone. Kirby has complained to the ombudsman and we await the adjudication with anticipation.

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