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Nuki&#39s eye

It is the silly season and here I am away from it all in Italy, home of the perfect racing bike and ripe tomato.

To say that life is good here is not enough. It is great. The villa is an old barn with a red-tiled roof that sits on a small mountain at the end of a steep, hair-pinned track.

Ripe plums and figs hang in the gardens and there is a pool sunk into a grassy plateau out back. The rec-ord for getting to the bar at the foot of the track in the borrowed sports car is 11 minutes and 39 seconds without an accident.

What any of this has to do with boring old retail financial services I have no idea except one – it brings back a day in 1987 when, in response to an advertisement for “city professions”, I wondered into the offices of The Portchester Group, near Harley Street in central London One side of the road was lined with illegally parked Porsches, the other with Ferraries.

I was on time for my appointment but was kept waiting for a full half-hour in a spacious chrome and leather reception room. As I flicked through the discarded copy of Horse and Hound, men in suits with shoulder pads jog-walked in to greet other long-waiting strangers like old friends. The astonished visitors were then whisked off onto a vast open-plan sales floor.

My man, a former BT engineer call Mike Tupper, finally arrived. It was great to “touch base”, he told me. Did I like the place? Sorry he had kept me waiting but perhaps he had given me time to take in the buzz of money being made?

Did I mind hanging on just two minutes longer while he called a company that would get his Porsche unclamped for him? Could I see it from the window – his was the third dark-blue 911 on the right?

Tupper ran a 10-man sales team at the Portchester Group. His team were the unit within an army run by a guy called Daryl Clarke. Daryl had a faster Porsche than Mike and was equalled only by a n Italian on the floor above who ran an equally big sales team. You could tell them apart because the Italians all drive Ferrari.

At the top of the ladder was Tevor Deaves, a man who could sell anything to anyone and had a vast collection of all things expensive to prove it.

Trevor was the founder, chief executive, chairman and inspirational leader of the Portchester Group.

The Portchester Group was Britain&#39s highest-earning insurance life insurance sales team or, as they put it independent financial adviser.

Tupper started the interview by asking me to list all significant material possessions on one side of a piece of paper and all those I aspired to have on the other. He then got me to list all the friends I had talked to in the last three months, count them and multiply the answer by three.

Could I talk just four of these people into buying a simple saving policy each week, asked Tapper.

If so, I would earn £4,000 a month and, better still, I would be doing my friends a favour. On a wedge like that, I would be able to borrow the money to by a Porsche. The monthly repayments would provide excellent motivation, said Tupper.

The Portchester Group reminds me of Italy because I pretty much described the rented villa I am staying in now on my “aspirations” list. Mike Tupper, who runs an even bigger sales team today, probably owns it.

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