Initiative will help brokers use internet to place 'small ticket business'

Ace European Group (Ace) is to help brokers develop e-trading facilities on their websites, in an initiative aimed at widening its regional distribution network.

The e-commerce facility, developed with software house Point Solutions, will not just be limited to selling Ace's own products. Discussions are underway to add other insurers' products to the portal.

The fully transactional initiative will enable brokers to provide online quotes, bind cover and issues policies direct to customers via their own websites.

Westinsure Plymouth launched the service this week, transacting professional indemnity products, directors' and officers' insurance and liability cover.

Justinsurance Brokers and the Alan Boswell Group are also piloting the service.

"The key area we want to target is broker websites. It is essential to accessing SME business," said Ace European Group e-commerce manager Mark Whitehead.

"But when we started this project the technology wasn't available to allow Ace to trade with several brokers."

Whitehead said cost barriers also prevented many brokers from exploiting the web as a distributor.

The new service is free to implement, but brokers will be asked to pay "nominal" hosting and transactional fees on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Denis Morgan, director of the Westinsure network, said that around 75% of its 108 broking offices were without a website.

"Our brokers don't market via the web," Morgan said. "This is about introducing brokers to the internet so they can market to small ticket business.

"Importantly this doesn't bind us in with Ace on an exclusive basis."

Whitehead said by adding more insurers to the solution it would create a marketplace to enable insurers to compete for the benefit of the broker.

"We've essentially given every broker in the UK a free ticket to the online marketplace."

There are also plans to expand Ace's product offering via the website to include computer cover, ComputeGuardPlus, and accident and health cover.

Dave Green, managing director of Point Solutions said: "Eventually we expect to get the market signing up to this."