American International Group (AIG), the world's largest insurance group, has announced plans to form an underwriting syndicate at Lloyd's.

Martin Reith, former managing director of Brockbank Syndicate

Management, part of Bermuda-based insurance group XL Capital, will head up the operation.

The new syndicate, to be called Ascot Underwriting, will begin underwriting general insurance business in early 2002, concentrating on marine, non-marine and some reinsurance. It will have a capacity of £100m, and has recruited a team of underwriters and staff to form a managing agency to run the syndicate.

Market rumour has speculated that Andrew Brooks, class energy underwriter at Alleghany who resigned last month, will be joining the new operation.

It is also thought David James, former political risk underwriter and colleague of Reith at XL Brockbank, and Mark Donald, who ran the Houston Casualty Company's London operation as non-marine energy underwriter, will form part of the team.

AIG chairman Maurice Greenberg said: “We have had a presence in the Lloyd's building for many years. This new syndicate will expand our operations and be an integral part of the Lloyd's marketplace. AIG's global network and innovative products and services position us to maximise the opportunities offered by Lloyd's.”

The insurer's move into the Lloyd's Market comes at a time when premiums are on the increase and the insurance cycle is taking an upturn, with rising investment.

Lloyd's spokesman Adrian Beeby said: “The reason companies want to be part of Lloyd's is that it offers a type of market not usually on offer in their own corporate structure. Rather than modifying their own company, they can come into Lloyd's and write more diverse, high-risk business.”

AIG currently has an underwriting box at Lloyd's which writes financial lines businesses. Its member companies write a range of commercial, personal and life insurance products in 130 countries and throughout the world.

The company's worldwide general insurance underwriting profit for the first quarter of 2000 totalled $256.4m (£185.5m). Its common stock is issued on the New York Stock Exchange.