£10m book of business fuels insurer's targeting of banking customers

In a boost to its SME aspirations, Allianz Cornhill has won the tender for the £10m HSBC Insurance Brokers' book of business.

The deal will see Allianz Cornhill underwrite a range of package products for HSBC IB's 20,000 existing SME customers.

The business, which was previously with NIG, represents at least £10m in gross written premiums (GWP).

Allianz Cornhill commercial director of the South and London Paul Maidment said the account review was undertaken by HSBC ahead of a planned campaign to increase its penetration of commercial banking customers.

Maidment said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for Allianz Cornhill and represents clear evidence of our ambition to be the most successful competitor in the SME market."

The news came as Allianz Cornhill announced an operating profit of £159.1m, 37% up from £116.2m in 2002.

On a like-for-like basis, GWP grew just 4% to £1.7bn, but chief executive Andrew Torrance said: "During the year the focus was very much around writing for profit rather than writing for growth". The company's combined ratio for the year was 96.9%.

Torrance said the commercial lines business, which includes Allianz Cornhill Engineering, exceeded his expectations. "That business had a fantastic year," he said. Net written premiums increased 16% to £681.4m.

But the specialty business fared less well, counteracting the profit increases made by the rest of the business, which includes animal health and schemes.

Torrance declined to reveal the loss incurred by the company's exposure to failed no-win, no-fee firm The Accident Group (TAG).

"The profits in 2002 versus 2003 in the specialty division were stable," he said.

In personal lines, net premium written grew 4% to £355m. Torrance said that growing the household book would be a priority over the next few years as long as it could be done profitably. Torrance said Allianz Global Risks had a "very good year". But while current business made a profit, a loss was incurred relating to business written before 2002, and further reserve strengthening was required.