Axa may pay penalty fees to its 200 best brokers if service standards fall below agreed levels, and the company has not ruled out widening the net to more brokers in the future.

The move is one of several in the pipeline as the giant French composite re-thinks its relationship with brokers. Axa aims to redefine insurer-broker partnerships but avoid the clubs favoured by many of its rival composites.

Axa has identified 85 of the target of around 200 Premier partners to date. Mark Cliff, commercial lines director, said that penalty fees would go much further than ad hoc payments.

"Brokers are exasperated by insurers not doing the basics, like not answering the phone or delivering documentation correctly," he said.

"If we're serious about delivering what we promise, then we have to put our money where our mouths are. And if we've said we'd get a quote within two days or documentation within five, and we don't, then we have to compensate for that."

The group's official statement on penalty fees reads: "There are obvious difficulties in developing a set of metrics against which we can be judged."

Axa has also introduced monthly broker surveys to help monitor service standards. Its new partnership initiative is centred on a detailed analysis of its Premier partners' businesses.

The plan is to use the group's scale to offer whatever help is required - and, according to Cliff, is a more personal approach than the normal "sheep dip" treatment some Club schemes offer.

He added: "Club is a tired concept - every insurer wants the good brokers in their club and it's become a form of preferred relationships.

"We're talking about a real marriage with the market leaders of today and tomorrow."

In return for support, Axa is looking for what Cliff refers to as "a more stretching commitment" from its brokers. The company would expect to be one of four or five insurers and get more business steered its way.