AIG is set to partner for new underwriting agency venture

Newly-formed underwriting agency Benchmark Underwriting is to manage and distribute a range of home insurance products in the Irish insurance market, sources said.

It is understood that AIG Europe (Ireland) will be Benchmark's insurer partner in the Irish venture.

Benchmark director Brendan Keenan said the company was "drawing up contracts with a major insurer" but would not deny AIG Europe as Benchmark's insurer partner.

Keenan said the company would begin trading in July with a range of products to service all aspects of the home insurance market in Ireland, including owner-occupied, rental properties and holiday homes.

AIG Europe already has a significant presence in the Irish commercial insurance market, but, to date, has focused on niche schemes in personal lines.

Keenan said: "We expect to have capacity to write up to ¤10m but the insurers have indicated they have the appetite to grow beyond this target if the support for the products is there."

He added that the company was in discussions with other insurers both in Ireland and abroad, in order to extend the range of products it offered. He said that the underwriter intended to add motor and SME commercial insurance later this year.

Keenan said Benchmark would trade exclusively over the internet, enabling brokers to process the policy and paperwork locally.

Benchmark is headed by former Allianz associate directors Brendan Keenan and Martin Kennedy. Before joining Allianz Ireland, the pair previously worked for AIG Europe (Ireland).

Keenan said their insurance company background differentiated Benchmark from other underwriters.

"Our proposition to insurers is that our underwriting focus and knowledge of product design will allow us to deliver better returns for underwriters in the medium to long term," he said.

AIG Europe declined to comment.