Trade bodies the British Insurance Brokers' Association and the Association of Insurance Brokers and Intermediaries will merge within two years.

Leaders of the two groups have confirmed in exclusive interviews with Insurance Times that they fully expect to merge. They have worked together on a number of issues, including GISC, and see the new regulatory regime as an opportunity to build a strong single trade body for the independent intermediary sector.

The AiiB's Mike Slack said: "In due course there will be a coming together of the trade associations." However he suggested the IIB would be unlikely to come on board.

Biba's Mike Williams said: "If in two years' time there hadn't been a formal coming together of the AiiB and Biba I'd be surprised and disappointed."

He said the two organisations had worked side-by-side on many issues. "We agree on just about everything. There are differences of style but we don't have the distance between us as we do with the IIB."

Slack said most brokers knew that intermediaries were as good as registered insurance brokers. He sold his own registered broking business five years ago before setting up his Road Runner intermediary. He says he could not re-register with the IBRC then because of tougher qualification standards, which he did not meet, and he believed three-quarters of all IBRC registered brokers could not meet those standards either if they had to re-apply. But, Slack claims, it makes no difference.

"Only two out of 1,200 intermediaries and brokers have ever asked me about my status. Everybody's doing the 'I'm a wonderful broker' but they are trading with me, an unregistered intermediary," he says. GISC will further blur that division.

Williams also confirmed that Biba had long aimed for a single trade body for the sector and regularly sought to merge with the IIB. "We would like a single, strong, representative trade organisation. We have always made strong overtures to Andrew Paddick's IIB and we have always been rebuffed. But the door is still open."

Paddick dismissed the merger offer. "I'm not surprised. I don't think the AiiB is sustainable on its own. It has never had a proper establishment, an office or a full complement of staff," he said. And he poured scorn on suggestions the IIB should join in a three-way merger: "I don't think we could accommodate them all here and I don't think they'd come up to our job spec."