The big insurers are squeezing prices in the SME market to unsustainable levels, according to Adam Boakes, UK development manager of Lloyd's insurer Evergreen Underwriting.

Boakes said the aggressive drive of companies such as AXA, NIG, Zurich, Fortis and Groupama into SME under current market conditions meant insurers were "sacrificing profit for volume in the short-term".

Boakes said: "The message we want to get out is that it is not just about price. Claims history, service and a consistent underwriting approach are all equally important. Brokers recognise that the actions of some insurers are counter-productive but they are sometimes faced with little choice."

Fortis Insurance distribution and development director Chris Dobson responded, saying: "We work closely with our brokers to develop innovative products based on in-depth customer knowledge, and take the time to ensure our service is second to none.

"Our aim, which is omni-present, is to better satisfy the needs of our market."

Boakes added: "It is increasingly difficult for independent firms to compete in this market. We have just celebrated our 10-year anniversary and we just hope we will be around for another 10."