Royal & SunAlliance UK chief executive Duncan Boyle has placed disciplined growth and the reduction of expenses at the forefront of the insurer's strategy for this year.

As the company announced strong first quarter results in which underwriting profit soared by over 1,500% to £33m, Boyle said: "We have seen undisciplined action [on rating by other insurers]. We are not going to have any part of that. But we want to grow."

He urged the market to take responsible action on rates. He said: "We don't want to see rating reductions in the market; it is a fool's paradise to do it.

"We are prepared to sacrifice volume to retain profit."

In the first quarter, R&SA increased net written premiums by 2% on the same period last year, staying broadly flat in commercial lines but growing 6% in personal lines.

The overall combined ratio improved to 94.3% from 98.2% and the claims ratio fell to 62.8% from 69.1%. But the insurer's expense ratio deteriorated slightly to 31.5% from 29.1%.

Boyle said: "This will be a tough year in terms of expenses. We are re-platforming our UK operations. That will have an impact. But we will get the benefit in the years after."