Recruitment difficulties halt office expansion

Brit's expansion into the UK regional market is behind schedule and could affect its ability to hit its UK premium targets for the full year.

Brit Insurance chief executive Dane Douetil explained that recruitment in Manchester and the South East had proved difficult, pushing Brit behind in its plans.

Douetil said: "I'd rather take some more time to get the right people than have the wrong people in there doing damage."

Group chief executive Neil Eckert refused to be drawn on capacity targets for 2005. But he said that writing more business next year would be easy, as some of its regional offices opened during 2004 and 2005 would be in their first full year of operation.

Douetil said that plans to launch its online policy fulfilment system, BUKS, by the end of the year remained unaffected.

Douetil said that the system would enable information exchange between brokers and underwriters including policy fulfilment for property, liability and commercial combined from its launch, with motor to be added later. "The system is being tested as we speak," he said.

Brit's pre-tax profits for the six months to 30 June rose to £52.5m, compared to £31m for the same period last year. The group's combined ratio was down slightly to 86.9% from 87%.

Douetil said that its Hurricane Charley losses would be limited to $40m-$50m (£22.5m-£28.2m).