. . . but a lot of good people will leave the industry when it needs them most, says Andy Cook.

It's official. While everyone associated with the UK broking market has speculated that by 2005 the number of brokers in the UK will be dramatically smaller than it is now, research undertaken by Mazars on behalf of Biba has confirmed that more than 40% of brokers are looking to sell their businesses - and over 30%are looking to buy.

Biba reckons that these figures will translate into a loss of around 1, 200 firms or up to 30%of the market.

So what will be the impact of such a remarkable reduction in the number of firms selling insurance? Of course, it will mean that those who remain in the market will have a stronger position. Buying power will be concentrated and so insurance companies will be faced with a challenge.

They will have to pick out who will be the winners and who will be the losers. That means lots of courting. This will be translated into improved levels of service for those who are reckoned to have a strong future position and a reduction in service for those who might go to the wall.

Market consolidation will see a lot of professional firms out of business. Of course, many of the best people will simply transfer to the buying brokers. Inevitably, consolidation will see a lot of good people leave the industry and this at a time when the industry can ill-afford a brain drain. After all, it is in everyone's interests to have strong front-line industry professionals who can provide the best risk management advice.

The research clearly shows that many principals are considering selling up, but it also shows the rising interest in networks and alliances. Just under 40%would consider joining an alliance or network.

While this is a similar figure to those who would never consider such a move, it is a figure that gives much food for thought.