Mark Wood, managing director of the Broker Network, has defended the role of networks following broker Simon Burgess's outburst in last week's Insurance Times.

Burgess attacked networks, stating these were "flourishing at the expense of the smaller broker."

He said: "Networks continue to grow at an alarming rate, swallowing up brokers and gaining control over the distribution channel and prices."

But Wood accuses Burgess of having a "deep-seated misunderstanding" and confusing networks with consolidators.

While he said he could not speak on behalf of all network members, he said members of the Broker Network were "hardnosed, independently-minded businesses who are overwhelmingly content with their membership." And, in answer to two of Burgess's claims, Wood said his members did not lose their independence on joining and were not subject to greater FSA scrutiny.

"The independent broker can marry the expertise and professionalism of his own people with the efficiency of Broker Network services - without stifling the entrepreneurial or independent spirit of his business.

"If that doesn't provide a leading competitive edge in a tough marketplace, I'm not sure what will," asserted Wood.