Insurance brokers are lagging behind the rest of the financial services sector in the understanding and use of e-commerce, a study reveals.

The survey, undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers, says: "Two thirds of financial organisations believe their future leaders will be e-business specialists. However, insurance brokers seem to have their heads in the sand."

The e-commerce study takes the views of 21 variously-sized insurance brokers. It finds that nearly 25% of respondents believe that e-commerce will only have a moderate impact on the sector.

Ian Dilks, leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers European Insurance Group, said: "There is a general trend for insurance brokers to be less aware of what is going on in e-business.

"We find brokers' responses the most surprising. A smaller percentage of brokers – only about half – know what their customer base is doing.

"This will be one of the biggest challenges for the broker market which tends to be less au fait with e-commerce than some sectors of financial services."

Dilks added: "The brokers most at risk will be the small or middle-sized traditional players who have got old costs and don't have the money to invest in new structures. They may say 'we have heard all this before', but the potential difference in cost structures will hurt them.

"The continuing challenge for the financial services industry is to move away from being product driven to customer driven. This will become more pressing as the internet gives the industry an opportunity to develop a better understanding of its customers throughout their lifetime and customers come to expect products and services tailored to their specific needs."