British Insurance Brokers' Association (Biba) regional representatives are backing Norwich Union's (NU) decision to close seven local offices, with the loss of up to 200 commercial insurance jobs.

They agreed with the insurer that the move was likely to improve service standards for brokers by concentrating underwriting decision-making in a smaller number of offices.

Biba spokesman for Greater Manchester and the West Pennine region, Alec Finch, said greater use of the internet and electronic trading had lessened brokers' dependence on local insurance company offices.

He added: “I have been impressed by the way Norwich Union has developed its support for brokers since its merger with CGU, particularly after a shaky start.”

He said NU's service levels had deteriorated recently, but felt its decision to reduce its network of offices from 52 to 45 would reduce fragmentation in terms of broker-insurer relationships.

NU is closing seven offices in England and Scotland – Ayr, Bedford, Chester, Middlesborough, Shrewsbury, Stoke and York – and transferring the business to larger regional centres in Glasgow, Luton, Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham and Leeds.

NU intermediary business director, Ken Wallace, said: “Brokers are calling for greater access to decision makers and larger offices that have increased underwriting authority.

“We have created a new role of regional account underwriter, aimed at bringing underwriting authority and decision-making closer to brokers,” he added.

Wallace said the commercial business changes would affect less than 1% of NU's underwriting portfolio.