Capita, the support company that provides back office services for insurers, reported a 45% growth in profits for 2001 compared to the preevious year.

The group posted an operating profit of £77.1m, compared to £53.1m in 2000.

Revenue from its insurance operations have grown from a standing start in March 1999 to an annualised rate of £160m.

Capita employs 3,000 staff in insurance outsourcing and handles 1.5 million claims a year, worth about £1.5bn, for clients including Norwich Union and Abbey National.

The group also provides legal and medical services to 20 million policyholders and last year bought loss adjuster McLarens Toplis for £33.2m.

Chairman Rodney Aldridge said Capita had cut McLarens Toplis' cost base and he expected "strong profit growth in 2002".

He said: "Capita McLarens now forms a core part of Capita's insurance outsourcing services and has been directly involved in the creation of a strong pipeline of major new contract opportunities.

"Several key clients have not only renewed their relationships with Capita, but have also significantly extended them."

He said insurers spent £4bn a year on back office services.

Insurance accounts for the lion's share of Capita's fast-growing involvement in the financial services sector.