Small UK brokers have been encouraged to take advantage of "rapid growth" in the Chinese and Indian insurance markets by setting up partnerships in the Far East.

James Sutherland, head of development and operations at Lloyd's, dismissed suggestions that the countries' developing economies were only an opportunity for larger intermediaries such as Aon and Willis.

He told regional brokers at the Biba conference, to "go and take a look" and establish links with some of the 300 brokers registered in China.

According to statistics, China is the world's "foremost developing economy" with premium levels increasing four-fold in the last decade to $16.8bn in 2004.

Sutherland warned against "doing business too early", but he added: "Develop relationships [with Chinese brokers] and learn how they operate over time.

"You could discuss with one or two local brokers about whether they would like to be affiliated with you and find out how it can add value to your business and how you can add value to theirs."

He suggested that smaller brokers could use the China-Britain Business Council, which helps UK companies wishing to export goods and services or invest in China.

Lloyd's has been given the go-ahead to set up a Chinese onshore reinsurance operation in Shanghai, Lloyd's Reinsurance Company (China).