The recession may be declared over, but hard times are still being felt by brokers and insurers in the commercial market

The Great Recession may officially be over. But for many businesses it doesn’t feel like the recovery has got under way yet.

So says Aviva’s latest survey of SMEs, which was carried out in the run-up to May’s general election. The survey shows that just one in six small and medium-sized businesses feels optimistic about their prospects in the year ahead.

This sentiment is borne out by this supplement, Insurance Times’s first guide to commercial lines. Across the board, from property to professional indemnity, brokers and insurers report that life is tough.

Rates may be edging up in certain niche areas – financial institutions among them – but in others, such as professional indemnity, long-heralded increases are not bearing fruit. Markets remain extremely competitive wherever you look.

Customers of insurance, faced with the prospect of tight margins for a prolonged period, are likely to become ever more price-conscious. And judging by the Aviva research, an increasing proportion of SMEs will be weighing up whether to take out insurance at all.

This despite the fact that hard times will increase the risks of operating without the insurance safety net.

Amidst all this uncertainty, one thing is clear: the second decade of the 21st century is going to look very different to the first.

David Blackman, supplement editor.

Download the supplement in pdf format, right.