GWP up 9% to £229.9m

Ecclesiastical surged into the black with £25.7m pre-tax profit for the first six months of 2009, a turnaround from its £21.5m loss for the same period last year.

A reduction in metal thefts helped to keep the lid on claims, while a resurgent stock market boosted investment returns.

The insurer was also helped by the use of SmartWater, a forensic fluid that illuminates an owner’s unique code under ultraviolet light.

Chief executive Michael Tripp said: “One of the key things was the metal thefts we were battling. That has reduced and had a real impact.

“The cost of lead has gone down, which makes it uncommercial for thieves. We have SmartWater, are encouraging vigilance and working with other organisations. Also, you cannot have unlimited cover. All these things taken together help.”

Gross written premium increased 9% to £229.9m and combined operating ratio was 87.9%, compared with 104.5% in 2008.

Tripp said the strategy for 2009 and 2010 would be to concentrate on its key skill as a church insurer.

“We are focusing on our niches and not drifting away from being a specialist,” he said. Ecclesiastical “was not the cheapest” but offered a high-quality product and service that remained attractive to buyers.

The insurer’s London market operation, Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management, also bounced back from a £10m loss last year.