Twelve ex-Guardian staff who handled the insurer's largest affinity accounts have started a new company.

R3 is the brainchild of principal directors Roger Hine, Rob Proudman and Robin Williams, who, with the rest of their team, left Guardian's national partnerships division when it was taken over by Axa last year.

The staff – who have backed R3 with their own savings – celebrated R3's launch with £1 million of private capital this week. Ipswich, their base, is also the home of Axa.

Robin Williams praised his staff's expertise in managing relationships with affinity partners, including Northern Rock, Standard Life and Egg. R3 plans to have a staff of 20 by April.

Williams said R3 has signed two partners to develop e-commerce affinity business, but could not divulge details because of confidentiality agreements.