Its famous retail counterpart might be creating uproar with plans to close its overseas stores, but Marks & Spencer (M&S) Financial Services claims to be doing better than its competitors.

It says it has a higher satisfaction rating for its insurance products than established firms such as Direct Line and the Prudential.

The claim is based on a survey of insurance customers M&S commissioned from independent researchers Questor. This showed the insurer had a satisfaction rating of 8.9 out of 10, compared to 8.5 for Direct Line and 8.4 for the Prudential.

M&S customers said the main reasons they had bought its insurance was because of its “no quibble” approach to claims, competitive pricing and extended cover with no set sum insured.

The findings may startle M&S's rivals, since it only launched its range of household and mortgage payment protection insurance last September.

Peter Longstaff, head of personal lines at M&S Financial Services, said sales of its insurance cover had been largely unaffected by the malaise hitting the rest of the store group.

“Our insurance products have been very well received. There is no indication that the troubles of our retail side are impacting on the insurance side.”

Figures of its insurance sales will be released with M&S's results in May.

A report leaked this week forecasts a £37m drop in UK profits at the group in the first nine months of the 2000 to 2001 financial year.