Health insurance provider FirstAssist is to disband and be replaced by three new specialist businesses, which will also see the exit of the group's chief executive.

From 1 January 2007, First Assist will be replaced by: FirstAssist Insurance Services, providing a range of health insurance; FirstAssist Legal Expenses Insurance; and FirstAssist Services, to cover wellbeing.

The move will see FirstAssist group chief executive Tim Ablett step down and become a non-executive director with no involvement in the running of any of the businesses.

Ablett said that the competitive market had made him rethink the company's strategy.

"We didn't plan it this way when we started three and half years ago, but the venture capitalist backers want to see growth in the business and this is the best way of doing that."

The move comes after FirstAssist sold its PMI business to Standard Life in 2005.

Each company will use the FirstAssist brand, but operate independently of each other or any group structure.

Ablett said: "Each business will have an even better understanding of market needs and will be able to provide the right expertise, knowledge and resources to anticipate and meet customer expectations."

Ablett will maintain his investment in the FirstAssist brands, but relinquishing his chief executive role will mean he will be looking for other business opportunities.

"It will give me an opportunity to go on to bigger and better things," he said.