Folgate is continuing to pick up from where Lombard left off before it merged with Groupama, by opening a regional office in St Albans.

The office, the second of three to be opened this year, is within a few streets of the old Lombard office. Two former employees are among the new team members.

The St. Albans office will be headed by regional development manager Andy Clements and regional underwriting manager Frank Such.

So far, German-owned Folgate has already recruited eight ex-Lombard employees to senior positions, and 14 to the commercial underwriting team.

Its first commercial office in Birmingham was staffed almost exclusively by ex-Lombard commercial lines employees.

Folgate had underwritten £1.3m in commercial business by the end of May and is on target to break the £2m mark by the end of June.

The broker-only insurer has now identified 31 preferred partners of its target of 50. It plans to establish a 250-strong broker club by the end of 2001.

Commercial lines director David Drew said Folgate is now developing three-year-long policies for property-based business.

He said: "The policy will be correctly rated business offering a health discount off renewals."

Drew added that there are signs of rates hardening for renewal, particularly for employers' liability business, although competition is still fierce for new business.

Folgate expects to appoint a commercial claims manager in July.