GWP falls to £920m for nine months to September.

Hiscox is predicting an improved market in 2009 – despite an 8% drop in gross written premium (GWP) over the past nine months.

The specialist insurer’s GWP was £920m in the nine months to 30 September, down from just over £1bn in the same period last year.

But its optimism is reflected in its decision last month to increase the capacity of its Syndicate 33 to £750m, instead of reducing it to £550m.

Robert Hiscox, the company’s chairman, said: “The tide has turned. Whereas we were depending on retail growth in the UK and Europe to offset the fall in income from internationally traded business and reinsurance, rates have now switched to hardening in some major areas such as reinsurance, offshore energy and large property.

“Most importantly, market conditions and sentiment have changed and business opportunities abound.”

Bronek Masojada, its chief executive, said the company would continue its long-term organic growth by bringing in quality people. A number of senior AIG staff in the US had been recruited.

“We are very interested in the acquisition of people,” he said.

In the UK, Hiscox trading remained strong in both household and commercial business, with overall income up 14%.