HSBC Insurance Brokers is to launch a major push into the SME market.

The company has so far recruited 20 new staff to kick-start its expansion plans.

It has a target to bring in 50 new staff by the beginning of 2005.

HSBC Insurance Brokers deputy managing director David Boosey said companies with premium income of up to £50,000 were now being targeted.

The book is currently worth £10m in gross written premiums.

"We are looking to grow the business significantly in the next three years," said Boosey.

Allianz Cornhill underwrites the book of business, having won the contract from NIG at the beginning of 2004, but HSBC is to form an "overspill panel".

Boosey said: "We have not decided who the insurers will be, but it will comprise of about six of the major insurers."