What is Tim Ablett planning to do with the former R&SA business he now heads, asks Andy Cook

When is a health insurer not a health insurer? When it's a corporate wellbeing adviser. Well that's the thinking behind the biggest story of the week - Royal & SunAlliance's (R&SA) sale of its healthcare business to a management team headed by Groupama managing director Tim Ablett.

The theory goes something like this. Private medical insurance companies are good at taking sick people and making them better. Businesses suffer because of workplace absences due to ill-health. So why not marry the two together and have a health risk management/insurance package that can be bought by SMEs and larger businesses? Of course this already happens for the execs, but Ablett's idea is to extend this down from the boardroom to the shopfloor.

Of course, the argument for getting sick people back to work quicker has been kicking around for sometime. The HSE has plenty of figures to support the argument that vast quantities of money are lost by businesses because of employee ill health. But something has changed that could makes Ablett's move timely.

The big change to the employment landscape is that liability insurance is barely affordable. Companies and their risk advisers are scratching their heads over how to afford employers' liability insurance. Well, Ablett reckons that by bolting on a health package, the risks of employee sickness can be reduced. It's not new, and Ablett admits as much, but where AXA PPP, R&SA and others have toyed with the idea, Ablett will make this formula his main strand for growth.

If successful, Ablett reckons that the company will be writing £500m GWP in a few years time, or rather its sales income will be £500m. I say this because Ablett reckons 50% of income will be fees charged by employment law advisers and such like employed by the company. The key link in the chain is the broker. Ablett will not go direct, his preferred route to market is the brokers who advise Britain's millions of SMEs and their larger cousins who advise the FTSE 250 companies.