Under the smokescreen of regulation some insurers are making a grab for broker business

Halloween brings the bogeyman and brokers beware. He won't surprise you from under the bed, but will be dressed in Hugo Boss, offer you lunch, or ring when you least expect it.

The new well-heeled bogeymen are insurers, creeping into the broker market by stealth. While all eyes are focused on the FSA, this is a convenient smokescreen for some backdoor antics from the likes of Norwich Union, Zurich, and R&SA.

The popular conception that brokers are stampeding from the market like a herd of elephants from the burning forest is a misconception.

Though the pressure is on to become authorised (and who knows what John Tiner will do after that), brokers will find tantalising deals from their carriers which are dressed up as beneficial opportunities to stabilise costs and add growth through turbulent times.

Ian Owen said last week that Zurich wants to help brokers - particularly personal lines brokers - with FSA compliance issues and to become appointed representatives of Zurich. This means tied agents and selling Zurich products - and, subsequently, becoming a Zurich broker.

NU could be another wolf in sheep's clothing for the personal lines broker. And the view from the market is that this is only the beginning.

Both R&SA and AXA have expressed interests in the broker market for the past year, but the true nature of their plans has yet to materialise. R&SA says it will go more direct on personal lines, but what of the commercial market? There are rich pickings and the independent broker is vulnerable to both insurer and its rivals.

Marsh is selling business, but on the march for new niche markets.

So on 31 October, listen out for the things that go bump in the night. You may have beaten him at golf the day before.