Last year Lloyd's attracted 16 new intermediaries under its "open broker access" scheme.

But the number of syndicates operating in the 300-year-old market has plummeted by 20%.

In January 2001, all intermediaries were allowed to apply to become Lloyd's brokers for the first time. Traditionally, membership had been restricted to London-based organisations which had supported the Reconstruction and Renewal package of 1996.

Last year, the five-year exclusivity deal ended and regional and overseas brokers from countries such as France, America, Canada and Luxembourg became registered members of Lloyd's.

Figures released by Lloyd's show the number of intermediaries has now risen from 126 in 2001 to 142 in 2002, bucking a period of decline.

But the number of insurers operating in the market continued to fall with syndicates dropping from 108 last year to 86 in 2002.

This was due to 13 syndicates such as St Paul 183, Omega 529, HIH Cotesworth 535 and 1688, Newmarket 1900 and Wellington 1250 ceasing to write business.

Others syndicates including Markel 702, 1009, 1239 and 1228, Wren 735, 800 and 1202 merged into one larger operation.

Lloyd's spokesman Adrian Beeby said: "The creation of fewer bigger syndicates is due to corporate capital where merging syndicates is more cost effective. But the actual number of underwriters has probably stayed the same."

The number of managing agents and members' agents also continued to steadily decline last year from 57 to 49 and seven to five respectively.

But capacity in the market rose to a record high of £12.3bn for 2002, compared to £11.1bn in 2001.