With poaching raids between brokers and the likes of Hodges and McManus likely to provide us with some big stories this year, the sector is one to watch

While the global economy teeters on the brink of freefall, it is comforting to be able to report that general insurance broking in the UK is alive and kicking – and then some. As Liz Bury explores in the Knowledge this week, the sector certainly has its challenges, but its response is confident, aggressive and sometimes downright pushy.

It’s been a fascinating few months to watch the sector. The London-market style poaching raids that have dominated the headlines this autumn demonstrate how brokers are jostling for position as they prepare to slug it out for the ever dwindling pool of profitable business next year. That there are chief execs willing to write such hefty cheques to attract or retain the top talent speaks of confidence – as well as a select handful of extremely well remunerated individuals who will now be expected to deliver on their potential.

As our Top 50 Brokers showed in September, the pecking order of broking has changed. JLT has muscled its way into the top three at the expense of Willis, and Gallagher won’t be far behind. Don’t be fooled though – the mega-brokers and the more familiar names of the UK national market (Towergate, Oval) still have some tricks up their sleeves. Mark Hodges has been holding fire since taking the reins at Towergate – but he’ll come out all guns blazing soon enough.

As if these dynamics playing out weren’t enough, there are several big beasts of broking currently on the loose whose appointment could prove a game changer. Brendan McManus is expected to pop up somewhere soon, and unless he’s lured back to insuring, who better to do a Mark Hodges and see one of the consolidators through to its second generation? Adrian Colosso is also on the loose…

So there’s scant chance of the action dying down in the UK broker market. And amid all the doom and gloom of the wider economy – thank god for that.

·         As we went to press this week, we were preparing for the Insurance Times Awards 2011. For full coverage of the industry’s most prestigious awards – and the biggest party of the year – see www.insurancetimes.co.uk and next week’s issue.