Difficult market forces shift from international plans

Sterling Hamilton Wright (SHW) has decided to revise plans for its new insurer Minerva, targeting UK SME business only.

Initially, Minerva had planned to write international and UK business, specialising in non-marine, reinsurance and property business. But due to a lack of funding for the reinsurance arm, the new operation will focus now on UK commercial business, particularly liability and property.

Langton Advisory Services director Martin Gray said: "We decided to drop the initial Minerva proposition when funding for the international side wasn't going to find favour. If we had approached capital providers three to four months earlier it would have been fine.

"We now have two schemes in development and we also have a number of carriers interested," he added.

SHW divisional director Stephen Duffy said that 300 intermediaries have registered an interest in Minerva and they would be approached with the new proposition. He also said that he was in talks with a major broker network but would not disclose which one.

"What we are interested in is the large premium SME business, because our operation is about proper underwriting. The lower end of the market is too crowded. We want to target the £15,000 and above premiums.

Duffy added that in its first year, the new Minerva would hope to write £50m. SHW also plans a 'Mark 2' project, which would be a small "complementary" underwriting agency. He said the broker hoped this agency would write £3m in year one.