From all corners of the globe, the unlikeliest of territories are standing up in a bid to be counted as prime locations to place an insurance captive.

Gibraltar, Malta and Luxembourg are all eager to sell themselves as suitable offshore platforms for those wishing to set up captive insurance companies.

According to experts, they have a good case as the industry is ripe for growth.

Andrew Tunnicliffe, business development director at Aon Captives Services Group, says: "Many would have you believe that the captive market, at least for larger companies, is rapidly approaching saturation and as a result, captive growth is slowing."

But research carried out by Tunnicliffe says the opposite is true. Aon has shown that of the 500 top global companies, 36% do not currently own a captive.

In the past three decades there has been what is described as a "phenomenal growth" in the number of captives. At the last count there were 4,000 worldwide collectively writing more $20bn in premium.

So far, captive insurance is an area untapped by Lloyd's and its 46 managing agents. So why is this?

Tunnicliffe is surprised there has not been a greater interface between Lloyd's operations and the captive market. "Our research shows an international response, with significant develop-ment opportunity in the Asian market," he says.

Yet, Lloyd' s has stayed away. "Historically, Lloyd's and captives haven't been a mix that has happened," says Tunnicliffe. "It always surprised me that composite, traditional carriers have provided reinsurance protection but Lloyd's hasn't. It does raise the question of whether Lloyd's is missing an opportunity in working with some of these vehicles."

The market in the US and Europe is now regarded as "mature". As a result, captive vehicles are no longer small, with risks close to the ground, and they are writing large retention.

When one senior Lloyd's figure was asked about the opportunities provided by the captive market, his response was: "I am not a great expert."

That lack of knowledge and perhaps even interest at senior levels within the Lloyd's market may have something to do with its lack of presence.

But one senior figure is not so immune to its advantages for Lloyd's. "If you understand what a captive is and plug into those people running them there is certainly an opportunity to provide reinsurance for captives."

But he admits: "On the whole Lloyd's syndicates are in competition with many captives. In a very hard market we are bidding against captive or non-purchase retention."

Yet in reinsurance terms captives could hold the key to greater riches.