NIG managing director Charles Crawford has quashed rumours that the insurer is for sale. Instead, he said that NIG is aiming to become a top three general insurer in the UK and will double its gross written premiums (GWP) to £1bn.

But when questioned on the timescale in which he hoped to achieve the goal, Crawford described the aim as a "horizon objective".

Speaking to Insurance Times last week, Crawford said: "NIG has come from being a small to medium-sized commercial insurer to being part of a very large banking group. I aspire to grow it and to make it more profitable."

Of the 'top three' objective, Crawford said that NIG's parent company, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), liked to have top three positions in all of its markets. NIG's aim would put it among the likes of Royal & SunAlliance, Norwich Union and Zurich.

But Crawford would not reveal the timescale for the plan. "It's not a publicly-stated goal," he said.

He said that by the end of 2004, NIG would achieve GWP of £500m.

In 2002, NIG recorded GWP of £935m. Of that, 38% was written by its special risks division, which ran aground last year.

NIG revealed its business aims at a special broker conference last month.

One broker at the conference said that while NIG was demonstrating its ambitions to grow by aggressively chasing business, it was "in danger of slipping into the large composite, poor service model".

"It is starting to become like everyone else," the broker said.

NIG also told brokers about its plans to enhance its products for small and medium enterprises (SMEs). It said it would offer key man cover free on all SME policies from 1 October.

But Crawford told Insurance Times that NIG had not finished "thinking about it or working on it yet" and declined to reveal further details.