Insurers and brokers are responding to growing demand in the North

The words “expansion” and “north” seem to be part of every insurer’s and broker’s arsenal at the moment.

Is it certainly no secret that the growing markets in the north, fuelled by development and regeneration projects, represent an optimum climate for insurance related activity.

While these changes do not – or never could – signal a power shift from London to the provinces, they do help illustrate the point that insurance business need not be routed through the capital.

Broker networks, consolidators and, more recently, insurers are pursuing ever greater control of the distribution channel.

The list includes all the usual suspects, and reflects broader patterns in the market.

Looking to strengthen their hold on regional brokerages, the likes of Oval and Towergate have turned their beady eyes to the north-west – the former having declared they will purchase a broker in the region by the end of the month.

Now the second largest insurance market in the UK, Manchester is where the hub of the activity is.

The scene was set at the turn of the year when Hiscox opened an office in the city.

“It is clear there can be no substitute for local presence, and local access to decision makers.

Last month, MMA unveiled it would open an underwriting office there too, moving beyond its base in Reading.

Other cities are showing potential for growth.

Last week R&SA opened an office in Leeds in an attempt to facilitate easier access to and for their broker partners in the region.

Meanwhile Heath Lambert’s Newcastle office, less than two years old, has already become its second largest, having experienced ten-fold growth.

The common thread that runs throughout these developments is the growing sense that both insurers and larger brokers need not only access to local markets, but control of local brokerage.

It is clear there can be no substitute for local presence, and local access to decision makers.

But, with all players talking up their access, understanding and service capabilities, it will be interesting to see how each will attempt to set themselves apart from the rest.