Norwich Union (NU) has swooped on Zurich's £18m book of Folgate business by striking a deal to take over the account.

Folgate chief executive Andy Homer said the deal would see small commercial and some personal lines business worth around £18m–£20m in premium transfer to NU.

He said this figure included the majority of Folgate's existing book of business with Zurich, as well as the Zurich accounts from brokers Folgate is in talks to acquire. Homer said any business that did not fit NU would be offered to other insurers.

"We've got to take steps to look after our customers," Homer said. "The quickest insurer out of the blocks to help us was NU."

NU director of intermediary business Ken Wallace said that the insurer was "very pleased with the quality of the book", the "vast majority" of which fitted with NU's strategy.

Zurich cancelled Folgate's commercial agency in June after a row broke out over Zurich's strategy of writing to small businesses and inviting them to renew direct. Last week, Homer accused Zurich of attempting to "steal" its business after Zurich confirmed it would write to its Folgate clients offering them the chance to renew with Zurich through another broker. The spat now looks set to extend to personal lines, despite earlier declarations by both companies that their personal lines relationship would continue.

Homer said there had been a "big change in sentiment" among Folgate brokers towards Zurich. "At the moment the personal lines business is under threat."

Homer said he would discuss the relationship with Zurich's UK general insurance chief executive Ian Stuart, whom he was scheduled to meet yesterday.

Meanwhile, other brokers have also expressed concern over Zurich's strategy.

"They're prepared to bite the hand that feeds them much more than other insurers," one broker said. "I don't know who runs the UK commercial business anymore and it's difficult to know what they're doing."

"They don't seem internally to know what they're doing," another said. "They have lots of parts but there doesn't seem to be a 'joined-up' strategy."

Homer said: "There is a significant difference between a carrier that comes in and supports brokers and another carrier that leaves you stranded with a problem."