Norwich Union's 5,500-strong broker panel has been personality profiled in a move which the insurer claims will help it exploit lucrative but currently untapped revenue.

However the move - thought to be an industry first - could also see Norwich Union put up to 250 of its brokers into run-off in the coming months.

NU business development director Ken Wallace said the idea behind the profiling is to inject strategy and direction into the relationship between the insurer and its middlemen.

The insurer used a new business profiling technique called PsyKey to assign each firm in its broker network one of eight "personality" categories. The categories are relevant to how the firms conduct their business and are focused around four key themes - strategy, people, performance and decision-making.

The profiling also includes how autocratic the management style is, how customer-focused the firm is, and how staff training is done.

At the same time, NU has looked at each of its brokers' current and potential business value dividing them into four categories - "grow", "maintain", "improve" and "exit"'. The "maintain" category - by far the largest group - represents brokers with whom NU feels it is already maximising its business relationship.

Around nine per cent of brokers fall into the "grow" group and these are relationships NU is anxious to develop to gain more revenue.

The "exit" grouping makes up around five per cent of the broker network and labels those whose current and future business value to NU looks poor. "This is where we tell them we are unhappy with our relationship and we don't see any value in it," said Wallace. "If there's room for things to be different then that's great. But if there isn't then let's be adult about it and make the mutual decision to end the association by putting the agency into run-off."

A 220-strong team of sales and support staff has been trained to use the profiling as part of a longer-term strategy to foster broker relations called "Business 2 Business."

The strategy will be explained to brokers by the end of January. Wallace said it was designed to be of mutual benefit and would be transparent.