Towergate Underwriting Group, self-styled as a virtual insurer, has made its 20th acquisition in just two years this week by buying the portfolio of Romford brokers JR Poel. The 65-year-old brokers will now be amalgamated with Towergate's other Romford-based brokerage Brian Sharp Insurance Brokers Ltd.

Towergate managing director Peter Cullum said JR Poel have a strong local customer franchise.

He added: "With gross premiums now exceeding £115m and further niche acquisitions in the pipeline Towergate increasingly offers and alternative market in an ever shrinking insurance world."

Towergate was launched at the end of 1997 and has subsequently blazed an acquisition trail with the backing of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

It deals predominantly in niche markets, and provides marketing, information technology and finance while allowing the broker to retain its brand identity.

Towergate's management originally worked as underwriters for Economic Insurance where they staged a management buyout in 1993 before selling to Hiscox in 1996.