Elliot Lane finds the evidence in the recruitment ads

The market has gone as soft as the Olympic Team GB, with underwriters' backbones wilting like Paula Radcliffe under a Greek sun.

A clear sign of a competitive market, and rates, is how employees react to the articles they read and the responses from their customers. They vote with their feet.

A leading recruitment consultant specialising in financial services said last week: "Against everything that is said by the major insurers and brokers that there is discipline in the market, we are seeing major movement in the recruitment market. This can only mean the market is going soft."

Flicking through the recruitment pages over recent weeks, the volume of claims handlers and technician jobs that usual dominate the classified section have been replaced by underwriters.

And more interesting, the areas for most movement has been professional indemnity, energy and commercial liability.

These three business classes, (and motor should also be included), are already soft markets and softening further.

In the coming weeks, with the build up to the Monte-Carlo Rendevous, there will be more movement among the larger brokers. Of the top five, Aon, Marsh, Willis, JLT and Heath Lambert have all seen teams and individuals switch sides in the past few months. More will move particularly as it is understood Aon is preparing to attack Marsh in the mid-market sector, those clients slightly larger than the small and medium enterprise (SME) level. At present it has 10% but wants more. The soft market may be a hard marathon not a sprint.

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