Insurer expands regional presence.

Insurer QBE wants to expand its regional presence and is eyeing Wales and southern England as potential growth areas, says Terry Whittaker, managing director of QBE National.

Whittaker said the insurer had identified Wales, the south coast and areas south of the River Thames as having growth prospects. This could include the opening of new offices.

The news came as QBE appointed Chris Parker commercial manager for its Bristol office.

QBE has seven UK regional offices in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Stafford and Chelmsford. It also has an office in Dublin.

Whittaker said: “Part of the challenge for any local distribution network is to deliver the products the client actually wants rather than what we perceive they want.”

As part of the regional expansion strategy, QBE hired five local underwriters for the Leeds office in July.

Along with Parker, the Bristol office has recruited senior underwriters in motor, casualty and professional indemnity. It is expected to announce a senior property underwriter in the near future. This takes the headcount for the Bristol office, which covers south Wales, the South West and parts of the west country, to 70.

Parker said: “We already have significant schemes and professional indemnity accounts and we are now looking to grow property, casualty and motor in the same way. Ideally we’d like to find multi-line solutions for particular clients.”

The Bristol office previously had a schemes and professional indemnity account, but has been building up other lines of business since July.

Parker added: “The enlarged Bristol team will offer brokers and their clients underwriting excellence and empowered decision-making, combined with a strong understanding of local business needs.”

Last month QBE announced a 6% rise in insurance pre-tax profit to A$1.1bn (£511m) for the six months to 30 June 2008. Its operating ratio was 85.8% for the half year, a slight improvement on 86.2% in the same period last year.