Eight branches to be closed, 100 jobs at risk in efficiency drive

Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) will close eight of its UK Commercial Corporate Business offices, saving several million pounds.

About 100 staff will be redeployed or made redundant.

Offices in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edin-burgh, Inverness, Leicester, Newcastle, Plymouth and Southampton will close between April and June 2003.

They handle "mid-market" businesses with an annual turnover of more than £1m.

This follows the restructuring of five Enterprise offices for SME business in September.

Corporate business director Brendan McManus said the closures would result in a "seven-figure saving" and enable the insurer to achieve critical mass.

"We want to create more critical mass in the centres we've got by having the right efficiencies," he said.

"We can only do that with centres with more people in them."

McManus said some brokers may fear the closures would result in a drop in service levels.

"But if anything it'll improve the level of service we're giving them," he said.

"Our key account managers will be working from home and they'll be out developing relationships with brokers."

One Scottish broker said he expected it would make it more difficult to place large risks with R&SA.

"The majority of our business is SMEs done through Enterprise, which isn't too bad," he said.

"Other brokers will have bigger business underwritten on a bespoke basis at their local branch and they probably won't like having to deal with a more distant office."

McManus said the closure did not mean R&SA had lost interest in its Energy brokers, who make up its top 150 regional business providers.

"It's very profitable and a very important part of our business," he said.

He said the insurer continued to invest in "the right brokers" through its Project Blue strategic investment scheme.

McManus said R&SA would not sign up with any broker software provider immediately, but would take part in the E-Market project.

"We're looking at linking up with all the major software houses to develop that relationship, but we're not in a massive hurry because our research shows brokers still haven't made up their own minds about which system is the best," he said.