Royal & SunAlliance (R&SA) will not be rushing to develop auto-rated, straight-through-processed, small commercial policies, despite the advances made by AXA and NU, according to R&SA director of corporate business Brendan McManus.

Stating his support for the Polaris i-Market portal, McManus said most of the brokers which provided SME polices that were best suited to online trading were still heavily telephone based.

He said R&SA would continue to heavily segment its brokers based on long-term embedded value rather than just profitability and size.

l UK commercial lines was one of R&SA's star performers in its first quarter results.

UK commercial lines director Peter Webster said 2003's first quarter combined ratio for UK commercial improved to 94.4%, up from 98.8% in the first quarter 2002 .

While the combined ratio for personal lines improved from 111.3% in the first quarter 2002 to 106.7%, R&SA group chief executive Andy Haste said that the UK personal lines result was unacceptable. "We must reduce the expense base of More Th>n," he said.

Webster also said that R&SA had exceeded its minimum FSA capital requirement by £1.3bn and its risk based capital position was now in equilibrium .

See news analysis, page 10