Brokers sign up for commercial lines service launched last October

Countrywide has signed up 70 brokers to Countrywide Plus, its upgraded network launched in October last year.

Nick Haycock, the company’s managing director, has set a target of upgrading at least 150 of its 700 members to the Plus service over the next year. Another 55 have expressed interest in moving to the new network.

Countrywide Plus was set up for brokers with a growing commercial lines book on the Open GI software system. Countrywide remains the main network for personal lines brokers.

Haycock admitted Countrywide had not done enough in the past to help with commercial lines, but said the rapid take-up of Countrywide Plus showed members were still committed to the organisation.

“Now we are thinking we should exceed 150,” he said. “What really interests us is how quickly the market has taken it up.”

There are a couple of reasons for this, he said.

“The membership had been saying for quite a while that they liked Countrywide, but they needed some advantages on commercial lines deals.

“Second, all brokers are suffering from business not being renewed. Many small and medium-sized enterprises have gone out of business.

“In the past a lot of clients would just renew. Now they are going into the market and looking around at quotes. We can help brokers deal with their clients’ demands efficiently.”

Towergate snapped up both Countrywide and Broker Network in 2007.

Countrywide members joined the Broker Network board, with members from other Towergate acquisitions, in January.

Countrywide is using Broker Network’s expertise in compliance, human resources and business development for its own network.

Broker Network is the bigger of the two, with 210 members sharing a gross written premium (GWP) of more than £550m. Grant Ellis, its chief executive, wants to reach £1bn GWP by 2013 and sign up 1,000 members.

Countrywide had GWP of £250m last year but is aiming for £400m over the next year.