Brokers are in danger of losing small and medium enterprise (SME) business to direct insurers, according to a new Datamonitor survey.

Over 50% of 233 SMEs surveyed said they would consider buying commercial property and liability insurance direct from an insurer. But currently only 12% of SMEs buy their cover direct.

Datamonitor said brokers are under threat because direct commercial insurers have an opportunity to significantly increase their market share. "Direct commercial insurers may have the potential to grow their market share of distribution much further," the report said.

Price was found to be an important factor in SMEs' buying decisions. Datamonitor said: "SMEs were enthusiastic about buying direct if it could save them money".

But less than a third (32%) of the SMEs surveyed said they would buy their insurance online. Datamonitor said the reluctance of SMEs to buy online showed that the services offered by brokers were still valued.

"This highlights the importance of personal contact and the associated advice and service that SMEs receive when buying through a broker," the survey said.

Biba chief executive Eric Galbraith said: "Biba always recommends that SME businesses use a broker when looking for insurance. A broker, as the customer's champion, is able to advise clients on what can be complex issues of commercial insurance."

While 90% of SMEs said they were satisfied with their existing property and liability insurance provider, around 17% said they were considering changing their insurer in the next 12 months.

The report said SMEs that had "changed their impression" of their insurer over the past 12 months made a number of criticisms of their current provider, which included:

  • Being insensitive, greedy and money-grabbing
  • Prolonging the claims process for as long as possible
  • Being untrustworthy and unhelpful.