A sample of 200 solicitors voted the financial security of an insurer as their top priority when choosing to buy professional indemnity cover.

Zurich Financial Services found the security of the insurer (93%) was more important than the price of the product (88%). It was a followed closely by service standards (86%) and the need for a variety of product options (69%).

The insurer has now set up a dedicated unit, Zurich Professional, to pitch the market in the run-up to August 31, when the mutual Solicitors Indemnity Fund, which had a monopoly on the first £1m of a firm's cover, will be scrapped unleashing an estimated £250m to the open market.

Zurich is promising potential savings of up to 30% or more on current SIF premiums depending on their individual risks.

Martin South, chief executive of Zurich Specialties London, who has been the initiator for the development of the new company, said: "Zurich professional aims to differentiate itself by guaranteeing the levels of service, which solicitors have told us is important to them.

"In addition, being technology driven, it is able to offer a flexible and competitive alternative to the previous compulsory cover."

Steve Roberts, who will be the chief executive of Zurich Professional, added that the new unit would focus on service standards. "This includes our claims service, where each customer is assigned with an experienced professional indemnity claims solicitor who will manage their claims from start to finish," he said.

Twelve insurers are pitching for the solicitor PI market. Insurer The St Paul is favourite to win most of the book after getting the contract to run the Law Society's own scheme.