Move will see departure of three directors

Independent underwriting and broking group Somerville Holdings has announced its intention to merge its Oak high net worth (HNW) and Plum home underwriting operations early in the New Year, subject to regulatory approval.

Plum brokers will benefit from the merger due to the broadening of its underwriting base, improvement to its claims handling capabilities and improved scope for new product development. Oak brokers will in turn gain greater access to Plum’s Lloyd’s facilities and the combined business will now manage approximately £50m of gross premium income.

Bob Trott, managing director at Oak, will extend his remit by joining chairman Andrew Cross on the Plum board to oversee the merger. David Whitaker will join Plum from Hiscox prior to the merger as underwriting manager. Toby Daley will also join Plum from Hiscox as part of the senior management team.

Current Plum directors Michael Storr, Andy Salisbury and Andrew Pickersgill have decided not to join the combined operation and will leave the business at the end of the year.

Plum’s current brand, location and systems will be retained and, with the exception of those mentioned, all staff also will remain.

Plum (Home) is a city based underwriting agency that utilises Lloyd’s capacity to provide innovative insurance solutions to a select number of brokers. Since its formation in 2002, the areas of business handled by Plum have increased from just standard household risks to include tenanted properties, thatched houses and holiday homes in both the UK and Europe.

Chipping Norton-based Oak Underwriting is the only high net worth insurer purely dedicated to insuring high value homes. The company provides a tailor-made policy that covers every eventuality, from buildings, contents, fine art and antiques, jewellery, valuables and collections right through to annual travel insurance, second and holiday homes and RAC motor breakdown - plus many others. The core home owners’ policy is underwritten by the Beazley Syndicates at Lloyd's.

Commenting on the merger Somerville Holdings chairman Andrew Cross said: “We have been looking at a way to increase the efficiency and service levels delivered by our underwriting agencies for some time now. The merger of Plum and Oak will provide the group with a combined operation with the scope and capacity to deliver growth while maintaining its reputation for providing innovative niche home and HNW products.”