High-street giant set to double the size of its UK call centres and expand internet division.

Swinton is planning to create more than 600 new jobs over the next five years in order to hit its growth targets.

The high-street broking giant said it was looking to boost headcount across it UK branch network, online division, commercial arm and UK call centres.

The company, which employs nearly 4,000 people in the UK, said its three call centres, in Manchester, Norwich and Halifax, were on course to double in size over the next five years, taking the number of telephone-based advisers and support staff to more than 700.

The continued expansion of online operations will help create 50 new jobs at Swinton’s internet division in Norwich.

In addition to new jobs in personal lines insurance, Swinton plans to double the headcount at its business insurance division, Swinton Commercial.

The division is aiming to become one of the UK’s top 10 commercial brokers within the next five years, which will require a doubling of headcount to about 400, the company said.

Swinton chief executive Patrick Smith said: “In the current economic climate, the insurance sector is

under extreme pressure and some companies have had to take some very tough decisions with regard to redundancies.

“But despite trading in a highly competitive market, where margins are being constantly squeezed, Swinton’s unique combination of high-street branches, customer contact centres and online channels means our business remains robust and very profitable.

“This, combined with our ambitious growth strategy, means we are actually increasing headcount substantially across the business while others are looking at downsizing.”

Swinton recently announced record profits for 2007 and its seventh year of consecutive growth. In May, it reported profits of more than £48m for 2007, up 27% on the previous year. Gross premiums increased by 39% to nearly £666m.

Other companies have announced major cutbacks in staff in recent weeks. Insurers NU and Zurich said they would be cutting thousands of jobs between them.

Earlier in the year, broker Endsleigh Insurance said it would be closing more than 100 retail branches.