Consolidation in the SME sector is set to accelerate after Swinton declared this week its intention to begin buying commercial brokers.

The intermediary is a dominant force in the personal lines market, but chief executive Patrick Smith told Insurance Times that he aimed to ramp up Swinton's SME business through acquisitions.

"We launched commercial SME two years ago, and we have spent the past two years building our experience in the sector," Smith said.

"We will continue to be interested in [acquiring] personal lines brokers, but we are now looking for commercial-led brokers."

The shift in strategy will see Swinton expand its acceptance criteria for SME risks from an average £600 premium to £10,000.

"It is a case of expanding from small end business to more mid-range risks, although we will look to manage cases larger than that," said Smith. "This will open up a range of acquisition opportunities."

Last year Swinton, which has a history of acquiring personal lines brokers, completed the acquisition of Budget's retail business.

Swinton's move into the commer-cial market comes as consolidation of the sector gathers pace.

Smith said brokers were beginning to realise business values: "It is an expensive market," he said. "For brokers it is a great time to sell."

The intermediary will look to acquire brokers valued up to £10m, with an average £2m-£5m premium income.

Smith said organic growth of the business was expected to generate £650m gross written premiums by the end of the financial year, with an income plan of £200m forecast.