Pricewaterhousecoopers' quarterly Financial Services Survey sounds an upbeat message on the immediate future of the insurance industry.

The survey of 29 general insurance companies and 21 insurance brokers found that a positive balance – the gap between positive and negative predictions – of 25% of respondents expect the number of jobs in the industry to grow.

Business volumes, the value of fee/commission income and profitability are also likely to rise.

The latter is despite 98% of respondents reporting that they plan to spend more money on increasing the efficiency and speed of their operations.

Ian Dilks, leader of PricewaterhouseCoopers European Insurance Group, said: "Overall, insurance companies continue to be optimistic. Worries about a slowdown have been replaced by increased confidence. Companies are looking more to the future."

Dilks also reported that a significant proportion of insurers plan to turn to in-house training to develop the skills they need.

He said: "Some financial services companies may have trouble getting the people they need. The challenge will be how they can respond to attract the people they need who may be more tempted to go for higher risk ventures with a share in the company."

Key findings of the financial services report show that a positive balance of:
- 71% believe there will be an increase in average commission, fees and premiums
- 45% believe there will be an increase in profitability
- 42% believe there will be an increase in training expenditure.

Insurers believe the main threats to profitability are domestic competition (62%); overseas competition (38%); and level of demand (23%).

Dilks said: "In general, the upturn in underwriting cycle is good news. General insurance companies expect to be recruiting people for the first time in years, which is reflective of the general level of optimism in the sector."