The broker software market is taking off, but brokers are not on board yet, says Liam Vaughan

' The dawning of a new year is usually marked by a slow re-awakening of the industry from a period of relative hibernation in the run-up to Christmas.

From a hack's perspective, hard news is thin on the still-frosty ground as insurers, brokers and service providers formulate their strategy for the coming months behind closed doors, ready for high profile announcements in February and March.

Fortunately the broker software market has duly bucked that trend and bombarded us with details of moves, counter-moves, acquisitions, client wins and statements of intent.

The most salient issue over the next 12 months will be the level of take-up of Imarket within the broker community.

Players like Sirius and Acturis have, in effect, made being market-leaders on Imarket their USP. But while the portal promises the earth, there exists real dissension among sections of the broker fraternity over what's really in it for them.

Expect to see more and more inducements for brokers as software houses and insurers start to panic.

Speculation has also been rife about the future of Misys General Insurance. Many in the market consider the reported asking price of £100m to be over-ambitious, fuelling rumours of either a Phillip Bell-led MBO or a merger with one of the fledgling commercial lines specialists.

A tie-in with Acturis would surely leave the likes of Sirius and SSP concerned about their future place in the market.

With the announcement this week that Misys has added a further eight Towergate brokers to its platform, a third option is also being quietly mooted.

Would the acquisition-hungry Towergate consider making a bid for the software house to try to bring synergy to its still disparate portfolio of more than 100 brokers?

Brace yourselves for more revelations when the company announces its interim results this week.

SSP is another company to watch out for following the acquisition of super-broker specialist Sectornet at the tail-end of last year.

Brokers who remain unconvinced about Imarket may start to put their money where their mouths are and switch allegiance to the likes of SSP and CDL which have been less Imarket-focused than their competitors.

And Insurecom has yet again boldly promised to report profits for the first time in the months ahead.

Despite an over-riding sense of deja-vu, new chief executive Philip Walter has outlaid some serious capital on R&D, so don't be surprised to see a reversal of fortunes in the not too distant future.

In the world of broker software houses nothing stands still for very long. IT

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