The Underwriter Insurance Company officially started operations this week – in a coffee shop in the heart of The City.

Chief executive Keith Rutter was forced to spend part of his first week, Lloyd's style, in the local Pret A Manger when a fire alarm in his building went off.

The historical echoes may prove favourable. Rutter, a grammar school, non university-educated underwriter, known affectionately in the industry as "Rutter the Nutter", is the man of the moment. Something of a hero to brokers, and a symbol of good times to insurers.

Almost everyone in the insurance industry hopes his new company will succeed. If it does, it will signal a few things. First, from a broker's perspective, that some diversity could be returning to the market. Second, from an insurer's perspective, that the health of the market is improving sufficiently to sustain a new player. Of course, rival insurers want to compete but, similarly, they want a market that can support new entrants.

Rutter himself says he always wanted to run something: "At Independent, my job was underwriting and claims, but I got too remote from the underwriting. I knew I wanted to run something and the choice was a syndicate or a company.

"But syndicates bring legacy. If you become part of a managing agency you acquire whatever they have got as a philosophy.

"We've been able to write our own business plan. If you join a wider organisation, that's not possible."

Rutter talks enthusiastically about internet projects and developing The Underwriter to a team of 40 staff with £100m gross written premium within five years.

In truth, there is not much evidence on which to judge the likely prosperity of the venture. But AM Best, the ratings company, has given The Underwriter an A- ('excellent').

The minus, says AM Best, "Reflects the uncertainties surrounding the company as a result of its start-up nature and hence, lack of track record. Accordingly, the rating process has included an in-depth assessment of management's ability to meet the business plan, the potential lack of market acceptance and the risk that the improving market sentiment might be displaced. "

AM Best concludes: "Adherence to the business plan is key and the company's performance in meeting the targets detailed in this will be the primary driver of the rating in future."

Having someone of Peter Wood's standing liaising between the fledgling company and MSDW should help adherence considerably.

Rutter himself has an impressive CV having worked as a as a top underwriter. Judging by the number of calls to Insurance Times from brokers who worked with Rutter at Independent, he is a hugely-respected figure in the industry.