Aviva’s UK general insurance business posted a combined ratio of 98% in Q1 2011, six points better than the loss-making 104% it reported in the same period last year.

The insurer also saw its UK GI net premiums written (excluding health and group reinsurance) increase 20% to £1.1bn from £913m.

In its Q1 interim management statement, Aviva said the highlight of the quarter in the UK was motor insurance. Total customer numbers, comprising those who bought insurance direct, through brokers and through the RAC panel, reached two million.

Aviva said rolling out ‘direct pricing’ to brokers resulted in an increase in net written premiums of 60% compared to 1Q10 and 180,000 new broker customers since the start of 2010. Direct motor customers have increased by 240,000 and the RAC Panel by 160,000 over the same period.

The company added that it was planning to expand its presence in the price comparison market by launching a new separately-branded internet offering in the summer.

Aviva said it continued to see a similar rating environment as in 2010. It said it had achieved rate increases over the past year of 24% in personal motor, 6% in homeowner and 10% in commercial motor. However the company added that conditions in commercial property and liability remain soft and increases are in the “low single digits”.

Group-wide, Aviva’s general insurance combined ratio improved five points to 97% in Q1 2011, while net written premiums increased 9% to £2.7bn from £2.5bn.

Aviva said the “strong” performance was driven by a combination of pricing actions, improved efficiency and improving market conditions.

“We have made a good start to the year,” said group chief executive Andrew Moss in a statement. “Our general insurance performance is a real highlight; sales are up strongly and profitability is good.”

Aviva UK Q1 year-on-year rate increases at a glance

  • Personal motor: 24%
  • Homeowner: 6%
  • Commercial motor: 10%
  • Commercial property and liability: “Low single digits”