West Country super-broker Westinsure will merge its seven companies by 1 January 2003 and will have a premium income of £75m by 2005, according to managing director Bob Parkins.

The deal is expected to increase Westinsure's buying power. It also helps secure the future of the small brokers. The British Insurance Brokers' Association (Biba) has blessed the deal.

Parkins said: "We developed this partnership option so fiercely independent small brokers - probably with a premium income of £2.5m or below - that want to stay independent can do so.

"We take a minority stake in the business and they come under the Westinsure group."

As part of the deal, a Westinsure director becomes a board member at the brokerage and offers strategic advice and guidance. The broker also has the security of being part of a larger group.

Westinsure's first partnership business, recruited on 1 June 2001, was Weston-super-Mare-based RT Moore. This business now trades as RT Moore Westinsure.

Westinsure Anada was established in April 2000 to help traditional high-street brokers in the West Country's five counties - Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire - survive after feeling the pinch of direct sales to consumers and major insurers squeezing many independents to collapsing point. It comprises six brokers and secured its first acquisition with Swindon-based Brunsdon in October 2000.

Parkins said: "All six businesses and the new Swindon office will be merged by 1 January 2003. That's a big project and moves away from the alliances that are around at the moment, because Westinsure companies will become one legal entity.

"As one company, Westinsure can build a complete business. This will enable us to become the perfect distribution channel for insurers and customers in the West Country."

Biba membership manager Paul Garland agreed Westinsure's partnership concept was "unique" and welcomed the initiative as another "avenue" for West Country brokers if existing solutions such as alliances or the Broker Network did not appeal.

"We back any project that helps small brokers to survive and run their own business. We want brokers to flourish in more remote regions such as the

West Country where many of the insurers have withdrawn support. We say to our members, have a look at all these new alternatives."

He also said insurers would take notice of a company which was making "millions".

Westinsure has a combined general premium income of £35m.

Parkins said by 2005 he would like the group to be in at least 35 West Country locations, with a premium income of £75, and a commission income of £17m.