Service levels at broker-only insurer Folgate have been given an independent thumbs-up after the company subjected itself to a rigorous customer service audit by ratings organisation Arm.

The personal and commercial lines insurer is believed to be the first insurer to publish the results of a warts-and-all survey into its service for brokers.

The survey follows a period of upheaval at Folgate which has seen its gross written premium halved from £120m in 1996 to £60m last year. A significant blow was the loss of its £65m household account with Saga in February 1998.

Staff numbers have also fallen from 222 to 140 in three years. However, Arm felt Folgate had recovered most of this lost ground after relaunching its commercial business earlier this year, spearheaded by a new management team from Lombard Insurance. Its club broker scheme, Preferred, has also grown to 50 members.

As a result, Arm ratings has applied a “very good” rating to Folgate's overall level of customer service. This is in addition to the company's current AM Best credit rating of B+.

The Arm report said of Folgate: “Management's great accomplishment has been the cultivation of a new, positive company persona.”

However, Arm said Folgate's high operating costs were an issue of concern. But it added, the insurer was addressing this “Achilles' heel” by increasing premium retention and growth.

Folgate corporate and personal lines director Darryl Clark said: “The rating confirms the confidence we have in ourselves to deliver a first-class service.”

He added: “We were willing to put our reputations on the line, and it will be interesting to see if others are brave enough to do the same.”

Arm managing director Carne Curgenven said Folgate was the first insurer to agree to its audit findings being published.

The survey covered the following aspects of Folgate's operations: corporate strategy and structure, operating environment, products and development, management and staff, and systems and procedures.

Folgate is owned by the German insurer Wustenrot & Wurttembergische.

The survey is available on the internet at www.armratings.com.