Zurich is set for a major push to sell commercial insurance direct to businesses next year.

The insurer has launched its first direct SME product online and plans to roll out a full suite within the next year. It is aiming to grow its SME business sixfold over the next five years.

The commercial van product was made available through Zurich Connect in August.

By the end of 2008, the website will also include commercial property and liability and professional indemnity packages.

Mark Dalton, head of commercial retail, said: “Based on research Zurich commissioned, 18% of people said the next time they purchased an SME product, they would do so online.

“Our position is that we want to give our customers the choice.”

Zurich would be one of the first insurers to have a full SME suite offered directly online, he said.

“We are hoping to be the market leader,” he added.

Zurich writes over £300m in SME premiums. About 45% of policies are still purchased through brokers, with buying direct by telephone the next most popular choice.

The company has been aggressive in building its SME portfolio.

Last year it launched a new business proposition by establishing regional underwriting teams across the country to focus solely on underwriting SME business for brokers..