Merger of personal and commercial lines businesses under consideration

Zurich is examining whether it should combine its personal lines and commercial lines divisions into a single general insurance division, Insurance Times has learnt.

It is understood the proposals would see UK chief executive Ian Stuart expand his remit to include responsibility for the commercial lines operations. Stuart has been running Zurich's personal lines business since the departure of the division's managing director, Mark Winlow, in September last year.

Guy Munnoch, who is currently managing director of Zurich Commercial and Municipal, would become responsible for distribution across the general insurance division.

The revelations come only a week after the insurer announced it was slashing 700 jobs from call centres across the country.

In a statement, a Zurich spokesman said: "Ian Stuart made an internal announcement recently regarding the reshaping of our general business in the UK. In essence, there will be one UK general insurance business which will incorporate personal and commercial lines business. For the moment it is business as usual."

The spokesman said amalgamating the two divisions would go ahead only if it were found to enhance customer service.

Any changes to the insurer's business model are expected to be implemented before the end of the year.

But brokers warned that a "period of uncertainty" would hang over the insurer until the final details were announced.

One fleet broker said: "This seems to be a bolt from the blue. There is an argument for moving small-end SME into personal lines, but I am not sure about the entire unit.

"Although Zurich does offer good telephone response services, you never get to talk to the same person twice and there is never any relationship building there."

Another Manchester-based broker added: "We find Zurich has some good offerings on personal lines, why would it bother then to merge it with commercial?

"We are uncertain how this will pan out. Zurich needs to think about the messages it is putting over to brokers - are they here to stay? There needs to be an air of continuity."