Insurer reports strong first quarter results.

Zurich highlighted strong personal lines performance in the UK as part of its first quarter global results released last week, while it reported that group gross written premiums had risen 10% to $11.2bn (£5.7bn) but combined ratio had deteriorated by 1.3% to 94.6%.

Richard Coleman, head of personal lines for Zurich’s UK broker division, said the insurer will continue to focus on expanding its broker business as a means of growing its personal lines book even further.

Coleman said: “In the last year we have expanded our sales force, who will work alongside a wider range of brokers to develop mutually beneficial strategies. We’ve also continued working very successfully with brokers considering consolidation as part of their strategy with our Altitude programme, and as an insurer well known for our technical pricing disciplines we believe we’re an excellent partner when it comes to long-term placement strategies.”

Zurich said the group’s 2% rise in GWP and policy fees was due to organic growth and increased premium volumes from organic growth and bolt-on acquisitions mainly in Europe, while the 1.3% hike in combined ratio reflected a higher amount of large loss claims.

Meanwhile, its first quarter group results also showed a general insurance business operating profit of $1.2bn (£610m), up 5%, which it said was largely driven by the European business and increased investment income from higher invested assets.

The company said rates had shown signs of improvement in a number of markets in Europe, but were flat overall because of rate reductions in Italy and Ireland.

UK results were not reported for the quarter but in its 2007 annual results, Zurich had showed operating profits of £91m, down from £323m the previous year due to floods, and a combined operating ratio of 104.8%. It had also seen its GWP decline a fraction to £2.06bn.