United Kingdom (UK) SME Insurance Competitor Dynamics 2021

Pages: 32 Published: February 14, 2022 Report Code: GDFS0364IA

SMEs are a critical part of the UK’s business landscape. As a result, they are a key target group for many commercial insurers. The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on the segment, with a notable decline in the number of businesses operating and a slight reduction in insurance penetration levels. From an insurance perspective, AXA, Aviva, and Zurich retain their positions as the top three providers, but the competition behind them is intensifying, with providers such as NFU Mutual making a strong play in the micro-business space.

The United Kingdom (UK) SME insurance market research report identifies which insurers lead the way in the SME segment and examines how they are developing their propositions, while also highlighting how competitor positions vary between micro, small, and medium enterprises. It reveals which insurers are winning over brokers and with which companies SMEs are placing their business.

What are the critical success factors behind the UK SME insurance market?

The uptake of SME insurance has fallen since the COVID-19 pandemic began. SMEs are dealing with challenging conditions and cost pressures. At the same time, the market is increasingly competitive. While AXA and Aviva continue to dominate with their comprehensive product coverage, behind them other providers are increasing their market shares with strong plays to the sole trader and micro-business segment.

What are the key distribution channels in the UK SME insurance market?

The key distribution channels in the UK SME insurance market are brokers, direct channel, bank, and PCW. In 2021, brokers were the leading channels.

UK SME insurance market, by distribution channels

UK SME insurance market, by distribution channelsFor more distribution channel insights, download a free report sample

Who are the key insurance providers in the UK SME insurance market?

The key insurance providers in the UK SME insurance market are AXA, Aviva, Zurich, NFU Mutual, and Direct Line. Aviva consistently outperforms its closest competition across the four product lines, namely public liability, employers’ liability, commercial property, and professional indemnity, with the highest penetration rates among SMEs.


In the SME space, it performs particularly well in the small and medium-sized business segments. Aviva announced a number of product developments for SMEs over the course of 2021. These include its new cyber insurance offering and a revamped private medical insurance proposition for individual and SME customers. In addition to these new product developments, Aviva continues to enhance its online trading platform, introducing changes such as improved quote journeys and the ability to add temporary drivers to mini-fleet policies.


It is particularly strong in the small and, to a lesser degree, the medium business spaces. AXA has increasingly ramped up its investment in its UK SME proposition in recent times, notably opening two SME Trading Centers in Bolton and Ipswich in 2019 to better serve the brokers serving the segment. In 2021, AXA announced a five-year agreement with Co-operative Bank, through which it becomes the bank’s preferred insurance provider for its revamped SME banking proposition. The insurer has also sought to develop its position as a thought leader in and a support to the SME space.


Within the SME space, Zurich performs particularly well with medium-sized businesses. Notable investments in recent years include the 2019 launch of its broker trading platform for SME and specialty business, Zurich Online. At a group level, Zurich also announced a global partnership in 2021 with Toronto insurtech BOXX Insurance, which provides cybersecurity and insurance solutions to SMEs and individuals.

UK SME insurance market, by insurance providers

UK SME insurance market, by insurance providersFor more insurance provider insights, download a free report sample

Market report scope

Key distribution channels Brokers, Direct Channel, Bank, and PCW
Key insurance provider Aviva, AXA, Zurich, NFU Mutual, and Direct Line

Reasons to Buy

  • Identify UK SME insurance market leaders.
  • Learn the providers of choice for SME insurance among brokers.
  • Discover the strategies and NPSs of the top SME insurers.
  • Identify growth opportunities in the SME space.
  • Discover value-added services that are in demand.

Key Players

NFU Mutual
Direct Line
The AA
Lloyd’s of London
Lloyds Bank
Metro Bank
Co-operative Bank

Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary

1.1. Competition in the SME insurance space is intensifying

1.2. Key findings

1.3. Critical success factors



  1. The UK SME Insurance Landscape

2.1. The pandemic has seen the number of SMEs decline, but they remain the mainstay of the business landscape

2.2. SME insurance uptake: Penetration of most products has decreased

2.3. Packaged insurance policies are popular, particularly among small and medium businesses

  1. The Leading Providers in SME Insurance

3.1. Overall market leaders: AXA, Aviva, and Zurich retain the top three spots, but competition is heating up behind them

3.2. Leading providers for brokers: Aviva tops broker selection

3.3. Leaders in bancassurance: Barclays continues to dominate

  1. The Top Three SME Insurers: AXA, Aviva, and Zurich

4.1. Aviva outperforms AXA and Zurich in terms of NPSs for key products

4.2. AXA: The market leader reaffirms its commitment to SMEs

4.3. Aviva: The insurer enjoys strong growth of its SME business

4.4. Zurich: Seeking growth from the SME segment

  1. Value-Added Services: Understanding Demand

5.1. Legal advice is the most accessed service, but the greatest opportunities lie in business strategy and marketing support

5.2. Medium-size businesses have the highest uptake of value- added services

5.3. The uptake of value-added services varies considerably by sector

  1. Appendix

6.1. Supplementary data

6.2. Abbreviations and acronyms

6.3. Definitions

6.4. Methodology

6.5. Secondary sources

6.6. Further reading

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List of Tables

List of Tables

Table 1: The number of SMEs in the UK private sector by business size, 2011-21

Table 2: Top three players’ market shares by product line, 2021

Table 3: The proportion of SMEs’ NPSs for 2021

Table 4: SMEs’ 2021 outlook on value-added services by business size

List of Figures

List of Figures

Figure 1: The uptake of insurance policies by SMEs was down in 2021 compared to 2019

Figure 2: Over 70% of small and medium businesses bought insurance through a package in 2021

Figure 3: Over half of employers’ liability and professional indemnity policies are bought through a package

Figure 4: AXA, Aviva, and Zurich remain the top three providers of SME insurance by the percentage of contracts sold

Figure 5: Visually comparing the top five providers for each product showcases the dominance of AXA and Aviva

Figure 6: Brokers are the key distribution channel in the SME purchasing journey

Figure 7: Brokers place the most business for non-packaged SME insurance with Aviva

Figure 8: Brokers place the most business for packaged SME insurance with Aviva

Figure 9: SMEs continue to choose Barclays for SME insurance products over other banks

Figure 10: Aviva consistently outscores the other leading providers on NPS for key products

Figure 11: Legal advice is the most sought-after value-added service

Figure 12: The uptake of legal and financial advice increases with the size of the business

Figure 13: Demand for business strategy advice varies considerably by sector

Figure 14: Top five players’ shares of respondents for 16 different commercial products (sole traders)

Figure 15: Top five players’ shares of respondents for 16 different commercial products (micro-size businesses)

Figure 16: Top five players’ shares of respondents for 16 different commercial products (small-size businesses)

Figure 17: Top five players’ shares of respondents for 16 different commercial products (medium-size businesses)

Frequently Asked Questions

The key distribution channels in the UK SME insurance market are brokers, direct channel, bank, and PCW. In 2021, brokers were the leading channels.

The key insurance providers in the UK SME insurance market are AXA, Aviva, Zurich, NFU Mutual, and Direct Line.


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