The improvement was due largely to the group acquiring new accounts. 'The results reflect a record year in new business won,' Richard Shaw, chairman and chief executive, said.
An 11 per cent growth rate was achieved in the UK division despite the recession and soft insurance market rates.
The marine and aviation division, helped by a 37 per cent growth in brokerage in the oil and energy company, performed well. The group's professional indemnity division was hit by exposure to the construction industry but the downturn in brokerage was only 5 per cent. In the North American division a 55 per cent growth in direct insurance brokerage was achieved.
The group is paying a final dividend of 8.4p, making a total of 12.6p, compared with last year's notional 11.5p referred to in the listing prospectus.
Mr Shaw said the group was 'picking its way through a couple of acquisition opportunities in the UK' and intended to develop an operation in eastern Germany.
The share price rose 3p to 273p.