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Risk managers generally expressed confidence that they will see benefits from insurer and broker consolidation, according to a survey the Risk & Insurance Management Society Inc. conducted earlier this year.

Other comments from that poll indicate, however, that some risk managers are afraid the industry's growing clout means it will dictate to policyholders how business is handled.

RIMS polled members on the issue of consolidation's potential impact on risk managers in a telephone survey conducted in June. The poll, conducted by market research firm Schulman, Ronca & Bucuvalas Inc., gathered responses from 606 RIMS members in the United States and Canada.

"The survey was pretty ambivalent," said Susan R. Meltzer, assistant vp-insurance and risk management at Sun Life Assurance Co. in Toronto, and also vp-international and research on RIMS' Executive Council.

"I don't know what would happen if we did that survey today," she said last week.

Thirty-five percent of respondents believe broker consolidations will be good for customers in the long term, while 24% said customers would suffer. Another 31% said consolidations will have little effect either way.

The impact of broker consolidations on the range of products and services offered and the efficiency with which they will be provided was considered mainly positive by 57% of the respondents. Forty-one percent also indicated that the impact on quality of service would be mainly positive.

Individual comments on broker consolidations, which were printed in RIMS' account of the survey in Risk Management magazine, showed some concerns with mergers.

One risk manager worried that staff cuts could lead to errors as workers are overloaded.

Another warned insurance buyers to "keep in close contact with their brokers, because it's (consolidation) going to have a tremendous effect on account relationships."

One RIMS member responded that while consolidations among brokers shouldn't cause short-term problems, "in the long term it will be disastrous. These consolidations scare me. I think, in 20 years, we'll have one insurance company, one agency."