The quick completion of transactions and diverse sales avenues, rather than cheap policies, will be the keys to success in the highly competitive general insurance market, according to a senior industry figure. Aviva, one of Hong Kong's largest general insurance providers, has spent nearly $30 million to create an internet-based business-to-business platform to facilitate information exchanges and transactions with sales intermediaries such as brokers and agencies. 'Before, when a buyer goes to intermediaries and asks for a quote, they will come to us and we will give them a price, which will then be accepted or rejected by the buyer,' said Kenneth Reid, assistant general manager at Aviva. 'If it is accepted then the intermediaries will have to come back to us to place the order. After that, we will give them the document and the buyer will get the notification from them and the whole process can take weeks.' With the new platform - known as Genlink - a transaction could be completed in 15 minutes, Mr Reid said. Since the system's inception in 2002, the firm has set up 55 such web connections with its partners. 'This is very important for the future in the business because as margin is decreasing, we need to be able to deliver products with less cost and more efficiency,' he said. While a price war that broke out in the insurance industry nearly two years ago has cut some annual premiums by more than 40 per cent, Mr Reid said his firm had held its own, mainly because of its balanced distribution channel model. Aviva now derives about 60 to 70 per cent of its business from alliances with brokers and agencies while bancassurance, another major distribution channel, accounts for about 20 per cent. Mr Reid said the strategy allowed the firm to gain a strong foothold in different client groups and reduce its vulnerability to adverse changes in one specific market segment. Last year, the firm ranked sixth in gross premiums among Hong Kong's general insurance providers. Mr Reid said that figure represented growth of about 4.6 per cent from 2003, compared with the industry average of a 7.2 per cent drop. Mr Reid said his firm would focus on developing its Hong Kong business without worrying about gaining entry to the mainland.