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9 May 2024 Features Insurance

Making a difference when it matters

Commercial primary casualty wholesale insurance encompasses an ever-growing range of complex risks that businesses must understand, manage and insure. Markel’s growing team covering this line of business specialises in doing just that, Georgia Collier tells Intelligent Insurer.

It might not roll off the tongue as easily as other lines of business, but commercial primary casualty wholesale insurance has breadth in its application and is of key importance to many areas of the US economy—from restaurants and bars to commercial buildings, many businesses would struggle to operate without it. 

For those working in this field, it is a satisfying line of business to work in, as Georgia Collier, managing director, commercial primary casualty wholesale insurance at Markel, testifies in a video interview with Intelligent Insurer.

“It is very rewarding but also fun,” she says. “The risk landscape is ever-evolving, presenting new challenges all the time. It requires a lot of collaboration internally but when you can truly help a client, it is really worth it.”

Collier has the experience to affirm this. She recently celebrated her 20-year insurance industry anniversary, the last two years with Markel. Prior to this, she spent 18 years with a commercial excess and surplus lines carrier building a premises-focused division. “I learned a lot in that role, which I am now applying at Markel,” she says.

As a product line leader at Markel, she sets the strategy, and ensures she understands the risk environment as well as any emerging risks in the space. Within the commercial primary casualty wholesale division, she is particularly focused on products and premises risks. Through that, she works with the insurer’s six regions nationwide, helping them execute the strategy, as well as partnering with wholesale brokers to help commercial policyholders.

Collier stresses that the range of risks involved has increased and is ever-evolving. Some of the risks that are growing but also might surprise people are things such as assault and battery, abuse and molestation. One huge exposure for commercial insureds, she adds, is liquor liability, which covers damages or injuries that may occur due to consumption of alcohol sold or served by the insured establishment. Bodily injury arising from a fall is also a growing problem.

The risks are exacerbated by ever-bigger awards being given to claimants by the courts. “One loss can cripple an insured from a financial perspective. We want to help provide a solution if they face a covered loss event, allowing them to go forward with their plans and still be productive.”

Deep expertise

Collier praises the depth and strength of the team in Markel across its six regions as they deal with this increasingly complex risk landscape. She name-checks a number of individuals key to the delivery of the product. These include Nan Fine, a senior director in the Southeast; Erin Hannum, a senior underwriter in the Northeast; David Ortega, who covers the West; Will Egan, who covers the Mid-Atlantic; and Tanner Grail, an underwriter on Egan’s team. She also notes the quality of the insurer’s claims staff, and its risk engineering team, known as Risk Solution Services. 

“We already had some experts in the field and in the regions, and we have built on that expertise,” she says. “By understanding the issues and having those experts and experience, we can create solutions. We want to help businesses keep moving forward and succeeding.”

Collier can list many case studies concerning clients the team has helped. She mentions one instance where a premises-focused insured had a “unique bodily injury loss.” The client wanted to take steps to ensure it did not happen again. “The Risk Solution Services team consulted with the insured, read the contracts, examined their operations and identified pitfalls that could be avoided,” she says.

“Because of that collaboration, it was exciting to see an insured feel confident that they could avoid that loss exposure going forward. We love the collaboration and creating the solutions, and it’s a real value-add for our customers.”

Another example was from a resort in the Northeast that experienced a devastating fire loss just months ahead of its busiest season. “A lot of carriers weren’t interested in writing that risk, not wanting to understand what had happened or how could it be improved so that didn’t happen again,” Collier recalls. 

“We partnered with our wholesale broker to understand how the insured had protected that location and rectified the situation for the rest of their property that was unscathed. We were able to provide a solution and create a win-win situation for Markel and the insured.”

She offers a third example: an application that came in for a restaurant in Texas—it was a very quick turnaround. The insured had changed the nature of the business and its incumbent insurer had pulled away. 

“We were able to come in, understand the change, create a solution for the insured, and help the business place the liquor liability and general liability coverage for the restaurant. It meant they could move forward in terms of operating. Those kinds of stories make me very proud of our team and what we’re doing here in our division.”

Going the distance

Collier’s division offers primary general liability insurance, with limits of $1 million per occurrence and $2 million in the aggregate, and liquor liability, which is so important for many insureds, she notes. Some ancillary coverages such as hired and non-owned auto liability, employee benefits liability, medical payments and others are also offered.

“It makes for a robust and well-rounded product offering for our general liability-focused insureds,” she says.

She has a keen interest in emerging risks, which she describes as “the most fun part of the job.” She links in with Markel’s global Emerging Risks Group on this.

“Everyone has different backgrounds, strengths, and knowledge bases. It’s a wonderful group to identify proactively the emerging risks that are approaching for our policyholders—and how we can offer solutions,” Collier says.

This encompasses everything from cyber risks to action figures operating in the metaverse. “Whatever the issue, we seek a proactive solution for our clients.”

Markel offers its clients solutions first and foremost, and Collier notes that in the context of writing general liability coverage, many insureds are selective about the longevity and financial strength of the carrier they are working with—as well as its expertise and ability to innovate.

“When you’re thinking about placing primary general liability coverage, the longevity of the carrier you’re working with and the quality of the paper are extremely important to the decision,” she says. “That’s what I would be thinking about as a business owner.

“At Markel, we’re in this for the long run. That’s exemplified by some of our senior directors, who have been with us a long time. It helps establish long-term partnerships, which we’re focused on and committed to here at Markel.”

Looking ahead, the business is focused on continuing to help clients understand an increasingly complex risk environment for commercial premises-focused clients in particular—and to provide solutions. Collier notes that there are many industry-specific challenges, such as liquor liability, assault and battery, and rising claims costs, that Markel can help its clients better understand and manage.

Her team, as the case studies illustrate, are good at adapting and innovating to solve problems, as well as bridging gaps in coverage. This makes Markel a good option for companies from startups to large firms with hard-to-place risks. She is keen to stress the team’s expertise in mitigating losses for policyholders.

“As a team, we’re constantly scanning the risk environment to be proactive and call out risks for our insureds before they come to fruition. We want to meet them head-on and stay ahead of the game,” Collier says.

“Second, we are focused on providing individual solutions for our insureds, and not just taking a broadbrush approach. Finally, we want to be a great resource not only for our insureds, but also for our broker partners, establishing long-term relationships with all the parties involved.

“By focusing on these core strengths, we have a team that is the best partner for premises risks, and we’re very excited about the future,” she concludes.

Georgia Collier is managing director, commercial primary casualty wholesale insurance, at Markel. She can be contacted at georgia.collier@markel.com.

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More on this story

Insurance
3 May 2024   Markel killed non-core lines worth 2% of top line, focused on 10% below margin targets.
Alternative Risk Transfer
2 May 2024   Premium cession to the ILS unit rises 50% y/y in Q1; asset mix renders revenue gain.
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1 February 2024   Assets under management at Nephila are now down nearly a third from the Q2 2021 peak.