AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings Of Markel

September 12, 2020

AM Best has affirmed the Long-Term Issuer Credit Rating of “bbb+” of Markel Corporation and all of its Long-Term Issue Credit Ratings and indicative Long-Term IRs.

AM Best also has affirmed the Financial Strength Ratingof A [Excellent] and the Long-Term ICRs of “a+” of all the members of the Markel North America Insurance Group, and upgraded the Long-Term ICRs to “a+” from “a” and affirmed the FSR of A [Excellent] for Markel Bermuda Limited  and its affiliate, Markel Global Reinsurance Company. The outlook of these Credit Ratings [ratings] is stable.

A statement from the ratings agency said, “The ratings of Markel NA, which is considered the lead rating unit in the Markel enterprise, reflect its balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorizes as strongest, as well as its adequate operating performance, favorable business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management [ERM].

“The balance sheet strength assessment for Markel NA is supported by its risk-adjusted capital level, which is in the strongest category, as measured by Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio [BCAR]. The balance sheet strength assessment further considers Markel NA’s consistently favorable loss reserve development patterns over a number of years and the effectiveness of its reinsurance program in protecting against shock losses associated with large catastrophes.

“Somewhat offsetting these factors are elevated levels of volatility in the capital base associated with the group’s equity investments, with a level of common stock leverage that remains substantially elevated relative to peer group averages; its slightly elevated levels of net and gross leverage that result from its above-average retention of business; and the group’s catastrophe appetite, which can result in surplus variations in years with an accumulation of smaller catastrophe losses.

“The group’s adequate operating performance assessment is based on its underwriting results, which generally outperform peers by a significant margin based on better-than-average loss and loss adjustment expenses. This outperformance is offset by a generally worse-than-average underwriting expense ratio and an operating ratio that has been only slightly better than average over the past five years. The group’s investment policy, with its focus on long-term capital appreciation, results in favorable return metrics but below-average net investment income, negatively impacting overall operating results. The group has demonstrated an ability to organically increase surplus through underwriting profits, but policyholder dividends over the last five years have resulted in most investment-related gains being transferred to the ultimate parent.

“The group maintains a favorable business profile, ranking among the 35 largest property/casualty organizations in the United States. It is the third largest writer of excess and surplus [E&S] business in the United States, and the second largest U.S.-based E&S provider, after Lloyd’s and American International Group, Inc. The group’s business is well-diversified by line of business and state within the United States, and the group also includes Markel’s European operating companies, providing international diversification. The group’s participation in admitted and non-admitted markets provides it with advantages across market cycles.

“Markel’s ERM program is appropriately embedded within the organization to manage the risks of its complex global operations, which include insurance and noninsurance sectors. The group has demonstrated an ability to operate effectively at moderately higher levels of leverage than its peers, in part through the effectiveness of the ERM program. The appointment of a chief risk officer earlier in 2020 should bring additional executive-level focus to the organization’s ERM initiatives.

“The ratings of State National reflect its balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorizes as strongest, as well as its strong operating performance, neutral business profile and appropriate ERM. State National’s balance sheet is supported by strongest risk-adjusted capital level, and it has effectively managed the credit risk associated with its Program Services business over time. State National continues to produce underwriting and operating results on its lender services business that consistently outperform its peers. The group’s business profile reflects its leadership position in lender and program services, while taking into consideration the increasingly competitive nature of both segments.

“The ratings of Markel Bermuda reflect its balance sheet strength, which AM Best categorizes as very strong, as well as its adequate operating performance, neutral business profile and appropriate ERM. The group’s balance sheet strength assessment reflects its very strong level of risk-adjusted capitalization, as measured by BCAR, as well as the levels of favorable reserve development in recent years. The group’s operating results have been variable in recent years, reflecting competitive reinsurance market conditions and loss reserve development that, while generally favorable, did not reflect the levels of historical reserve redundancy enjoyed by a number of its peers. The assessment of business profile acknowledges the group’s diverse geographies and lines of business in which the group operates, offset by the group’s modest relative position within the global reinsurance market. Markel Bermuda’s ratings also reflect rating enhancement it receives as a result of its strategic importance to the Markel enterprise, as well as the benefits it receives through its relationship with other Markel subsidiaries.

“The ratings of Syndicate 3000 reflect the balance sheet strength of the Lloyd’s market, which AM Best categorizes as very strong, as well as the market’s strong operating performance, favorable business profile and appropriate ERM. Markel is the ultimate parent company of Syndicate 3000’s managing agent, Markel Syndicate Management Limited, and of its corporate member, Markel Capital Limited. Syndicate 3000 is important to Markel as its main underwriting center for large U.S. and international marine, energy, specialty and financial lines written in the London market.

“The ratings of the Markel Corporation reflect the ratings of its operating insurance subsidiaries, as well as its financial leverage and coverage metrics, which remain within AM Best’s guidelines. At June 30, 2020, following the issuance of $600 million in preferred stock in May, the group’s adjusted debt to total capital ratio measured 26.4%. Unadjusted debt to total capital measured 28.9% as of that date.”

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