Markel UK has received a five-star rating from brokers for three years running in Insurance Times’s Five Star Rating Report: Commercial Lines. The insurer shares the secrets of its success and explains why the pandemic was a key opportunity 

Markel UK has a huge amount to be proud of this year as it retains its five-star rating for the third year running in Insurance Times’s Five Star Rating Report: Commercial Lines 2020/21.

It has achieved five stars across all the service categories investigated within the report, including claims experience, policy documentation, quality of cover, underwriting experience and relationship management.

Last February, Markel revealed its commercial lines five-star rating at a lavish company-wide breakfast briefing across eight of its offices. This year, due to the Covid-19 lockdown, it held an internal awards ceremony instead.

Nic Brown, Markel’s sales and marketing director, told Insurance Times: “Keeping the five-star rating was more important to us in terms of that overall consistency, but also when someone is number one all the time sometimes it erodes a bit of credibility.

“The fact that things are changing, the market is changed, it’s been a hell of a tough year and getting five stars is what we are all about. It’s about being the best in class - we know the commercial lines market.”

Meanwhile Neil Galjaard, the insurer’s divisional managing director, added: “We are an organisation that is about forever - it’s about trying to build sustainable service and delivery for our brokers.”

He said that to get five-stars three years running means that Markel is delivering on its ambitions and is a testament to what the business provides to brokers.

While Markel prides itself on being a sector specialist, which allows it to coordinate its strategy more effectively, the challenge now is to get five stars every year.

Galjaard continued: “Consistency at that level is more important than having a great year. The fact that it can [be] sustained over a period, we are in this for delivering long-term value to brokers and clients.”

Delivering what others don’t

Markel takes risk management seriously - it was rated excellent in this area. For Brown, it is this high standard which helps the business stay relevant. For example, it provided advice about infections at care homes during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

Its team of Markel care practitioners allowed the insurer to guide customers through the renewal process, whereas other insurers declined cover or hiked up premiums.

When asked what the secret to Markel’s success was, Galjaard said: “It is about that focus on brokers and customers, being a specialist and being good at what we do. It is about delivering things that others don’t.”

He explained that Markel’s proposition is quite wide – for example focusing on sectors and skills around legal and taxes.

Last year, Markel was acknowledged to be using this strategy to good effect, bagging the Customer Champion of the Year prize at the Insurance Times Awards. In its entry, Markel demonstrated how it used its tax and legal capability to support brokers and clients through the pandemic. It also won the Commercial Insurer of the Year award.

The insurer hopes to strengthen its commitment to broker relationships with significant investment this year.

Brown said: “Markel is very much centred around sustainable actions; we do things for the long-term.” This enables Markel to give shareholders returns.

Expect more

During lockdown, Markel recruited more staff - such as loss adjustors and solicitors - to help navigate the impact of the pandemic.

It also provided its IP to brokers to pass on to customers, which was recognised in an Insurance Times award. An IP is an Internet Protocol - this is a set of rules governing the format of data sent via the internet or a local network; they are the identifier that allows information to be sent between devices.

But Galjaard said that he does not see this as going the extra mile - instead it is part of the Markel brand.

The insurer has also been focusing on its “expect more” proposition and how to “do more” for its brokers and SME clients.

The insurer tries to be sustainable by delivering the best in everything it does. This was echoed in the commercial lines report findings, with many brokers stating that Markel went over and above what was expected of them.

Galjaard highlighted that Markel paid business interruption claims from the outset. It also provided advice about furlough to brokers and clients last year.

Furthermore, it launched a Covid-19 hub for its brokers, which included information they could use with clients.

Galjaard believes that it is this focus on operational resilience and management, as well as its communication to distribution partners, that makes Markel sustainable. Brown said this will be continued post-lockdown as Markel has “used Covid-19 to evidence its capability”.

Brown also pointed out that Markel  is “doubling down” on claims instead of outsourcing them, due to investment. Plus, the insurer has its own law firm, with a panel of lawyers that work collaboratively. This means the company doesn’t have to outsource this work to loss adjusters.

Building back better

Despite the vaccine being rolled out and an upcoming date for the UK’s lockdown to be lifted, SMEs are still experiencing other challenges.

The job now is building back customer confidence, according to Markel.

Galjaard said: “A lot of those commercial clients coming out of lockdown don’t know what coming out of lockdown will be like for them, and they require their brokers more than ever to help them understand what protection they do have and don’t.

”What we have got to do as industry is have those right conversations with customers about protection they really need, the cost and why is it valuable to their business.”

For example, some Covid-19 protection that was in place last year won’t be available this year as it has been excluded via renewals.

He stressed that if brokers are having these discussions, customers will see the value.

Brown reckons a great deal of review work will be needed, as brokers are needed now more than ever - for example, advising clients as furlough ends and around the tax opportunities announced in the recent Spring Budget.

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