‘You can knit the component parts together to give what is a truly differentiated proposition in that sector for the broker to deliver to their client,’ he says

The “real utopia” of what insurance could be is a service that helps customers become a “better risk”, says Markel UK’s divisional managing director Neil Galjaard.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Galjaard highlighted two moves that could help improve customers’ risk status and, in turn, encourage them to look at insurance and the “value they get through their insurer and broker differently”.

The first is providing products and services that customers can use during the insurance year, even when they haven’t got a claim.

The second is helping clients’ businesses become better businesses, which is one strategic ambition Galjaard says specialist insurer Markel is currently working on.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure there’s a package of benefits that goes with insurance that really benefits the customer and gives them some utilisation during the year”, he says.

“[That’s] good for the broker because then the broker has delivered service to a customer, rather than just when there’s a claim, and it actually complements quite a lot of what the brokers do in their own risk management services.” 

As an example, Markel UK launched Markel Construction on 21 August 2023 – led by head of construction underwriting for the UK Martin Parker.

The construction trades insurance package brings together employers liability (EL), products liability (PL) and professional indemnity (PI) “all in one product, which doesn’t really exist”, says Galjaard.

The product also provides in-house legal, tax and human resources support.

And, upon discovering the likes of challenges such as absenteeism due to mental health, Markel decided to include access to a stress helpline as part of the package that can give emotional support to employees in construction 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

According to On the Tools’ Behind the High-Vis: A Mental Health White Paper, published 27 July 2023, 34% of 1,313 UK tradespeople surveyed reported that they were currently experiencing mental ill health and a further 39% reported experiencing mental ill health in the past.

“You can knit the component parts together to give what is a truly differentiated proposition in that sector for the broker to deliver to their client,” says Galjaard.

He also highlights that, by providing a product that customers can utilise throughout the year, the insurer is better able to stay on top of emerging risks and think of ways to combat these for clients.

Looking ahead

In terms of wider strategic ambitions, following Markel Corporation rebranding to Markel Group Inc in May 2023 to “give greater visibility to the group”, Galjaard says 2023 is about “reaffirming” a people-powered approach.

“We want to be seen as the leading specialist insurer in the UK with that people-first approach, so with a combination of specialism and people,” he says.

“That means end customers [and] brokers need access to the best expertise in the market and we continue to grow.”

One cohort that Markel UK wishes to better support is smaller businesses, which it is doing by enabling the facility for the insurer to become their health and safety representative.

This is a current “problem” because it’s “not something that people necessarily want to take on”, adds Galjaard.

Considering staff, Markel UK’s retail business currently employs around 500 people. By the end of 2023, Galjaard shares the team will have increased in size by 25%, compared to two years ago.

Meanwhile, Markel UK has committed to regional expansion and signed an agreement to move to a new office in Leeds in January 2023, with the move expected to happen during early 2024 – the office will be “the perfect setting to achieve our growth ambitions and demonstrates our commitment to investing in our current and future workforce”, says Galjaard.

“We’ve grown a lot – we are three times the size of the business we were six years ago, but we’re still relatively small in the eyes of the whole broker market and we’ve still got a lot of headroom to grow with our brokers in our current specialist areas,” he adds.

“We will keep growing into new specialist areas, but we’ll be very careful about the ones we select to make sure that we can price sustainably in them – it’s important to us that we have stability of pricing and that, if we enter a market, we’re in it for the long term.”