Cooke on the lookout for environmental team

Markel International is set to expand its London Market business next year.

Speaking exclusively to Insurance Times, Markel president Jeremy Cooke said that the company hoped to underwrite two new lines of business next year.

"We are looking forward to growing over the next 12 months and if we can find a specialty area, or expertise we do not have, I would have to start a new unit based around a team of underwriters."

It is understood that Markel is on the lookout for a team of environmental risk managers.

For the 2002 year of account, Markel completely restructured its business, merging its four Lloyd's syndicates into one, syndicate 3000.

It also replaced the traditional role of active underwriter with "centres of excellence".

Cooke said: "We have created seven centres of excellence, which are based purely around underwriting expertise rather than the old fashioned hierarchical system of syndicates."

The centres each have a separate managing director for each class of business: marine, aviation, non-marine property, auto, reinsurance, accident and professional indemnity.

The managing directors report directly to Cooke, who oversees all of the group's underwriting activities.

"Markel is never going to become a low cost provider of risk" but it will have "specialty knowledge", he said.

He added he planned to follow the rule of investment propounded by Berkshire Hathaway's Warren Buffet, "to stay within the circle of competence".