Insurer builds on Zenith acquisition as QBE runs off its personal lines motor business

Markerstudy has continued its assault on the personal motor market, taking on the QBE team, as the QBE book is placed into run-off. It follows the acquisition of Zenith, revealed by over Christmas.

Markerstudy is to set up an office in Chelmsford, Essex, with 8 to 10 former QBE staff working on personal lines motor. Steve Stone, previously specialist personal lines portfolio manager within QBE's motor division, has joined the Markerstudy team. One market source estimated it could generate up to £25m GWP.

The QBE recruitment follows Markerstudy’s acquisition of Zenith. Chief executive Kevin Spencer said the company was closing in on a couple of broker acquisitions, with around £35m gross premium income, to be completed in the first half of the year. He also outlined a target to write £300m premium income in 2010.

Explaining his plans for Zenith, Spencer said it would write £110m-£120m GWP this year, compared to £148m in 2009. He added that there would be some redundancies from the 200 Zenith staff, but they would be “kept to a minimum”.

Spencer said: “We’re not writing any of the foreign accounts and there are a handful of UK accounts that need to be put in the intensive care unit. By that, I mean we either sit down and remedy them and have a trade going forward and rectify it, or have them cancelled.”

One broker director welcomed the deal, saying it was good to see capacity being mantained in the intermediated personal lines motor market, which had suffered a drainage of capacity following HSBC’s decision to run off its book last year.

Guardian Holdings chief executive Jeff Mack said: “The disposal of Zenith Insurance and GHL Insurance Services Ltd is consistent with the group’s strategy of divesting non-core business, allowing the group to focus on its main insurance operations including its investments at Lloyd’s.”

A QBE spokesman said: “We can confirm that following a review of our UK personal lines private car portfolio we are placing this non-core product into orderly run-off. This decision has no effect on the planned growth and strategic development of the commercial motor account.”

Online analysis: A fresh chapter for the motor market