Tom Gayner: Alterra Acquisition Provides Big Opportunities For MarkelVW Staff
Good morning and welcome to the Markel Corporation (NYSE:MKL) 2013 fourth-quarter conference call. My name is Tom Gayner. With me are my colleagues Anne Waleski, our Chief Financial Officer and my Co-Presidents Mike Crowley and Richie Whitt.
As always let remind you that during our call today we may make forward-looking statements. Additional information about factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements is included under the captions risk factors and Safe Harbor and cautionary statements in our most recent annual report on Form 10-K and quarterly report on Form 10-Q, and on pages 5 through 7 of our press release dated February 10, 2014.
We may also discuss certain non-GAAP financial measures in the call today. You may find the reconciliation to GAAP for these measures in the press release, which may be found on our website at www.markelcorp.com under news and events.
We are excited to tell you about the results from 2013. In a minute Anne will give you more numbers than you’ll find in a phonebook. The litany of numbers can have the effect of numbing you to how much work went into producing those results.
Make no mistake though this was a transformative year for your Company on several fronts. We roughly doubled the size of our insurance business through the acquisition of Alterra, we continue to profitably expand our Markel Ventures operations, we enjoyed excellent returns on our publicly traded equity investments and we protected the balance sheet from credit and interest rate risk in our fixed-income operations.
We look forward to giving you some details on the numbers and the activities that went into that statement and as always we look forward to your thoughtful questions. With that let me turn it over to Anne.
The key people that we desperately wanted to keep have stayed with us. And you would have expected some attrition on both of those items and I would say both of those have exceeded my expectations.
In terms of challenges as we continue to go forward we have to hold onto that business and there is a more competitive environment as we move forward. I think everybody is saying the same thing there, so we have got the challenges everybody else faces there.
We’ve got to continue to make these people want to be part of Markel Corporation (NYSE:MKL) but of course that is a challenge we have every day with all of our employees. And then I think as Anne said, I think on the front end of the business, the client facing, I think we’ve got that settled down very nicely. We still have work to do to settle the dust on our processes, on our system, sort of the back end of the business.
Mike Crowley – Markel Corporation – President, Co-COO
I’d add to that I think that the people at Alterra have done a wonderful job staying focused on their clients. And I also tell you in my travels around and involvement with a number of the large agent brokers that we didn’t do that much business with before that the reception has been terrific from the agents and brokers. And I think we’ve got a wonderful opportunity with the new expanded lines that we have to grow the business.
And David I would like to add from the investment point of view, there have been several questions about the accounting of prior years and different buckets and all that kind of stuff, well there is one big giant bucket in the investment department called cash and that all came in with the Alterra investment portfolio. And I have been very pleased with the way that we were able to recraft the Alterra portfolio and turn some of the things that would not be going-forward assets with Markel into cash and reallocate that.
That’s been a smoother and better process then might have originally been expected. The second thing I would like to point out as sort of a secondary effect of the Alterra acquisition is that the size of deals we would look at in Markel Ventures is aided and improved and increased by the total size of the Markel balance sheet.
And we’re just getting to look at better quality, larger more substantial companies that have more runway than would have been the case in the past. So that also comes about because Markel Ventures in and of itself is going down the learning curve, and we learn and there are things that in retrospect that I wish I would have done differently, or lessons that we take.
But there’s just no way to get from here to there without making some mistakes and going down learning curves. But I am very pleased with the way that that process is going. And it has been accelerated by the Alterra acquisition.
The third thing I think about as I look around the people at this table and I think about what we’ve been through personally and professionally and just sort of strapping ourselves into the cockpit in the last year to get this done and the accomplishments beyond the people that are just in this room, it is been a very energizing thing for the Markel Corporation. And it is how stars emerge and you find out the capabilities and what people can do, and that bodes very well for the future of the Markel Corporation (NYSE:MKL).
Mike Crowley – Markel Corporation – President, Co-COO
The good thing is nobody threw up with the extra Gs when we strapped ourselves in the cockpit.
David West – Davenport and Company – Analyst
Good to hear. Thanks, so much.