Category Archives: Insurance

GEICO to Add 500 Employees in Kansas at New Office

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GEICO announced at the ribbon-cutting event that opened its newest office in Lenexa, Kansas that it will add 500 associates during the next five years.

Joining GEICO Chairman Tony Nicely in making the announcement were Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D., Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, GEICO’s parent company, and U.S., state, county and local officials.

“Kansas’ business-friendly climate continues to attract innovative, pioneering companies like GEICO,” said Gov. Colyer. “We appreciate GEICO for recognizing Kansas as a state where financial services firms can be very successful. The 500 new jobs created by GEICO’s investment will be a tremendous boost for the Kansas economy, and we are looking forward to the future growth of this partnership.”

“We are very pleased that we’ll have this chance to become a part of the enterprising and highly thriving area in Lenexa and Kansas City,” said Tony Nicely. “When we began looking for a new office, everything we learned about the community made us eager to open a new operation here. We expect to have it up and running close to Labor Day.”

GEICO president Bill Roberts noted that GEICO will begin recruiting soon for sales and service positions in its

GEICO Insurance Agency (GIA) operations in Lenexa. Later the company will be hiring claims professionals.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Warren Buffett Realistic on Autonomous Cars Negative Impact on Auto Insurers

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With GEICO Insurance one of Berkshire Hathaway’s biggest assets and moneymakers, the impact of autonomous vehicles on insurance rates will play a big role on future profitability in the auto insurance sector.

Clearly, Warren Buffett is realistic that a world with safer cars will mean declining rates.

While noting that replacement parts of cars are far more expensive than years ago, ultimately Buffett sees a decline in rates due to fewer collisions.

“…A safer car is going to bring lower insurance rates,” Buffett said while appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box the Monday after Berkshire’s annual meeting. “There’s one some– there’s– modest offset to that in that, in terms of collision activity– the damage is done to a car by in terms of a bumper or a side rearview mirror something. Costs far more now, it’s a much more complex product. So the damage per accident, not human damage, but physical damage to the car, that will probably go up substantially. But the number of accidents won’t– you won’t see widespread adoption unless they’re safer. And we want a safer car. So it’s net, it will be bad for the auto insurance industry over time if autonomous cars become a big part of the fleet.”

Buffett also noted that the exact timeframe that autonomous vehicles will have a big impact on rates is hard to know, as there will still be a lot of nonautonomous vehicles on the road for years to come.

“Well, it– we don’t know, I mean, what it’ll be. And you’ve got 260 million cars on the road. Let’s just say that 10% of the people took up– autonomous cars in a year. Now you’re talking about– a million eight outta the 18 million. And– there’s– a big life cycle to it and all that. But what does best for the consumer and is safer over time really will prevail– over time,” Buffett said.

Currently, GEICO insures more than 24 million vehicles in the United States.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Expands Insurance Offerings in Asia

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company (BHSI) today introduced Executive First Private Company Portfolio and Executive First Nonprofit Organisation Portfolio policies in Asia.

“Our Private Company and Nonprofit Organisation Portfolio forms provide far-reaching, contemporary coverage backed by BHSI’s financial strength,” said Nero Shiu, Senior Manager, Executive & Professional Lines, BHSI in Hong Kong. “Both policies reflect our commitment to providing the simple, concise solutions customers need for multifaceted management liability risks in today’s world.”

The Private Company Portfolio extends coverage to both individuals and the entity and includes Directors & Officers Liability, Employment Practices Liability, and Employee Dishonesty coverages.

The Nonprofit Organisation Portfolio offers similar coverages, with the addition of Professional Indemnity protection to address the specific needs of a nonprofit organisation. Key features include pre-investigations cost coverage, court attendance coverage, and advancement of defence costs. Professional Indemnity protection includes coverage for corrective actions to help nonprofit organisations mitigate potential losses and avoid claims.

“Our new policies address the full range of claims private companies, nonprofit organisations, and their directors and officers may encounter today — from lawsuits arising from breach of compliance and disclosure requirements, to employee theft, to claims sparked by the acts of employees,” said Edwin Sim, Assistant Vice President, Executive & Professional Lines, BHSI in Singapore.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Expands Australia Operations

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (BHSI) is expanding its presence in Australia, opening a new office in Perth, Western Australia.

BHSI named Anthony Prindiville to lead its Casualty underwriting and Mark Shepard to lead the Property underwriting there.

“Expanding our footprint into Western Australia will enhance our ability to build lasting relationships with brokers and customers throughout the country,” said Chris Colahan, President, Australasia. “We are pleased to have Anthony and Mark at the helm as we build our local team in Perth. We look forward to developing a full suite of insurance products, risk management and claims services in this region.”

Like the BHSI offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, BHSI’s Perth office will underwrite casualty, property, mining, energy, construction, power, marine, transport and logistics, healthcare liability, accident and health, and executive and professional lines for a broad range of business segments.

Anthony comes to BHSI with over 30 years of insurance industry experience, most recently as Global Distribution Manager at Chubb Insurance Australia Limited. He holds a Senior Associate designation from ANZIIF. Anthony joins Mark Shepard, Manager – Property, who commenced in BHSI’s Perth office in January.

Mark has been in the industry for over 16 years, most recently as Underwriting Manager – Property, Technical Lines and Energy at Chubb Insurance Australia Limited.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Commentary: Does Market Volatility Hurt Berkshire’s Insurance Business?

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Does the return of market volatility hurt Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance business?

Ratings agency A.M. Best thinks so.

In A.M. Best’s report. “Rising Volatility: Negative Implications for Insurers,” they note that equity market volatility historically has had severe negative implications for life insurers whose assets and liabilities correlate strongly with equity prices.

However, they note that de-risking in the form of decreased exposure to annuities, and new products such as managed volatility funds, have dampened the sensitivity.

The rating agency states that equity market volatility has been elevated since the spike in early February 2018, and with the announcement of steel and aluminum tariffs, the stock market will most likely experience more volatility than last year.

The VIX, dubbed the stock market’s “fear gauge,” was low throughout 2017 and touched an all-time low of 9.14 in November. It spiked to 37.32 on February 5, 2018. In comparison, its peak in 2017 was only 15.96.

A.M. Best views prolonged rising stock market volatility as a credit negative for U.S. insurers with significant equity exposure; in particular, stock market leverage for the property/casualty segment has crept up since the most-recent financial crisis and life insurers are still sensitive to equity markets though they have employed mechanisms to de-risk.

For property/casualty and health insurers, the sensitivity to the equity markets is proportional to their equity holdings in general and equity holdings leverage.

Best also notes that although changes in equity values affect the capital and surplus of all sectors, only the life/annuities segment sells products that are tied to the equity markets.

They do say that steps variable annuity writers took to de-risk their products since the late-2000s have proven effective in limiting earnings volatility; however, the de-risking measures, along with the increased investment fees associated with managed volatility funds, have made newer variable annuity products less attractive to consumers and is one reason among many other reasons that have caused a decline in sales.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

General Star Launches Allied Health and Churches & Schools Programs

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General Star Management Company has announced the debut of the Allied Health and Churches & Schools Programs. The programs will be offered through Promont Insurance Advisors, the program administrator. Together, they will provide eligible risks with customized insurance solutions. The programs will be written on a non-admitted basis.

Promont Insurance Advisors is a Chicago-based, industry-leading, specialized underwriting organization with a focus on Home Healthcare providers and Churches.

Coverage will be written by General Star Indemnity Company, rated A++ (Superior) by A.M. Best Company, and carries an AA+ Insurance Financial Strength Rating from Standard & Poor’s Corporation. General Star is a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Reinsurance Corporation, a member of the Berkshire Hathaway family of companies.

“This partnership is another exciting piece of our strategic commitment to providing insureds with the best possible coverage and care,” stated Jeff Longbons, President of Promont Insurance Advisors. “A critical element to the partnership is our ability to expand the product offerings of two very important pieces of Promont’s portfolio: Allied Health and Churches & Schools Programs. In addition to possessing financial stability, General Star is a stalwart player in the Managing General Agency and Program Administration space. They understand how to help Promont continue to improve our industry-leading response time and service levels.”

“We are excited to partner with Promont to provide coverage on a customized basis for allied health risks as well as insureds in the churches and schools marketplace,” said Scott Ginsberg, VP and Program Underwriting Executive for General Star. “Promont has a nationwide reputation as a professional program administrator, with in-depth industry expertise. We are delighted to add that skill to the equation.”

General Star President and CEO Martin Hacala said he is eager to expand General Star’s program offerings via this recent collaboration with Promont. “Their specialized knowledge of the business is a terrific advantage. I have great confidence in the ability of the program to rapidly achieve its potential. Allied Health and Churches & Schools will have the comfort of a very secure insurer ready to deliver the protection they need.”

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Vanderbilt Mortgage Acquires Silverton Mortgage

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While Warren Buffett may be unable to find a reasonably priced, multi-billion-dollar acquisition. Berkshire’s subsidiaries continue to make what Buffett refers to as “bolt-on” acquisitions.

These acquisitions add on to Berkshire’s existing businesses, expanding their reach and scope of operations.

The latest acquisition came recently when Berkshire’s Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, a financier of manufactured and modular homes, acquired Silverton Mortgage.

Silverton Mortgage has 22 locations and is licensed in Alabama, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Founded in 1998, Silverton Mortgage grew from a one-person shop to a top residential mortgage lender with 170 employees, and is one of the nation’s fastest growing financial companies.

Despite the acquisition by Vanderbilt, Silverton Mortgage will be retaining its name, leadership, employees and corporate identity following the transaction.

Expansion is also in the works. It is also anticipated that, because of this transaction, Silverton Mortgage will expand its footprint and increase its access to capital to develop an expanded line of products and services for its clients. There will be no lapses in service for borrowers currently working with the company.

“While we were not actively looking to be acquired, we are grateful for this opportunity to expand our services, both in terms of geographic footprint and loan product offerings, while keeping our identity and the great people that have built our culture of unparalleled service to our customers and communities,” said Josh Moffitt, who will stay on as the president and CEO of Silverton Mortgage. “This is a unique opportunity to keep what makes Silverton special, while also improving the service and lives of our customers and employees.”

Vanderbilt Mortgage services over 200,000 loans and also offers financing for eScore energy efficient home improvements.

Bolt-On Acquisitions Continue to Power Berkshire’s Growth

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

GEICO Adding More Than 1,400 Employees in Indianapolis

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Insurer GEICO plans to add more than 1,400 new associates–including hundreds of IT professionals–as the company grows its operations in Greater Indianapolis.

The company’s office, at 101 W. 103rd St. in Carmel, will nearly double in size after an expansion that will add an additional 104,000 square-feet.

With the larger space, GEICO Indianapolis will add IT and claims positions to its existing sales, service and emergency roadside operations.

The GEICO Greater Indianapolis office brought more than 250 jobs to the area when it opened in the summer of 2013. Over the years, the office has more than quadrupled its workforce to more than 1,100 associates to become one of the area’s largest employers.

“The support of this thriving community and our growing customer base in Indiana have made this expansion possible,” said Lona J. Montgomery, general manager of the Indianapolis office. “We are excited to bring on new associates to help us continue to offer excellent service to our customers across the state.”

Nearly 350 IT and claims positions will be added this year, with the others slated to be added over the next five years.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire’s Insurance Losses from Hurricane Season ran to $3 Billion

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Last fall’s spate of three mega-catastrophe hurricanes that hit the U.S. has led to billion dollar losses for Berkshire Hathaway’s insurance companies.

“We currently estimate Berkshire’s losses from the three hurricanes to be $3 billion (or about $2 billion after tax),” Warren Buffett stated in his annual letter to shareholders. “If both that estimate and my industry estimate of $100 billion are close to accurate, our share of the industry loss was about 3%. I believe that percentage is also what we may reasonably expect to be our share of losses in future American mega-cats.”

Despite the scale of the disasters, Buffett noted that the impact on Berkshire was minor, with it reducing Berkshire’s GAAP net worth by less than 1%.

He went on to note that other reinsurers “suffered losses in net worth ranging from 7% to more than 15%.”

Buffett wrote that a mega-catastrophe hurricane that caused $400 billion in damage, which the company estimates has a 2% probability annually, would see Berkshire incurring losses in the $12 billion range.

A loss of that magnitude would in no way jeopardize the conglomerate, as it is below the annual income generated by Berkshire’s non-insurance activities.

© 2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Opens Office in Dubai

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Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance Company has received its insurance license from the Dubai Financial Services Authority and established an office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), while naming Alessandro Cerase as its Senior Executive Officer (SEO) and Neeraj Yadvendu as deputy SEO and Head of Third Party Lines for the Middle East.

In addition, Alessandro will be leading First Party Lines for BHSI’s broader Asia Middle East region, which includes BHSI’s other regional hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore as well as its operations in Malaysia and Macau.

“We are excited to expand BHSI’s footprint in this region which will service those markets in the Middle East and beyond who seek (re)insurance support in the DIFC. The strategic location of Dubai as well as the stability and efficiency of the DIFC make it an ideal hub for BHSI to support economic growth in the region. Our operation in the DIFC will bring BHSI’s financial strength, and underwriting and claims excellence to the region.” said Marc Breuil, President of Asia Middle East, BHSI. “We are excited to be able to serve customers and brokers in the region under the experienced leadership of Alessandro and Neeraj.”

BHSI will provide a suite of specialty and commercial (re)insurance products to its network of brokers and ceding companies with a focus on construction, energy, property, marine, casualty and executive and professional lines.

Alessandro comes to BHSI with 20 years of global experience spanning both the engineering and underwriting sides of the insurance business. He was most recently Global Head of Energy and Engineered Risk at AIG. He holds a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Universita’ degli Studi di Roma.

Neeraj joins BHSI after two decades in the insurance industry, most recently as Regional Head of Casualty and Financial Lines at AXA Asia. He received his master’s degree in Business Administration from India’s University of Pune, and his bachelor’s degree from City College, Calcutta University.

2018 David Mazor

Disclosure: David Mazor is a freelance writer focusing on Berkshire Hathaway. The author is long in Berkshire Hathaway, and this article is not a recommendation on whether to buy or sell the stock. The information contained in this article should not be construed as personalized or individualized investment advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.