Markel news

Markel Canada: Everything you need to know

Gross premium written by Markel Corporation in 2017: US$5.5 billion

Countries in which Markel Corporation operates: 17

Offices in Canada: Three

Markel has been operating in Canada since 1966 as Elliott Special Risks (ESR) until the company was purchased by Markel International, a specialty property and casualty insurer and reinsurer based in London that offers commercial insurance to major businesses, in October 2009. Markel International underwrites risks through Syndicate 3000 at Lloyd’s, Markel International Insurance Company Limited (MIICL), Markel Insurance SE., Markel Seguradora do Brasil S.A. and Markel Resseguradora do Brasil S.A. In turn, Markel International is a subsidiary of Markel Corporation, a financial holding company based in the US whose revenues exceeded US$6 billion in 2017.

In March 2017, Markel Canada acquired the managing general agent Allsport Insurance Marketing, which provides insurance to Canadians for sport, leisure and recreation activities, after previously being a 50% shareholder and underwriting all of its policies. The move meant that brokers had access to broader, merged policies with wider coverages, and the two companies’ products would no longer be competing in overlapping coverages, Gina Bennett, president of Allsport, told Insurance Business. The Allsport branding also remained in place.

“With this merger, it puts our combined strengths into a winning proposition for our brokers and policyholders,” Bennett said. “It will allow the Allsport brand to have a presence in the Eastern and Atlantic regions. I’m going to train a few existing Markel sports underwriters in each region (of Canada) to handle the Allsport style. So that’s another win for brokers.”

Besides Vancouver, where Allsport is based, Markel Canada also has offices in Montreal and Toronto.


Markel Canada has expertise across sectors, offering products that span environmental liability, general liability, marine, trade credit – which it brought to Canada in 2017 – management liability, professional risks, umbrella and excess liability, and cyber risks insurance, as well as property and casualty package insurance.

New leader

In March 2018, Markel International announced that it had found the next president for its Canadian outpost with current president Karen Barkley set to retire at the end of that year. David A. Crozier came over from Everest Insurance Company of Canada, where he was the president and CEO. He also held leadership positions at Economical Mutual Insurance Company and Chubb Insurance. Crozier joined the Markel team in mid-2018 and officially took up his new position in early 2019.

“David will develop Markel’s position in Canada as the go-to name for specialty insurance, building on the great foundations established by Karen, and opening up the Markel global product portfolio to the Canadian market,” said Simon Wilson, managing director, national markets.

The company also bid farewell to Barkley, who had spent 40 years in the insurance industry and held positions at Zurich, AIG, and Cigna, as well as being the president of ACE INA Insurance and a former chair of the Insurance Institute of Canada.    

“Over the last five years, Karen has delivered a number of key achievements supporting the future of our business,” said William Stovin, president of Markel International. “As well as overseeing impressive growth, she has turned the former Elliott Special Risks from an MGA into a fully- fledged insurance company and built a strong and effective team around her, who will feature in our continued success. She leaves with our thanks and our best wishes.”

Insight into acquisition strategy

Markel International is a major player in the mergers and acquisitions insurance landscape, and the Canadian outpost is no exception for M&A activity. Before her exit, Barkley shed light on the company’s acquisition culture and the boxes it checks before making a deal.

“From a Canadian perspective, what we would look for before an acquisition is an underwriting portfolio (carrier or MGA) that performs in the 40% loss ratio range,” she said. “Markel is a very underwriting-driven purchaser. We always look to the underwriting results. Our preference is to look for continuation of the sector and ways to expand our own portfolio in the sector.”

The care sector is one that Markel Canada has been especially interested in expanding in the country after proving its success abroad.

“In the US and the UK, the care sector has been broadened to include some services alongside underwriting. We might look to expand in the same way in Canada in order to improve that sector. The only other insurance space we could buy into in Canada is life insurance, but I don’t think we would do that because the market is already quite saturated,” said Barkley.