Markel's Wendy Houser on how to gain a competitive advantage

One of Insurance Business's Hot 100 shares her views about success in a complex and demanding marketplace

Markel's Wendy Houser on how to gain a competitive advantage

Insurance News


Amid the immense environmental, geopolitical, and economic threats the world has faced over the past year, the insurance industry’s leaders have delivered effective risk mitigation for the organizations and markets covered by their services.

To recognize these leaders’ significant contributions to the industry, Insurance Business named its Hot 100, which included Wendy Houser, chief territory officer, West at Markel in the United States. Houser is responsible for supervision, underwriting, and production in the Western states – a market with a large geographical footprint.

Houser recently told Insurance Business about her experience in the Western territory, saying that Markel’s many offices in the region present challenges in connecting with clients and internal talent.

“[We] do have boots on the ground, which helps us get a leg up in another area,” she said. “The legal [frameworks] between California, Colorado, Texas, Mississippi, Minnesota, Wisconsin are all very unique. But I believe that based on the fact that we do have people on the ground, we’re able to navigate and be a solution provider as well as have absolute top-notch claims handling, and [we] can operate in such a way that really gives us a competitive advantage.”

That competitive edge has brought opportunities for Markel not only in the Western states, said Houser.

“We’ve been in business almost 100 years and over time we’ve made several acquisitions and grown considerably. It’s using the power of the platform that we have available in making sure that our clients know [the] expansive offering that we have,” she said.

In addition to having frontline capabilities and thriving program operations, Markel continues to innovate, she said. It also educates its customers while collaborating more closely with international or national counterparts, which is expected to further strengthen the company’s performance in the years ahead.

Houser highlighted the importance of developing the expertise of organizations and individuals in the specialty marketplace by “constantly learning and being aware of what’s going on in the world and educating [themselves] almost on a daily basis.” She believes that because insurance is a “relationship industry,” professionals need to network with people they can learn from.

“The mentors that I’ve had in my life have greatly contributed to the success I’ve had. I also believe in reverse mentorship for early careers. I dedicate a tremendous amount of time and giving back, you know, to try to bring others along, [and in] that I learn as well. And then finally, not be afraid to take risks,” she said.

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