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7. Evanston Insurance Co.


Explosive growth in architects and engineers liability business and an increase in demand for other products has Evanston Insurance Co. President Michael A. Rozenberg feeling "pretty excited about what's going on."

The Deerfield, Ill.-based unit of Glen Allen, Va.-based Markel Corp. has seen its A&E premium volume rise almost 50% since 2005, said Mr. Rozenberg. In addition, products liability coverage, including that for non-Food and Drug Administration regulated items such as herbals and nutriceutical products, are also experiencing double-digit growth, he said. Such products "need coverage placement usually through the E&S market," said Mr. Rozenberg.

Evanston, which is an admitted insurer in Illinois and a nonadmitted insurer in all other states except New Hampshire, wrote $725.5 million in nonadmitted premium in 2005, down from $824.9 a year earlier. But the company's net income grew to $119.2 million in 2005, from $89.3 million a year earlier and its combined ratio improved to 88.2% from 89.8% in 2004.

2006 "looks like it will be another profitable year for us," said Mr. Rozenberg.

The insurer's major product lines include professional liability, property, general liability and primary casualty. While there is consid- erable variation by product line, limits generally range between $1 million to $5 million on primary layers and up to $10 million on excess layers.

Shand Morahan, a managing general underwriter for Markel, is authorized to write coverage on all of Markel's risk bearing entities, such as Evanston. In addition to Shand Morahan, the other Markel subsidiaries--Investors Underwriting Managers, Markel Southwest Underwriters and Markel Re--also write their business primarily through Evanston.

Mr. Rozenberg said that in July, Evanston launched a new policy coverage called Outbreak Extra Expense that provides businesses with coverage in the event of an outbreak of avian influenza, E. coli, or other contagions. He said the niche market for the product consists of small to midsize companies in areas such as food service, medical related industries and educational institutions.

Mr. Rozenberg said that although Evanston does not write a lot of property coverage, "we've really reduced out coastal exposures significantly. We're looking to write more property business in the rest of the country. We're still trying to determine what our strategy will be in terms of what states, what areas and what kind of exposure we want to apply to this kind of coverage." Evanston currently underwrites about $100 million in property coverage throughout the country.

Mr. Rozenberg said that "we all have to write at a profitable level" at Markel. Over the last few years, "we've tried to bring tighter underwriting discipline." Financial viability is "more important and critical than it's ever been," he said.

Customers are asking about ratings in their effort to make sure that they have financially viable insurers, he said. They're also demanding more value-added service with their policies, like loss control, free hotline service and risk management services, he said.

Customers still remember the "tougher experiences from the last cycle they suffered," he said.

"There is evidence that the market is still underreserved, that's not an issue for us, but for the industry," he said. Questions concerning reinsurance collectibles are also an issue for the surplus line industry in general, although once again not Evanston, he said.

"In terms of what sets us apart--our vision, the Markel style--it's our culture. It puts us in a position to hire the best people in the industry," he said. That ability gives the insurer "strength for the future," he said, adding that the insurer also enjoys strong relationships with its wholesale partner.

"When you combine this with quality products and financial strength, it results in a formula for success," said Mr. Rozenberg.