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Berkley talks 'dummies' in E&S space versus Berkshire's Jain

Written by Jasir Jawaid

William Berkley launched into a rant on "dummies" in the excess-and-surplus lines space, but he said competitors like Berkshire Hathaway Inc. are not of great concern to his company.

The W. R. Berkley Corp. chairman and CEO was quizzed by Keefe Bruyette & Woods' Robert Farnam on his comments accompanying the fourth-quarter 2013 earnings release. His remarks pertained to "new competition" in the space and the disappearance of some players. Farnam asked if this was a competitor that used to write large-ticket E&S and is now looking to move into smaller E&S, an apparent reference to Berkshire.

The Warren Buffett-led company was the 13th-largest E&S writer in the space, based on direct premiums written for the three months ended Sept. 30, 2013, according to SNL data. By comparison, W. R. Berkley was the third-largest writer.

Speaking during an earnings conference call Jan. 29, Berkley said companies like Berkshire that are trying to expand their footprint are "rational" because they are in it for the long run, and thus are not of great concern to the company.

However, not all new entrants in the space are like that, he noted, without naming names.

"[Ajit Jain] is a good friend of mine, and he's greedy as anybody, and he wants to make money. That's not a problem. And anybody who worries about that is making a mistake," Berkley said.

He said that competitors to worry about "are the dummies who don't know about making money and who do dumb things." Most of these companies, he said, are going out of business, and W. R. Berkley is happy to bid them adieu.

"There are few other dummies who are in the business, and we'd like to see them go too. But they're not all gone yet," Berkley concluded.

This article was published by S&P Global Market Intelligence on the S&P Capital IQ Pro platform.


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