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QBE: Strength in Quality Products, Lead Underwriting, Risk Management, and Partnership Commitment

Posted on 05 May 09

A company rich in history with a tradition of strength and stability, QBE Insurance Group Limited is Australia's largest international general insurance and reinsurance group, and one of the top 25 insurers and reinsurers worldwide. Founded in 1886, QBE’s name is derived from three originating companies: Queensland Insurance, Bankers and Traders Insurance, and Equitable Probate and General Insurance. QBE was listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in 1973, and today has operations in 45 countries and more than 13,000 employees worldwide.

In 1991, QBE the Americas was formed in New York where the company established a marketing office, and is now in 40 locations with more than 3,200 employees throughout the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. There are four major business units that comprise QBE the Americas: QBE Specialty Insurance, QBE Regional Insurance, QBE Reinsurance, and QBE Latin America. Over the past two years, QBE has completed a number of strategic acquisitions in the U.S., generating nearly 40% of its gross written premium from the Americas.

ProgramBusiness would like to welcome QBE the Americas as one of our newest Storefonts. In addition to its own Storefront, QBE is also providing marketing funding to several of its general agency partners to set up their own Storefronts, including NIF and Temp Help, which will be on-line soon. We spoke to Fabian Burstyn, Senior Vice President Marketing, QBE Specialty Insurance, about the company, its philosophy, strengths and program successes.

The Strength Behind QBE

“Part of QBE’s longevity and success is in our unwavering commitment to deliver quality products; a culture built on promoting client satisfaction and retention; taking the lead in underwriting within selected markets while providing a disciplined yet flexible approach to writing risks; and the implementation of effective risk management practices and controls,” says Fabian. Additionally, QBE’s employees are motivated to have a “can do” attitude and to strive for integrity in everything they do. “Our ‘OpenUp QBE’ program cultivates and celebrates individual strengths and contributions, and encourages responsibility, independence, and open thinking,” says Fabian.

When asked how QBE continues to thrive and provide positive results to its shareholders, and stability to its partners and customers especially during economic challenges, Fabian attributes its success to the company’s approach to risk management and diversification. “We have always been careful when it comes to managing risk and continue to do so,” says Fabian. “We have a cautious approach to balance sheet management, are committed to building shareholders’ wealth in a responsible, transparent way, and focus on diversification in product offerings and geography. Whether it’s starting a new program or through acquisitions, we grow selectively and prudently.”

QBE’s overall business strategy comprises of several key factors: ensuring that its business decisions reduce volatility, maximizing profitability by adequately pricing risks, effectively allocating capital and resources by assessing balance risk and reward, and avoiding unwelcome surprises by reducing uncertainty. “We have a strong balance sheet,” says Fabian. “We also maintain sound reinsurance arrangements, and continue to strengthen our reserve position by closely monitoring our underwriting portfolio.”

QBE Specialty Programs

QBE Specialty Insurance is dedicated to developing and offering niche products to specific industries in the small-to-medium arena and across all lines of businesses. Lines of business include: Auto, Credit & Surety, Health, Multi-line (property, general liability, management and professional liability), Special Lines & Affinity Group and Workers’ Compensation. “We have a well-diversified portfolio, and look to grow with the best-of-breed general agents,” says Fabian.

The QBE Specialty programs that have performed well each have specialties to what the company does. These include:

Deep South: A national commercial business auto program focused on small- to medium-sized accounts. Deep South offers a unique claims handling method by using the Quick Strike claims program to help minimize losses.

Pet Health: One of the largest providers of major medical and accident insurance for dogs and cats in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. It sells policies under several different brand names using a model that includes co-branding, white labeling and private labeling programs with distribution partners.

On Point Underwriting: A national program for specialized builders risk and contractors equipment with a focus on commercial construction.

Midwestern Insurance Alliance: Provides workers’ compensation for businesses focusing on trucking. Program has numerous trade association endorsements with a loyal distribution system and a high retention level. Currently, Midwestern offers its product in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee and Missouri. QBE is looking to expand the program to other states, including Arkansas and Kansas.

Bellingham Underwriters: Available in the western states, provides commercial auto for intermediate radius trucking.

“Our staff includes individuals with underwriting specialization and an intimate knowledge of the risks in each of these programs,” says Fabian. He also explains that what distinguishes QBE is its ability to select the best risks in class, provide immediate response to market product development needs, and a commitment to underwriting profitability regardless of the industry cycle.

Commitment to Business Partnership

QBE’s business distribution partnership is second to none, according to Fabian, and its commitment to its partnerships is evident in the average length of each partnership. “We have been working with each of our top 10 general agents for an average of more than 10 years,” says Fabian. “Our strong partnerships allow us to avoid competing on price and to adopt a non-commodity business approach. We compete on service.”

Part of QBE’s commitment to establishing and maintaining strong and profitable business partnerships with its general agents is its ongoing support. “Depending on the general agency’s needs, we help. We help with marketing strategies, provide added-value services, and offer programs such as the one we have with ProgramBusiness,” says Fabian. “We do, however, respect that our partners are entrepreneurs with their own strategies…if they ask us for help, we are here to support them.”

QBE’s specialty programs featured on its Storefront include:

Fine Art and Valuable Articles: Personal and corporate collections, museums, exhibitions, dealers and artists (fine art, jewelry, fine wine, antiques, vintage automobiles, collectibles, etc.)

Livestock Mortality: Specialized protection for equine and livestock investments (show, pleasure and breeding horses; show and breeding cattle)

Public Entity (NIF Group): Broad package policy for municipalities (housing authorities, special districts and school districts) in several states

Temp Help: A national program offering package, auto and umbrella coverage for staffing agencies (clerical, light industrial and some technical employees)

In addition to promoting its programs through, QBE attends conferences and events (such as Peak Performance) to seek new opportunities and network with general agents currently not doing business with the company, capitalizes on broker relationships to create new programs or expand existing ones, works with existing partners and general agents to cross-sell its products, and, helps its general agents expand into other states. “The best way to grow is through our current distribution,” says Fabian.

“We are always looking to forge partnerships with the best agents. We offer experience, expertise, strength and stability, flexibility, vision, and innovation.”

To find out more about QBE and its programs, visit the company’s Storefront or, or contact Fabian at