White Mountains Insurance’s Business Model

Over the past few years, White Mountains Insurance (NYSE: WTM) has exited most of its insurance businesses and now looks more like a conglomerate. Here’s an overview of what the company does now.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on June 18, 2018.

Michael Douglass: Turning to White Mountains specifically, let’s talk about them. Interestingly, White Mountains used to be more of an insurance business. They had about $28 billion in assets under management. But now, what they’ve really done is slimmed down the insurance side so they can really focus in on the investing side, more specifically operating different businesses.

If you think about, insurers tend to invest in other companies one of three ways: one of them is fixed income, one of them is equities, and the third is actually owning outright other operating businesses. White Mountains certainly has some fixed income and has some equity, but they’re also putting a lot of focus on owning other businesses outright. Again, if that sounds like Markel and Berkshire, well, it’s because it is. It’s similar to what they do, but at a much smaller scale.

What’s interesting is that White Mountains has also really slimmed down their exposure to actual insurance underwriting risk so that they can focus in on those businesses. That’s a really big difference.

Matt Frankel: A lot of the other insurers that focus on these kind of out of the box investments, like Berkshire and Markel, like we’re about to talk about, are still focused on insurance, largely. Berkshire has Geico and a massive reinsurance operation.

White Mountains is not focused on insurance anymore. They’re focused on other operating businesses. It’s kind of like, they use the insurance money to build up these operating businesses, then sold their insurance businesses for the most part. They have a small insurance operation left. Then, they’re kind of just relying on their operating businesses going forward.

Douglass: Yeah. It’s almost like they’ve just taken the conglomerate part of it and siphoned that off, and are continuing with that.

Matthew Frankel owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Markel. Michael Douglass owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Markel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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