Markel 4Q14 Earnings Call Notes

Each week I read dozens of transcripts from earnings calls and presentations as part of my investment process. Below are some of the most important quotes about the economy and industry trends from the transcripts that I read this week. Full notes can be found here.

There’s always something to worry about

“We probably would have had a similar list a year before that, and a year before that, and so on and so on. Sometimes it seems like the issues we face at any given point in time, sound like the long list of side effects that you hear in the drug commercials on TV. There is always something to be concerned about.”

There’s always a way to make money too

“Despite what the models said, the very good news is that we are reporting a double-digit return of 14% in our book value per share this year. Those results came about because of the hard work, creativity, and dedication of the people at Markel. We will also acknowledge and be grateful for the good luck involving things like selective major catastrophes in 2014.”

Overcome challenges

“All of those concerns I just mentioned at the beginning were valid a year ago, and most, but not all of them, remain relevant today. When we look back at each year, there always seems to be some reason why things are going to get worse.

Fortunately, the people in this organization always seem to find a way to meet the challenges and keep building the value and values of this company. I expect that to continue to be the case over time.’

Nobody knows anything when it comes to the future

“There’s always uncertainty in the investment markets and while we’re talking about new highs as an example, people in the oil patch might not be feeling that way right now. I mean that price has been cut in half and it also just implications and things that fallout from that in ways that people didn’t foresee and I hope you don’t hold need to a forecast, I hope you don’t hold anybody to a forecast because some of things about the oil market that have struck me is I mean this is the biggest, the most liquid, the most important commodities which is trading in the world. And the fact that it could sell for over $100 bucks and then less than half of that within six months tells me that nobody knows anything about anything when it comes to the future.

So that being said that was the case three years ago, the case 30 years ago, and its fun to probably work every day because there is something you did not expect to happen that creates an opportunity.”