Tag Archives: business interruption

Creepy Things

It has been a while since I looked at the state of the reinsurance and specialty insurance markets. Recent market commentary and insurers’ narratives at recent results have suggested market rates are finally firming up, amidst talk of reserve releases drying up and loss creep on recent events.

Just yesterday, Bronek Masojada the CEO of Hiscox commented that “the market is in a better position than it has been for some time”. The Lancashire CEO Alex Maloney said he was “encouraged by the emerging evidence that the (re)insurance market is now experiencing the long-anticipated improvements in discipline and pricing”. The Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg said that “pricing continued to tighten in the quarter while spreading to more classes and segments of business, particularly in the U.S. and London wholesale market”.

A look at the historical breakdown of combined ratios in the Aon Benfield Aggregate portfolio from April (here) and Lloyds results below illustrate the downward trend in reserve releases in the market to the end of 2018. The exhibits also indicate the expense disadvantage that Lloyds continues to operate under (and the reason behind the recently announced modernisation drive).

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In the Willis Re mid-year report called “A Discerning Market” their CEO James Kent said “there are signs that the longstanding concern over the level of reserve redundancy in past year reserves is coming to fruition” and that in “some classes, there is a clear trend of worsening loss ratios in recent underwriting years due to a prolonged soft market and an increase in loss severity.

 In their H1 presentation, Hiscox had an exhibit that quantified some of the loss creep from recent losses, as below.

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The US Florida hurricane losses have been impacted by factors such as assignment of benefits (AOB) in litigated water claims and subsequently inflating repair costs. Typhoon Jebi losses have been impacted by overlapping losses and demand surge from Typhoon Trami, the Osaka earthquake and demand from Olympics construction. Arch CEO Marc Grandisson believes that the market missed the business interruption and contingent BI exposures in Jebi estimates.

The fact that catastrophic losses are unpredictable, even after the event, is no surprise to students of insurance history (this post on the history of Lloyds is a testament to unpredictability). Technology and advances in modelling techniques have unquestionably improved risk management in insurance in recent years. Notwithstanding these advances, uncertainty and the unknown should always be considered when model outputs such as probability of loss and expected loss are taken as a given in determining risk premium.

To get more insight into reserve trends, it’s worth taking a closer look at two firms that have historically shown healthy reserve releases – Partner Re and Beazley. From 2011 to 2016, Partner Re’s non-life business had an average reserve release of $675 million per year which fell to $450 million in 2017, and to $250 million in 2018. For H1 2019, that figure was $15 million of reserve strengthening. The exhibit below shows the trend with 2019 results estimated based upon being able to achieve reserve releases of $100 million for the year and assuming no major catastrophic claims in 2019. Despite the reduction in reserve releases, the firm has grown its non-life business by double digits in H1 2019 and claims it is “well-positioned to benefit from this improved margin environment”.

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Beazley is one of the best insurers operating from London with a long history of mixing innovation with a balanced portfolio. It has doubled its net tangible assets (NTA) per share over the past 10 years and trades today at a 2.7 multiple to NTA. Beazley is also predicting double digit growth due to an improving rating environment whilst predicting “the scale of the losses that we, in common with the broader market, have incurred over the past two years means that below average reserve releases will continue this year”.

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And that’s the rub. Although reserves are dwindling, rate improvements should help specialty (re)insurers to rebuild reserves and improve profitability back above its cost of capital, assuming normal catastrophe loss levels. However, market valuations, as reflected by the Aon Benfield price to book exhibit below, look like they have all that baked in already.

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And that’s a creepy thing.

Cyber Insurance Catastrophe Scenario

The UK government and Marsh released an interesting report today on cyber risk and insurance. Most cyber insurance is written on a standalone basis or as an add-on to professional indemnity, D&O, general liability or business interruption and property covers. Policy wording and terms and conditions vary widely. One of the current uncertainties is what will happen when a major attack, or more likely a frequency of industry wide cyber attacks, occurs and how traditional insurance exclusions will hold up in the case of legal challenge. The recent 2014 ruling on the Sony Playstation’s 2011 data breach provided the insurance industry comfort that they will stand up but nothing is certain when new types of losses unforeseen by existing policy wordings meet the US legal system.

The report relieves some interesting facts on the market such as the quantum and variability of current pricing for cyber insurance, as the paragraph and graphic below show.

“There are several factors that influence the price of different insurance products. In the case of cyber insurance, the price may also be driven by uncertainty over the risk compared to more traditional covers. This seems to be the case, with much flatter pricing for cyber across firms than for other lines of insurance; the difference between third and first quartile pricing is 1.7x for cyber, 9.1x for general liability, and 2.6x for property. The combination of a higher absolute price and lower price differentiation suggests that cyber is early in its development and that underwriters are more conservative about the risk, creating a challenge to a core role of insurance – namely, that high pricing discourages take up, and flat pricing provides no incentive for firms to reduce their cyber risk and save on premiums.”

click to enlarge2014 Cyber Insurance Market Pricing

On the topic of a probable maximum loss (PML) for the insurance sector, the report uses a fairly unscientific 20% of the estimated 2014 aggregate limit of £100 billion, based upon industry expert judgment, as a guesstimate.

click to enlargeCyber Catastrophe Scenario

Given the need for insurers to diversify their product offerings in this soft specialty insurance market, future demand for cyber insurance products (the report says the cyber insurance market will grow threefold over the next 3 to 5 years) will mean that more accurate estimates for risk accumulations need to be developed.

At this stage in the product cycle for cyber insurance, most insurers can likely rely on their friendly and premium hungry reinsurer to take the aggregation risk from their cyber exposures (estimated by the report to be £20 billion). Given the capital markets risk appetite for low yields and insurance risks, it would not surprise me if some investment bank is currently busily working away on the first cyber bond!