Hard Market, Schmard Market

chartThe siren song begins at the change of every year: based on historic losses in the year just ending, we can expect to see a hardening of the insurance market in the upcoming year. In fact, by all reports last year’s losses were high – Swiss Re’s preliminary sigma estimates for insured global losses resulting from natural and man-made disasters in 2017 are around $136 billion, well above the annual average of the previous 10 years and the third highest since sigma records began in 1970. Total economic losses soared in 2017 to $306 billion from $188 billion in 2016 primarily due to the three hurricanes—Harvey, Irma, and Maria—that hit the United States and the Caribbean, and wildfires in California.

The fact that we are seeing a “new normal” in loss rates certainly will be exacerbated by climate change – but that is a different story. To me, the story continues to be how even with last year’s near record losses, the insurance industry (which in the past would have triggered a substantive hardening of rates) has barely registered a blip.

One area we see this in is the reinsurance market. As stated in an article in Business Insurance, David Priebe, New York-based vice chairman of Guy Carpenter, said “Despite substantial catastrophe losses in 2017, the market demonstrated significant resilience with no notable capital withdrawal and moderate price increases.”

There are good reasons why the insurance marketplace remains so stable. Better loss control, better data, and more capital looking for a home have all contributed to this stability. And I would argue that the maturation of the captive insurance industry played a role by giving risk managers more options and flexibility.

Hard markets usually spark a corollary growth spurt in captive insurance formations. As prices harden, and insurance becomes more scarce, organizations form captives to fill the gap. But even without the hardening market, we continue to see growth in captive insurance. As Brady Young, president and CEO of Strategic Risk Solutions (SRS), told Captive.Com recently, he sees captives evolving in the future to be more of an offensive tool to support overall corporate strategies to serve customers and generate incremental profits. Brady also states, “captives can and will do more to reduce organizations’ overall cost of risk and squeeze out more of the inefficiencies of the traditional commercial insurance market… and in terms of specific lines of business or growth areas, captives will help solve the mismatch between the demands of companies and industries that have new risks and service models where traditional insurers struggle to provide the needed solutions.” He would know!

Next time I get asked by a reporter whether I think a hard market is coming our way, I will give them the same answer I gave at the end of last year: hard market, schmard market (which translates to not likely).

Speaking of Brady, come join us next Tuesday, February 6, in Atlanta where Brady and I will participate in VCIA’s world-famous Road Show outlining the advantages of captive insurance. We will be joined by Sandy Bigglestone, Director of Captive Insurance at the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation, Christy Williams, President of Green Mountain Sponsored Captive Insurance Company, Christopher Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer of MCIC Vermont, Inc. (A Reciprocal Risk Retention Group), and Ian Davis, Director of Financial Services for the State of Vermont.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Rich Smith
VCIA President

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