Insurance News

It’s Still A Buyers’ Market

Posted on: November 18, 2009

With layoffs and lower sales volume decreasing demand for insurance coverage, the recession continues to deeply depress renewal rates for property and casualty insurance programs, according to the most recent RIMS Benchmark Survey.

The survey, administered by Advisen Ltd. on behalf of the Risk and Insurance Management Society, tracks changes in insurance policy renewal prices as reported by North American corporate risk managers.

According to the survey, commercial insurance buyers are benefitting from low prices due in part to the global economic recession, which has suppressed demand for insurance capacity, prompting underwriters to compete for diminishing premium dollars.

?It?s a buyers? market. It shouldn?t be, but it is,? Dave Bradford, Advisen executive vice president and editor in chief of the survey, told National Underwriter. ?It doesn?t look like it?s going to change any time in the near future.?

However, he said the soft market is definitely bottoming out at this point, particularly in terms of rate decreases as opposed to premium decreases. ?It?s getting toward the bottom of the market. It just hasn?t started to rebound yet.?

He observed that although there may be price hikes in 2010, they won?t be sudden, but gradual, ?when things will start to inch back up.?

The exception, he said, would be if a large catastrophe hits, which ?changes everything, of course. The market could go very hard, very quickly.?

Mr. Bradford added that a benefit to risk managers is that the recession is ?tamping down demand for insurance, which is keeping the pressure on underwriters to keep prices down.?

However, as the economy begins to improve, he added, ?that will change somewhat?demand will start to increase. But by all the financial forecasts, sales and payrolls probably won?t improve very much in 2010.?

He noted that demand for coverage has decreased as companies have gone out of business, closed facilities, laid off employees or seen their sales drop. ?Any general liability premium will be calculated on sales?those could be lower,? he said.

While insurers have bounced back from a bad first quarter, ?their results are still pretty grim,? Mr. Bradford said in a statement. ?Carriers are posting underwriting losses, but in this recession, they have found it nearly impossible to push through rate increases except in a few especially distressed areas.?

?It?s still a buyers? market, and it looks as if it may stay that way for awhile,? agreed Daniel H. Kugler, a member of the RIMS board of directors and assistant treasurer, risk management, at Snap-on Inc. ?Under normal circumstances, premiums should be rising by now.?

On individual lines of business, the survey found:

? Property insurance policies renewed in the third quarter with essentially no change in average premium.

? Directors and officers liability policies also renewed with no change in average premium, though the D&O market remains divided between the financial institution segment (which was pummeled by the subprime mortgage market meltdown and has seen premiums rise) versus the rest of the market (which still is seeing premiums drift lower).

? General liability rates on average fell 3.7 percent.

? Workers? compensation rates were down 4.5 percent.

Contributing to lower general liability and workers? comp average premiums were declining sales and payrolls, which are used to calculate premiums, Advisen noted.

© Copyright 2009 National Underwriter Property & Casualty. A Summit Business Media publication. All Rights Reserved.

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