...later than average signing process and significant pricing pressure for loss-impacted programs were dominant themes
Price increases at the January 1, 2021 reinsurance renewals were moderated compared to initial expectations by abundant capital levels and an increased willingness on the part of reinsurers to deploy capacity in several sectors, according to Guy Carpenter & Company, LLC, a leading global risk and reinsurance specialist and a business of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC).
Hallmarks of the January 1, 2021 renewals included:
Commenting on the resilience of the reinsurance market, Peter Hearn, Chief Executive Officer of Guy Carpenter, said, “2020 has been a year like no other. It has seen our industry take the strain of unparalleled uncertainty in the loss environment and the broader economy, all while working under conditions throughout the year we have never experienced. Yet despite these pressures, the reinsurance sector has performed admirably throughout a lengthy renewal process.”
Dean Klisura, President of Guy Carpenter, added, “We are focused first and foremost on client needs and working with our reinsurer partners to achieve the best possible outcomes for clients. We truly believe that the unique challenges our market has endured have served to strengthen the bonds we have throughout this industry as we all respond to this extraordinary period.”
The quoting and firm order process was more complex than in recent years, particularly for stressed geographies and lines of business. In addition to rate and structure considerations, contract wording discussions were a significant component of negotiations. Communicable disease and cyber exclusions were two of the more prevalent topics. This wide range of views on contract language and structure options drove increased non-concurrencies as compared to typical recent renewal years.
However, the early distribution of submissions into the market enabled companies to manage the slower quoting phase effectively and Guy Carpenter worked with clients to evaluate a broader range of solutions in response to these conditions.
Pricing generally settled at the lower end of expected increases outside of more constrained segments at January 1. Where placements were loss impacted, particularly in cases where retentions were perceived to be too low, reinsurers held firmer on pricing or structure adjustments.
Global property renewal themes included:
Property retrocession renewals were watched closely at January 1 as some observers expected hardening market impacts to be significant. However, rate movements on non-loss-impacted programs were not as robust as many anticipated and continued to moderate closer to January 1. Additional capacity in the retrocession market, lower limits bought by some global companies and increased activity in the catastrophe bond market all helped to moderate some of the upward pressures in this section of the market.
Communicable disease exclusion wording was a key discussion area on every property renewal worldwide. Due to the potential global nature of this type of loss and the possible broader financial market correlation, capital providers and investors stipulated exclusions in most cases. Since mid-year 2020, as this issue was crystalizing, there has been a substantial amount of focus across the industry on the best approach to satisfy the need for an exclusion, while not eroding critical protection for covered perils. Guy Carpenter has worked diligently with capital providers during the past few months to introduce wordings that address client concerns and bring the industry closer to a consistent approach.
Casualty renewals varied widely, depending on individual circumstances including loss experience, covered lines and industry classes written. Every placement experienced some degree of continued reinsurance underwriting rigor around stress factors broadly encompassed by social inflation, the low interest rate environment and communicable disease.
Global casualty renewal themes included:
For casualty placements, contract language requirements around pandemic and communicable disease varied by line of business with workers compensation, long-term care, casualty clash and casualty programs with particular exposures requiring the most discussion.
Overall, traditional dedicated reinsurance capital for year-end 2020 was estimated at USD 397 billion by Guy Carpenter and A.M. Best, a marginal increase on year-end 2019. Favorable valuations of asset levels and capital initiatives saw capital levels recover from the decline witnessed at mid-year 2020. However, reinsurers struggled to achieve positive returns on equity due to the combined impacts of COVID-19 and catastrophe losses. Dedicated capital also benefited from new capital formations.
“While there is no doubt that in 2020 the reinsurance market was impacted on multiple fronts by property losses, COVID-19 and continuing strain in the casualty market,” said Lara Mowery, Global Head of Distribution at Guy Carpenter, “it is a credit to the financial robustness of our marketplace that reinsurers were largely able to navigate through these challenges, respond to changing conditions and define market strategies for management and investors.”
This resilience was also evident in the insurance-linked securities arena, which once again demonstrated its low correlation features. Overall, catastrophe bond offerings continued to attract significant capital while syndicated sidecar and collateralized reinsurance strategies experienced limited new inflows of capital. January 1 allocations were complicated by year-end loss reserve “buffering” related to COVID-19 and the high frequency of mid-size catastrophe losses in the United States, creating uncertainty regarding the level of capital available for new and renewing placements.
“New issuances in the catastrophe bond market have been very buoyant in the fourth quarter,” said David Priebe, Chairman of Guy Carpenter, “bringing full-year issuance to USD 10.8 billion, a new record for annual property and casualty catastrophe bond activity. Most fourth quarter issuance was well supported, which enabled many buyers to secure the top end of their size targets (or beyond) at the lower end of price guidance.”
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