Global reinsurance market: special renewal 2024

buldingsIn a context of high volatility, the 2022 reinsurance market has shown a mixed picture. After several years of underperformance, reinsurers have adopted a more cautious technical approach over the past two years, imposing underwriting discipline over long cycles, while redeploying available capital. It's a strategy that has resulted in higher profitability in 2021 and 2022.

Atlas Magazine takes stock of the reinsurance situation on the eve of the 2024 renewals.

Key reinsurance market indicators

Figures in millions USD

Direct insurance premiums4 593 6324 957 5076 291 8346 764 6946 782 235
Reinsurance premiums (1)240 000245 000340 115383 753400 487
Reinsurance capacity368 000432 000521 000571 000530 000
Reinsurance combined ratio87.80%110.30%104.50%96.40%95.60%

(1) Source Atlas Magazine study (2020, 2021 and 2022 premiums of 136 reinsurers). Source AM Best and Swiss Re for 2019 and prior years.

Challenges faced by the reinsurance market in 2023

With rising claims, higher inflation and persistently low interest rates, reinsurers have been operating in an unfavorable environment for several years. They are also faced with new, more complex and poorly modeled risks: pandemics, cyber risks, climatic events, financial, inflationary and political risks.

In this challenging environment, reinsurance companies have no choice but to adapt. They have to strike the right balance between limited capacity and strong demand from their customers.

Decline in reinsurance capacity

In 2022, for the first time in ten years, the reinsurance market was faced with a decline in the volume of capital invested which has dropped from 571 billion USD in 2021 to 530 billion USD in 2022, a decline of 7%.

This decrease comes at a time when major rate adjustments have been implemented over the past two years, with increases of 30 to 40% on certain risk categories. The increase in rates has not, however, led to the injection of additional capital into the market as the main players have simply resorted to reducing their exposure to certain risks and geographical areas.

More cautious underwriting strategies were then put in place for the 2022 and 2023 renewals, with the main aim of limiting catastrophic commitments. This pricing catch-up was also coupled with a tightening of contract renewal conditions.

AXA's subsidiary AXA XL, for example, reported a 6.3% rate increase for the first half of 2023, while Swiss Re raised property-casualty prices by 21% at the July renewals this year.

In 2022, this pressure on available capital was mainly due to:

  • catastrophic events that have dried up market capacity,
  • the average annual increase in natural catastrophe claims. Insured losses now exceed 120 billion USD per year,
  • rising property values and inflation,
  • strong demand for coverage from insurers,
  • the volatility and poor performance of reinsurers in recent years,
  • risk reduction in certain portfolios,
  • investment losses linked to capital appreciation in traditional reinsurance,
  • increased stock market volatility.

According to industry professionals, excess reinsurance capacity has lasted for several years. In fact, the decline in capacity offered in 2022 has not compromised the market, which still has the necessary funds to meet its commitments.

Another factor in the recovery is that reinsurers have become more disciplined, remaining cautious as to their way of deploying their capacity.

For 2023, AM Best is forecasting that losses incurred prior to 2022 will be recouped, resulting in an increase in operating results and the generation of new capital. It is therefore up to insurers to position themselves better and absorb frequent losses, so that reinsurers can refocus on their primary role of supporting primary players in the face of major catastrophes.

All in all, the rating agency is predicting a 5.6% increase in reinsurance supply in 2023.

Climatic losses on the rise in 2022

riskIn terms of economic losses, 2022 stands for the fifth most expensive year in the last two decades. In addition to that, and with 125 billion in insured losses, 2022 is found to be the fourth most impacted year, after 2017 (Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria), 2011 (Japan Earthquake) and 2005 (Hurricane Katrina).

The most significant events that occurred in 2022 were:

  • hurricane Ian, which lashed Florida in September. It was the most costly event of the year, with insured losses estimated at between 50 and 65 billion USD,
  • storm Eunice, which hit north-western Europe,
  • winter storms in the United States,
  • the Fukushima earthquake in Japan,
  • the deadly floods in Australia,
  • the equally deadly floods in South Africa in April and May,
  • record drought in Europe, China and the Americas,
  • the mega forest fires that ravaged Canada and several Mediterranean countries between May and September.

2003-2022 review

Over the past 20 years, insured losses have risen by an annual average of 8,47%, an increase due not only to climate change, but also to higher risk exposure, higher insured property values and inflation.

After peaking at 154 billion USD in 2017, insured damage losses have risen significantly again in the last two years, to 111 billion USD and 125 billion USD in 2021 and 2022 respectively.

The 100 billion USD threshold for insured losses should be reached and exceeded in 2023.

As natural catastrophes have continued to gather momentum, a large number of insurers and reinsurers have resorted to readjusting their underwriting policies for 2023. This is particularly the case in the US and Australian markets, with some players in these markets having decided to drastically reduce their capacity, while others preferred to stop underwriting natural catastrophes.

High exposure to primary and secondary hazards

In recent years, the reinsurance market has been heavily affected by the high intensity of large-scale primary hazards, such as hurricanes and earthquakes. Secondary perils, meaning those of medium intensity, are also feared by the industry due to their high frequency. Losses such as hail, floods and forest fires account for an ever-increasing share of the damage covered by insurers.

In the long term, such primary and secondary catastrophes dry up or severely restrict capacity.

Faced with this situation, reinsurers have no choice but to:

  • impose higher retentions,
  • tighten contractual conditions,
  • exclude certain hazards.

Against the backdrop of climate change, the issue pertaining to the insurability of such risks is more important than ever.

Inflationary trends

Faced with rising risk capital and soaring costs of repairing and rebuilding damaged property, reinsurers are concerned about inflation as they are required to:

  • reassess their risk exposure,
  • anticipate the impact of inflation on their reserves,
  • increase rates in line with inflation to avoid losses and cash flow difficulties.

US insurers withdraw from certain risks

Several US insurers are suspending the underwriting of certain coverages in order to reduce their exposure to specific risks. This is the case of:

  • State Farm and Allstate which ceased underwriting new homeowner's insurance policies in California.
  • AIG and Farmers Group which reduced their exposure to weather risks in Florida, a region frequently hit by floods, storms and forest fires.
  • American Automobile Association (AAA), which is suspending the renewal of motor and home policies for certain customers in Florida.

These withdrawals are due to:

  • the resurgence of high-intensity natural events,
  • high property exposure to catastrophic risks,
  • soaring repair and construction costs,
  • tighter reinsurance market conditions.

Conflicts, riots and civil unrest

Characterized to be less important than climatic events or cyber-attacks, conflicts, riots, popular movements and other forms of unrest are not negligible risks.

The growing political instability affecting many countries is an aggravating factor for riots and civil unrest, which are becoming increasingly widespread.

These risks, previously included in fire and property damage coverage, are no longer regarded as isolated events. They are increasingly associated with political risks and, unless specifically agreed, are often excluded from standard insurance policies.

The generalization of these risks represents a major global trend that requires special attention from insurers.

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