Reinsurers have largely arrested the persistent downward trends of recent years despite the impact of COVID-19 on working conditions and exposures, with the “dynamics of the sector” remaining robust, according to a new report by Willis Re.
For buyers, terms and conditions overall have been less onerous than initially feared, which suggests that the global reinsurance market is working efficiently, according to Willis Re’s latest 1st View renewals report. Improving investment markets, retained earnings and newly raised capital drove the rapid recovery of global reinsurance capital levels during 2020, ending the year 3% higher than at year-end 2019.
Buyers seeking reinsurance for short-tail portfolios with poor loss records found the renewal process demanding, with reinsurers reluctant to support aggregate and working layer covers, Willis Re said. However, appetite for higher, loss-free layers was greater.
In casualty lines, negotiations of pro-rata treaties were more buyer-friendly due to consistent and significant increases of underlying rates.
“In some cases, buyers balanced demands for reductions in ceding commissions by opting to increase net retentions of risks that they now believe are adequately priced,” Willis Re said. “Incumbent reinsurers faced competition from carriers deploying fresh capital, but the continuing and worsening low-interest-rate environment and social inflation impacted pricing on all excess of loss long-tail lines.”
Property retrocession capacity remained limited, but not to the extent many predicted, Willis Re said. Aggregate capacity, however, was more constrained than occurrence, leading some buyers to respond with increased issuance of catastrophe bonds.
Emerging COVID-19 losses – often advised late in the renewal process or yet to be advised – resulted in discussions of primary policy coverage and reinsurance treaty wordings, Willis Re said. However, both are still in the early stages of deliberation, so most programs renewed without considering potential COVID-19 losses.
“2020 brought vast economic and social disruption to many parts of society,” said James Kent, global CEO of Willis Re. “It is important to recognize our good fortune as being part of an industry that continues to grow in relevance, and which has the potential to adapt to meet such challenges. This was reflected during the renewals process, as the resilience of the reinsurance sector shone through, not just to losses, but to working challenges. Once again, the dynamics of the sector have proved robust on all fronts.”