The COVID-19 crisis has been a uniquely challenging time for insurance businesses in every region of the world, as highlighted by many of the interim 2020 results which have been posted over the last few weeks. For some companies, however, particularly those less exposed to the lines of business which have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, the recent economic turmoil has spurred their performance, and impacted the strategic development they are pursuing.
Among these is International General Insurance Holdings Ltd (IGI) which recently reported 27% year on year growth in GWP for H1 2020 and noted that it would be looking to seize the opportunities afforded by the hardening market. Discussing this with Insurance Business, the president of IGI, Waleed Jabsheh (pictured), noted that, following many years of soft market conditions, the gradual hardening of certain classes of business over the last 18 to 24 months has accelerated and expanded this year.
“COVID and the impact that it has had on the market, has come at a time when the market is already experiencing difficulties. And we believe COVID will only prolong and intensify the hardening of the market that had already started before it showed up,” he said. “So, we’re seeing positive rate movements across virtually all our classes of business.
“The level and the magnitude of the rate increases being achieved varies depending on the class of business itself. But, across our longtail segment in the first six months of the year, we saw almost 30% increases in rate movements across our renewal book, while on the short tail segment we saw almost 20% rate increases, on average, across our renewal book.”
Jabsheh highlighted that, due to manageable exposure to COVID claims, IGI is in a strong position to take advantage of this hardening market by embracing new opportunities, such as its recent entering of the US excess and surplus lines space and the expansion of its marine insurance segment. With rates improving, and this expected to continue for the foreseeable future, the market appears to be in the business’s favor, and IGI is on the constant lookout for new ways to further diversify the product suite in its portfolio.
“At the end of the day, what a market like this does in terms of opportunities is not just give the opportunity to grow, which clearly our numbers are showing we are, but also the opportunity to refine your portfolios and be more selective with the business that you put on the books.
“It’s a message we constantly discuss among ourselves and say to our underwriters that, while we are hungry to grow, the most important thing is to maintain the credibility and the quality of our book to ensure that the returns that these portfolios generate are in line with our expectations… This market will end up turning and going back in the opposite direction, and the stronger your renewal book is at that point in time, the stronger your position will be in addressing a softening market.”
For IGI, a key point of focus recently has been on making sure that the pandemic has not impacted its service levels with regards to its broker partners and its clients. Jabsheh paid tribute to the way the business’s employees have handled the transition to working from home so smoothly. Every effort has been made by staff, he said, to ensure that clients continue to be serviced, that claims continue to paid on-time, and that brokers are getting the attention and service they could expect under normal conditions.
“Service has always been a key metric for us,” he said. “It’s built into our DNA to ensure that we provide the right service levels in all areas of the operation. It’s not just about underwriting and responding to inquiries in a short timeframe, but it's about everything else within the business that impacts the experience that our clients have with us and our brokers have with us.
“When we started 20 odd years ago, we were a much smaller company, with a lot less capital and no rating at a time when financial security was high on everybody’s radar. So, it was our personal relationships and service levels that allowed us to build the reputation that we have today. In a sense, we still have that mindset of that much smaller company and fighting for every piece of business that we go after. So, it’s within our DNA, that service will always be important and is looked at a very high level to ensure continuity.”