Climate, conflict and capital are coalescing to create a “tipping point” for the reinsurance market, with 2022 mid-year renewals seeing rate increases hit their highest levels since 2006, according to a new report by international insurance broker Howden.
While the reinsurance market initially stood strong in the face of headwinds that began in 2017 – including frequent weather losses, the COVD-19 pandemic and attendant market volatility – persistent catastrophe loss frequency, and major macroeconomic and geopolitical shifts this year have exacerbated pressures and altered assumptions around yields, capital and loss costs, Howden said. Risks are escalating as the world weathers multiple crises, bringing about a fundamental shift in supply and demand.
“After years of excess capacity, loss uncertainty and the changing world order have combined to create some of the most challenging market conditions in two decades,” said Bradley Maltese, CEO of Howden Re. “Pricing and risk appetites are responding accordingly. No two cycles are the same, however, and new capacity could very soon be enticed into the market, given current rating levels and the higher potential returns on offer.”
Maltese said that capital providers’ price expectations are shifting along with structural changes to the loss environment – meaning that 2023’s reinsurance renewal cycle is likely to see further pricing pressures.
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“Loss experience from here will be crucial,” he said. “Whilst pressure will increase if the wind blows this year, it will be more muted off the back of a loss-free second half. Choosing your intermediary carefully is essential in helping cedents secure the best and most cost-effective coverage available in the current environment.”
The property-catastrophe market is currently weathering headwinds of price, risk and inflation. Reduced capital inflows, along with rising secondary peril losses, have strengthened reinsurers’ determination to meet the rising cost of capital, Howden said.
Property-catastrophe pricing for Florida business rose by an average of 25% at June 1. A cumulative increase of 90% in the last five years has driven Howden’s 1 June ROL index to its highest level since 2007.
While Ukraine war claims are likely manageable overall for the reinsurance industry, the concentration of losses among premium-light lines of business will cause disproportionate pain, Howden said. Current industry loss predictions range from $10 billion at the low end to more than $20 billion. However, reported claims have a long way to go before they approach those numbers.
Capital impacts have been significant as asset markets adjust to the end of the “great moderation,” Howden said. This year already represents a new low for dedicated reinsurance capital. An 11% impairment during the first six months, along with significantly higher premiums, sent the reinsurance sector’s solvency ratio to levels not seen since the Global Financial Crisis.
Even if there is a recovery in financial markets in the second half, capital losses are unlikely to recover fully this year, Howden said. Any year-on-year decline in reinsurance capital at the end of December would be the first full-year reversal since 2008.
“Unlocking capital in order to find solutions for risks that may soon outgrow the sector’s capital base will be crucial to maintaining relevance and offering clients coverage that meets their rapidly changing needs,” said Elliot Richardson, chair of Howden Re. “Clients demand better data, world-class analytics, scale and a unique blend of capital markets and risk transfer. In these market conditions, clients need a new approach to broking that is innovative, aggressively entrepreneurial and home to the sector’s strongest talent. In 2023, Howden Tiger will be delivering just that.”