Canadian Underwriter

U.S. commercial pricing shows signs of stability: CAIB

April 22, 2003   by Canadian Underwriter

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Brokers and agents in the U.S. are reporting signs of more stable pricing in the commercial p&c market, according to a survey by the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers (CIAB).
In its quarterly “Market Index”, the CIAB finds premiums are moderating, although about two-thirds of small, medium and large accounts are still seeing price increases of up to 20% for all lines of business. That said, only a small percentage of accounts saw hikes of 20%-30%, brokers report, and even less saw increases above this. As well, 12% of small accounts and 8% of medium and large accounts saw prices hold firm.
Business interruption and commercial property flattened the most, with 16% of brokers saying premiums were either holding steady or dropping slightly. However, medical malpractice remains a problem, with about one-third of accounts facing rate hikes of 30%-100%, and 8% seeing more than a 100% increase. Umbrella, construction risk and directors’ & officers’ were the other lines to see increases of 30%-50%.
Rather than calling this a “softening” of the market, brokers responding called it “stabilizing”, “flattening”, “loosening” and other such terms, the CIAB says. Some also report underwriters being more interested in quoting business than before.
However, construction risks remain difficult to place due to concerns over builder liability in toxic mold and environmental lawsuits. And, professional liability coverage also remains elusive and expensive across the U.S.
Following up on CIAB’s earlier “terrorism insurance” survey, which should that many accounts were not picking up the coverage despite it becoming more available after the government stepped in to reinsure the product, only 16% of brokers report a rise in interest in terrorism insurance in light of the U.S. war with Iraq. In most cases, the purchase was related to lender requirements.
Brokers report fears of insurer or reinsurer insolvency as among their top concerns in the year ahead. They also predict that any major disaster either natural or man-made would bring a quick end to any pricing moderation.

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