Canadian Underwriter

U.S. underwriting cycle turning unfavourable in commercial segments, including D&O liability: Fitch Ratings

December 7, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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The insurance market underwriting cycle is turning unfavourable in many commercial market segments in the United States, including directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance, Fitch Ratings said on Monday.

Premium rates in property lines have been declining for some time in response to a lack of large loss events

The credit ratings and research firm said in a press release that premium rates in property lines have been declining for some time in response to a lack of large loss events. “Fitch expects that competitive forces will likely drive prices lower in more casualty and liability lines, in part due to past underwriting success.”

Fitch Ratings noted that the latest Quarterly D&O Pricing Index report compiled by Aon Risk Solutions indicates that pricing on D&O programs that renewed in the third quarters of both 2015 and 2014 is 10.1% lower than pricing on the comparable group a year ago. The release also pointed out that Willis’ recent Marketplace Realities 2016 report indicates that public company and financial institution company D&O renewal rates are projected to be flat to slightly down in 2016.

Excess rates are projected to fall by 5-15% next year; however, weaker performing privately held and non-profit business is still seeing rate increases.

D&O underwriters have benefited from relatively stable claims trends have in recent years, particularly regarding claims relating to securities class action filings. Underwriting performance slightly deteriorated in 2015 with a reported statutory direct loss ratio of 51% for the industry at Sept. 30, compared with 49% in full year 2014. “Considerable further weakening in underwriting performance would need to be experienced to facilitate a shift towards positive D&O premium rate movement,” Fitch Ratings said in the release.

Recent merger activity in the property/casualty industry will have a meaningful effect on D&O market composition, but is unlikely to influence near-term pricing momentum. Fitch Ratings suggested that American International Group’s perennial market leader position will narrow as the pending merger between Ace and Chubb closes. As well, the recently completed acquisition of HCC Holdings by Tokio Marine and the merger of XL Group and Catlin are promoting a more concentrated, but still competitive D&O marketplace with ample underwriting capacity.

Based on nine months 2015 direct premiums, 50% of the market is written within four companies. “Newly merged entities’ success in integrating and retaining business within a larger portfolio will influence market competition going forward,” the release said. “Smaller underwriters may become more active in seeking growth by attracting displaced accounts or underwriters from recent transactions.”