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World insurance in 2002: high premium growth in non-life insurance


December 3, 2003   by Canadian Underwriter


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While financial market turbulence continued to plague the insurance markets in 2002, some signs of recovery were evident in the most important markets: the non-life insurance sector grew at a record-breaking rate, the life sector posted minor improvement according to a Swiss Re sigma analysis of 2002 insurance data for 91 countries.
Global premium volume in 2002 amounted to USD 2 627 billion, of which USD 1 536 billion was attributable to life insurance and USD 1 091 billion to non-life insurance. Adjusted for inflation, this translated into 5.5% growth over the previous year. Growth was 3.0% in life insurance and 9.2% in non-life insurance, the latter on the back of a rise in premium rates.
Non-life insurance in the industrialized countries posted in 2002 extraordinarily robust premium growth of 9% over the previous year. Increased premiums were registered in the US and UK in particular, where premium rates for industrial lines were subjected to considerable hikes. Faced by low investment returns, insurers across the globe were forced to design products that would return their business to profitability. These improvements made themselves only partially felt in underwriting results and in overall results, as loss reserves had to be topped up further and investment results were again poor in 2002.
In the non-life sector underwriting results are set to improve further across the globe in 2003, thanks to sustained price increases.
Non-life premiums in the emerging markets grew by 10%, with insurers in many of these countries profiting from rising premium rates. An additional impetus to premium growth came from the introduction of obligatory insurance in Central and Eastern Europe as well as in the Middle East and Central Asia.