P/C Insurers Report Strong First-Quarter Underwriting Results
Record Surplus Growth and Historic Decline in Premiums due to Prior Year’s Events
JERSEY CITY, N.J., June 28, 2019 — Private U.S. property/casualty insurers’ profitability as measured by their annualized rate of return on average policyholders’ surplus increased to 9.4 percent, the best first-quarter result since 10.8 percent in 2015, according to Verisk (Nasdaq:VRSK), a leading data analytics provider, and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA). The industry’s surplus grew a record $37.4 billion in the first quarter of 2019, while net written premiums dropped for the first time since the Great Recession.
The surplus increased to $779.5 billion as of March 31, 2019, from $742.2 billion as of December 31, 2018, after dropping $39.3 billion a quarter earlier as the stock market recovered from a significant downturn at the end of 2018. Net written premiums declined 1.2 percent in first-quarter 2019 after jumping 15.7 percent a year earlier; both were mostly the result of one-time increases in net written premiums caused by the changes that multiple insurers made to their reinsurance arrangements in 2018. Net earned premiums grew 4.6 percent.
Insurers’ net underwriting gains improved to $5.3 billion in first-quarter 2019 from $4.1 billion a year earlier, even though their combined ratio deteriorated to 95.6 percent from 94.6 percent a year earlier. Net losses and loss adjustment expenses (LLAE) from catastrophes declined to $4.8 billion for first-quarter 2019 from $5.0 billion a year earlier, and net income after taxes rose to $17.9 billion in first-quarter 2019 from $17.1 billion a year earlier.
“Interest rates remain low and are limiting insurers’ investment income,” said Neil Spector, president of ISO, a Verisk business. “To succeed in this challenging environment, they must perfect their core insurance business. Many insurers are using robust data to help inform their underwriting and pricing and relying on artificial intelligence and automation to improve efficiency and reduce costs. These innovations can have a significant impact on insurers’ results. First-quarter 2019 suggests that insurers are on the right track, with their combined ratio well below 100 percent. Their chances to hold on to strong underwriting results through the remainder of 2019 will depend on many factors, including the major natural catastrophes that tend to occur later in the year. At any rate, insurers’ ability to provide coverage is well supported by their expertise and capital.”
“In the first quarter of 2019, solid underwriting discipline and continuing favorable reserve development helped to produce a 95.6 percent combined ratio,” said Robert Gordon, senior vice president for policy, research and international, at APCIA. “As a result, insurers remain in a strong capital position to respond to the potential for higher than normal hurricane and wildfire activity this year. Appreciation in the value of insurers’ investments offset much of the net unrealized capital losses experienced in 2018. However, the industry recovered only about half its stock market losses from the fourth quarter. Overall net written premiums actually dropped 1.2 percent in the first quarter, with net written premiums for traditional insurers writing predominantly commercial lines plummeting from 32 percent growth in the first quarter of 2018 to a decline of 9.2 percent this quarter. Presumably the decline was in part a normalization following last year’s dramatic market adjustment as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.”
View the full report from Verisk and APCIA here.
Verisk (Nasdaq:VRSK) is a leading data analytics provider serving customers in insurance, energy and specialized markets, and financial services. Using advanced technologies to collect and analyze billions of records, Verisk draws on unique data assets and deep domain expertise to provide first-to-market innovations that are integrated into customer workflows. Verisk offers predictive analytics and decision support solutions to customers in rating, underwriting, claims, catastrophe and weather risk, global risk analytics, natural resources intelligence, economic forecasting, and many other fields. Around the world, Verisk helps customers protect people, property, and financial assets.
Headquartered in Jersey City, N.J., Verisk operates in 30 countries and is a member of Standard & Poor's S&P 500® Index. In 2018, Forbes magazine named Verisk to its World's Best Employers list. For more information, please visit www.verisk.com.
Representing nearly 60 percent of the U.S. property casualty insurance industry, the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) promotes and protects the viability of a competitive private insurance market for the benefit of consumers and insurers. APCIA represents the broadest cross section of home, auto, and business insurers of any national trade association. APCIA members represent all sizes, structures, and regions, which protect families, communities, and businesses in the U.S. and across the globe. For more information, visit www.apci.org.
Edelman (for Verisk)
Jeffrey Brewer for APCIA
Loretta Worters for I.I.I.