Reinsurance crowd heads to Monaco to negotiate pricing

  • Monte Carlo: Reinsurers and brokers are meeting up in the principality this week to discuss pricing

    Monte Carlo: Reinsurers and brokers are meeting up in the principality this week to discuss pricing


While most Bermuda residents spent last week preparing for a hurricane, but many reinsurance executives were evacuating for another reason: they were travelling to Monaco for the 2012 Reinsurance Rendezvous.

At the annual event in Monte Carlo, the global reinsurance market discusses trends, rates and upcoming renewals.

In terms of catastrophes, apart from some US crop losses and the potential impact of Hurricane Isaac, this year has been somewhat tranquil. There have been no other billion dollar-plus losses, so it’s unlikely to be discussed at length by delegates in Monte Carlo.

2012 is a far cry from last year when earthquakes in New Zealand, floods in Australia and an earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused $105 billion in claims. Those record losses pushed rates for property and casualty reinsurance up an average of seven percent this year.

Negotiating higher rates for the next round of contract renewals in January may prove more difficult after insured losses slumped 86 percent to $11 billion in the first half of 2012 compared to the first half of 2011.

Rate increases and changes to insurance and reinsurance modelling following the events of 2011 are likely to be major topics of discussion at the conference.

Zurich Insurance Group, which has operations in Bermuda, buys reinsurance contracts to spread its risks, expects prices to remain little changed next year if there is no “tough US or European catastrophe season,” said Paul Horgan, head of group reinsurance at the biggest Swiss insurer in a roundtable event in Switzerland hosted by Bloomberg. If reinsurers can present “a legitimate reason” for higher prices, the company would accept these if there is a market consensus.

“Everybody is still in good shape,” said Horgan. “So far the losses for most of our trading partners have been earnings losses, not capital losses,” as capital buffers have reached record levels, he said.

Reinsurers have accumulated a record $480 billion of capital, according to Aon Benfield, the world’s biggest reinsurance broker, which mediates deals for primary insurers. These buffers are used as a cushion against natural catastrophe losses.

At the 31 biggest global reinsurers, net premiums written rose by 5.3 percent to $76.3 billion in the first half, the broker said.

“There is a trend, albeit gradual,” to raise prices, said Amer Ahmed, chief executive officer of Allianz Re, the reinsurance arm of Munich-based Allianz SE, Europe’s biggest insurer. “There is not enough premium in the system for the exposures that we carry.”

“The trend is pretty clear,” said Stephan Knipper, President of Axis Re Europe, the European reinsurance unit of Bermuda-based Axis Capital Holdings Ltd. “It might be a gradual one, though. This year the result is okay. So far we’ve been lucky. We’ve had no cat event.”

Reinsurers typically renew about two-thirds of their annual property and casualty contracts in the January round of renewals and the remainder in April and July. Following the Monte Carlo talks, reinsurers and insurers will reconvene negotiations in the German town of Baden-Baden in October.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said it expected reinsurers’ excess capital to continue to drive modest rate increases, and that macroeconomic uncertainty, continued low investment returns, and diminished benefits from reserve releases would continue to put pressure on the industry’s earnings for the next two to three years.

The capital buffers show the stability of reinsurers, said Jacopo d’Antonio, President and chief underwriting officer at Aspen Re Europe, who expects “patchy but gradual” price increases.

Capital buffers have “continued to strengthen through the second quarter of 2012, moderating pricing pressures,” according to a report by Guy Carpenter, the reinsurance brokerage of Marsh & McLennan. “One important factor driving these trends has been benign catastrophe activity,” the broker said.

Among this year’s most costly disasters is Hurricane Isaac, which made landfall in Louisiana on August 28. It may cost insurers as much as $2 billion in the US, risk-modelling firm AIR Worldwide said last week. Offshore oil rigs and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico probably didn’t suffer significant damage from Isaac, AIR said.

That’s not much when compared to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, which flooded New Orleans and caused $62 billion of insured losses in 2005, and last year’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which cost the industry as much as $40 billion.

Another argument for higher prices would be that reinsurance is becoming more volatile as primary insurers react to declining growth by concentrating the reinsurance they buy on riskier policies while keeping the less exposed treaties on their own books, said Hans-Joachim Guenther, chief underwriting officer and head of reinsurance for Europe and Asia at Bermuda-based Endurance Specialty Holdings, Ltd. “This puts more pressure on us to charge the right price.”

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Published Sep 10, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated Sep 7, 2012 at 4:55 pm)

Reinsurance crowd heads to Monaco to negotiate pricing

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