Chubb: strongest revenue growth in five years

  • Evan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Chubb (File photograph)

    Evan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Chubb (File photograph)

Global re/insurer Chubb saw its strongest premium revenue growth in five years in the fourth quarter of last year and its Bermuda underwriting operation saw strongly higher pricing.

In a conference call with analysts, Evan Greenberg, chairman and chief executive officer of Chubb, said: “Rates in our Chubb Bermuda business were up 33 per cent.”

The Hamilton-based operation is based on Woodlands Road and its insurance products include excess liability, professional liability, excess property and political risk. It also writes a broad range of reinsurance business.

Mr Greenberg said of the market: “The pricing environment continued to improve quarter on quarter with the rate of increase accelerating and spreading to more classes of business and risk types.”

Fundamentals suggested that the strengthening in prices would continue, he added.

“The environment we see is the environment I imagine will continue for some time,” Mr Greenberg said.

“It’s rational. And there are many reasons for it, and there’s nothing that I see that tells me the momentum will slow. If anything, it’s picked up and it is spreading more broadly.

“Industry needs rate and needs it in quite a number of classes and across the globe. And then you’re in a low-interest rate environment, and you can hardly rely on investment income to bail you out, and the industry needs rate because rate has just not kept pace with loss cost trend for quite a number of years.

“The math is so simple. People seem to overintellectualise this.”

New business was up 10 per cent in the fourth quarter for the Zug, Switzerland-based group. Mr Greenberg said: “We continue to benefit from the flight to quality. More business continues to meet our underwriting standards and new and existing customers choose Chubb.”

Chubb’s full-year net income for 2019 totalled $4.5 billion, up 12.3 per cent on 2018, while the group’s combined ratio — the proportion of premium dollars spent on claims and expenses — was 90.6 per cent, matching 2018’s figure.

For the fourth quarter, net income rose to $1.17 billion compared to $355 million in the same period of 2018, helped by a fall in after-tax catastrophe losses to $353 million from $506 million a year earlier.

In the call, Mr Greenberg said: “Half of our total cat losses in the quarter were from one event, a tornado that destroyed a mile-by-1.5-mile affluent neighbourhood in the suburbs of Dallas, where Chubb had significant market share.

“What are the odds? But that’s our business.”

Asked by Paul Newsome, an analyst with Piper Sandler, about Chubb’s potential for Asian losses related to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Greenberg said: “We imagine modest impact from everything we can tell, from economic slowdown or economic activity, but time will tell in that regard.”

Chubb has a “very small, almost nonexistent accident and health business in China”, Mr Greenberg added.

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Published Feb 7, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 6, 2020 at 7:06 pm)

Chubb: strongest revenue growth in five years

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