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Virus is ‘largest event in insurance history’

The Covid-19 crisis will be historic for the insurance industry, said Evan Greenberg, chief executive officer of insurer Chubb.

The virus and its ripple effects will impact both the asset side and the liability side of the balance sheet, he said.

“This event will be the largest event in insurance history,” Mr Greenberg said in an earnings call discussing first-quarter results for Chubb, the Swiss-based insurer with substantial operations in Bermuda.

Chubb booked $13 million of losses tied to Covid-19 in the first quarter and warned that the virus will have a “meaningful impact” on revenue and profit in the second quarter.

“We're in an unprecedented moment of historic proportions,” Mr Greenberg said on the call. “None of us living today has experienced an event of this nature or magnitude. It is at once surreal and catastrophic.”

Chubb's net income was $252 million for the first three months of the year, down from $1.04 billion in the first quarter of 2019.

The main driver of the fall in profit was financial market volatility. Property and casualty net premiums written were $7.3 billion, up 8.9 per cent year over year.

The combined ratio — the proportion of premium dollars spent on claims and expanses — for P&C business was 89.1 per cent, in line with 89.2 per cent recorded in the prior year.

Insurers are facing a looming threat as legislators in some US states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, consider law changes that would require insurers to pay out business-interruption losses for small firms, sometimes even if the policy explicitly excluded losses caused by a virus.

Mr Greenberg has called the retroactive measures “unconstitutional” as they would force insures to pay out for losses they did not contemplate when pricing the policies.

Mr Greenberg added: “I feel more stability outside the United States on the regulatory and legal front than I do in the United States. The irony.”

Virus impact: Evan Greenberg, chairman and CEO of Chubb

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Published April 24, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 24, 2020 at 9:08 am)

Virus is ‘largest event in insurance history’

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