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Ratings agency gives BF&M the thumbs-up

BF&M: growth in the pension business was negligible in recent years, but strong in 2021 due to favourable capital market conditions

A rating agency has pledged to continue to monitor the status of the strategic review launched this summer by domestic insurer BF&M through to completion.

AM Best said it will then evaluate the potential impact to BF&M’s rating fundamentals.

The agency also remarked, in a ratings statement, that the insurer’s health line of business has been stagnant since a government move to change how it funded the Bermuda Hospitals Board.

These and other statements were included as the agency affirmed the financial strength rating of A (Excellent) and the long-term issuer credit ratings (Long-Term ICR) of “a” (Excellent) of BF&M Life Insurance Company Limited, BF&M General Insurance Company Limited and Island Heritage Insurance Company, Ltd (Island Heritage) (Cayman Islands).

AM Best also has affirmed the long-term ICR of “bbb” (Good) of the parent company, BF&M Limited. The outlook of these credit ratings is stable.

Best said the ratings reflect BF&M’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best assesses as strongest, as well as its adequate operating performance, neutral business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management.

The ratings statement added: “BF&M’s ratings and outlooks are supported by its strongest balance sheet strength assessment, driven by its strongest level of risk-adjusted capitalisation, as measured by Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio.

“BF&M has historically grown capital and surplus to maintain more-than-sufficient capitalisation to support its underwriting and investment risks. BF&M mitigates volatility in capitalisation levels with significant catastrophe reinsurance protection. This protection continues to be prioritised despite a hardening reinsurance market.

“BF&M has a history of profitable operating results. In years when underwriting results were down, investment income was able to provide an offset. BF&M’s financial results in 2021 remained favourable and primarily driven by improvements in its life and property lines, the former of which was the result of lower Covid-19-related mortality.

“The company also has a significant pension management business that provided additional fee income in the period. Growth in this business was strong in 2021 due to favourable capital market conditions, but has been negligible over the past few years.

“The company’s business profile is reflective of the solid market share it garners in its domestic market of Bermuda and geographic diversification of business throughout the Caribbean through its Island Heritage subsidiary, where it adds primarily property/casualty premium.

“BF&M is focused on profitable growth, and in 2020, divested its majority ownership of Insurance Corporation of Barbados Ltd (ICBL), as ICBL’s financial results were not meeting BF&M’s expectations.

“Premium growth from BF&M’s health line of business has been stagnant since the local government moved to fund its largest health provider and its authority, the Bermuda Hospitals Board, with a block grant annually in 2019.

“This was considered phase one in what was expected to be a lengthy process towards a national plan, which has been delayed due to Covid-19 and general uncertainty of the longevity of the pandemic.

“AM Best will continue to monitor the developments of the Ministry of Health’s future market reform plans and how BF&M adapts to them.

“BF&M’s significant catastrophe reinsurance protection and overall risk management philosophy are central to the organisation’s efforts to retain appropriate amounts of risk and mitigate adverse financial impacts to the group.

“Minimal cat activity in BF&M’s jurisdiction drove little impact to the p/c operations from catastrophe losses.

“Risk appetite continues to be conservative, and responsible underwriting is put before premium growth. When combined with the extensive reinsurance programme, the company has managed to navigate multiple adverse market events such as hurricanes and the recent Covid-19 pandemic.

“Lingering effects from the pandemic continue to impact the operating environment, though social and economic restrictions have largely been removed, resulting in economic tailwinds for the region in 2021.”

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Published October 05, 2022 at 5:03 am (Updated October 05, 2022 at 5:03 am)

Ratings agency gives BF&M the thumbs-up

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