Despite some indications of pricing stabilisation in peak property catastrophe zones at the June/July 2015 renewals, the forecasts for a “softening in the softening” in reinsurance pricing have proved misleading, according to Willis Re.
Rates have continued to decline across the majority of markets, with few examples of any slowdown in pricing deterioration, according to the reinsurer’s latest 1st View Renewals Report.
Reinsurers have faced difficult renewal dynamics in the global specialty markets, according to the data, especially within the aviation and energy sectors, as large losses and reductions in original rates have yet to dissuade the inflow of additional capacity.
Casualty markets have also not offered reinsurers any relief from further rate reductions, said the report. This is despite an increase in adverse results across a number of non-motor classes.
Willis Re also said that risk adjusted rate reductions continue for property catastrophe pricing, although there has been a notable slowdown in rate reductions for high layer US property catastrophe covers where the insurance-linked securities (ILS) markets, which have played a major role in driving down pricing in the peak zones, have taken a more disciplined approach.
The reinsurer also said that despite signs that some insurers are utilising rate reductions to buy more reinsurance, some of the larger firms continue to increase their reinsurance retentions.
“While improved risk management is largely driving this trend, the report warns of the possibility that increased retentions are also a result of some potentially misplaced optimism around underwriting results as primary rates continue to reduce,” said Willis Re.
The negative outlook for investment income also remains, according to the report with concern around the dislocation in the high yield bond market a potential precursor for further turmoil in bond markets as interest rates rise.
“For most reinsurers, exposure to high yield bonds is modest and manageable. Yet for any significant market event, the report notes that there are bound to be outliers,” said the firm.
The data also showed that the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) trend also continues unabated, with the increasing role of Asian-sourced capital helping to drive valuations, as is the role of buyers looking to buy scale and market relevance as deals drive more deals.
John Cavanagh, global chief executive officer of Willis Re, said: “The January renewals have unfortunately confounded the hopes of commentators that the market was reaching a pricing floor. However, as reinsurers look to close their 2015 accounts, most will likely report reasonable headline results. But looks flatter to deceive.
“As the Willis Reinsurance Index for the first half of 2015 demonstrated, underlying return on equities (ROEs) of reinsurers is at an extremely low 5.1 percent after adjusting for reserve releases and abnormally low catastrophe losses. 2015’s full year analysis is likely to show further reductions as under-reserving issues start to appear at both a primary company and reinsurer level.”
Cavanagh said that amidst the challenging environment, two positive developments stand out. First, the recent announcement by Lloyd’s that it plans to launch a trading index to help stimulate the development of a secondary trading market and ‘attract the interest of the wider capital markets.
Second, the announcement by Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England and chairman of the Financial Stability Board, of an industry led task force. Chaired by former New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, it will develop company disclosures for investors to assess physical, liability and transitional risks from climate change and related policies.
“Quantification and disclosure of insurance risk has helped drive reinsurance demand for the last 25 years. These new initiatives are primed to do the same for the global business community: drive demand,” added Cavanagh.
Willis Re, John Cavanagh, Europe