A.M. Best Co. announced that it has affirmed the financial strength ratings of “A+” (Superior) and has assigned issuer credit ratings (ICR) of “aa-” to the ING Canada Group.
Best also said it had upgraded the financial strength ratings to “A+” (Superior) from “A-” (Excellent) and “B+” (Very Good) for Allianz Insurance Company of Canada (Allianz Insurance) and Trafalgar Insurance Company of Canada (Trafalgar), respectively. Both ratings have been removed from under review with developing implications. The group now includes Allianz Insurance, Belair Insurance Company Inc., ING Insurance Company of Canada, ING Novex Insurance Company of Canada, The Nordic Insurance Company of Canada and Trafalgar. In addition, Best assigned an ICR of “a-” to ING Canada Inc. All the ratings have a stable outlook.
ING finalized the acquisition of Allianz’ Canadian operations on the companies indicated, as well as Canada Brokerlink, a network of insurance brokerages operating in Ontario and Alberta, last year (See IJ Website Dec.10, 2004). Allianz retained its Canadian industrial lines business, which is part of Allianz Global Risks.
Best said: “The financial strength ratings reflect ING Canada’s superior risk-based capitalization and the added financial flexibility of ING Canada Inc. following its successful initial public offering in December 2004. The ratings take into consideration the group’s consistently profitable operating performance and strong management team, which is experienced in growth through the acquisition process. ING Canada benefits from diverse product lines, multiple channels of distribution and geographic spread across Canada, as well as their leadership position in the Canadian personal lines and small to medium-sized commercial property/casualty insurance markets.”
However, the rating agency indicated the “pricing and reserving risks associated with re-underwriting the Allianz Insurance and Trafalgar books,” are considered as offsetting factors. Best also expects that “ING Canada will be challenged by the emergence of competitive market pricing particularly in commercial lines; and the risk of uncertainty regarding the long-term underwriting effects on personal auto due to regulatory reforms in most provinces across Canada.”
The group also profits from the fact that ING Canada Inc. is the largest P/C insurer in Canada. “The group’s superior capitalization is supported by its history of profitability and its financial flexibility as a publicly-traded company,” said Best. “The group has a strong centralized and experienced management team with a history of growth through acquisitions.
“The individual companies maintain strong relations with local brokers and allow ING Canada to distribute its products through multiple distribution channels and provide localized expertise and flexible pricing in geographic markets across Canada.
“Management relies on disciplined underwriting and pricing, conservative reserving and in-house investment expertise and claims handling. Underwriting and investment results have consistently outperformed the Canadian property/casualty industry. ING Canada’s geographic diversification allows for consistency in underwriting performance. Through a participation agreement, premiums and losses (including their runoffs) are spread to the group’s members based upon fixed percentages determined by each company’s relative equity position at December 31, 2004.
ING Canada remains challenged to produce strong investment returns and realized gains during the current prolonged period of low interest rates and weak equity markets. In addition, ING Canada bears the added risk of re-underwriting the Allianz Insurance and Trafalgar accounts.”
For the future Best said it “anticipates continued underwriting profitability in the near term. However, premium revenue could be hindered by more competitive pricing, particularly in commercial lines, and by automobile premium rate freezes and roll backs initiated by regulatory changes in most provinces. Based on these factors, the potential for deterioration in ING Canada’s long-term overall underwriting profitability exists.”