Hurricane Harvey Puts Pressure on Regional Insurers in Texas, Says A.M. Best

September 5, 2017

Losses anticipated from Hurricane Harvey are unlikely to exceed the top reinsurance limits of insurers writing business in Texas, according to new Best’s Special Report, titled, “Texas Insurers Expected to Withstand Losses from Hurricane Harvey.”

Over the past several years, the soft reinsurance market has allowed primary insurers to obtain favorable terms from reinsurers, including higher limits on catastrophe programs and extended hours clauses. Given the scope of the event, it will be difficult to determine final damage assessments as the top priority remains on rescue efforts throughout southeast Texas.

A.M. Best does not anticipate a significant number of rating actions related to Hurricane Harvey, but does expect to see pressure on performance for regional property and auto writers, particularly those focused on writing business in the impacted area. Currently, A.M. Best rates 15 insurers with Texas premium revenue accounting for greater than 50 percent of their total book of business; four of those insurers currently have a negative outlook at their current rating levels.

Companies that A.M. Best identifies as having a negative ratings outlook are Texas Farm Bureau Casualty Group, Germania Mutual Group, CEM Insurance Co. and American Millennium Insurance Co.

“Leading up to Hurricane Harvey, several Texas insurers experienced a challenging first half 2017 as a result of spring weather losses,” said Angelo Lozano, a financial analyst with A.M. Best. “Combining those first half of 2017 losses with those from Hurricane Harvey may have an impact on company earnings and capitalization, which could add additional negative rating pressure.”

In what is an unprecedented flooding disaster in the fourth largest city of the U.S., Hurricane Harvey is proving to be a major event for the commercial insurance sector. As was the case following Superstorm Sandy in 2012, commercial insurance claims are expected to comprise an outsized portion of overall covered losses from the storm, as flood – rather than wind – has been a driver of damage.

Commercial insurance policies, particularly those covering large and complex properties, may provide some coverage for flood as a covered peril. Given the complex nature of commercial claims related to flood, companies are not in a position to provide loss estimates at this time.

“While earnings for the third quarter 2017 will clearly be impacted, at this time, A.M. Best does not anticipate that Harvey will prove to be a capital event for the commercial segment overall,” said Jennifer Marshall, director, A.M. Best. “The impact on individual companies will continue to be assessed as the situation stabilizes and loss estimates are made available.”

A.M. Best also notes in its report that while auto insurance losses due to flooding are expected to be much higher than normally expected in a hurricane event, because “larger, geographically diversified writers” dominate the auto insurance market in Texas auto losses “should be effectively absorbed by the overall size of carriers’ balance sheets.”

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