Willis Re 1st View Report: Cycle Strained; ILS Funds Not Immune

April 1, 2015

“The urgent – and ever increasing – need for change across the reinsurance industry as it forms a new paradigm” is the subject discussed in Willis Re’s latest “1st View” renewals report.

The report, published three times a year, highlights that as at April 1, 2015, “the historic market cycle continues to come under extreme strain and as a consequence, there is now a clear sense of urgency as reinsurers seek to implement major changes to their strategies and business models. The need for change is compounded by the growing transparency of major buyers around their core partner strategies, and their reluctance to deal with smaller following markets.”

The report notes that “M&A activity amongst reinsurers also continues to gather pace, with three major M&A transactions announced since January 1, 2015. And with the pool of potential partners shrinking, aspiring consolidators are now increasingly concerned about missing out on what many observe to be industry change that could last across generations.

In addition Willis Re’s report concludes that “Insurance-linked securities (ILS) funds are not immune from the current market challenges, with reduced returns and the downward pressure on fees placing the business models of some smaller standalone ILS managers under duress.”

Willis Re’s Global Chairman Peter Hearn commented: “ILS fund managers are evolving into more traditional reinsurer models and reinsurers expanding their own fund management activities appear best placed to trade through this difficult period; they can manage investors and access business more effectively.

“But while this convergence trend is both logical and anticipated, it is creating a conundrum: as ILS funds evolve their business models to look more like traditional reinsurers, they are diluting the differentiation of the very offering which has proved so attractive to date for major primary buyers.”

John Cavanagh, Global CEO of Willis Re, noted: “The April 2015 renewal season has reinforced current trends and the market continues to favor the buyer. There are no signs that the current tide of falling rates and widening terms and conditions will be reversed. Diversification is now the key competitive advantage in this increasingly consolidated and converged reinsurance industry, and the ability to deliver a differentiated service offering is critical. Everyone should be broadening their horizons.”

“As investment banks rush to orchestrate the new model reinsurers of the future, previous views about possible M&A transactions are being challenged, including any thoughts that size may be an obstacle,” he added.

“As ever, the key to a successful transaction is demonstrating that the combination of two entities is greater than the sum of the two parts. Perversely, this imperative is likely to increase competition in the short-to-medium term, which may prolong the current soft market. Analysts are increasingly concentrating on the portfolio make-up of any potential new entity – and reinsurance is being seen as less attractive than specialty insurance business.”

Source: Willis Re

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