Leaders of the property/casualty insurance industry believe Washington’s ongoing budget fracas will have a negative impact on the U.S. economy, according to a survey conducted by the Insurance Information Institute at its 17th annual Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum, held in New York on Jan. 15.
Ninety-five percent of executives in the property/casualty industry believe this is so. In addition, 74 percent of leaders think the federal government is interested in further expanding its regulatory oversight of insurers.
With the budget mess, only 23 percent of executives in the property/casualty industry believe the U.S. economy for the New Year is finally “on the right track.”
“As the economy continues its recovery, exposures will continue to grow, implying further increases in insurance premium volume,” said Dr. Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist with the I.I.I.
“Moreover, business bankruptcies in 2012 dropped below their level at the start of the 2007-09 recession and are expected to continue falling in 2013, so the erosion of commercial accounts will continue to ease. Moreover, the number of business startups has been rising, further feeding the demand for commercial insurance in 2013,” he added.
“However, the low-interest rate climate, which will likely persist throughout 2014, will challenge insurers to price risks in closer relation to their claims potential,” Dr. Weisbart said.
Broken down by lines of insurance, 59 percent of respondents believe there will be an improvement in both personal auto and homeowners lines. While 68 percent of respondents expect an improvement in commercial lines, 61 percent do not expect an improvement in workers compensation.
Seventy-four percent of respondents believe that premium growth will be higher in 2013; 21 percent believe it will remain flat; and only five percent believe it will be lower. In terms of capacity, as measured by policyholders’ surplus, 71 percent of respondents expect it to increase; 18 percent believe it will remain flat; and 11 percent believe it will decrease.
As compared with 2012, 62 percent of respondents believe the combined ratio will be lower in 2013. The combined ratio is a percentage of each premium dollar a property/casualty insurer spends on claims and expenses.
The combined ratio improved by 8.9 percentage points to 100.9 percent in nine-months 2012 from 109.8 percent in nine-months 2011. (The 100.9 percent combined ratio in nine-months 2012 includes mortgage and financial guaranty insurers. Excluding these insurers, the combined ratio was 100 percent for nine-months 2012 from 108.1 percent for nine-months 2011.)
A combined ratio over 100 means that claims payments plus expenses exceeded insurance premiums. One way to lower expenses is by consolidation; 54 percent of respondents expect an increase in consolidation among insurers and reinsurers.
In the area of torts, 51 percent of respondents believe that tort trends will deteriorate in 2013; 44 percent believe it will remain the same; and only five percent believe it will improve.
On the investment side, 64 percent of industry leaders expect an “up” year in the equity markets in 2013 (but for the industry as a whole, equities constitute only about 15 to 20 percent of invested assets). About 70 percent of invested assets are in bonds.
Industry leaders were asked whether they expect interest rates to rise. Sixty-two percent think they will remain flat and 38 percent think they will rise; none of the respondents expects interest rates to fall.
Participants at this year’s Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum included nearly 250 representatives from property/casualty insurance and reinsurance companies and organizations. Of these, roughly 40 percent responded to the survey.
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