Insurance brokers report that the commercial property/casualty market continued to soften in the first quarter of 2015, with large accounts seeing the biggest price declines.
On average, small, medium and large accounts fell 2.3 percent, compared with a decline of 0.7 percent in the 4th quarter of last year. Large accounts saw the steepest drop of 3.7 percent, while medium sized accounts fell 2.7 percent, according to most recent quarterly Commercial P/C Market Index Survey by The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB).
“The trend of falling prices we saw in the fourth quarter of 2014, continued into the first quarter of this year,” said Ken A. Crerar, president and CEO of the commercial brokers’ group. “Last quarter, buyers gained some advantage as pricing slid across the board and across all regions for most lines of business. A relatively calm catastrophe season, with the exception of the harsh winter in the Northeast, helped push commercial property pricing down in most of the country.”
Crerar said reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act “seemed to settle that market.”
Plentiful capacity continued to dampen pricing as carriers scrambled to book new business. Brokers responding to the survey reported an actively competitive market.
In the Northeast, brokers said carriers were “more aggressive” with a “much broader appetite” and offered “lower deductibles, multi-year deals.” Carriers were “hungry, hungry, hungry,” one broker said.
Midwestern brokers reported “aggressive carriers” and that “downward pressure on pricing was greater than three months ago.”
Other regions reported similar trends: “Broader risk selection; more flexibility in terms, conditions and pricing” (Southwest); “reduced deductibles higher capacity” (Southeast); and “soft market, lots of property capacity” (Pacific Northwest), CIAB reported.
The survey results confirmed that property pricing fell in most of the country for properties without CAT exposures or losses. However, the Northeast coastal area, which was hit by record-breaking snowfall last winter, did see some tightening and slightly higher deductibles for roof damage caused by ice damning, according to the survey.
Loss experience continued to be a factor in underwriting. While willing to negotiate on pricing, carriers were still looking for good loss histories, broker said. “Good accounts being marketed got very competitive pricing. Bad accounts got increases,” said a Midwest broker.
Demand for commercial insurance remained strong with interest in cyber liability even stronger than than in the last quarter, according to CIAB respondents.
In its annual U.S. Insurance Market Report 2015 published in February, Marsh said that the U.S. commercial property insurance market is expected to continue to soften into 2015.
Barring unforeseen events, clients with non-catastrophe exposed risks should expect competition for their property insurance programs in 2015 with favorable terms and conditions and price decreases typically averaging between 5 percent and 15 percent, depending on the insured’s specifics, according to Marsh.
Catastrophe-exposed clients also can expect typical rate decreases in the 10 percent to 15 percent range, depending on their risk profile and concentration of catastrophe prone areas, Marsh predicted.
Marsh said the U.S. casualty insurance market also appears poised to soften in 2015, following a stable 2014 in which rates generally edged upward, but the pace of increase slowed, according to the report. Of particular note, 2014 is projected to be the first profitable year for workers’ compensation since 2006, although insurers are still pressing for rate increases.
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