A gathering of leaders within the property/casualty insurance industry believe Washington’s ongoing budget fracas will have an effect on the U.S. economy and the insurance industry, according to a survey conducted by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
The association surveyed attendees at its recent 17th annual Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum in New York, and found that 95% of executives in the property/casualty industry believe harm could be done.
In addition, 74% of leaders think the federal government is interested in further expanding its regulatory oversight of insurers.
With the budget mess, only 23% 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 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.”
Broken down by lines of insurance, 59% of respondents believe there will be an improvement in both personal auto and homeowners lines. While 68% of respondents expect an improvement in commercial lines, 61% do not expect an improvement in workers compensation.
Seventy-four percent of respondents believe that premium growth will be higher in 2013; 21% believe it will remain flat; and only five percent believe it will be lower. In terms of capacity, as measured by policyholders’ surplus, 71% of respondents expect it to increase; 18% believe it will remain flat; and 11% believe it will decrease.
As compared with 2012, 62% 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%age points to 100.9*% in nine-months 2012 from 109.8% in 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% of respondents expect an increase in consolidation among insurers and reinsurers.
In the area of torts, 51% of respondents believe that tort trends will deteriorate in 2013; 44% believe it will remain the same; and only five percent believe it will improve.
On the investment side, 64% 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% of invested assets). About 70% 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% think they will rise; none of the respondents expects interest rates to fall.