As the insurance market begins to harden, with insurers boosting premiums or seeking stricter terms for some types of coverage, risk managers for the most part are accepting those changes.
A recent survey by Hanover Stone Partners shows only a minority of companies have responded to price hikes or stricter terms by switching their insurer or broker or adjusting their retentions. But John Kelly, managing partner at Hanover Stone, a network of risk management advisers and services firms, predicts that as the insurance market continues to tighten, more companies will look for ways to contain their costs.
“There are pretty tight budgetary constraints and financial expectations that really put a lot of pressure on risk managers in a rising market to maintain stabilization of the pricing,” Kelly notes.
The survey looked at about 100 renewals of a variety of types of insurance coverage by Fortune 500 companies in the quarter ended Oct. 1. The responses show that the majority of companies are seeing premiums rise on renewal.
For example, 50% of the companies surveyed saw an increase of 1% to 5% to renew general liability coverage, while 10% saw an increase of 6% to 10%. Ninety percent made no change to achieve better pricing, while 10% changed their broker.
For workers compensation coverage, 43% of companies saw an increase of 1% to 5% upon renewal, while 15% saw an increase of 6% to 10%. Thirteen percent responded by changing their broker and another 13% changed their carrier, while 74% made no change.
Property coverage was a line where companies saw both higher prices and changes in terms. On U.S. property coverage, 72% saw premiums rise on renewal, with 14% seeing increases of more than 15%, 29% seeing hikes of 6% to 10% and 29% seeing hikes of 1% to 5%. And insurers offered higher retentions or deductibles to 29% of the companies, and both restricted terms and higher retentions to another 14%. While 72% of companies made no changes, 14% agreed to more restrictive terms and 14% adjusted their retentions or deductibles.
For global property coverage, 75% of buyers saw premiums increase, with 25% seeing increases of 11% to 15% and 25% seeing hikes of 6% to 10%. Companies renewing global coverage were not offered more restrictive terms, though. Their response to the price hikes: 33% changed carriers, while 67% made no changes.
The differing responses in the U.S. and global property markets reflect “the competitiveness in the global property market,” says Kelly, pictured at left. “Looking at a global program, there are more viable alternatives, and I think there are markets in global property that are trying to position themselves to take advantage of pressures and gain market share.”
Hanover Stone expects insurance prices will continue to rise this year. Kelly notes that since interest rates aren’t likely to rise in the short term, insurers will continue to see limited returns on their investments.
And changes to catastrophe modeling in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, whose impact the models failed to accurately predict, will mean upward pressure on property premiums in particular. “We can almost be assured that they will come up with new additions to cat models that will suggest larger exposure to loss on the East Coast,” Kelly says. “That will continue to put pressure on pricing as we go through 2013.”
But insurers’ finances have held up well. “The market was able to absorb Hurricane Sandy with one quarter of its earnings,” Kelly says. “There’s still an abundance of capital.”
Despite the series of natural disasters, he says, “we think the marketplace is able to absorb those losses and is looking to recover on the basis of relatively speaking modest increases and maybe a little more disciplined underwriting.”