Filed Under:Agent Broker, Commercial Business

Carriers Understand Market Challenges; Discuss Strategies Beyond Pricing

NU Online News Service, Oct. 6, 11:04 a.m. EST

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.—Insurance carriers understand that there are no easy answers to the earnings challenge the industry is facing, and some of them believe that competing on price alone is not the answer to finding new commercial markets.

In an address earlier this week during The Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers’ 98th annual Insurance Leadership Forum, Paul Krump, president of commercial and specialty lines for Chubb Group of Insurance Companies says insurers are experiencing significant pressure on their business.

He says the current situation is “corrosive” for the industry as it deals with a significant catastrophe year that is eating away at reserves. Earnings have seen additional erosion with an investment environment that is not producing significant returns.

Insurers are feeling pressure to get rate through underwriting, but he cautions that the industry needs to balance that desire against the objectives of its policyholders.

“We must not lose sight of our primary mission—to take care of our customers, but we must also take care of ourselves,” says Krump.

Insurers, he says, must not add to the angst clients are experiencing in these very turbulent economic times.

“They are seeking some semblance of certainty in uncertain times,” Krump says.

In an interview with NU Online News Service, Mike T. Foley, chief executive officer, North America Commercial and regional chairman of the Americas for the insurer Zurich says these are challenging times for insurers as they deal with less return on premium and a very slow economic environment where commercial clients buy less insurance.

Carriers need rate to improve earnings, he notes, but he is surprised that the industry has not reacted.

Instead, risk is assessed on an individual basis and in that case, he says Zurich is confident it is getting the rate it needs, in part because the company deals with “sophisticated” policyholders who understand the market dynamics.

At a time when it is important to differentiate yourself, Foley says that Zurich does so by having a conversation with a customer and conveying that the company brings “unique insights” to the table.

For one specialty insurer, the concentration is not on rate but understanding the needs of customers and introducing products that satisfies those needs.

Bronek Masojada, chief executive, Hiscox Partner for the specialty insurer Hiscox Group, says individual companies “need to manage their business and not hope for a big price to make their earnings better.”

In that vein, Hiscox has introduced several products and innovations in the United States aimed at doing that.

One example is Hiscox One, a specialty product for the entertainment industry. Masojada explains that typically, such policies are cobbled together from various different forms. Hiscox One manuscripts all of the diverse underwriting language into one policy.

Masojada says that this provides contract certainty and closes gaps in coverage that policyholders experienced in the past. The product is designed for productions valued from $1 million to $25 million.

“To survive, it is all about innovation,” Masojada says. “Only through innovation can we separate ourselves.”

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