With Commercial-Insurance Rates Rising, Risk Managers Must Stress Value of Coverage

Willis Chairman and CEO Joseph Plumeri during a 2009 news conference (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) Willis Chairman and CEO Joseph Plumeri during a 2009 news conference (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

NU Online News Service, April 12, 2:35 p.m. EST

With rates rising in many commercial-insurance lines—although not uniformly across all lines—risk managers may have to deliver unpleasant news at budget time, but they should stress the value of the products, rather than just the cost, Willis’ chief executive says.

In an introduction to Willis’ latest “Market Realities” report, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Plumeri writes, “The role of the insurer is to make sure they survive the storms so that when their clients need them, they will be here. What insurers offer...is their own resilience.”

Plumeri adds, “We suggest that risk managers and others in charge of risk mitigation and risk transfer may benefit by taking a similar view of your own work. That, ultimately, is your job as well: ensuring resilience.”

He says that, as rates rise, risk managers should keep in mind that they have been paying less in recent years for protection, resilience “and the freedom from risk that allows you to take chances and achieve what you and your stakeholders most want to achieve.”

As for the insurance market, Plumeri says in his introduction that insurers are showing little inclination toward uniform firming seen in previous hard-market patterns. As such, he notes that while those who do not learn from history may be condemned to repeat it, “those who expect the same patterns to continue forever may be severely disappointed.”

Regarding specific lines, Willis says that in the 2011 fourth quarter, catastrophe-exposed property rates rose by an average of between 5 percent and 10 percent. 

A recent study of 2012 first-quarter property rates conducted by broker Marsh says global property rates, including in the U.S., were on the rise for both cat-exposed and non-cat-exposed properties. 

Willis’ study, though, predicts flat rates for non-cat-exposed property risks in the first quarter, and increases of between 7.5 percent and 12.5 percent for cat-exposed risks.  

Willis says that although property rates are rising in 2012, “abundant capacity and the continuing weak economy have tempered the upward pressure.” 

For the casualty market, Willis says more than 75 percent of insureds are seeing modest rate increases on renewal. Additionally, Willis says underwriters are showing less flexibility on coverage. “Gradual increases in revenues and rating exposures are putting upward pressure on premiums,” the broker says. 

Willis says it expects rates to range from flat to increases of 7.5 percent.

In workers’ compensation, Willis says about 90 percent of insureds are seeing rate increases on renewal, particularly in California and the Northeast. But Willis notes that “healthy market competition” is still creating positive premium results for many buyers. The brokerage expects rates to range from up by 2.5 percent to up by 7.5 percent.

In the commercial auto space, Willis says about 80 percent of insureds are experiencing rate increases, driven by severe losses in auto liability. “Accurate reporting of fleet by type of vehicle, good loss experience and ongoing loss control are critical to favorable renewal efforts,” Willis says. Rates are expected to range from flat to up by 10 percent.

For directors and officers coverage, Willis says price decreases are becoming less common for public-company coverages. Willis expects rates to range from down 5 percent to up 5 percent going forward. Public companies are expected to see rates range from down 5 percent to up 10 percent, while private companies can expect rates to range from flat to up by 5 percent.


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