London (re)insurer Hiscox has reported a 20.3 percent rise in gross written premiums (GWP) in the first quarter driven by improved pricing at the beginning of the year.

Hiscox exterior

Hiscox booked $1.15bn GWP in the first three months of 2018, up from $929.8mn in the same period of 2017.

The carrier said the uptick was due to a hardening market at the 1.1 renewals, with Hiscox’  London market operation and its reinsurance arm both taking advantage of the rate movements.

The Hiscox Re and ILS segment of the business grew GWP by 42 percent in constant currency terms to $363.1mn in the quarter.

However, group CEO Bronek Masojada said he does not expect underwriting discipline in the London Market and reinsurance markets to be sustained.

In response, the executive said he would place more emphasis on the group’s retail segment to offset a potential slip back to less disciplined underwriting.

The carrier said growth in US property catastrophe and excess of loss business - where rate improvement was the most significant at around 9 percent - had been hard fought.

Meanwhile, Hiscox said the 1 April renewals were generally flat, with the June and July renewals expected to follow suit.

The London Market business also grew GWP by 8.7 percent to $219.8mn, compared to the same period last year.

Hiscox said it had capitalised on rate improvements in the London market business, where price hikes have been most most pronounced - most notably in major property and US household and commercial property binders.

The carrier added that it achieved 20 percent rate increases in property lines while commercial property binders have booked increases of up to 10 percent.

The London-listed firm said it had also seen good growth in casualty lines, including general liability and cyber. However that premium growth was partly offset by reduced participation in some areas of the market, while the firm exited some lines altogether - including aviation hull and liability.

GWP for the retail division was up 14 percent to $572.9mn in the first quarter of the year.

“After a costly year for catastrophes in 2017, our London Market and reinsurance businesses mobilised quickly to grasp the opportunity and grew strongly,” Masojada said.

“Sadly, discipline and good sense is receding in the market, so for the rest of the year growth in big-ticket business will be more measured,” he added.

“Our long-term strategy of investing in less volatile retail lines continues to provide balance and opportunity for growth.”