London’s remaining listed carriers posted solid top line growth in the first quarter as the impact of last autumn’s catastrophes fed through to pricing, but clouds remain over the outlook for the remainder of the year as capacity remains abundant.
Beazley and Hiscox boasted overall gross written premium (GWP) growth of around 10 percent and 23 percent respectively in the first three months of the year in part fuelled by the post-loss rate rises.
Alex Maloney’s Lancashire similarly posted an increase for its written premiums in Q1, as the company grew its GWP from $196.5mn to $215.8mn year-on-year on its way to a 48 percent jump in profits to $42.4mn for the period during a quiet quarter for heavy catastrophe losses.
While overall there appeared to be rosy news for underwriters as rates in a number of markets ticked up on the back of the 2017 losses, with Beazley CEO Andrew Horton noting “improved underwriting conditions” amid a recalibration of pricing levels, some markets continued to struggle.
Beazley said that while its reinsurance arm saw average rate rises of around 7 percent and its marine arm managed to secure average increases of 2 percent, the scene was not quite so heartwarming for underwriters in the specialty or political risk segments.
In the firm’s specialty unit - which saw GWP climb around 6 percent to $295mn - rates actually came in flat in spite of significant losses in that market last year, while its political, accident and contingency business noted that average prices had fallen around 3 percent in the quarter.
Hiscox highlighted a similar dynamic in its Q1 figures, as hardening market conditions at the 1.1 renewals helped both its London market operations and its reinsurance arm.
But group CEO Bronek Masojada struck a more cautious tone when discussing the outlook for the rest of the year, warning that he does not expect the discipline on display at the beginning of 2018 to persist.
“After a costly year for catastrophes in 2017, our London Market and reinsurance businesses mobilised quickly to grasp the opportunity and grew strongly,” he 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.”
Maloney echoed Masojada’s concerns, and said while his firm had noted “improved rating environment” following the catastrophe losses of last year, there was not yet cause for celebration about a definitive turn in the market.
“The rate improvements are very much in line with our communicated expectations following the experience of 1 January renewals,” he said.
“Although moving in the right direction, the rates have not yet improved enough to warrant a material increase in the group’s level of overall risk which currently remains broadly similar to that of 2017.