An End in Sight for the Soft Market?

For the first time in 20 months, average commercial insurance rates measured a slight increase, according to the now quarterly MarketScout pricing survey.

While the major drivers were large increases in commercial auto, transportation, professional liability and directors & officers, “we also recorded small rate increases in the majority of coverage and industry classifications” in the first quarter of 2017, says Richard Kerr, MarketScout CEO. “So, 2017 begins with insurers moving away from the rate cuts of 2016.”

Rate changes in business interruption, inland marine, workers compensation, crime and surety all held steady in the first quarter, but pricing for all other coverages either moderated or increased. Small commercial accounts (up to $25,000) experienced average +1% rate increases, while pricing for midsize accounts ($25,001-$250,000) stayed flat and large to jumbo accounts ($250,001 and up) saw average rate reductions of -1% and -2%, respectively.

Personal lines rates, meanwhile, held steady in Q1 2017 with an average increase of +2%—the same number that closed out last year. “Insurers have done a good job forecasting losses, so premiums are relatively stable,” Kerr says.

Auto late changes were up from +2% in December to +3% the first quarter, but MarketScout found that rates for all homes held steady since December. Those valued less than $1 million clocked average increases of +3%, while those valued more experienced average +2% increases across the board.

“Homes valued at less than $1 million have most recently produced a less attractive return on equity for insurers as compared to placements for homes over $1 million,” Kerr points out. “Most larger homes are linked to high net-worth clients who tend to be a preferred class of insureds. The overall account premiums of these clients are larger, and they buy three or four lines of coverage.”

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.