Don’t Expect a More Profitable Year for P-C Insurance, Industry Leaders Say

Property-casualty insurance industry leaders expect no increase in profitability in 2016 for most lines of insurance, according to a survey conducted by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) at its 20th annual Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum this week.

Compared to 2015, 53% of executives believe premium growth will continue at the same rate in 2016, 29% of respondents believe it will grow faster and 18% expect it to slow. In terms of capacity as measured by policyholders’ surplus, 61% of respondents expect an increase, 21% believe it will remain flat and 18% anticipate a decrease.

As the U.S. economy continues to grow slowly but steadily, more economic activity and capacity mean “personal and commercial insurance will also grow, assuming none of the many potential adverse economic shocks develop,” says Steven Weisbart, senior vice president and chief economist with the I.I.I. “As the economy inches closer to full employment, we may begin to see wage increases that outpace inflation for the first time in nearly a decade, primarily affecting the workers compensation line.”

Although 44% of executives expected improvement in workers compensation last year, 68% see no improvement in the line for 2016. Similarly, 61% see no increase in profitability of personal auto, homeowners or commercial lines. But as cybercrime exposes businesses all over the world to greater levels of liability than any other time in history, 76% of executives view cyber insurance as a major growth leader for the coming year.

In 2016, 74% of respondents believe the combined ratio—a percentage of each premium dollar a p-c insurer spends on claims and expenses—will be higher than last year, when it rose to an estimated 98% from 97.2% in 2014.

A combined ratio above 100 means claims payments plus expenses exceeded insurance premiums. “Combined ratios must be lower in today’s depressed investment environment to generate risk-appropriate ROEs,” Weisbart explains. “Lower catastrophes helped pull up ROEs in 2015.”

One way to lower expenses? Consolidation: 55% of survey respondents expect a continued increase in merger & acquisition activity among insurers and reinsurers in 2016.

The I.I.I. created the Property/Casualty Insurance Joint Industry Forum to provide an opportunity for leaders from all over the industry to meet with each other and discuss topics of general interest. This year’s participants included more than 200 representatives from p-c insurance and reinsurance companies and organizations—roughly 40% of whom responded to the survey.

Jacquelyn Connelly is IA senior editor.