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Willis Re: Lower Loss Activity and Market Support for Improvement in Rating Levels Boosts Reinsurers’ start to 2012

London, UK, April 02, 2012 – Reinsurers have seen more positive results in the first quarter of 2012 than in the previous two years according to Willis Re, the reinsurance broking arm of Willis Group Holdings (NYSE: WSH). However, lower levels of loss activity in both the US and International markets, and a gradual improvement in rating levels seen in the primary market, have been overshadowed by reinsurers’ disappointing 2011 result.

The Willis Re 1st View April Renewals Report, entitled “Measured Response” found that despite the market showing signs of positive development, most reinsurers remain hesitant to increase their portfolios, preferring to focus on managing underwriting volatility and conserving capital whilst waiting for signs of further improvement.

The report notes that some primary buyers are reluctant to manage increased reinsurance costs through reduction in purchases and are restructuring their programs to maintain retention levels, although this trend is not being seen in the larger U.S. primary companies, who are seeing a continuing increase in their property cat retentions.

Peter Hearn, Chairman of Willis Re, commented:

“Reinsurers remain focused. They are taking a highly segmented and increasingly disciplined approach to terms and conditions and are not seeking to apply blanket rate increases. In turn, this is leading to wider variations in rate movement by territory and class.”

Other findings covered in the report include:

  • The Thailand floods have caused reinsurers to seek greater transparency and control particularly over contingent business interruption. It may take a number of years until final numbers are determined, but the technical and psychological impact of this loss on the global insurance industry will far outweigh the ultimate financial loss for years to come.
  • Reinsurers are applying tighter limits on natural perils, including lower event limits on pro rata treaties.
  • In an improving rating environment, new capital continues to be drawn to the global insurance industry, but on a different basis than previously. The traditional model of starting up companies post-major events appears to be falling out of favor. Investors are now concentrating on accessing the purest forms of (re)insurance risks through specialist funds and other structures.
  • Mergers and acquisitions remain active, notwithstanding the uncertain economic backdrop and the challenge of low valuations which remains a hurdle for deal completion.

In the report’s opening letter, Hearn comments on the conclusions of the report and their impact on reinsurers. He writes:

“Fortunately for its customers, the global reinsurance industry is largely reacting in a measured and logical fashion. Falling investment income, allied with increased loss trends on long-tail business, still remain key to a broad and more defined future market hardening in the absence of a major catastrophic loss.”

Click here to read the full Willis Re 1st View report.

About Willis Re

One of the world's leading reinsurance brokers, Willis Re is known for its world-class Analytics capabilities, which it combines with its Capital Markets and Reinsurance expertise in a seamless, integrated offering that helps clients increase the value of their businesses. Willis Re serves the risk management and risk transfer needs of a diverse, global client base that includes all of the world's top insurance and reinsurance carriers as well as national catastrophe schemes in many countries around the world. The broker's global team of experts offers services and advice that help clients make better reinsurance decisions, access worldwide capital markets and negotiate optimum terms. For more information, visit www.willisre.com

About Willis

Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global insurance broker. Through its subsidiaries, Willis develops and delivers professional insurance, reinsurance, risk management, financial and human resource consulting and actuarial services to corporations, public entities and institutions around the world. Willis has more than 400 offices in nearly 120 countries, with a global team of approximately 17,000 employees serving clients in virtually every part of the world. Additional information on Willis may be found at www.willis.com.

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