Driven by losses in investment markets, another severe property cat season could prove “adverse”

Dedicated reinsurance capacity in 2021 increased to $568 billion, driven by an increase of nearly 11% from traditional reinsurance capacity providers.

However, the spike may be short-lived given expectations for depressed investment markets, continued geopolitical turmoil and a potential decline in global gross domestic product, according to AM Best.

The expectation for 2022 is that total dedicated capital will slide back after a decade of year-over-year increases, driven by reductions in traditional reinsurance capital.

Although underwriting returns for many companies have been close to break even in recent years, capital levels grew through investment gains and inexpensive debt financing; the start of 2022 has seen a reversal of most of these conditions.

“Although AM Best expects headwinds in the capital and investment markets to continue in 2022, dragging down traditional capital levels, some of these losses likely will be offset by underwriting gains,” said Dan Hofmeister, senior financial analyst, AM Best.

“The historical lack of a strong correlation between underwriting and asset returns may indicate relatively flat capital levels, but the repeat of a severe property catastrophe season in 2022 could prove to be adverse for reinsurers.”

Cutting cat exposures

Many reinsurers substantially decreased property exposure through the last renewal cycle.

Those still exposed to material amounts of multiyear reinsurance contracts, or those which did not manage risk exposures prudently, could be exposed to material capital deterioration should they suffer underwriting losses, especially if coupled with adverse investment market returns in 2022.

On the third-party reinsurance capacity side, the pullback of traditional reinsurance in catastrophe-exposed markets such as Florida has created opportunities for insurance-linked securities (ILS) funds.

By taking advantage of the lack of capacity, some ILS funds have been able to capitalise on not only significant price increases, but also on tighter terms and conditions.

AM Best works in conjunction with Guy Carpenter to estimate the total amount of capital supporting the reinsurance industry. AM Best determines traditional reinsurance capital; Guy Carpenter determines third-party capital.