The continued influx of nontraditional capacity in the reinsurance market served to push rate reductions for many lines of business at the Jan. 1, 2014, renewals — even for nonpeak perils.
A lack of major U.S. hurricanes during 2013 also helped keep rates down in some areas, although localized losses have led to some upward movement in rates elsewhere, experts say.
And buyers of reinsurance in many instances sought a widening of coverage during renewal negotiations, according to industry experts.
At the Jan. 1 renewals, buyers were unsure of how large a rate reduction they could push for, and underwriters were unsure of the extent to which they would need to lower rates to maintain signings, said Alastair Speare-Cole, CEO of JLT Towers Re, the reinsurance brokerage arm of London-based Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group P.L.C.
“Nontraditional capacity had a softening effect on rates. But there were a few programs where the underlying exposure grew faster than that rate of softening,” he said.
There were no really extreme geographic variations in rate movements, Mr. Speare-Cole said.
Rates for catastrophe business, even in nonpeak zones, are being influenced by the secondary trading market prices, he said. And there was talk within the market about wider coverage, such as changes to hours clauses reinstatement provisions, Mr. Speare-Cole said.
Nontraditional capacity had a major effect on the renewals, and there was a “cascading effect” that meant even business in nonpeak zones — those areas where nontraditional capital has mostly been deployed — saw rate reductions, said Mike Schnur, a partner at brokerage TigerRisk Partners L.L.C. in Chicago.
Smaller regional buyers in many cases benefitted from rate reductions, as reinsurers needed to retain their income levels, Mr. Schnur said.
Some reinsurers offered coverage to buyers that they typically would not have because of the participation of nontraditional capacity on bigger-ticket programs, he said.
Brokers were reluctant to generalize on the size of rate reductions seen in the renewal period.
Rate movements are on a client-by-client basis, Mr. Speare-Cole said.
In a briefing note, Fitch Ratings Ltd. said that due to the absence of a major U.S. hurricane and the fewest number of named Atlantic storms since 1982, rates, on average, were down for U.S. catastrophe-exposed business.
“A low double-digit price drop” would be in line with the reductions reported at the mid-year renewals, according to Fitch.
Analysts at Nomura Investment Bank said rates for U.S. property/catastrophe business could have fallen by as much as 15% to 25% in some cases at the Jan. 1 renewal, and by as much as 5% in Europe.
In areas where there were large losses — such as Canada and areas of northern and central Europe — there were rate increases for affected businesses and lines, Fitch said.
There were general improvements in the terms and conditions available to many buyers, experts said.
The availability of nontraditional capacity — and the influence that such capacity had on the behavior of traditional reinsurers — meant that brokers were able to align the terms and conditions provided by reinsurers with buyers' needs, said Bryon Ehrhart, CEO of Aon Benfield Americas in Chicago.
From a buyer standpoint, it was “a good time to have a large program in the market,” he said.
Many buyers were able to secure multiyear deals, according to TigerRisk's Mr. Schnur.
And as well as rate reductions, buyers were able to negotiate hard on terms and conditions, he said.
Traditional reinsurers have been working hard to stress the importance of long-term relationships and also have been putting a lot of effort into retaining clients, Mr. Schnur said.
“We have been able to put together some very creative programs” as a result of this keenness and the influence of nontraditional capacity, he said.