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CNA reports large underwriting losses from COVID, civil unrest

Dino Robusto

COVID-19 significantly impacted underwriting results for CNA Financial Corp., resulting in pretax net catastrophe losses of $301 million in the second quarter, the Chicago-based insurer reported Monday.

CNA posted net income of $151 million, down nearly 46% from last year’s second quarter. However, the company did see slightly lower loss frequency as a result of shelter-in-place restrictions, an uptick in written premium in the company’s property/casualty segments, and stronger net investment income.

“The second quarter has been a challenging one as the pandemic continues to impact the lives of all of us,” said Dino Robusto, chairman and chief executive officer, in an earnings call Monday.

In mid-July, CNA predicted its underwriting performance in a statement, announcing that its health care professional liability lines, as well as workers compensation, management liability, commercial property, trade credit and surety had been hard hit by the pandemic.

The insurer sustained $182 million in second-quarter catastrophe losses related to COVID-19, $61 million in losses due to civil unrest, and $58 million in losses related to severe weather events.

The projected figure for pandemic-related catastrophe losses “reflects our best estimate of the ultimate insurance losses, including anticipated legal expenses,” Mr. Robusto said.

CNA’s projections also included workers compensation presumption laws for COVID-19 and health care immunity laws that have been passed in some states, he said.

In addition to the pandemic-related effects, CNA experienced rising severity trends in several product lines, including aging services and primary and excess auto liability, Mr. Robusto said, but retention did increase during the quarter.

The insurer’s property/casualty combined ratio declined to 112.3% in the second quarter, compared with 95.7% in the same period last year. However, CNA’s P/C net written premiums increased 3% to $1.93 billion. The insurer’s net written premiums climbed 4% to $742 million in specialty and 4% to $949 million in commercial.

The specialty segment experienced net catastrophe losses of $105 million — nearly all due to COVID-19 — compared with $1 million for the second quarter of 2019. Commercial experienced net catastrophe losses of $151 million, up from $37 million in the year-earlier period.

CNA’s net investment income rose to $534 million, from $515 million in last year’s second quarter, which the insurer said reflected the equity market’s rebound during the quarter.

“I think the uncertainty around COVID has just impacted the overall view that we’re going to need a hardening market probably faster and longer,” Mr. Robusto said. “The good news is I am even more bullish that the hardening market conditions will persist into 2021. The second-quarter execution evidenced that we are well-positioned to take full advantage of the hardening market.”

More insurance and workers compensation news on the coronavirus crisis here