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Aon: Crop Proposals Will Reduce Reinsurers' Profits

Aon Benfield

Posted on 12 Apr 2010

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Proposed changes to the Standard Reinsurance Agreement (SRA) for US crop reinsurance market could induce challenging market conditions and reduced profits for reinsurers participating in the federal insurance program, according to an Aon Benfield analysis.

The Aon Benfield report reveals that the proposed cuts would likely reduce reinsurers' expected profit by 20% to 30%, which could result in some companies withdrawing from the program or scaling back their capacity.

The Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) program is a federal initiative that provides American farmers with a range of insurance policies designed and delivered through 16 private crop insurance companies. Participating insurers are subject to the SRA -- a contract that defines reinsurance purchases, gain sharing and expense reimbursement.

However, with the SRA set to expire after the 2010 crop insurance year, terms are being negotiated for following years.

The early proposals drafted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) have not been well received by the industry. Aon Benfield believes the structural and economic changes involved would result in a meaningful reduction in the expected future profits for crop insurers.

Joseph Monaghan, head of Aon Benfield's Agriculture practice group, commented: "Our study reveals that over a 10 year period, reinsurers participating in the MPCI program have experienced favorable returns due to relatively low loss experience resulting from few adverse weather events.

"However, the proposed changes to the program would have the likely effect of reducing participants' margins, which could see potential reductions in capacity.

"Those reinsurers providing cover for the program on a quota share basis may reduce their participation as well, which could in turn reduce the ability of cedents to provide MPCI."

The report found that if the latest RMA proposals had been in place from 1998 to 2008, participating insurers' underwriting gains would have been reduced by nearly $560m.

Additionally, the RMA has proposed changes to expense reimbursements. If these changes had been in place in 2009, crop insurer profits would have been reduced by more than $300m.

Monaghan added: "In recent years, an increased number of reinsurers have started to write crop reinsurance, primarily attracted by the low volatility and diversification of this line of business. As a result, terms and conditions for crop reinsurance have become more competitive and insurers have benefited from lower pricing.

"Currently, quota share reinsurance is generally priced at low single digit expected margins by reinsurers. Reinsurers may be unwilling to support their renewal treaties at the expiring terms given the erosion in expected economics under the proposed SRA. Reinsurers may either discontinue their support for crop insurance or demand lower ceding commissions and profit commissions for continued support, which will in turn put pressure on participating insurers."