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Willis Urges Buyers to Take Advantage of Market Opportunities

Posted on 02 Nov 2010

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Willis Group Holdings, the global insurance broker, urges insurance buyers to take “smart advantage” of ongoing soft market conditions in the 2011 edition of its Marketplace Realities and Risk Management Solutions report, published today. The company’s long-standing annual series offers commentary and analysis on the insurance marketplace in North America for every major line and select industry sectors.

In introductory comments, Willis Chairman and CEO Joe Plumeri suggests that buyers enhance coverage as much as possible while the market is still soft. “Think about terms and conditions you may want to improve. Think about coverages for emerging risks that may not be protected by conventional Property and Casualty programs including Cyber, Environmental, and Political Risk insurance. Think about your carriers as trading partners, and take a moment to consider their financial stability and longer-term prospects.”

Subtitled “Ongoing Opportunities,” the 2011 report is being published in time to help insurance buyers plan for Fall 2010 and January 1 renewals. In addition to articles on Property, Casualty, Workers’ Compensation, Employee Benefits and all Executive Risks lines, the publication includes pieces on key specialty lines: Aerospace, Cyber Risks, Construction, Energy (upstream and downstream), Environmental, Health Care Professional, Kidnap & Ransom, Political Risk, Surety, Terrorism and Trade Credit.

Highlights from the report include:

    •    Property: The Property market remains soft. Reductions will depend on catastrophe exposure and industry type, but we expect rates will fall 15% on average.
    •    Casualty: As we head into the ninth year of a soft Casualty market, reductions ahead will depend on exposure and industry type, but we expect most rates will fall from 0-5%, as there is abundant capacity and appetite for most risks.
    •    Workers’ Compensation: The soft Workers’ Compensation market is expected to continue into 2011. Payroll is the key driver for Workers’ Compensation premium and as employment stabilizes so should rates. Workers’ Compensation combined ratios have reached 110%, however, and several states are filing for rate increases. California, Florida and New York lead the list.
    •    Directors & Officers: The Directors & Officers (D&O) Liability market continues to be soft, with broader terms available and program rates flat or down as much as 15%. Reductions on the primary layer are harder to negotiate and often available only if the incumbent carrier faces competition, so marketing strategies tend to focus on excess layers.
    •    Employee Benefits: Health care reform dominates the employee benefits landscape. Many employers expect health care reform to raise costs.

The government is steadily releasing guidance to fill in the details of the changes brought by reform. Meanwhile, interest in wellness programs continues to grow. In addition, although employers better understand the links between good health, employee engagement and increased productivity, most lack the ability to change behaviors.

Commenting on the report, Eric Joost, National Partner, North American Specialties said, “Other than the potential impact of health care reform, we see no major disruptions on the horizon, and buyer-friendly market conditions are expected to prevail in 2011. This competitive market presents a window of opportunity for buyers to build broad coverage that might not be available when the cycle turns,” he said.