Commercial insurance prices continue to rise, increasing an aggregate 2% during the third quarter of 2011 – the second straight quarter when all standard commercial lines showed an uptick in pricing. However, the increases are not enough to keep up with reported claim cost inflation levels, according to global professional services company Towers Watson’s most recent Commercial Lines Insurance Pricing Survey (CLIPS).
Workers compensation and commercial property again showed the most significant price increases, with workers compensation continuing this trend for the third consecutive quarter, after four quarters of flat pricing in 2010. Commercial property prices increased for the second consecutive quarter, primarily influenced by global catastrophes earlier in the year.
However, CLIPS data indicate loss costs increasing by 4% year to date, relative to 2010. Combined with the effect of earning premiums written in prior quarters at close to flat rates, this loss cost trend translates to a 4% loss ratio deterioration estimate for the first three quarters of 2011. This indication is, however, somewhat more favorable than the estimated 5% level of deterioration for the full accident-year 2010 loss ratio over 2009.
"The fact that prices have been moving upward for the past two quarters is a positive sign,” said Bruce Fell, managing director of Towers Watson’s Property & Casualty practice in the Americas. “This is an indication that pricing discipline is being maintained in the market, further underscored by the fact that nearly three quarters of P&C insurance CFOs in a recent Towers Watson survey said they believe market prices were at the bottom or turning upward. However, while rates are hardening, loss costs also continue to rise. Our view is that until rate increases exceed loss cost inflation, we will not be in a market where insurance company results can improve and we start to enter a real hard market.”
Price increases were again observed across all account sizes for standard commercial lines, but were more pronounced for mid-market and large accounts. Survey results were mixed for specialty lines, with directors and officers liability showing significant price reductions for the seventh consecutive quarter.
Survey results also continue to corroborate the expectation that carriers using predictive modeling for pricing/risk tiering and risk selection achieve greater price increases (or smaller price decreases) than those that do not. Findings from CLIPS reveal that more than 50% of reported premium volume corresponds to companies reporting use of predictive modeling for pricing/risk tiering, and more than 30% corresponds to carriers reporting use of predictive modeling for risk selection.
CLIPS data are based on both new and renewal business figures obtained directly from carriers underwriting the business. This particular survey compared prices charged on policies underwritten during the third quarter of 2011 to the prices charged for the same coverage during the same quarter in 2010. For the most recent survey, data were contributed by 39 participating insurance companies representing approximately 20% of the commercial insurance market (excluding state workers compensation funds).
CLIPS participants represent a cross section of U.S. property & casualty insurers that includes many of both the top 10 commercial lines companies and the top 25 insurance groups in the U.S. Measurement of both pricing changes and loss ratio changes also sets CLIPS apart from other studies. Participation in CLIPS has been strong, as carriers believe it provides a more accurate picture of price changes, and find it useful in setting assumptions for product pricing and estimating claim liabilities.
The survey results track the differing trends in pricing across various regions, lines of business and account sizes on a quarterly basis. Historically, price-level and loss ratio change results vary considerably by line of business and market segment. Companies interested in participating should contact their local Towers Watson representative or Jacob Roe.