New AM Best report finds global reinsurers face challenges even as conditions improve

22 August 2023

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Despite operating in extremely challenging conditions, with persistent and elevated claims activity, the global reinsurance segment still returned an underwriting profit in 2022, according to a new report from ICMIF Supporting Member AM Best.

The Best’s Market Segment Report, Global Reinsurers Face Challenges Even as Conditions Improve, is part of AM Best’s look at the global reinsurance industry ahead of the Rendez-Vous de Septembre in Monte Carlo. Additional reports, including AM Best’s annual ranking of the Top 50 global reinsurance groups and in-depth looks at the insurance-linked securities, Lloyd’s, life/annuity, health and regional reinsurance markets, will be available during August and September.

The report finds that, unlike previous cycles, the price discovery path has taken longer than expected, as the last six years have seen a slow, protracted process of reinsurers realigning their risk profiles, reallocating capital, re-underwriting and repricing. In the past few years, there has been a shift toward non-catastrophe risks, especially for carriers heavily affected by losses in previous years. With much-harder market conditions since the start of 2023, interest in property catastrophe risks has renewed cautiously.

“The January 2023 renewals highlighted the mismatch between supply and demand, but it’s also important to recognise the difference between ‘available’ and ‘deployed’ capacity. Available capital is not under pressure; however, the well-established global reinsurers have become much more cautious allocating their capital, which pressures the deployment of capacity,” said Carlos Wong-Fupuy, Senior Director, AM Best.

Reinsurers’ profitability began seeing improvement in 2021, reflecting key players’ shift from the lower and medium layers of property catastrophe risks; tightened contract wording; and the re-deployment of capital toward the casualty, specialty lines and excess and surplus primary segments. In 2022, AM Best’s global reinsurance composite posted a combined ratio of 95.6, a 0.8-percentage-point improvement over 2021. At the same time, investment results were affected severely by unrealized losses on fixed-income securities. The global reinsurance segment posted a return on equity of 0.8% in 2022, following a 9.0% ROE in the previous year. Concerns about economic and social inflation, central banks’ contractionary monetary policies, asset market volatility, and the recent underperformance of the global reinsurance segment have translated into a higher cost of capital as well.

AM Best believes that despite the severe decline in shareholders’ equity, global reinsurers remain well capitalised. Given reinsurers’ prudent approach to deploying capital, they are likely to preserve underwriting discipline for a longer period than in previous cycles. However, market participants are under pressure to innovate, expand their presence and assert their role in an evolving economy in which today’s emerging risks will soon become the dominant ones. AM Best’s stable outlook on the global reinsurance segment reflects this balancing act between positive and negative factors.

“Investors will likely demand a strong commitment to underwriting discipline, as well as flexibility to adjust to changing conditions in the business cycle,” said Wong-Fupuy. “Well-established, diversified companies with a proven track record are better positioned to succeed in this effort than startups that are pressured to meet top-line targets.”

Access the full copy of this market segment report here.

A video discussion of this report also is available here.

For future global reinsurance reports ahead of Rendez-Vous de Septembre, please visit Best’s Research.

AM Best will host its annual reinsurance market briefing at Rendez-Vous de Septembre on 10 September 2023, at 10:15 a.m. (CEST) in Monte Carlo. For more information, please click here.

AM Best is also a partner of the ICMIF Monaco Mutuelle reception on Tuesday 12 September 2023. This annual cocktail reception has become an established event at the Rendez-Vous de Septembre in Monte Carlo (Monaco) and is a unique chance for executives from purpose-driven, mutual/cooperative and other member-owned insurers to meet and network with peers from the sector. More information on the ICMIF Monaco Mutuelle reception can be found here.


For member-only strategic content on the cooperative/mutual insurance sector, ICMIF members have exclusive access to a range of online resources through the ICMIF Knowledge Hub.

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