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NAPSLO 2017

Surplus Lines Growth Slows

Attendees at the NAPSLO convention in San Diego need to find ways to compete, yet avoid falling victim to price wars.
By: | August 29, 2017 • 5 min read

The excess and surplus (E&S) lines market is between a rock and a hard place.

Depressed interest rates and a soft market driven by fierce competition, lack of a big catastrophic event and unprecedented levels of available capital have combined to squeeze margins further and have forced some players to pull back or exit the sector altogether.

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Total surplus lines direct written premiums increased by the smallest amount in five years, up 2.5 percent in 2015, ending two straight years of underwriting gains, according to analysts. However, the market as a whole has more than doubled over the last 20 years from 3.4 percent of total property/casualty (P&C) direct written premiums in 1995 to seven percent in 2015.

As a percentage of commercial lines direct written premiums, surplus lines insurers also increased their share from 6.3 percent to 14.2 percent over the same period.

“With the demonstrated capability to effectively assess new exposures and the flexibility to tailor terms and limits to meet coverage standards, we believe that the surplus lines market will continue to assert its value in the property/casualty insurance marketplace,” an analyst said.

And with a planned merger between the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices (NAPSLO) and the American Association of Managing General Agents (AAMGA), due to come into force before this month’s annual NAPSLO convention in San Diego, there has arguably never been a more opportune yet challenging time to be in the E&S market.

“An abundance of capital, low interest rates and a super competitive marketplace have all conspired to create a challenging set of headwinds,” said Jeremy Johnson, president, U.S. Commercial, AIG.

“Although we believe that the $40 billion E&S market will likely outperform the standard market in 2017, it’s certainly a market beset with a host of familiar challenges.”

Key Challenges

Property was worst hit, with rates falling between 10 and 12 percent, said David Bresnahan, executive vice president, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

David Bresnahan, executive vice president, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

“Property remains the softest category by far with the most competition and as a result it has suffered continued rate reductions for several years now,” he said. “In financial lines, primary and lead lines are stable, but excess executive lines are under very heavy competition, while med mal and casualty are the most stable.”

Jim Auden, managing director of Fitch Ratings, said that pricing and competition, particularly from the wider P&C market, were the two biggest challenges facing the E&S industry.

“Profitable avenues of business growth are getting harder to find in E&S,” he said.

“In this part of the market underwriting cycle, admitted carriers’ efforts to maintain premium volume lead them to creep further into what was previously considered E&S space, further pressuring the E&S market.”

Consolidation

E&S market leader Lexington pulled back last year as its direct written premiums fell to $3.76 billion from $4.66 billion in 2015, resulting in its market share shrinking to 12.6 percent from 15.6 percent over the same period.

It is expected to continue to reduce its net written premiums because of unsatisfactory rates.

There has also been an increase in M&A activity led by Japanese insurer Sompo Holdings’ $6.3 billion takeover of Endurance Specialty Holdings.

Allied World Assurance Co. Holdings AG also announced its pending sale to an investor group led by Fairfax Financial Holdings for $4.9 billion, and Liberty Mutual agreed to a $3 billion deal to buy Ironshore from Fosun International Holdings.

“In financial lines, primary and lead lines are stable, but excess executive lines are under very heavy competition, while med mal and casualty are the most stable.” — David Bresnahan, executive vice president, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

“I think more capital is and will continue to find its way into E&S, especially in the short tail lines and property,” said AIG’s Johnson.

Despite all of the challenges faced by the E&S market, there are still pockets of opportunity.

Among the biggest growth areas are private flood, drones, the service economy and robotics. But the biggest opportunity is cyber, said Terry Leone, manager, insurance research at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

“Standalone insurance almost doubled in 2016 from $488 million to $911million,” he said. “The more cyber attacks there are, the more demand there will be for protection.”

James Drinkwater, president, AmWINS

James Drinkwater, president of AmWINS brokerage and one of NAPSLO’s wholesale broker directors, added: “People are now starting to buy whereas last year they were just getting quotes.”

Innovation brings opportunity, but Bresnahan said that companies need to concentrate on getting the basics right.

“Carriers need to spend more time on the basics like getting policies issued quickly, paying claims without reservation and generally being a little bit more responsive,” he said.

“That has certainly been the feedback from customers who would prefer the industry gets the basics of service and claims right first.”

NAPSLO/AAMGA Merger

One of the key developments in the E&S market this year was the proposed merger between NAPSLO and AAMGA to form the Wholesale and Specialty Insurance Association (WSIA).

It was a no-brainer, said AAMGA president Corinne Jones, given that 76 percent of AAMGA members also have a NAPSLO membership and 48 percent of NAPSLO members are affiliated with AAMGA.

“The potential synergies of merging the AAMGA and NAPSLO, together serving the entirety of the wholesale, specialty and surplus lines insurance marketplace, became a common sense opportunity the organizations had to explore,” she said.

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“WSIA will be highly effective in promoting the value of wholesale distribution with a stronger, unified voice on behalf of its members.”

Jones said that WSIA will provide a simplified menu of programs and services, a stronger, unified voice in its legislative and regulatory advocacy and improved synergy in committee and volunteer work.

Among the biggest regulatory hurdles yet to be overcome by the new organization is the Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act of 2017, which is awaiting approval.

Brady Kelley, executive director at NAPSLO, said that NAPSLO continued to focus on lobbying Congress about the Act, enabling the E&S market to continue providing coverage for unique and complex flood risks not available through the National Flood Insurance Program or on the standard market.

Another issue, he said, is lobbying Congress to reform provisions from the Dodd Frank Act in order to maintain the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act in its current form.

“We have encouraged members to support H.R. 871, which eliminates unnecessary FATCA (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act) reporting for the property and casualty industry, and we are asking senators for help in quickly confirming any nominees to the board of the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers and to allow it to begin the implementation process,” he said. &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Resilience

No, Seriously. You Need a Comprehensive Cyber Incident Response Plan Before It’s Too Late.

Awareness of cyber risk is increasing, but some companies may be neglecting to prepare adequate response plans that could save them millions. 
By: | June 1, 2018 • 7 min read

To minimize the financial and reputational damage from a cyber attack, it is absolutely critical that businesses have a cyber incident response plan.

“Sadly, not all yet do,” said David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy.

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In the event of a breach, a company must be able to quickly identify and contain the problem, assess the level of impact, communicate internally and externally, recover where possible any lost data or functionality needed to resume business operations and act quickly to manage potential reputational risk.

This can only be achieved with help from the right external experts and the design and practice of a well-honed internal response.

The first step a company must take, said Legassick, is to understand its cyber exposures through asset identification, classification, risk assessment and protection measures, both technological and human.

According to Raf Sanchez, international breach response manager, Beazley, cyber-response plans should be flexible and applicable to a wide range of incidents, “not just a list of consecutive steps.”

They also should bring together key stakeholders and specify end goals.

Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

With bad actors becoming increasingly sophisticated and often acting in groups, attack vectors can hit companies from multiple angles simultaneously, meaning a holistic approach is essential, agreed Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions.

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.”

This means assembling a response team including individuals from IT, legal, operations, risk management, HR, finance and the board — each of whom must be well drilled in their responsibilities in the event of a breach.

“You can’t pick your players on the day of the game,” said Hogg. “Response times are critical, so speed and timing are of the essence. You should also have a very clear communication plan to keep the CEO and board of directors informed of recommended courses of action and timing expectations.”

People on the incident response team must have sufficient technical skills and access to critical third parties to be able to make decisions and move to contain incidents fast. Knowledge of the company’s data and network topology is also key, said Legassick.

“Perhaps most important of all,” he added, “is to capture in detail how, when, where and why an incident occurred so there is a feedback loop that ensures each threat makes the cyber defense stronger.”

Cyber insurance can play a key role by providing a range of experts such as forensic analysts to help manage a cyber breach quickly and effectively (as well as PR and legal help). However, the learning process should begin before a breach occurs.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Any incident response plan is only as strong as the practice that goes into it,” explained Mike Peters, vice president, IT, RIMS — who also conducts stress testing through his firm Sentinel Cyber Defense Advisors.

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Unless companies have an ethical hacker or certified information security officer on board who can conduct sophisticated simulated attacks, Peters recommended they hire third-party experts to test their networks for weaknesses, remediate these issues and retest again for vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched or have newly appeared.

“You need to plan for every type of threat that’s out there,” he added.

Hogg agreed that bringing third parties in to conduct tests brings “fresh thinking, best practice and cross-pollination of learnings from testing plans across a multitude of industries and enterprises.”

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.” — Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

Legassick added that companies should test their plans at least annually, updating procedures whenever there is a significant change in business activity, technology or location.

“As companies expand, cyber security is not always front of mind, but new operations and territories all expose a company to new risks.”

For smaller companies that might not have the resources or the expertise to develop an internal cyber response plan from whole cloth, some carriers offer their own cyber risk resources online.

Evan Fenaroli, an underwriting product manager with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), said his company hosts an eRiskHub, which gives PHLY clients a place to start looking for cyber event response answers.

That includes access to a pool of attorneys who can guide company executives in creating a plan.

“It’s something at the highest level that needs to be a priority,” Fenaroli said. For those just getting started, Fenaroli provided a checklist for consideration:

  • Purchase cyber insurance, read the policy and understand its notice requirements.
  • Work with an attorney to develop a cyber event response plan that you can customize to your business.
  • Identify stakeholders within the company who will own the plan and its execution.
  • Find outside forensics experts that the company can call in an emergency.
  • Identify a public relations expert who can be called in the case of an event that could be leaked to the press or otherwise become newsworthy.

“When all of these things fall into place, the outcome is far better in that there isn’t a panic,” said Fenaroli, who, like others, recommends the plan be tested at least annually.

Cyber’s Physical Threat

With the digital and physical worlds converging due to the rise of the Internet of Things, Hogg reminded companies: “You can’t just test in the virtual world — testing physical end-point security is critical too.”

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How that testing is communicated to underwriters should also be a key focus, said Rich DePiero, head of cyber, North America, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

Don’t just report on what went well; it’s far more believable for an underwriter to hear what didn’t go well, he said.

“If I hear a client say it is perfect and then I look at some of the results of the responses to breaches last year, there is a disconnect. Help us understand what you learned and what you worked out. You want things to fail during these incident response tests, because that is how we learn,” he explained.

“Bringing in these outside firms, detailing what they learned and defining roles and responsibilities in the event of an incident is really the best practice, and we are seeing more and more companies do that.”

Support from the Board

Good cyber protection is built around a combination of process, technology, learning and people. While not every cyber incident needs to be reported to the boardroom, senior management has a key role in creating a culture of planning and risk awareness.

David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy

“Cyber is a boardroom risk. If it is not taken seriously at boardroom level, you are more than likely to suffer a network breach,” Legassick said.

However, getting board buy-in or buy-in from the C-suite is not always easy.

“C-suite executives often put off testing crisis plans as they get in the way of the day job. The irony here is obvious given how disruptive an incident can be,” said Sanchez.

“The C-suite must demonstrate its support for incident response planning and that it expects staff at all levels of the organization to play their part in recovering from serious incidents.”

“What these people need from the board is support,” said Jill Salmon, New York-based vice president, head of cyber/tech/MPL, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“I don’t know that the information security folks are looking for direction from the board as much as they are looking for support from a resources standpoint and a visibility standpoint.

“They’ve got to be aware of what they need and they need to have the money to be able to build it up to that level,” she said.

Without that support, according to Legassick, failure to empower and encourage the IT team to manage cyber threats holistically through integration with the rest of the organization, particularly risk managers, becomes a common mistake.

He also warned that “blame culture” can prevent staff from escalating problems to management in a timely manner.

Collaboration and Communication

Given that cyber incident response truly is a team effort, it is therefore essential that a culture of collaboration, preparation and practice is embedded from the top down.

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One of the biggest tripping points for companies — and an area that has done the most damage from a reputational perspective — is in how quickly and effectively the company communicates to the public in the aftermath of a cyber event.

Salmon said of all the cyber incident response plans she has seen, the companies that have impressed her most are those that have written mock press releases and rehearsed how they are going to respond to the media in the aftermath of an event.

“We have seen so many companies trip up in that regard,” she said. “There have been examples of companies taking too long and then not explaining why it took them so long. It’s like any other crisis — the way that you are communicating it to the public is really important.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]