Lines between third-party and traditional re/insurance capital continue to blur

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The lines between third-party capital, so that allocated by investors and often structured into insurance-linked securities (ILS), and traditional insurance and reinsurance capital, are continuing to blur.

blur-linesAM Best points this out in a recent report, in which it explains that traditional capital will shrink this year, while alternative reinsurance capital is likely to grow.

In fact, AM Best and broker Guy Carpenter’s latest estimate suggests traditional reinsurance capital will shrink 8.5% this year, while alternative capital will grow 1%, marking a near 10% delta.

It’s the first year in a long time that we’ll see this happen to such a degree, as both types of capital have typically grown each year, up until 2018 when alternative capital from ILS fund sources began to shrink a little on the back of trapped capital and catastrophe losses.

While third-party capital and its investors have been battling with loss fatigue, despite new opportunities currently opening up in the ILS market, AM Best notes that the use of third-party capital is increasingly embedded into traditional business models.

The lines are continuing to blue and whether you call this an ongoing convergence, or not (some said we’d seen capital sources and use converge a few years ago), it’s impossible to deny that for many traditional re/insurers, third-party capital and ILS structuring techniques are becoming increasingly critical components of their business, whether for protection, growth, or through a partnering model.

AM Best explains that, “The global reinsurance market has evolved over the past decade, as has the capital supporting it.

“Third-party capital and large commercial lines capacity are more closely aligned with reinsurance business models, which has impacted not just the levels of capital, but also their utilization.

“The majority of reinsurance market participants now have primary insurance operations as well as third-party capital capabilities, blurring the lines between reinsurance capital and other activities and business lines at individual organizations.”

Is it that reinsurance business models are becoming more aligned with third-party capital and its providers?

Or are traditional reinsurance business models both becoming more reliant on access to efficient capital sources, including ILS and partner capital, plus increasingly recognising the benefits this can bring to their businesses?

AM Best notes that the fact many reinsurance firms are pulling-back or reducing their catastrophe exposure presents an opportunity to ILS markets and ILS investors.

This is certainly the case, but we’re already beginning to hear from sources that some of those pulling-back are also exploring ways to establish partnerships with investors that have an appetite for peak catastrophe risks.

While those with partnerships already in place, are likely to begin to find it preferable to keep a foothold in property catastrophe risks through their third-party capital vehicles, than to relinquish their place in that market entirely.

This trend, of re/insurers fear of frequency, volatility and uncertainty over climate and catastrophe risk losses, could actually stimulate a new wave of attempts to bring third-party capital into traditional insurance and reinsurance models.

It’s always been hard to measure the use of third-party capital by traditional insurance and reinsurance markets, and this is likely to become more so over time, as third-party capital and ILS techniques get increasingly embedded.

The catastrophe bond market and the ILS fund manager assets under management are far easier to count, but working out how third-party capital supports traditional re/insurer businesses is likely to become increasingly opaque, as this data is already not clearly reported.

Also, the lines between ILS and other uses of third-party capital may become harder to define, as the multi-balance-sheet, hybrid capital approach of commercial insurance and reinsurance firms continues to evolve.

There is a lot to be said, strategically, for working out the optimal forms of capital, structures to house it in, and ways to deploy it.

We’re seeing this in all areas of insurance and reinsurance now, from program business, to run-off, insurtech’s (as evidenced recently by Accelerant), to commercial insurers and the more typical reinsurers.

Investors too, are increasingly interested in how they can establish relationships with traditional companies, at this time.

While brokers are also set to blur the lines further, as they continue to marshal capital themselves and establish relationships with investors, through ongoing facilitisation of risk business.

The current catastrophe pull-back trend may drive re/insurers to look again at how best to achieve this, leading to new ways to harness aligned third-party capital alongside an owned balance-sheet.

Of course we’ve seen these cycles before, as investor preference shifts from one ILS structure, or partner/manager, to another and we’re likely to see them again, as use of capital continues to evolve in the industry.

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