Alternative Risk Transfer (ART)


It’s always heartening to read about insurance being made available to a market or sector that for whatever reason has not been able to benefit from risk transfer in the face of natural disaster.

So the news that countries of Central America will now be able to access affordable catastrophe cover by joining the former Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility—now the CCRIF SPC—is a positive.

A memorandum of understanding signed by the Council of Ministers of Finance of Central America, Panama and the Dominican Republic (COSEFIN) and CCRIF SPC will allow Central American countries to join the sovereign catastrophe risk insurance pool.

Nicaragua has signed a participation agreement to become the first Central American country to join the pool. Other member nations of COSEFIN are expected to join later this year and in 2016.

A press release puts some context around the need:

Nine countries in Central America and the Caribbean experienced at least one disaster with an economic impact of more than 50 percent of their annual gross domestic product (GDP) since 1980.

The impact of Haiti’s earthquake was estimated at 120 percent of GDP. That same year, tropical cyclone Agatha, in Guatemala, had devastating consequences and poverty rates increased by 5.5 percent.

Climate change also represents a significant development challenge, with average economic losses due to weather-related disasters amounting to 1 percent or more of GDP in 10 Caribbean countries and four Central American nations, including Nicaragua.”

As Artemis blog reports here, some 16 Caribbean countries are now members of the 2007-established CCRIF SPC, benefiting from parametric insurance products covering tropical storm and hurricane risks, earthquake risks or excess rainfall risks.

The risk pooling facility helps its members to access post-event risk financing, based on the actual event parameters, with a rapid payout and disbursement of as little as two weeks possible. This enables countries to access financing for recovery from natural catastrophes, while benefiting from cheaper premiums due to the risk pooling nature.”

The newly-expanded 23-nation partnership is a win-win for both existing and new CCRIF members, providing low prices due to more efficient use of capital and insurance market instruments. New members will be able to take advantage of CCRIF’s low premium costs and existing members could realize premium reductions due to the increased size of the CCRIF portfolio.

Consider this example: the CCRIF made a $7.75 million payout to the Haitian government some two weeks after the January 2010 earthquake hit close to Port-au-Prince. The value represented approximately 20 times the premium of $385,500 based on Haiti’s catastrophe insurance policy for earthquakes for the 2009/2010 policy year.

A new Insurance Information Institute white paper examines the impact of alternative capital on reinsurance, says I.I.I. chief actuary and paper co-author Jim Lynch.

What sounds like a dry topic actually may in the long run significantly affect the entire insurance industry, right down to the humble buyer of a homeowners policy.

It’s a dry phrase, so let’s parse the phrase alternative capital on reinsurance by starting at its back end. Reinsurance is the insurance that insurance companies buy. Insurance companies accept risk with every policy. They work hard to ensure they don’t have too much risk in one area, like too many homes along Florida’s Atlantic coast.

When they do, they protect themselves by buying reinsurance. Instead of buying a policy that covers one risk, the insurance company enters into a treaty that can cover thousands in case of a catastrophe like a hurricane.

Catastrophes are a big deal for lines of business like homeowners. More than 30 percent of homeowners claim payments over a 17-year stretch came from catastrophes, according to a recent Insurance Research Council study, and many of those claims were paid by money that ultimately came from reinsurers.

Legally, the insurance company is obligated to pay all claims, regardless of any reinsurance it has. After Hurricane Awful, a homeowner files a claim with his or her insurer, and that insurer is responsible for payment, regardless of any reinsurance it may have purchased.

While reinsurance doesn’t affect the insurer’s obligations, the financial health of the insurer depends on the quality of its reinsurance arrangements. Insurance companies are careful to spread risk across many reinsurance companies, so the plight of one will not devastate their own affairs.

To the average person, a traditional reinsurance company looks a lot like an insurance company, run by professionals who underwrite risk and administer claims. The pool of money to cover extraordinary losses – capital – had been built from contributions by an original set of investors and augmented by earnings retained over decades.

Here’s where the word alternative comes in. The new arrangements feature two twists on traditional reinsurance.

First, the capital to protect against big losses doesn’t come from within the reinsurance company. It comes from outside investors like hedge funds, pensions and sovereign wealth funds.

Second, the reinsurance doesn’t sit within the confines of the traditional reinsurance company. Companies called collateralized reinsurers and sidecars let investors pop in and out of the reinsurance world relatively quickly. Some reinsurance is placed in the financial markets through structures known as catastrophe bonds.

The new investors don’t use the traditional structure, but they do use traditional tools. Most ally with traditional reinsurers to tap those companies’ underwriting acumen, and they use sophisticated models to price risks, just as reinsurers do. Deals are structured so to be as safe as placing a treaty with a traditional reinsurer.

Such deals have grown; their share of global reinsurance capital has doubled since the end of 2010, according to Aon Benfield Analytics.

The amount of capital in the reinsurance market drives prices in classic supply-demand fashion. As capital grows, reinsurance prices fall, and alternative capital has driven reinsurance rates lower, particularly for catastrophe reinsurance.

If insurers pay less for reinsurance, they pass along the savings to customers. Citizens Property Insurance, Florida’s largest homeowners writer, reduced rates 3.7 percent last year, in part because of lower reinsurance costs.

If, as some experts argue, alternative capital is the new normal, consumers will continue to benefit from lower rates. If, as others contend, it is akin to an investment fad, rates could creep higher as the fad recedes.

The I.I.I. white paper looks at the types of alternative capital, its growth and its future.

Earthquake exposure is one of the biggest risks to workers compensation insurers, so it’s interesting to read that the California State Compensation Insurance Fund (SCIF) is once again looking to the capital markets to provide reinsurance protection for workers comp losses resulting from earthquakes.

This is a repeat of the first catastrophe bond sponsored by the SCIF in 2011 – Golden State Re Ltd sized at $200 million — which is due to expire in January 2015.

Artemis blog says:

The unique transaction, which has not been repeated by anyone else until now, links earthquake severity to workers compensation loss amounts demonstrating a new use of the catastrophe bond structure.”

The Golden State Re II catastrophe bond issuance is expected to be sized at $150 million or more, and will cover the SCIF until January 2019.

While the covered area is for earthquakes events across the United States, Artemis notes that as with the 2011 deal as much as 99.99 percent of the SCIF’s insurance portfolio is focused on California, so the risk is primarily focused on California-area earthquakes.

The new deal apparently carries a similar modeled loss trigger to the 2001 transaction, using the exposures of a notional portfolio of workers compensation risks in the SCIF portfolio, earthquake severity factors (ground motion), geographic distribution of the covered portfolio, types of buildings covered, time of day and the day of week an event occurs as some of the weighting factors.

An earthquake has to be magnitude 5.5 or greater to trigger the catastrophe bond, according to Artemis, and losses after an event will be modeled deterministically, so not related to actual injuries and fatalities, using the earthquake event parameters. This will be modeled against the notional portfolio using day/time weighting to determine an index value and notional modeled loss amount.

A 2007 report by EQECAT for the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB) estimated California workers compensation insurers would pay annual losses of $180 million caused by earthquakes.

The report suggested that the losses would affect 15.6 million employees working during a major earthquake.

Check out I.I.I. facts and stats on workers compensation insurance.

As we head into August and the weekend, here are some of the stories from around the insurance blogosphere that piqued our interest:

Bertha: Tropical storm warnings have been issued for Puerto Rico, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands and other nearby islands as Tropical Storm Bertha – the second named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season – approaches the Caribbean. Early Friday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reports that Bertha’s winds are near 45 mph with no significant change in strength expected in the next few days. The latest 5-day forecast track for Bertha via the NHC has it staying well off the U.S. East Coast – let’s hope it stays that way.

Commercial Rate Increases Slow: Prices for commercial property/casualty insurance continued to slide in the second quarter of 2014, according to the latest quarterly survey from the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers. On average, prices for small, medium and large accounts eased by a modest -0.5 percent during the second quarter, compared with 1.5 percent in the first quarter. Competition continued to drive the market, the Council said. Of note, pricing for property fell into negative territory with a -2.6 percent drop last quarter compared with flat pricing in the first quarter.

CAT Bond, ILS Market Dashboard: Looking for real-time metrics of the growing insurance-linked securities (ILS) and catastrophe bond market? Look no further than the just-launched Artemis Dashboard, an easy-to-use tool that allows you to access the data behind the transactions. You can view the current size of the market, issuance for the current year, top sponsors in the market as well as analyze outstanding cat bond and ILS market by key metrics such as the mix of perils, triggers, expected loss levels and pricing, and also data about the development of the market over time.

The I.I.I. has additional resources on these topics. Check out I.I.I. facts + statistics on hurricanes and catastrophe bonds.

Superstorm Sandy highlighted the enormous risk of storm surge along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, so we’re interested to read that the captive insurer of the New York Mass Transit Authority (MTA) has accessed the capital markets to cover it in the event of storm surge resulting from a named storm.

Artemis blog reports that this is the first time in the history of the catastrophe bond market that a transaction has provided cover just for storm surge:

Hurricane and tropical storm induced storm surge is included in many U.S. wind cat bonds, so it is not particularly diversifying, but it has never been structured into a cat bond as the sole peril in this way and is an interesting addition to the market that could spur more issuance of storm surge cat bonds. It’s another sign of the increasing maturity and flexibility in the cat bond market, as well as the increasing appetite investors are showing for catastrophe risk.”

Artemis adds that the sponsor, the captive insurer of the New York Mass Transit Authority (MTA), has significant exposure to storm surge, as evidenced by the losses it faced from last year’s hurricane Sandy:

The MTA suffered a loss in the region of $5 billion from the storm, predominantly from surge due to flooded transit tunnels and subways, so it is encouraging to see it turn to the catastrophe bond market for a new source of reinsurance protection.”

The $125 million catastrophe bond will be issued by First Mutual Transportation Assurance Co. (FMTAC), the MTA’s captive insurer and sold via MetroCat Re Ltd, a Bermuda domiciled special purpose insurer.

Artemis says the deal offers protection against named storms that generate a storm surge event index that equals or exceeds 8.5 feet for Area A or 15.5 feet for Area B. Area A includes tidal gauges located in The Battery, Sandy Hook and Rockaway Inlet, while Area B includes tidal gauges in East Creak and Kings Point.

Business Insurance has more on this story.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on catastrophe bonds.

As Hurricane Isaac hit the Gulf coast as a Category 1 storm, an interesting tidbit came across the wires regarding state-run property insurer Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp.

In a press release, think tank R Street Institute noted that Pelican Re – a $125 million catastrophe bond issued by Louisiana Citizens – would be triggered if the storm produces more than $200 million in losses for the residual market entity.

If these conditions are met, Isaac would be the first storm ever to trigger a catastrophe bond issued by a state-run insurer.

Over at Artemis blog, there was more discussion:

Pelican Re does not cover pure flood damage so that is in its favour, however we believe storm surge caused by hurricane is covered and wind damage most certainly is. Louisiana Citizens has a great amount of exposure in the coastal areas where hurricane Isaac is currently making the greatest impact. As Pelican Re is an indemnity cat bond it is unlikely we will understand whether there has been an impact for some time as claims come in and losses to Louisiana Citizens are quantified.”

An updated paper on the residual market property plans from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) notes that a growing number of plans are accessing the capital markets as part of their reinsurance strategy, bolstering their ability to fund losses during hurricane season.

As well as Louisiana Citizens, Florida Citizens also accessed the capital markets in 2012, issuing a $750 million catastrophe bond – making it the largest single peril catastrophe bond in the history of the insurance-linked securities market.

They join a growing list that includes North Carolina’s Beach and Windstorm Plan and the Massachusetts Fair Plan.

For more information on the catastrophe bond market, check out this I.I.I. backgrounder on alternative risk-financing options.

Reports on the H1N1 virus continuing to cause illness, hospitalizations and deaths in the U.S. during the normally flu-free summer months and newly issued vaccination guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are raising concerns on pandemic risk. This may prove an area of future growth for the capital markets as life insurers increasingly look to alternative risk financing as a way to raise additional capital and transfer pandemic risk. For example a new report from Swiss Re suggests that securitizations of extreme mortality risk will continue to expand as more large global life insurers and reinsurers adopt these tools to hedge exposure to pandemic risk. Swiss Re notes that the combined volume of extreme mortality bonds issued so far is $2.2 billion, a miniscule amount compared to the face amount of mortality risk insured globally. “It is difficult to estimate precisely the market potential for this type of securitization because it refers only to extreme mortality, but it will likely fall in the range of $5-20 billion by 2019,” Swiss Re says. Mortality securitizations are simpler than other life securitizations and investors are more comfortable with the underlying insurance risk, it adds. Check out I.I.I. information on alternative risk financing options.

This week marks the Vermont Captive Insurance Association’s 24th Annual Conference where the economic downturn is likely to be the focus of discussions. Recent research from ratings agency A.M. Best noted that U.S. captive insurers’ net income declined by around 66 percent in 2008 for a composite of 186 captive companies. This reflects realized losses of $1.2 billion for the year, a large percentage of which resulted from one company’s investment losses. On the bright side, net underwriting income actually increased over the prior year – evidence of the captive industry’s typical underwriting discipline and its inclination not to rely on investment income, according to A.M. Best. Captive formations continue amid a softening commercial insurance market, but new captive domiciles are finding it challenging to establish a presence. A.M. Best reports that the outlook for the captive industry is stable as participants exercise their financial flexibility in a softening market. Check out I.I.I. information on captive and other risk financing options.

Despite a decline in the number of issuances the catastrophe bond market continues to advance helped by continued stabilization in the global financial markets, according to the latest review of the market from Guy Carpenter. It reveals that six catastrophe bond transactions were completed in the second quarter of 2009, down 25 percent from eight transactions in the second quarter of 2008, while risk principal issued was $808 million, off 54 percent from $1.75 billion issued during the year earlier period. This brings the tally for the first half of 2009 to nine catastrophe bonds issued, accounting for aggregate risk capital of $1.38 billion. Two quarters into 2009, total cat bond risk capital outstanding fell 7 percent to $11.2 billion, the second consecutive quarter in which total risk capital outstanding declined. However, Guy Carpenter says several factors may converge to make conditions more favorable to cat bond sponsors for the rest of the year, assuming no major catastrophes, including an improvement in broader capital market conditions as the general economy stabilizes and distance from last year’s financial crisis increases, and increased risk capacity as a result of reduction or restructuring in some traditional reinsurance programs. Check out further I.I.I. information on alternative risk-financing options.

What a difference a year can make…The catastrophe bond market, described as mainstream rather than alternative after a record-setting year in 2007, saw a sharp fall in issuance both in terms of risk capital and number of transactions in 2008. Guy Carpenter’s latest review of the market reveals that cat bond issuance volume fell 62 percent to $2.7 billion in 2008, from just under $7 billion in 2007 as a soft reinsurance market and the global financial crisis took their toll. Just 13 transactions were completed during the year, compared to 27 in 2007. At year-end 2008, total cat bond risk capital outstanding was $11.8 billion, a 14.5 percent decline from $13.8 billion in 2007. But a slow issuance year in 2008 masks a story of resilience and risk management flexibility, according to Guy Carpenter. For example, in terms of issuance volume it found that 2008 was the market’s third most active year since catastrophe bonds were introduced in 1997. Check out further I.I.I. information on alternative risk-financing options. 

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