A recap of a presentation by Peter Johnson of Spring, Deyna Feng of Cummins, and Melissa Updike of KMRRG at the VCIA 2021 annual conference.
Black Swan Events and Market Capacity
Over the last year and a half, the world as we know it has been flipped on its head. Not only did everyone’s day-to-day processes change completely, but the COVID-19 pandemic also stressed the insurance system significantly and resulted in a number of changes across various lines. “Black Swan” events are those that are unexpected, severe and affect a large number of companies and individuals which is exactly what happened with the COVID-19 pandemic. While the healthcare industry faced increasing premiums and alterations to mental health coverage, the property-casualty (P&C) market also was affected in an unpredictable way.
Rewinding back to prior to March 2020, the P&C market was experiencing an all-time high surplus, and was in a 10-year trend of suppressed rates. Therefore, when the “Black Swan” event of a pandemic hit, insurance companies were forced to significantly reduce capacity to mitigate social inflation and high-cost claim issues. In some cases this drop down insured limits by 75 percent or more of their prior year policy limits. This was evident particularly for cyber liability and umbrella coverage. Additionally, rates across lines were seeing double and triple previous years’ numbers.
On the other hand, some P&C lines actually saw improvement in their combined ratio during 2020. This means that where some lines saw increases in cost, other lines saw a drop in utilization, which “evened out” the overall market. This improvement can be seen in commercial and personal lines auto lines over the last year. The auto industry saw a dramatic downturn in utilization due to reoccurring “Stay at Home” executive orders hindering travel as well as other related changes to the industry.
Needless to say, this all yielded a difficult environment for employees and employers. In order to appropriately mitigate these new or changed risks, companies have been turning to policy exclusions as well as captive financing to better protect themselves and their employees from high-cost claims.
Policy Exclusions and How They Impact Your Business
During the pandemic, no insurance company or insured was truly prepared for the changes that were to come, and many insureds were faced with unexpected coverage exclusions and were left with potentially catastrophic payments. Some examples of policy exclusions include pandemic situations, interrupted business, long-term care, and others. However, employers who had a captive insurance company set up were sometimes safeguarded from policy exclusions, and companies without a captive increasingly flocked to establish one.
To illustrate the advantages, one captive held their policy exclusions to the standard of COVID-19 claims and were able to mitigate those costs through their reinsurance retention. As another example, the Kentuckiana Medical Reciprocal Risk Retention Group (KMRRG), a captive, was able to flip their exclusion around long-term care, a move which, although it was only a small component of their business, significantly minimized costly losses. The framing of this exclusion allows employers to wrap reinsurance around this risk, specifically if they utilize a captive funding vehicle.
Captives offer more flexibility around policy language and terms, which can be adjusted according to the specific risks of the parent company. It is generally the responsibility of the brokers to let their insureds know which reinsurance renewals were at risk during the pandemic. Most commonly these lines were workers compensation, healthcare programs, and other P&C lines, which can be written into a captive or an RRG solution. Note RRG’s cannot write workers’ comp and can only insure liability lines.
Maximizing Captive/RRG Solutions
Captive insurance is not a new concept; however, it is often overlooked as a method for employers to protect themselves against risk. Captives not only better reflect underwriting records but also allow insureds to recoup investment incomes that would normally have been lost to insurance companies.
Captives support the parent company’s risk management overall and provide financial protection and long-term savings, both necessary for any business in ordinary and extraordinary times. Generally, our team sees that, for every $1 of premium that a client converts from a commercial reinsurer to a captive, 10 percent to 40 percent of long-term savings in the form of investment income and underwriting profits are yielded.
A captive can step in to help when commercial market rates are unreasonable, such as the 200 percent to 300 percent rate increases, we have seen recently, which of course are impossible for CFOs to plan for. This happened with many insureds’ umbrella coverage. Many companies over the last 20 months were forced to significantly lower their limits and increase their retention levels simultaneously. With changing premiums (mainly increasing) on top of this reduced market capacity, more and more often companies are utilizing captives to get control over these types of high costs and expand coverage.
Additional benefits of a captive or RRG solution include transparency and improved claims management. For example, if COVID-19 claims do develop, with a captive you can react with a very specific claims management strategy instead of relying on a commercial carrier to do so. This allows you to hand select your partners such as attorneys and other advisors. You can also be sure that your discovery responses are consistent. Additionally, group aggregates have hardened even more in the market which has forced captive managers to become more creative than before. An illustration of that creativity can be seen in the example below.
Hospital Professional Liability in a Captive: Many entities were trying to get their mitigation placed, and by increasing primary levels they were able to provide some protection and increase their claims control.
Bracing for the Future
In order to be properly prepared for the next “Black Swan” event, employers and employees should consider the major lessons learned from the past year:
- Risk Diversification—This is not unique to a pandemic situation. When leveraging a captive, it is imperative to have a wide range of exposures. Our actuaries know that, in line with the law of large numbers, the more risks and more exposures, adverse financial outcomes become less likely and more manageable. Considering the correlation between the risks is equally critical as one risk could lead to a domino effect of triggering another high-cost risk. A general rule of thumb for captives is adding low correlating risk to a captive will lead to more stable year-to-year financial results.
- Speed to Market—What is your process to quickly adapt to changing market conditions?
- Analyze Current Structure—Can you withstand another “black swan” event? What are the coverage improvements that can be made internally?
- Financials—What is your cots of risk and risk tolerance? Do you need an improved insurance/reinsurance strategy?
- Supply Chain—Has an appropriate strategy been considered?
- Other—Do you have uninsured/underinsured risks? Is there sufficient market capacity for your exposure?
If there is a positive we can take from COVID-19, it should be that we learned important lessons and won’t be as blind sighted in the future. Looking ahead, companies should ascertain whether they have the right tools in place to better manage risk and financial losses. In addition to the risk structures and their advantages outlined above, considering cross exposures and diversified risks is the best and easiest way for companies to protect themselves and their employees in the event of another “Black Swan” event. Lastly, having an aggregate view of risks across the organization often leads to creating the most efficient and cost effective risk funding programs.