Tag Archives: AIG

Cyber: Black Hole or Huge Opportunity?

You own a house. It burns down. Your insurer only pays out 15% of the loss.

That’s a serious case of under-insurance. You’d wonder why you bothered with insurance in the first place. In reality, massive under-insurance is very rare for conventional property fire losses. But what about cyber insurance? In 2017, the total global economic loss from cyber attacks was $1.5 trillion, according to Cambridge University Centre for Risk Studies. But only 15% of that was insured.

I chaired a panel on cyber at the Insurtech Rising conference in September. Sarah Stephens from JLT and Eelco Ouwerkerk from Aon represented the brokers. Andrew Martin from Dyanrisk and Sidd Gavirneni from Zeguro, the two cyber startups. I asked them why we are seeing such a shortfall. Are companies not interested in buying or is the insurance market failing to deliver the necessary protection for cyber today? And is this an opportunity for insurtech start-ups to step in?

High demand, but not the highest priority

We’ll hit $4 billion in cyber insurance premium by the end of this year. Allianz has predicted $20 billion by 2025. And most industry commentators believe 30% to 40% annual growth will continue for the next few years.

A line of business growing at more than 30% per year, with combined ratios around 60%, at a time when insurers are struggling to find new sources of income is not to be sniffed at.

But the risks are getting bigger. My panelists had no problem in rattling off new threats to be concerned with as we look ahead to 2019. Crypto currency hacks, increasing use of cloud, ransomware, GDPR, greater connectivity through sensors, driverless cars, even blockchain itself could be vulnerable. Each technical innovation represents a new threat vector. Cyber insurance is growing, but so is the gap between the economic and insured loss.

The demand is there, but there are a lot of competing priorities. Today’s premiums represent less than 0.1% of the $4.8 trillion global property/casualty market. Let’s try to put that in context. If the ratio of premium between cyber and all other insurance was the same as the ratio of time spent thinking about cyber and other types of risk, how long would a risk manager allocate to cyber risk? Even someone thinking about insurance all day, every day for a full working year would spend less than seven minutes a month on cyber.

It’s not because we are unaware of the risks. Cyber is one of the few classes of insurance that can affect everyone. The NotPetya virus attack, launched in June 2017, caused $2.7 billion of insured loss by May 2018, according to PCS, and losses continues to rise. That makes it the sixth largest catastrophe loss in 2017, a year with major hurricanes and wildfires. Yet the NotPetya event is rarely mentioned as an insurance catastrophe and appears to have had no impact on availability of cover or terms. Rates are even reported to be declining significantly this year.

See also: How Insurtech Boosts Cyber Risk  

Large corporates are motivated buyers. They have an appetite for far greater coverage than limits that cap out at $500 million. Less than 40% of SMEs in the U.S. and U.K. had cyber insurance at the end of 2017, but that is far greater penetration than five years ago. The insurance market has an excess of capital to deploy. As the tools evolve, insurance limits will increase. Greater limits mean more premium, which in turn create more revenue to justify higher fees for licensing new cyber tools. Everyone wins.

Maybe.

Growing cyber insurance coverage is core to the strategy of many of the largest insurers.

Cyber risk has been available since at least 2004. Some of the major insurers have had an appetite for providing cyber cover for a decade or more. AIG is the largest writer, with more than 20% of the market. Chubb, Axis, XL Catlin and Lloyd’s insurer Beazley entered the market early and continue to increase their exposure to cyber insurance. Munich Re has declared that it wants to write 10% of the cyber insurance market by 2020 (when it estimates premium will be $8 billion to $10 billion). All of these companies are partnering with established experts in cyber risk, and start-ups, buying third party analytics and data. Some, such as Munich Re, also offer underwriting capacity to MGAs specializing in cyber.

The major brokers are building up their own skills, too. Aon acquired Stroz Friedberg in 2016. Both Guy Carpenter and JLT announced relationships earlier this year with cyber modeling company and Symantec spin off CyberCube. Not every major insurer is a cyber enthusiast. Swiss Re CEO Christian Mumenthaler declared that the company would stay underweight in its cyber coverage. But most insurers are realizing they need to be active in this market. According to Fitch, 75 insurers wrote more than $1 million each of annual cyber premiums last year.

But are the analytics keeping up?

Despite the existence of cyber analytic tools, part of the problem is that demand for insurance is constrained by the extent to which even the most credible tools can measure and manage the risk. Insurers are rightly cautious, and some skeptical, as to the extent to which data and analytics can be used to price cyber insurance. The inherent uncertainties of any model are compounded by a risk that is rapidly evolving, driven by motivated “threat actors” continually probing for weaknesses.

The biggest barrier to growth is the ability to confidently diversify cyber insurance exposures. Most insurers, and all reinsurers, can offer conventional insurance at scale because they expect losses to come from only a small part of their portfolio. Notwithstanding the occasional wildfire, fire risks tend to be spread out in time and geography, and losses are largely predicable year to year. Natural catastrophes such as hurricanes or floods can create unpredictable and large local concentrations of loss but are limited to well-known regions. Major losses can be offset with reinsurance.

Cyber crosses all boundaries. In today’s highly connected world, corporate and country boundaries offer few barriers to a determined and malicious assailant. The largest cyber writers understand the risk for potential contagion across their books. They are among the biggest supporters of the new tools and analytics that help understand and manage their cyber risk accumulation.

What about insurtech?

Insurer, investor or startup – everyone today is looking for the products that have the potential to achieve breakout growth. Established insurers want new solutions to new problems; investment funds are under pressure to deploy their capital. A handful of new companies are emerging, either to offer insurers cyber analytics or to sell cyber insurance themselves. Some want to do both. But is this sufficient?

The SME sector is becoming fertile ground for MGAs and brokers starting up or refocusing their offerings. But with such a huge, untapped market (85% of loss not insured), why aren’t cyber startups dominating the insurtech scene by now? The number of insurtech companies offering credible analytics for cyber seems disproportionately small relative to the opportunity and growth potential. Do we really need another startup offering insurance for flight cancellation, bicycle insurance or mobile phone damage?

While the opportunity for insurtech startups is clear, this is a tough area to succeed in. Building an industrial-strength cyber model is hard. Convincing an insurer to make multimillion-dollar bets on the basis of what the model says is even more difficult. Not everyone is going to be a winner. Some of the companies emerging in this space are already struggling to make sustainable commercial progress. Cyber risk modeler Cyence roared out from stealth mode fueled by $40 million of VC funding in September 2016 and was acquired by Guidewire a year later for $265 million. Today, the company appears to be struggling to deliver on its early promises, with rumors of clients returning the product and changes in key personnel.

The silent threat

The market for cyber is not just growing vertically. There is the potential for major horizontal growth, too. Cyber risks affect the mainstream insurance markets, and this gives another source of threat, but also opportunity.

Most of the focus on cyber insurance has been on the affirmative cover – situations where cyber is explicitly written, often as a result of being excluded from conventional contracts. Losses can also come from ” silent cyber,” the damage to physical assets triggered by an attack that would be covered under a conventional policy where cyber exclusions are not explicit. Silent cyber losses could be massive. In 2015, the Cambridge Risk Centre worked with Lloyd’s to model a power shutdown of the U.S. Northeast caused by an attack on power generators. The center estimated a minimum of $243 billion economic loss and $24 billion in insured loss.

In the current market conditions, cyber can be difficult to exclude from more traditional coverage such as property fire policies, or may just be overlooked. So far, there have been only a handful of small reported losses attributed to silent cyber. But now regulators are starting to ask companies to account for how they manage their silent cyber exposures. It’s on the future list of product features for some of the existing models. Helping companies address regulatory demands is an area worth exploring for startups in any industry.

See also: Breaking Down Silos on Cyber Risk  

Ultimately, we don’t yet care enough

We all know cyber risk exists. Intuitively, we understand an attack on our technology could be bad for us. Yet, despite the level of reported losses, few of us have personally, or professionally, experienced a disabling attack. The well-publicized attacks on large, familiar corporations, including, most recently, British Airways, have mostly affected only single companies. Data breach has been by far the most common type of loss. No one company has yet been completely locked out of its computer systems. WannaCry and NotPetya were unusual in targeting multiple organizations, with far more aggressive attacks that disabled systems, but on a very localized basis.

So, most of us underestimate both the risk (how likely), and the severity (how bad) of a cyber attack in our own lives. We are not as diligent as we should be in managing our passwords or implementing basic cyber hygiene. We, too, spend less than seven minutes a month thinking about our cyber risk.

This lack of deep fear about the cyber threat (some may call it complacency) goes further than increasing our own vulnerabilities. It also the reason we have more startups offering new ways to underwrite bicycles than we do companies with credible analytics for cyber.

Rationally, we know the risk exists and could be debilitating. Emotionally, our lack of personal experience means that cyber remains “interesting” but not “compelling” either as an investment or startup choice.

Getting involved

So, let’s not beat up the incumbents again. Insurance has a slow pulse rate. Change is geared around an annual cycle of renewals. It evolves, but slowly. Insurers want to write more cyber risk, but not blindly. The growth of the market relies on the tools to measure and manage the risk. The emergence of a new breed of technology companies, such as CyberCube, that combine deep domain knowledge in cyber analytics with an understanding of insurance and catastrophe modeling, is setting the standard for new entrants.

Managing cyber risk will become an increasingly important part of our lives. It’s not easy, and there are few shortcuts, but there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved helping to manage, measure and insure the risk. When (not if) a true cyber mega-catastrophe does happen, attitudes will change rapidly. Those already in the market, whether as investors, startups or forward thinking insurers, will be best-positioned to meet the urgent need for increased risk mitigation and insurance.

The Opportunities in Blockchain

Blockchain and smart contracts have enabled the development of new approaches in the insurance industry, as they begin to replace outdated business models (with excessive paperwork, communication problems, multiple data operating systems and duplication of processes and the inability of syndicates to mine their data). By digitizing payments and assets—thus eliminating tedious paperwork—and facilitating the management of contracts, blockchain and smart contracts can help cut operational costs and improve efficiency. Smart contracts also allow for automation of insurance claims and other processes as well as privacy, security and transparency. It is estimated that roughly one-third of blockchain use cases are in the insurance industry.

How Blockchain Is Used in Insurance

How will blockchain and smart contracts transform the insurance industry?

  • Quick and efficient processing and verification of claims, automatic payments—all in a modular fashion, thus minimizing paperwork.
  • Transparency, minimizing fraud, secure and decentralized transactions, reliable tracking of asset provenance and improving the quality of data used in underwriting. Besides improving efficiency, this also reduces counterparty risks, ensuring trust and safety both from the insurer’s and customer’s perspective. By computing at a network, rather than individual, company level, the consumer is reassured that the process was completed appropriately and as agreed upon. From the perspective of the insurance company, this fosters trust, as well, and encourages consistency, as the blockchain provides transparent and permanent information about the transactions.

The insurance industry has traditionally been associated with tedious administration, paperwork and mistrust; the incorporation of blockchain, however, has the ability to transform this image by bringing operational efficiency, security, and transparency. The long-term strategic benefits of blockchain are thus clear.

Top insurance blockchain projects:

AIG (American International Group) – Smart contract insurance policies

HQ: New York

Description: AIG, in conjunction with IBM, has developed a “smart” insurance policy utilizing blockchain to manage complex international coverage.

Blockchain network: Bitcoin

Deployment: In June 2017, AIG and IBM announced the successful completion of their “smart contract” multinational policy pilot for Standard Chartered Bank. It is said to be the first such policy to employ the blockchain digital ledger technology.

Fidentiax – Marketplace for tradable insurance policies

HQ: Singapore

Description: As “the world’s first marketplace for tradable insurance policies,” Fidentiax hopes to establish a trading marketplace and repository of insurance policies for the masses through the use of blockchain technology.

Blockchain network: Ethereum

Deployment: Fidentiax succeeded in raising funds for the project through its Crowd Token Contribution (CTC, aka ICO) in December 2017.

See also: How Insurance and Blockchain Fit  

Swiss Re – Smart contract management system

HQ: Zurich, Switzerland

Description: Swiss Re, a leading wholesale provider of reinsurance, insurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer, has partnered with 15 of Europe’s largest insurers and reinsurers (Achmea, Aegon, Ageas, Allianz, Generali, Hannover Re, Liberty Mutual, Munich Re, RGA, SCOR, Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Insurance, Tokio Marine Holdings, XL Catlin and the Zurich Insurance Group) to incorporate and evaluate the use of blockchain technology in the insurance industry. The Blockchain Insurance Industry Initiative (B3i) hopes to educate insurers and reinsurers on the employment of the blockchain technology in the insurance market. It serves as a platform for blockchain knowledge exchange and offers access to research and information on use case experiments. As of yet, there have only been individual company use cases in the industry. B3i is working to facilitate the widespread adoption of blockchain across the entire insurance value chain by evaluating its implementation as a viable tool for the industry in general and customers in particular. The initiative envisions efficient and modern management of insurance transactions with common standards and practices. To this end, it has developed a smart contract management system to explore the potential of distributed ledger technologies as a way to improve services to clients by making them faster, more convenient and secure.

Blockchain network: Ethereum

Deployment: B3i was launched in in October 2016. On Sept. 7, 2017, B3i presented a fully functional beta version of its blockchain-run joint distributed ledger for reinsurance transactions. On March 23, 2018, the B3i Initiative incorporated B3i Services company to continue to promote the B3i Initiative’s goal of transforming the insurance industry through blockchain technology.

Sofocle – Automating claim settlement

HQ: Northern Ireland, U.K.

Description: Through smart contracts, AI and mobile apps, Sofocle employs blockchain technology to automate insurance processes. All relevant documents can be uploaded by customers via mobile app, thus minimizing paperwork. Use of smart contracts allows for a far more efficient and faster settlement process. Claims agents can verify insurance claims, which are recorded on the blockchain in real time. The smart contracts allow for verification of a predetermined condition by an external data source (trigger), following which the customer automatically receives the claims payment.

Blockchain network: Bitcoin

Dynamis – P2P Insurance

HQ: U.K.

Description: Dynamis’ Ethereum-based platform provides peer-to-peer (P2P) supplementary unemployment insurance, using the LinkedIn social network as a reputation system. When applying for a policy, the applicant’s identity and employment status is verified through LinkedIn. Claimants are also able to validate that they are seeking employment through their LinkedIn connections. Participants can acquire new policies or open new claims by exercising their social capital within their social network.

Blockchain Network: Ethereum and Bitcoin

Deployment: The goal of Dynamis is the creation of a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) to restore trust and transparency in the insurance industry. Its community-based unemployment insurance employs smart contracts and runs on the Ethereum blockchain platform. Using social networking data and validation points, Dynamis verifies a claimant’s employment status among peers and colleagues. It also depends on Bitcoin-powered smart contracts to automate claims.

Conclusion

Recognizing the benefits of blockchain and smart contracts, the insurance industry has begun to explore their potential. With the traditional insurance model, validating an insurer’s claim is a lengthy, complicated process. Blockchain has the ability to combine various resources into smart contract validation. It also offers transparency, allowing the customer to play an active role in the process and to see what is being validated. This fosters trust between the insurer and the customer. Despite the obvious benefits of blockchain for insurers, reinsurers and customers, the industry has yet to adopt blockchain on a large scale. The primary reason for this is that blockchain adoption has until now required in-depth knowledge and skills in blockchain-specific programming languages. The limited number and high cost of hiring blockchain experts have rendered the technology out of reach for many businesses in the industry. Without access to the technology, exposure to blockchain and the ability to reap its benefits will remain limited for insurance companies.

How can these obstacles be overcome? The key is accessibility to enable all parties within the insurance ecosystem to reap the benefits of blockchain and smart contracts. There is a dire need for a bridge between the blockchain technology and these industry players. This is the role that the iOlite platform fulfills. iOlite provides mainstream businesses with easy access to blockchain technology. iOlite is integrated via an IDE (integrated development environment) plugin, maintaining a familiar environment for programmers and providing untrained users simple tools to work with. The iOlite platform thus enables any business to integrate blockchain into its workflow to write smart contracts and design blockchain applications using natural language.

How it works? iOlite’s open-source platform translates any natural language into smart contract code available for execution on any blockchain. The solution utilizes CI (collective intelligence), in essence a crowdsourcing of coder expertise, which is aggregated into a knowledge database, i.e. iOlite Blockchain. This knowledge is then used by the iOlite NLP grammar engine (based on Stanford UC research), the Fast Adaptation Engine (FAE), to migrate input text into the target blockchain executable code.

See also: Blockchain – What Is It Good for?  

The future of blockchain in insurance

With a clear direction of blockchain adoption for the future, insurance companies will be forced to adapt or be left behind. The adoption of blockchain by the insurance industry is no longer a question of if but how.

How to Scout and Draw the Best Talent

The cycle of doing more with less is starting to catch up with the insurance industry. This year, 25% of insurance professionals are expected to retire, says David Coons, SVP of the Jacobson Group. Further, by 2020 the industry will need to fill approximately 400,000 positions to remain fully staffed.

Even among the largest insurers, talent is a problem. Brian Duperreault, who joined a struggling AIG as CEO in May, drew a sports analogy to mind when he noted during the company’s Q2 2017 earnings call in August that he wanted to focus on rebuilding the insurer’s formerly deep bench of talent. “There is no question AIG lost talent, but it was also blessed with a strong bench,” Duperreault said. “The job now is to rebuild that bench.”

To me, the “bench strength” analogy speaks to insurance leaders today from companies large and small who are responsible for keeping their “players” engaged, and ensuring every position on their team is filled or ready to be filled at any given point with capable talent, despite players dropping off the team for whatever reason.

See also: 10 Insurtechs for Dramatic Cost Savings 

February has been designated the 3rd Annual Insurance Careers Month, and it serves to remind us that, before we can fortify our benches with talent, we face a couple of uphill battles. First, the industry continues to suffer from false yet pervasive negative perceptions. People mistakenly tend to think that the typical insurance company’s value proposition is to take advantage of policyholders with premium spikes while finding ways to negate or reject legitimate claims. And because many insurers continue to struggle with inadequate systems to facilitate top-notch customer service, that perception continues. Negative perceptions contribute to another mistaken belief: that insurance is a boring industry. Therefore, young and vibrant talent avoid it in favor of other industries such as banking.

These negative perceptions tend to have the largest impact in IT, where many workers are retiring from key technology positions, leaving those remaining without the necessary legacy systems knowledge to “keep the lights on.” This is especially critical for smaller insurers with older or outdated legacy systems, because young, innovative technology workers want to be challenged with new technologies, not outdated ones.

The dynamic in IT reinforces the need to evaluate your current technology platform and related policy management systems. Moving to a Software as a Service environment is cost-effective, fast, secure and reliable. Consider your underwriting program or customer service efforts—are they best served with outdated technology? What about your distribution network—are your agents able to communicate with you in real time using portal technology, or are they forced to conduct business manually? Are you in a position to employ analytics to improve your business outcomes?

See also: Solving Insurtech’s People Challenge  

As we move into the next generation, it’s becoming very clear that our industry is anything but boring. Insurtech disruption is affecting companies of all sizes, and our business models are changing as a reflection of the ever-evolving needs of the customer. To best respond to these changes, insurers need to adopt current technologies that will improve the business operations that allow for accurate and agile responses. That same attitude toward modern technology adoption will attract the right talent in all of your organization’s functional business areas.

You don’t have to be a company the size of AIG to realize that, without modern technologies, you can’t court the best possible talent. And without the best possible talent, your bench strength will weaken, making it even more difficult to rebuild and successfully compete.

Is There Risk in Embracing Insurtech?

As insurers rush headlong into the digital scramble, they should keep in mind the proverbial iceberg. Not all the risks involved are strictly tied to the innovation itself. Certain ones are below the water level.

Insurers actively participating in the digital revolution have done so in a variety of ways: 1) innovation labs, 2) insurtech accelerators with external partners, 3) investments in insurtech companies, 4) purchases of insurtech companies. These are reasonable approaches for staying current and competitive. However, there are some caveats that should be heeded.

Focus Risk

Insurance is not a simple business. Machines cannot be set to produce thousands of identical items, a sale is not final and competition is never at a low ebb. It is a complex business that relies on actuarial forecasting, capital models, complicated and multi-layered contracts, in many cases, and astute claims handling. Thus, companies must remain focused on the functions and metrics fundamental to the business, if they are to achieve good results.

Over the years, the insurance industry has adapted to paradigm shifts of all types, for example: 1) automation of internal operations, 2) agent/broker electronic interface, 3) paperless environments, 4) increased transparency with regulators and 5) product development responsive to new risks such as cyber or supply chain disruption. Now, creating new ways to interact with stakeholders digitally and developing products that are fit for purpose in a digital world should be within the capability bounds of these same insurers.

The caution is that insurers should not get so focused on their digital initiatives they lose proper sight of the basics of the business: underwriting, claims, actuarial, finance, customer service. Equally, insurers cannot lose sight of other disruptive forces in the environment such as climate change, terrorism and cyber threats.

See also: Insurtech: Unstoppable Momentum  

A piece appearing on AIR Wordwide’s website written by Bill Churney asks “Have You Lost Focus On Managing Catastrophe Risk?” He alludes to the fact that catastrophes have been light these past 10 years, which may cause inattention, and that many new insurance staffers were not working when Katrina, Andrew or Hugo hit, thus have no personal experience to tap for handling sizable events. A lack of focus on managing catastrophe risk could be critically detrimental for companies. And although there is nothing concrete to suggest that insurers have lost such focus, the question underscores the possibility of attention deficits. The need for continuous and careful attention to the rudimentary aspects of the business cannot be dismissed, even if they may not seem as exciting or timely as digital inventions.

Within memory, there have been companies that allowed themselves to lose necessary focus. Some got so focused on mergers and acquisitions that core functions were not managed properly while the emphasis was on cross sales and economies of scale. Some got so intent on improving customer relations that business imperatives were ignored in favor of appeasing the customer, and some got so diversified that senior management did not have the bandwidth to manage the whole enterprise.

How can the 2016 results at AIG be explained? Could the more recent focus on divestitures, staff changes and cuts, a drive to return dividends to shareholders and the CEO’s reported concentration on technology have caused it to lose its once unparalleled focus on profitable underwriting, rigorous claims handling and product innovation.

Investment Risk

With investments pouring into insurtech, it raises the question: What is left for anything else? Despite fintech investments starting to slow, KPMG reports, “There was a dramatic increase in interest in insurtech in Q3’16, and the trend is expected to continue. The U.S. was the top country in Q3’16 with 10 insurtech deals, valued at $104.7 million in total.”

These numbers do not capture the many millions of dollars that insurers are investing in insurtech activities internally, of-course. As mentioned above, they are spending money to create dedicated innovation labs and accelerator programs and to launch other types of speculative insurtech projects. Many older projects have become operational, including new business unit or company startups, the introduction of bots on company websites, telematics in vehicles, digitized claims handling…and the list goes on.

How does an insurer know when an investment in insurtech is enough or too much, thereby negating other necessary investments required by functions such as underwriting, claims or actuarial?

The caution is not about doing an ROI (return on investment) analysis for a specific project. It is about doing an ROI analysis for the portfolio of projects that are vying for funding vis-a-vis the need to keep the company solvent while maintaining progress with the digital strategy. The larger the insurer, the more used it is to managing multiple priorities and projects. For mid-size to small insurers, this skill may be less developed, and they may face even greater risk of getting out of balance.

Growth Risk

Insurance is one of the few industries for which growth can be just as risky as no growth. Industry pundits have long claimed that new business performs about three points worse than policies already on the books. The difference between a company at a combined ratio of 99 compared with 102 can be quite significant. The causes for this phenomenon have to do with such factors as: 1) the potential for adverse selection, 2) the reason customers choose to change carriers and 3) the costs associated with putting new business on the books. These are not the only ones. It is harder for actuaries to predict the loss patterns for groups of customers for whom there is no history in the company’s database.

See also: Infrastructure: Risks and Opportunities  

If the reason for investing in insurtech is to increase new business written, insurers should be cautious about how much and what kind of new business they will write because of their insurtech enhancements. To the extent that insurtech enables insurers to hold on to existing business, the outcome is less risky.

For example, it remains to be seen whether drivers who want to buy insurance by the mile are a better or worse risk pool than other drivers, whether those involved in the sharing economy, such as renting rooms in their homes, are more or less prone to loss than homeowners who do not rent rooms. Are small businesses that are willing to buy their coverage on-line likely to file a higher number of claims or a lower number compared with small businesses who use an agent? Do insurance buyers who are attracted to peer-to-peer providers have loss experiences at a different rate than those who are not attracted to such a model?

Conclusion

The march toward more digitization in the insurance industry will and must go forward. At the same time, insurers should be wise enough to realize and address underlying risks inherent in this type of aggressive campaign to modernize.

The Environment for M&A in Insurance

Insurance M&A remained very robust in 2016 after record activity in 2015. There were 482 announced transactions in the industry for a total disclosed deal value of $25.5 billion. The primary drivers of deals activity were Asian buyers eager to diversify and enter the U.S. market; divestitures; and insurance companies looking to expand into technology, asset management and ancillary businesses.

We expect continued strong interest in M&A, driven primarily by inbound investment. In addition, bond yields have spiked over the last few months and are likely to continue to increase. Combined with expected rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, this should have a positive impact on insurance company earnings and, in turn, will likely encourage sales of legacy and closed blocks.

However, a new U.S. president has caused tax and regulatory uncertainty that may temporarily decelerate the pace of deal activity. President Trump is expected to prioritize tax reform and changes to U.S. trade policy, both of which will have potentially significant impacts on the insurance industry. Moreover, the latest Chinese inbound deals have drawn regulatory scrutiny, and there is skepticism in the U.S. stock market about the ability to obtain regulatory approval.

See also: Innovation: Solutions From… Elsewhere  

Insurance activity remains high

While M&A activity declined somewhat in 2016 compared with 2015’s record levels (both in terms of deal volume and announced deal value), activity remained high. In fact, announced deals and deal values exceeded 2014’s levels.

Major deal trends included:

  • Asian insurers seeking to grow their footprint in the U.S. continued in 2016. Japan’s Sompo Holdings agreed to acquire Endurance Specialty for $6.3 billion, and China’s Oceanwide’s announced its acquisition of Genworth Financial for $2.7 billion.
  • Domestic companies’ expansion into new lines of business also drove deal activity, as evidenced by Liberty Mutual’s announced acquisition of Ironshore for $3 billion and Fairfax Financial’s announced acquisition of Allied World for $4.9 billion.
  • U.S. insurers, including AIG and MetLife, sought to divest noncore legacy businesses. AIG sold its mortgage insurance business, United Guaranty, to Arch Capital for $3.4 billion, and MetLife sold its retail advisor force to MassMutual, and MetLife plans to divest its consumer unit.
  • Insurers have been focused on expanding into new technology- enabled markets and products and, in many instances, are seeking to do so via acquisition. Allstate announced its acquisition of SquareTrade, an extended warranty service provider for consumer electronics and appliances, for $1.4 billion. Another example is Intact Financial’s investment in Metromile, a company that offers pay- per-mile insurance.
  • Deal volume in the insurance brokerage space continues apace. Brokerage deals, most notably the management-led buyout of Acrisure for $2.9 billion, accounted for 84% of total deal volume.

See also: How to Build ‘Cities of the Future’  

Deals market characteristics

  • Drivers of consolidation include the difficult growth and premium rate environment. In particular, there has been continuing consolidation among Bermuda insurers, notably the acquisitions of Allied World1, Endurance and Ironshore.
  • Asian insurers remain interested in expanding their U.S. footprint and accounted for two of the top-10 transactions.
  • There has been expansion in specialty lines of business, as core businesses have become more competitive. This is evidenced by:
    • Arch’s acquisition of mortgage insurer United Guaranty, which becomes its third major business after P&C reinsurance and P&C insurance;
    • Allstate’s acquisition of consumer electronics and appliance protection plan provider SquareTrade, which should enable Allstate to enhance its consumer-focused strategy;
    • Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary National Indemnity’s agreement to acquire Medical Liability Mutual Insurance Company, the largest New York medical professional liability provider (a deal that is expected to close in 2017); and
    • Fairfax Financial’s December 2016 announcement of a $4.9 million acquisition of Allied World, which the Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS), one of Canada’s largest pension funds, is contributing $1 billion in financing toward the acquisition (the deal is expected to close in 2017.)
  • The insurance brokerage deals space remains active and saw two of the top-10 deals.
  • Many acquirers are scaling up to generate synergies, as evidenced by Assured Guaranty and National General Holdings.
  • Insurers continue to grow their asset management capabilities. For example, New York Life Investment Management expanded its alternative offerings by announcing a majority stake in Credit Value Partners LP in January 2017, and MassMutual acquired ACRE Capital Holdings, a specialty nance company engaged in mortgage banking.

Sub-sector highlights

Asian buyers diversifying their revenue base has had an impact on the life and annuity sector; regulations including the Fiduciary DOL Rule and the SIFI designation; and divestitures and disposal of underperforming legacy blocks (specifically, variable annuity and long term care).

The P&C sector has been experiencing a challenging pricing cycle, which has driven carriers to: 1) focus on specialty lines and specialized niche areas for growth and 2) consolidate. Furthermore, with an abundance of capacity and capital, the dynamics of the reinsurance market has changed. Reinsurers are trying to adjust by turning to M&A and innovating with new products and in new markets.

There has been a wave of insurance broker consolidation, largely because of the current low interest rate environment, which translates into cheap debt. The next wave of consolidation is likely to affect managing general agents because they have flexible and innovative foundations that set them apart from traditional 9% underwriting businesses.

According to PwC’s 2016 Global FinTech Survey, insurtech companies could grab up to a fifth of the insurance business within the next five years. In response, insurers have set up their own venture capital arms, typically investing at the seed stage, to keep up with new technologies and innovations and find ways to enhance their core businesses. Investments by insurers and their corporate venture rose nearly 20 times from 2013 to 2016.

See also: Minding the Gap: Investment Risk Management in a Low-Yield Environment  

Implications

  • Sale of legacy blocks: There is a continuing focus on exiting legacy risks such as A&E, long-term care, and variable annuities by way of sale or reinsurance. Already this year, there have been two significant transactions announced: AIG is paying $10 billion to Berkshire for long-tail liability exposure, and The Hartford is paying National Indemnity $650 million for adverse development cover for A&E losses.
  • Expansion of products: P&C insurers are focusing on expanding into niche areas such as cyber insurance, and life insurers are focusing on direct-issue term products.
  • Technology: Emerging technologies — including automation, robo-advisers, data analysis and blockchain — are expected to transform the insurance industry. Incumbents have been responding by directly investing in startups or forming joint ventures to stay competitive, and they will continue to do so.
  • Foreign entrants: Chinese and Japanese insurers have a keen interest in expanding to the U.S. market because of limited domestic opportunities and have the desire to diversify products and risk and expand capabilities.
  • Private equity/hedge funds/family offices: Non-traditional investors have a strong interest in expanding beyond the brokers and annuities businesses to other areas within insurance (e.g., MGAs).