This week’s Monte Carlo Rendez-Vous has seen a departure from the “soft market” chatter of recent years and a return to the more pressing issues of availability and pricing of potentially scarce peak zone capacity going into 2023, according to Gallagher Re’s global CEO James Kent.

Monte-Carlo-2022-roundtable

  • Gallagher Re’s Kent: Focus at Monte Carlo is on 1.1 renewals - similar to “an old-fashioned Rendez-Vous”
  • Munich Re’s Kuczinski: Current situation is “underwriter’s marketplace” but focus must be on frequency and volatility
  • Axis Re’s Haugh: Reinsurers optimistic but no one-size-fits-all approach to this renewal
  • Swiss Re’s Léger: Many reinsurance strategies undecided as we head towards 1.1
  • Vesstoo’s Bertele: Casualty represents “significant opportunity” particularly for non-standard lines
  • Deloitte’s Johal: Industry must also look ahead to medium term to prepare for opportunities and challenges

Speaking at a roundtable discussion hosted by Deloitte and The Insurer, Kent said while demand may be up – particularly within the US – reinsurers were being cautious on property catastrophe after a high frequency of cat events and above-average losses in recent years.

“I think this year’s gathering has become a slightly more old-fashioned Monte Carlo. It’s been a noisy conference,” Kent told the panel. “If you look at what the focus is down here, what is dominating the conversation, it’s very much directly on the 1.1 renewals rather than what the future of the reinsurance sector looks like over the next two, three, four years as would have been the case a few years ago.” 

James Kent MC RT

James Kent, global CEO, Gallagher Re

He continued: “It’s all about what’s going to happen at 1.1 and none of us quite know what the outcome is. We’re still deep into the Atlantic hurricane season and the market is unanimously saying that we do not need a big event to determine what happens at renewal but generally market sentiment has consensus that there are headwinds in property and specialty lines.”

Tony Kuczinski, president and CEO, Munich Re US P&C Companies, described the current situation as an “underwriter’s marketplace” but noted fears regarding property catastrophe in some parts of the market may be misplaced. 

“It’s an underwriter’s marketplace for sure and as a reinsurer, it can’t be one size fits all. But strict property catastrophe performance and management has been pretty reasonable if you take a 10-year timeframe. Even if you take the last five years, it’s okay, not great, but okay,” he explained.

Tony Kuczinski – MC RT 2022

Tony Kuczinski, president and CEO, Munich Re US P&C Companies

“What has really hurt reinsurers is that they have been trying to be a capital provider at the low end and on cat at the high end. That was just a bad mixture because of the way claims have been coming through. But this requires a focus on frequency and volatility. It’s not just volatility anymore, it’s both.”

“What has really hurt reinsurers is that they have been trying to be a capital provider at the low end and on cat at the high end”

Also speaking at the event, Axis Re CEO Ann Haugh said there was a general feeling of “optimism” heading into 1 January, noting that while the reinsurance market has improved both in terms of underwriting results and in returns on capital, it was “still playing catch-up” where rates are concerned. 

Like Kent, Haugh flagged property catastrophe as a line which some cedants may find challenging at 1 January following the exit or partial withdrawal of a number of carriers from the space in 2021 and 2022. This included her own firm Axis Capital, while a number of other carriers are leaning into the strong pricing environment and deploying more capital on property catastrophe reinsurance. 

Ann Haugh, CEO, Axis Re

Ann Haugh, CEO, Axis Re

“The headwinds, the exposures, are increasing and the complexities of these exposures are increasing. We’re also facing pronounced geopolitical pressure, and are navigating all kinds of inflation. I think it’s very specific to each line of business as to how the market is reacting,” Haugh explained.

“I would call it firming in many lines and I think that we [reinsurers] are optimistic going into 1.1. There’s still a lot of capital in the market and deals still get done, property will be a bit tougher than others, but we’re seeing that reinsurers all have different strategies in terms of how they’re deploying the capital. There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to this renewal.” 

This view was echoed by Thierry Léger, group chief underwriting officer at Swiss Re, who added that while it was clear the demand for reinsurance capacity was up, many reinsurance strategies remain “undecided” with volatility set to continue heading into the renewal.

“It will depend very much on the price and terms offered. This is a very open market as we go into 1.1,” he told the panel. “Where we are now is ok, but much more needs to happen between now and 1 January for the undecided to move to the decided side and provide the capacity the market requires. 

“It is volatile but at the high level it is certain to say that demand is up but the offer is uncertain.” 

Outside of the cat space, Yaniv Bertele, co-founder and CEO of start-up risk transfer platform Vesttoo, said casualty lines represent a “significant” opportunity heading into 1.1, with the executive noting that it is the non-standard side of the market which shows the most exciting prospects.

Yaniv-Bertele,-Co-founder-and-CEO,-Vesttoo-(-on-the-left)

Yaniv Bertele, co-founder and CEO, Vesttoo

“We see a lot of opportunity in the casualty space but this is not coming from standard lines only. Instead, we’re seeing the biggest opportunity in non-standard lines; there’s a growing demand there, which we believe will provide an interesting opportunity for the capital markets to participate in,” Bertele said.

Another emerging trend is a renewed interest in reinsurance from global banks and asset managers. Bertele said these investors have been “leaning in” to provide higher levels of capital, especially to those balance sheets exposed to the low-severity high-frequency lines.

“With the current volatility in the markets, we see a significant leaning in from global banks and asset managers. They are allocating more and more capital to balance sheets and facilities, exposed to the low-severity, high-frequency lines. Diversifying away from systemic risk, utilising these uncorrelated and low-volatility liabilities,” he continued. 

“From our perspective, we believe that more capital will be injected into the market. That’s what we want to see and we hope this will stabilise the catastrophe-driven prices of the reinsurance industry, and also move the capital markets slightly away from market volatility. This is definitely a trend we are tracking closely.”

Deloitte’s global specialty and reinsurance leader Guru Johal said there was a need to look beyond the next few months to “widen our horizon” and for market participants to consider the trends influencing their business in the medium to long term to ensure they are prepared to meet the upcoming opportunities and challenges. 

Guru Johal, Global Specialty and Reinsurance Leader, Deloitte

Guru Johal, global specialty and reinsurance leader, Deloitte

“This is also an opportunity to look at how the industry adapts to prepare for the medium term given the outlook. It is about being clear about what the focus is going to be for each participant in the value chain,” he explained.   

“It is being specific about what is going to give you the competitive edge? It is understanding how to best access your customers, understand their needs and provide the right solutions; being able to analyse the risks as well as understand the impact on your portfolio; and ensuring that you have the right type of capital to meet your return requirements. How you best combine talent and technology to enable this will be a differentiator.”