Business insurance premiums rising amid pandemic: Report

Insurance pricing is increasing across most lines of business in Singapore, as the industry reacts to recent losses and uncertainty over the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report released yesterday.

Insurers are also trying to limit potential losses by reducing or sometimes withdrawing their capacity to write new policies or renew them, said Aon, a global provider of risk, retirement and health solutions.

In some cases, new terms and conditions are required to renew coverage, it said.

Businesses, in turn, have become more mindful of the pricing given the current economy, and many of the insured, especially those whose budgets are not aligned with current market conditions, are exploring alternatives and trade-offs - such as increasing deductibles - to offset proposed premium increases, Aon said.

Mr Brent Clawson, the company's chief broking officer for commercial risk solutions in Asia, said: "The impact of claims related to Covid-19 on businesses and insurers has not yet been fully seen."

He added: "The fluid situation of business interruption driven by regulations, litigation and the macroeconomic environment will continue to bring complexities to the fore in 2021. Covid-19 has also resulted in claims activity in other lines of coverage, with numbers and costs likely to increase."

Across Asia, macro factors and events such as supply chain vulnerability, lower investment yields, ongoing economic uncertainty, social inflation and weather volatility will drive risk complexity this year, the report said.

However, going forward, the roll-out of vaccines may ease concerns across the industry and encourage insurers to boost capacity.

Ms Cynthia Beveridge, Aon's president of broking and commercial risk solutions, said: "There is general optimism that the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine will have a positive economic impact.

"Along with the introduction of additional capacity into the market, this may result in an easing in the second half of 2021 of some of the challenges experienced in the risk and insurance environment during 2020."

Still, Aon expects heightened underwriter scrutiny on supply chain transparency and resilience, Covid-19 and communicable disease safety measures, and cyber-threat resilience.

"Pricing and coverage terms will continue to address these concerns," Ms Beveridge said.

In Singapore, the impact of the pandemic varies across business lines, Aon said.

Property insurers here are imposing communicable disease exclusions, withdrawing contingent business interruption coverage and imposing cyber exclusions on property damage and business interruption, the report said.

It added that deductibles are increasing, particularly for business interruption for Singapore risk locations.

Property insurers continue to reduce capacity as they focus on diversification of risk, and a further reduction in capacity is expected as reinsurance rates continue to increase, Aon noted.

For car insurance, the industry experienced favourable claims performance last year as mobility restrictions reduced ridership and the number of vehicles on the road.

Auto insurance premiums are now seeing a modest increase in anticipation of a return to normal traffic patterns.

Casualty insurance pricing and deductibles are still increasing as many insurers are imposing blanket exclusions for communicable disease as well as data risk and cyber threats.

Reinsurance costs are escalating as well for the casualty insurers, which are likely to keep primary rates elevated.

Aon said employers' liability and workers' compensation premiums are rising as well, mainly driven by changes in the new Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica) which requires insurers to process all insured claims.

The report said that, in addition to increased benefit levels in the new Wica regulation, insurers now have the added responsibility of assessing permanent incapacities.

Some insurers have appointed third-party providers to make these assessments, thereby increasing costs for this class of insurance, Aon said.

Financial insurers are leveraging technical pricing approaches and rationalising capacity at the portfolio level, leading to increased premium and decreased capacity.

As a result, companies that are in industries severely impacted by Covid-19 or have weak financials will likely see narrowing coverage with little room for negotiation, the report said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 05, 2021, with the headline 'Business insurance premiums rising amid pandemic: Report'. Subscribe