Covid-19 puts motor insurers back in the black

Profit due to fewer accidents during circuit breaker; general insurance posts flat growth

The motor insurance segment posted an underwriting profit of $104.5 million last year, but the General Insurance Association of Singapore warned that it could return to the red this year as accident numbers are on the rise again.
The motor insurance segment posted an underwriting profit of $104.5 million last year, but the General Insurance Association of Singapore warned that it could return to the red this year as accident numbers are on the rise again. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Pandemic circuit breaker measures helped motor insurers return to profitability last year, as traffic accident numbers fell.

In a statement yesterday, the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) said the motor insurance segment posted a 0.7 per cent increase in gross written premiums to $1.13 billion and an underwriting profit of $104.5 million for last year.

In 2019, gross written premiums amounted to $1.12 billion and there was an underwriting loss of $17.4 million.

But the association warned that accident numbers are on the rise again as economic activity returns with the easing of Covid-19 curbs.

"Based on latest statistics, the number of accident reports made monthly are back to more than 80 per cent of December 2019 levels," it noted.

If this prevails, motor insurers could return to the red this year if premiums remain unchanged and efforts to curtail excessive and fraudulent claims are not stepped up.

GIA said it will "continue to support efforts to promote road safety and facilitate a more seamless accident reporting process to protect motorists".

Motor insurance remained the largest segment in the industry, with around 28 per cent of total gross premiums - followed by health (17 per cent), property (15 per cent), employers' liability (9 per cent) and marine (5 per cent).

On the whole, the general insurance industry recorded flat growth for last year, with a marginal 0.2 per cent decrease in gross written premiums to $4.09 billion. But the sector recorded an underwriting profit of $237.3 million, from a loss of $28 million in 2019.

This indicates that claims decreased. For instance, travel insurance saw gross premiums plunge by 72.8 per cent, but the sector recorded an underwriting profit of $5.2 million.

  • PERCENTAGE OF TOTAL GROSS PREMIUMS BY SECTOR

  • Motor insurance - 28%

    Health insurance - 17%

    Property insurance - 15%

    Employers' liability insurance - 9%

    Marine insurance - 5%

And while personal accident insurance posted a 5 per cent decrease in premiums, it recorded an underwriting profit of $28.1 million.

The suspension of various workplace activities in the first half of last year also saw a decline in workplace injuries, resulting in fewer claims.

However, with workers returning to worksites, injuries are on the rise again.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2021, with the headline 'Covid-19 puts motor insurers back in the black'. Subscribe