Tuesday, 7 May 2013
German insurers under fire for shock tactics
Germany’srisk managers voiced sharp criticism of individual insurers that leave customers in the lurch by the sudden withdrawal of cover and said they are unhappy with claims handling especially for smaller industrial customers.
“In liability lines there is still sufficient capacity in the market,” said Philipp Andreae, outgoing managing board member of the German risk managers’ association Deutscher Versicherungs-Schutzverband (DVS) during the organisation’s annual meeting in Bonn at the end of last month.
“In some segments such as hospital liability and planning liability, a shortage of capacity has emerged due to the withdrawal of one particular company,” he added. “This withdrawal was done in an extremely unprofessional manner, I have to report. It was done in a manner that is unacceptable for long-standing customers.”
Dr Andreae and the new DVS chairman Hans-Jürgen Allerdissen confirmed that their criticism was directed at Zurich, which left the market in a hurry in 2012.
Some customers had received notification that their policies would not be renewed in a one-sentence letter, Andreae complained. “We discussed the matter with Zurich, which admitted that the whole thing had not been handled very professionally,” said Rüdiger Auras, the second DVS general manager who will in future be the sole head of the DVS administration.
Mr Allerdissen, who is head of insurance at Deutsche Bahn, said that more and more insurers were moving claims handling into separate companies. “At the same time, claims are being moved across the country in order to fill capacity in claims handling that happens to be available,” he added. “This means that the quality of claims handling is deteriorating, and that claims staff lose all contact with underwriters.”
In his final report to the membership on the state of the German insurance market, Dr Andreae gave a moderately positive outlook. “The million-dollar question remains, of course, whether or not the market is turning,” he said.
“This year, it is more difficult to answer that question than before.” Insurers routinely criticised low premium levels and were asking for higher premiums. “I believe that such demands contradict to some extent the good results insurers reported for 2012,” he said. Allianz had doubled its profits, despite Superstorm Sandy in the US at the end of last year, Munich Re had shown a billion-euro profit, and Hannover Re reported the best results ever. “For me, this does not slot in with the general moaning about premiums,” he said. 2013 was a special year, however, Dr Andreae conceded. “The difference is that brokers too claim that they saw the market turning.”
But, on closer examination, it was noticeable that the two largest brokers transmitted contradictory messages.
“While one of the large international brokers says that the market is turning, the other says that the market is stable, or even argues that there is no sign of a change in the general trend, despite large losses,” he commented.
Dr Andreae continued: “I am certain that both have good reasons for their predictions. But it is somewhat irritating, especially since we cannot judge whether individual business strategies are involved when confronted with widely differing views.”
The German insurance federation GDV bundles industrial fire with commercial and agricultural insurance when it comes to statistics. “In this segment, GDV had expected a rise of 3.7% for 2012, the true figure now published is 3%,” Dr Andreae said. The total was €5.8bn.
“We see a differentiated market development.” In some property segments, insurers had been able to push through higher rates, notably in natural catastrophe. “At the same time, customers with a good loss history were able to achieve rate reductions.” Even multi-year policies were still possible, though insurers were less prepared to grant such cover.
In marine and in engineering lines, DVS members had not seen major changes, Dr Andreae added. “We have seen neither huge price changes nor major modifications to conditions.” Credit insurers, however, had seen a year with record losses. “In commercial credit, premiums grew one per cent, while losses went up 75%,” he said. But insurers’ coffers were already well filled because of two extremely good years.
Dr Andreae said that in D&O there had been a paradigm shift. “We used to have a situation where insurers had to convince customers, using the most elaborate wording,” he explained. “Now, the main question for customers is how a certain clause is faring in practice.”
Industrial customers measured the value of their D&O insurers on the value of their promises when it comes to losses.
Other topics discussed by the DVS include cyber risk policies—where insurers are coming round to customers’ demands for pure financial loss cover—and reputational risks.
However, there was also a feeling that some insurers overdo it when it comes to risk selection. “Insurers are ill-advised if they change their business model in the manner we are currently witnessing,” Mr Allerdissen said.
“Insurers created smaller and smaller groups, so that the offsetting factor of the collective gets smaller,” he said. “At the same time, insurers expect industrial and commercial clients to generate profits every quarter. This cannot work out; this goes against the principle of insurance,” concluded the new DVS head.