What's Happening?

Hard market



The South African insurance landscape has encountered significant obstacles due to recent disastrous events, such as civil unrest and the KwaZulu-Natal floods. These incidents have heightened reinsurers’ awareness of catastrophic risks, leading to a more cautious approach when supporting South African insurers. Global reinsurers are grappling with rising losses from worldwide catastrophes, resulting in increased terms, restrictions, and limitations offered on reinsurance programmes.

Consequently, insurers now, more than ever, face difficulties in obtaining adequate reinsurance coverage as reinsurers impose substantial premium increases, reductions in reinsurer participation, and demand higher net retentions on treaty renewals.

South Africa’s financial regulatory authority and the Prudential Authority have enforced stricter capital adequacy requirements for insurers, necessitating higher capital reserves due to unavoidable increased net retentions. With insurers bearing a larger portion of risks they underwrite, insurers must become more conservative on risk selection and now need to prioritise stricter risk management to reduce the potential of avoidable losses. This has resulted in insurers having limited competitive alternatives, leaving them with no choice but to pass on increased reinsurance premiums to policyholders and further, to cautiously deploy capacity on high-risk occupations.

Ramifications for intermediaries and policyholders

As insurers become increasingly strategic and selective with capacity deployment, securing insurance coverage for policyholders and intermediaries becomes more challenging unless risks are managed appropriately. With policyholders facing higher premiums and being required to significantly increase their sums insured or declared values to counter inflation, obtaining alternative competitive pricing options will prove difficult as all insurers struggle with the escalating cost of reinsurance and increased claims costs.

It is essential for policyholders and intermediaries to stay informed about the latest developments in the insurance industry, as well as the specific risks and challenges facing the South African and global insurance markets.

Embracing the future: proactive strategies for success

To adapt to the hardening market in South Africa, all stakeholders – insurers, underwriters, intermediaries, and policyholders – must be proactive and strategic in their approach to insurance solutions. By prioritising risk mitigation and fostering collaboration, insurers will be able to manage risks effectively and restore profitability to the insurance industry.

Additionally, stakeholders must explore innovative solutions, such as:

Harnessing technology and data analytics: Embracing advanced data analytics and digital solutions enables insurers to gain deeper insights and forecasts into predictable risk factors, obvious patterns, and trends on claims, enabling them to exercise more prudent underwriting decisions. This approach allows better risk selection and pricing while minimising exposure to unexpected losses.

Focusing on customer engagement: Insurers should prioritise customer-centric approaches to deliver tailored products and services, enhance communication, build trust, and improve reputation. Strong relationships with intermediaries and policyholders are crucial for navigating challenging market conditions and maintaining a competitive advantage.

By staying informed about emerging risks and trends, both locally and globally, and adopting alternative strategies, insurers, underwriters, intermediaries, and policyholders can collectively overcome the challenges posed by the hard market. Insurers and underwriters more than ever before are being depended on to continue providing steadfast insurance solutions and protection for individuals and businesses for the risks they face in South Africa.

A collaborative approach

Proactive risk mitigation and underwriting discipline form the foundation for successfully navigating unpredictable and fluctuating markets. Through close collaboration with intermediaries and policyholders, insurers can accurately assess risks and customise cover to meet the specific needs of each client.

Investing in loss prevention initiatives and risk management education, insurers are able to empower clients to better understand and manage their exposure to potential unexpected loss as well as catastrophic events. By providing clients with the necessary advice, tools, and resources to reduce their potential risks, insurers can continue to offer comprehensive cover at competitive prices.

Successfully traversing South Africa’s hardening insurance market will require an intensive effort from all stakeholders to bring the market back to profitability. By combining proactive risk management, leveraging technology and data analytics, and focusing on customer engagement, insurers, underwriters, intermediaries, and policyholders can effectively address the challenges of the current environment.