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Although the 2019 hurricane season did not have a significant impact on Florida, loss creep from prior storms continues to weigh on reinsurers, leading to a likely rise in rates for the upcoming June renewal period. As noted in AM Best’s The Florida Market: Bracing for the Next Big Event (June 28, 2019), the reinsurance market for Florida property underwriters saw an initial round of hardening during the June 2019 renewal season.

The reported loss creep has in part been influenced by social inflation in the Florida market, resulting in adverse development of prior year loss reserves stemming from an increase in loss frequency and severity. Despite the lack of hurricanes making landfall last fall, companies—particularly the smaller, Florida-dominant property writers with questionable balance sheet strength—remain more susceptible to prevailing market conditions, such as hardening reinsurance pricing and adverse claims trends. Based on market surveillance, reinsurance rates are likely to increase by 15%-20% for the June renewal period; companies that depend highly on reinsurance may be most impacted

Because of inherent hurricane risk, Florida property writers spend a considerable amount on reinsurance, given the need for prudent catastrophe reinsurance programs. As we stated in our June 2019 report, a number of challenging issues in Florida have made it necessary for carriers to remain nimble in strategy and proactively manage several forms of risk, with rising reinsurance costs potentially being the next event on the horizon. Rising reinsurance costs have the potential to pressure some of the more thinly capitalized Florida-specific companies in the market.

Exhibit1 lists the companies that have a direct Florida property book of at least $1 million, for which the Florida book constitutes at least 50% of the carrier’s total book, and unaffiliated ceded premium written constitutes at least 50% of gross premium written. (Unaffiliated ceded premium provides a better picture of private market participation.)

Reinsurance dependence, as measured by unaffiliated ceded written premium to policyholder’s surplus, exceeds 100% for all but four of the 25 companies listed, indicating elevated sensitivity to the changing reinsurance environment.

Companies with high reinsurance dependence face difficult choices. Higher reinsurance rates may pressure earnings if insurers decide to continue writing business at existing levels. Those opting to retain more business may see declines in capitalization in the event of catastrophic storms; these companies may be forced to write less business to maintain existing capital.