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Latin America Seeing Rising Prices, Growth Opportunities

Christ, The Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

The region’s economies have been hit hard by the pandemic, but London has the chance to take more business there, if it sorts out its service problems.

The London insurance market’s focus has turned towards the developing economies as it looks for growth opportunities around the world, where increasing prosperity means there is more risk in need of protection. In Latin America, the terrible economic performances of some countries (Argentina, Venezuela) has been balanced by steady growth in others, such as Brazil, Mexico and Chile.

But the pandemic has had a devastating impact on Latin American economies, particularly Brazil’s. The resulting recession has undoubtedly affected insurance buying across the region and while there looks to be a recovery on the horizon — although it is likely to vary significantly from country to country — 2021 may well be a year of building back, rather than growth.

The pandemic has had a devastating impact on Latin American economies, particularly Brazil’s.

So, as the economic picture improves, what’s the forecast for insurance in the region?

Global insurance prices have risen this year, with rates in the London market hardening in a way not been seen for over 20 years. Latin American buyers are being impacted by this, and, as a result, local insurers and brokers have set up consortia to pool their resources to cover large and complex risks, which in turn reduces their need to buy cover from markets such as Miami or London.

Although some Latin American governments do not allow foreign insurers to participate directly in the market, international, Lloyd’s and London Market brokers will always be needed to provide essential capacity. For now, the London Market still holds enough cards to attract buyers while, also presenting challenges for Latin American brokers.

Poor Service

In a survey we recently carried out in the region, one respondent commented that the London Market sometimes lacked “knowledge of local conditions” and “interaction could be difficult.” There is a general belief that London has been less responsive since Covid, which has had a negative impact on buyer sentiment. But so far there’s been no substantial shift in business towards local insurers or Miami. It is to London’s advantage that wordings and policy conditions available locally remain unfavourable, while Miami has suffered many of the same service issues as London, despite being in a better time zone to do business with Latin America.

The London Market still holds enough cards to attract buyers while, also presenting challenges for Latin American brokers.

This is the year when London must focus on correcting some of its service gaps — particularly its slow responses to requests — to ensure that international insurers remain the preferred option. If the local market’s expertise and capacity were to build, and if it received support from the right reinsurers, then the London Market could well find its position is threatened. But if it sorts out its service problems, business will continue to flow to London because the local market can’t offer the same expertise on complex risks.

Rising Prices

In financial lines, the level of increases should not come as a complete shock to most buyers, as rates have been rising 5-10% year-on-year for some time, with some sub-classes increasing at a higher rate depending on perceived risk. Some classes are under more pressure than others, but the preference of some Latin American buyers for combined policies means these price increases are sometime averaged out.

There are lines where London’s capacity and expertise remain essential. Directors & Officers insurance (D&O) cover, required in the region’s more sophisticated economies , is one, and here the pandemic has had a big impact on pricing. The problems in D&O have been building for some time, and one insurer commented that the coronavirus was the final straw . This, of course, means that prices will not simply soften again once the Covid crisis has passed.

Other factors are at play, and these are unlikely to unwind in the short term. London has led in terms of a hardening market, but many others are now catching up. It is not just rates that are affected, but a drastic reduction in deployed capacity, increased retentions and reduced commissions – all making the renewal process that much more challenging. Globally, insureds are seeing their premiums increased by multiples, making it difficult to retain the levels of coverage previously purchased.

Cyber Problems

Cyber is the other market most affected by rising rates, where for renewals increases are reaching 30% and more. Latin American brokers are seeing an increasing focus on international cyber solutions as the threats increase. Companies in the region often do not have the controls required to defend themselves against cyber-attacks, and, as a result, some insurers are not willing to underwrite them.

We hope that 2021 will be the year when London binds larger volumes of Latin American business.

The absence of cyber capacity in Miami also means that London must provide almost all of Latin America’s growing international cyber needs, and this is driving renewal-only decisions among some underwriters. First time buyers from Latin America must brace themselves for a lack of options and potentially some limiting conditions on policies. Ransomware is reportedly experiencing the highest spike in claims, which is contributing to rising premiums and coverage restrictions, and, as a result, policies are now commonly sub-limited or co-insured.

Amidst the high levels of unrest and corruption plaguing almost every Latin American country, new local players have stepped up to offer additional capacity where the London Market won’t. But London remains a stronghold and we hope that 2021 will be the year when London binds larger volumes of Latin American business, delivering improved service and much-needed capacity to the region’s brokers.

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