In the insurance market, being the hot topic isn’t always a good thing. Year- over-year rate increases, combined with other forces like inflation and unprecedented weather, have made the property insurance market more than just a topic of conversation. These events have created a perfect storm, which has made managing insurance a lot more challenging.
“Today’s property market is the most difficult I have ever experienced,” said Marsh McLennan Agency Business Insurance Advisor Brandi Hedin.
“In fact, it’s by far the most volatile sector of the industry right now.” In the last several years, the market
has seen substantial rate increases, higher wind and hail deductibles, and more coverage exclusions added to property insurance policies.
Established insurance carriers are becoming more hesitant to offer the same coverage terms at renewal time—if they are willing to provide renewal options at all. Many carriers are pulling out of markets as they grapple with remaining profitable.
Natural Catastrophes & More
National catastrophes, including tropical storms, wildfires, tornadoes, and flooding, have been the primary drivers. Munich Re, one of the world’s largest re-insurers, estimated $43 billion in insured global natural catastrophes in the first half of 2023, and U.S. severe storms alone made up just under one-third of that global estimate.
Inflation also exerts pressure on rates, as the costs associated with repairing damages from weather events continue to soar. The interconnectedness of supply chains means that a substantial loss in one sector can affect the entire insurance market.
The changes in the property insurance market are multifaceted. Insurance carriers are scrutinizing values, raising policy limits to align with replacement costs, and pushing for policyholders to carry a higher portion of their overall risk in the form of higher deductibles. “The days of a thousand-dollar property deductible are gone, at least for now,” Hedin said.
Ben Armbrust, a Marsh McLennan Agency business insurance advisor, noted that agriculture, multi-family residential, and hospitality have been some of the hardest-hit businesses. He added that carrier reinsurance and retention costs have increased substantially, and those costs are being passed along to the consumer.
To counter rising premiums, some property owners are opting to self- insure, a strategy that warrants careful consideration. While it may reduce immediate costs, it also places the burden of risk squarely on the policyholder, potentially leaving them financially vulnerable in the event of a claim.
However, Hedin suggested that proactive risk management can make a significant difference. Ensuring that your properties meet current building codes and conducting necessary upgrades, such as roofing, HVAC, and plumbing, can lead to more favorable insurance rates.
The Right Approach
Especially in a hard market, insurance advisors play a pivotal role in helping clients make informed decisions. It’s not just about finding the best rate; it’s about giving clients the information they need to make the best long-term choices. This involves engaging in meaningful conversations about risk tolerance, deductibles, and coverage needs.
“It’s important to set the stage and have a bigger conversation about a client’s risk tolerance and to establish what makes the most sense for their business,” Hedin said. She added that she and her team stay in close communication with their carrier partners to provide the client with a thorough understanding of what to expect for their renewal.
Each risk is unique, with its own set of challenges, which means your insurance broker should be working diligently to explore alternative program structures and carrier options to help you navigate the current marketplace.
“It’s all about balance right now, you need to develop a risk management strategy that aligns with your long-term objectives and financial capabilities,” Armbrust said.
“We are strategic thinkers,” said Hedin, “it’s really important to invest time and thought into each renewal to deliver the best results for our clients.” The fact is, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to property insurance, especially in a market where conditions seem to be constantly changing. An advisor with broad market access can provide options to reduce costs and help clients make smart, informed decisions.
Businesses should discuss their needs and goals with their insurance advisor for insights and tools including:
- Property valuation services to ensure you are not over- or under-insured
- Risk finance and risk management programs to optimize insurance program structure
- Cost of risk analysis to help understand costs, benchmark against industry peers, and make informed strategy decisions
- End-to-end supply chain consulting to address critical areas
- Alternative risk transfer (ART) tools including captives, structured program design, and parametric insurance to provide long-term relief
Better Days Ahead
Business leaders who have the benefit of experience know that making quick decisions or chasing dollars might not always be the best option. “The sense I’m getting is that the market will continue to harden over the next twelve months,” Armbrust said. “But the insurance market has always been cyclical, so as carrier rates continue to rise, there will eventually be a shift and new players will enter the space which will increase competition and yield better results for buyers.”
While the property insurance market presents formidable challenges, maintaining a steady course, seeking expert guidance, and engaging in proactive risk management strategies are key to hanging on. As the market inevitably evolves, prudent decision- making and a broad perspective will be invaluable assets.
For the foreseeable future, property insurance and the many factors that affect rates will continue to be important discussion topics between businesses and their advisors. The right team will help you find peace of mind, ensuring that your property remains protected and your business thrives.
To connect with a business insurance advisor at Marsh McLennan Agency, call 701.237.3311