Navigating the Hard Market for Reinsurance

As 2023 drew near, the reinsurance market entered a challenging phase characterized by significant rate increases and a more cautious approach to risk. Reinsurance is insurance for carriers. And, when reinsurance rates fluctuate, they impact distribution channels on all sides, as seen in robust marketplaces such as the Program Business Storefront Directory. 

Source: ProgramBusiness | Published on September 19, 2023

Navigating the hard reinsurance market

As 2023 drew near, the reinsurance market entered a challenging phase characterized by significant rate increases and a more cautious approach to risk. Reinsurance is insurance for carriers. And, when reinsurance rates fluctuate, they impact distribution channels on all sides, as seen in robust marketplaces such as the Program Business Storefront Directory.

The Function of Reinsurance

Reinsurance is a financial safety net for insurance companies, allowing them to distribute risk and mitigate the financial blow of large or numerous claims, such as those following natural disasters. Reinsurers are key players in setting insurability conditions and pricing structures.

Market Shifts

The previous year’s close saw intense renewal negotiations, with reinsurers demanding significant price hikes. This has led to elevated premiums and a more selective risk-taking strategy. The hard market is a scenario of high costs and limited availability, influenced by various factors, including natural disasters, geopolitical unrest, inflation, and supply chain disruptions.

The Value of Long-Term Partnerships

In these turbulent times, enduring partnerships in the reinsurance sector are more crucial than ever. Stability in insurance provision is maintained through strong backing from reinsurance partners.

Emphasis on Risk Management

Companies must double down on their risk management initiatives. Only those with solid risk management practices will secure reasonable insurance and reinsurance terms in a market with limited capacity.

Factors Driving the Hard Reinsurance Market

The current hard market for reinsurance is the first since the early 2000s. A convergence of unfavorable conditions is the primary factor driving it.

Catastrophic Events

The increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires are straining insurers’ resources. These events led to a surge in claims and rebuilding costs, resulting in higher premiums and reduced reinsurance capacity. The implications are significant: Insurers face higher underwriting losses and reduced profitability, forcing them to seek reinsurance at higher rates and on stricter terms.

Social Inflation

Social inflation is exacerbating the hard market by increasing the cost of insurance claims. Huge and unpredictable jury verdicts are becoming more common due to a pro-plaintiff legal environment and societal pressures. Such nuclear judgments impose substantial liabilities on insurance carriers, pushing up costs and making risk prediction more challenging.

Investment Returns

Low interest rates affect insurers’ investment income, which is a crucial offset for underwriting losses. In a market where reinsurance rates are rising and capacity is reduced, the impact of low yields becomes even more pronounced, amplifying the need for effective risk management and robust investment practices.

Underwriting Losses

Underwriting losses indicate that insurance companies pay more in claims and expenses than they collect in premiums. Factors contributing to these losses include increased catastrophic events, social inflation, and other market complexities like supply chain disruptions. To navigate the hard market, insurance professionals must focus on improving underwriting operations, including risk selection and pricing.

Additional Factors

Other unexpected elements like the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical events, as with the ongoing war in Ukraine, also contribute to the hard market, adding complexity for insurance professionals.

In conclusion, a complex interplay of factors drives the hard reinsurance market, necessitating caution from insurance professionals in risk selection, underwriting, and investment strategies. By understanding these driving forces, professionals can better help their clients navigate the challenging landscape.

Lines of Business Most Affected by the Hard Market

The hard market in the insurance industry affects various lines of business differently. While all lines experience some level of impact, certain types of coverage are particularly susceptible to the challenges of the hard market.

One industry that has suffered significantly from the hard market is commercial property insurance. Insurance carriers face higher underwriting losses due to increased claim payouts and catastrophic events, so they become more cautious when providing property coverage. Their wariness leads to higher premiums and coverage restrictions for property owners, who may need help finding affordable and comprehensive policies.

Professional liability insurance is another industry that feels the effects of the hard market, particularly in sectors like healthcare, law, and construction. With the rise of nuclear verdicts in bodily injury claims, insurance carriers face greater uncertainties in assessing future losses. This results in higher premiums and stricter underwriting criteria, making it challenging for business leaders and professionals in these sectors to find affordable coverage.

While the hard market presents downsides for policyholders, it also has some benefits. Insurance carriers can better manage their balance sheets and maintain financial stability by increasing premiums to reflect the higher risk profile. Doing this enables them to cover losses more effectively, ensuring the industry’s long-term sustainability.

However, the challenges insurance carriers face in the hard market are significant. They must carefully navigate underwriting challenges and balance the need for profitability with maintaining strong carrier relationships. Additionally, reduced capacity in the reinsurance market and supply chain disruptions can further complicate the underwriting process. While higher premiums and difficult underwriting criteria create challenges for insurance carriers and policyholders, they also help ensure the overall stability and sustainability of the industry.

What Is the Future of Reinsurance?

Despite favorable market conditions, AM Best analysts predict it’s unlikely that a new class of global reinsurers will emerge in 2023. They cite several factors, including:

  • Persistent technical underperformance, rather than a sudden scarcity of available capital, drives the rate upsurge.
  • The decline in shareholders’ equity is manageable as long as prudent asset-liability management and liquidity measures remain in place.
  • Reinsurers redirect their capital away from property catastrophe risks by moving up the protection hierarchy or diversifying into more stable and lucrative lines.
  • Capitalization levels are robust, although investor fatigue is evident in traditional and insurance-linked securities (ILS) markets.

Amid these challenging conditions, prospects are dim for a new wave of 2023 reinsurers to enter the market. As such, investors will likely demand that reinsurers use more assertive underwriting discipline and adaptability to changing business cycle conditions, favoring established, diversified companies with proven track records.

How the Hard Market is Impacting Underwriting

The hard market for reinsurance is having a significant impact on underwriting. As indicated, insurers are now more selective about the risks they are willing to take on and charge higher premiums for coverage. Hard market conditions make it more difficult and expensive for businesses to obtain insurance. It also leads to a shift in the underwriting process, with insurers focusing more on risk selection and pricing.

The hard market for reinsurance is challenging for insurance professionals and their clients. However, by following the strategies listed below, insurance professionals can help clients navigate the hard market and secure the coverage they need.

Strategies for Navigating the Hard Market

  • Be transparent with clients. Being upfront with clients about the challenges of the hard market and the impact it is having on reinsurance costs helps clients understand the situation and make informed decisions about their insurance needs.
  • Be proactive: Research and consider all available strategies before clients renew, which means proactively working with clients early to develop workable solutions.
  • Be creative: Seek creative options in developing client coverage options, which may involve working with multiple carriers, using alternative risk transfer mechanisms, or negotiating customized terms and conditions.

Adapting to the Hard Reinsurance Market

In light of this hard market, resilience, agility, and innovation will determine success. Staying abreast of market movements, sharpening negotiation skills, maintaining robust client relations, and exploring inventive risk transfer solutions will be critical strategies for brokers and insurance professionals to thrive in these shifting sands.


The reinsurance market offers no easy solutions going forward. Companies must focus on technical underwriting and risk management to navigate this challenging environment. With a foundation built on these strong fundamentals, businesses can continue to grow and secure the support of reinsurers, albeit at higher prices.

The hard reinsurance market presents challenges and opportunities for property-casualty insurance brokers and agents. Grasping the historical dynamics of reinsurance, understanding the reasons behind market hardening, and utilizing this knowledge to navigate the terrain is crucial to managing the change and ensuring future success.

A broader perspective on the reinsurance market suggests it’s not just about surviving the storm but also learning to dance in the rain. As we prepare to tackle more unpredictable weather, literally and figuratively, the ability to adapt and develop creative solutions will separate the market drivers from mere survivors in the challenging landscape of reinsurance.