The State of the Wholesale Market

The wholesale insurance and E&S markets are growing because more customers, competition, and new technologies make business easier.

Source: ProgramBusiness | Published on December 2, 2022

Wholesale Market

The wholesale property-casualty insurance market is neither a business entity nor an organization. The term “wholesale market” refers to how some types of insurance, especially those with higher risks, are sold, managed, and marketed. General Agents (MGAs), E&S brokers, and program administrators serve similar roles in providing insurance coverage to lines of business that traditional carriers avoid. Typically, the risks are specialized and have higher potential losses.

The Growth of the Excess and Surplus Lines (E&S) Market

The excess and surplus lines (E&S) market is one of those fast-growing insurance markets. The E&S market value in 2020 was $74 billion; projections are for $179 billion by 2030, and the estimates are due to a projected average rate of 9% per annum over the next five years.

Total U.S. surplus lines and direct premiums rose to $82.65 billion in 2021. This increase was the largest since 2003. Best’s data also showed surplus lines premiums growing to their current level.

Businesses moving from the admitted (or insured) market to the E&S market because of the challenging market conditions of the last two to three years is one of the most important reasons for the growth. The reasons for change include high-interest rates, rising costs, regulatory uncertainty, and a lack of transparency. In addition, there is a shift away from traditional property coverages toward more complex risks such as cyber, data breach, fraud, and general liability.

Because of these evolving circumstances, insurance companies are trying to come up with new products and services to meet the needs of consumers and businesses. This development has led to several trends in the E&S market.

First, due to the rise of technology, more insurance companies are using digital platforms to help them manage risk and give better customer service. For example, online portals allow customers to compare quotes and purchase policies without speaking to a human being. In the same way, mobile apps let policyholders check their coverage levels, pay their premiums, and get information about claims at any time, day or night.

Second, insurance companies now offer “green” policies to protect against climate change and natural disasters because people are becoming more interested in sustainability. They also attract younger clients because of their perceived appeal to environmentally conscious individuals.

Third, the number of regulations, rules, and guidelines impacting the insurance industry means many insurers need help to keep pace. Some insurance companies are making custom software apps that automate processes and make compliance easier. Others are working with third parties to provide solutions across multiple business lines.

Fourth, the rise of innovative technology enables insurers to make smarter decisions about how they price and sell policies. For example, AI algorithms can predict potential losses and adjust the pricing accordingly. Machine learning also lets insurers build predictive models based on past data to determine how likely certain events will happen again.

A Conning study found that premiums collected by banks, a key distribution channel for U.S. property and casualty insurers, went up significantly in 2021. The growth rate was faster than the P&C market. Conning thinks that direct premiums written by MGAs in 2021 will be more than $70 billion. This statistic includes business written for Lloyd’s syndicates and non-U.S. insurance companies.

Growth drivers included a strong rebound in the U.S. economy after lockdowns caused by pandemics and a continued rise in premium rates across the board. Rate increases were robust for some of the more difficult lines of business, like cyber, which the excess and surplus lines (E&S) market generally covers, which means MGAs are very active in it.

How MGAs Benefit

Fronting insurers have assumed a more prominent role in helping MGAs get money from the global reinsurance markets. William Pitt, a director of insurance research at Conning, said, “Fronting companies play a key role in securing capacity for MGAs today, and we expect this to continue to grow.” Many fronting companies retain some risks to align interests with their reinsurers. Some larger MGAs have also become risk-bearing entities by creating reinsurance captives.

Since the beginning, the Lloyd’s market has been the most significant source of capacity for MGAs in the U.S., which was still true in 2021. In its most recent study, Conning measures for the first time how strong Lloyd’s syndicates are to the market.

Lauryn Kothavale, an Assistant Vice President in Insurance Research at Conning, said, “The economic rebound that followed the Covid-19 pandemic helped MGAs and program administrators, especially those that had been hit the hardest by the pandemic.” In the past, insurance companies looked to MGAs to get more premiums in slow markets. But their ability to price risks has grown, and in today’s demanding market, it is just as crucial for them to find attractive niche businesses for insurers.

Wholesale commercial insurance markets are seeing increased business as policyholders, brokers, and prospective buyers seek alternatives to continuing firm primary market rate conditions and capacity constraints. Cyber attacks, the weather, pandemics, and even inflation are unpredictable factors that make people feel more at risk. These concerns increase the demand for more specialized coverage, which is good news for the overall managing general agent (MGA) segment.

AM Best found that the total premium written in the United States through the MGA market reached $60 billion in 2021, up from $51 billion in 2020. This situation happened after the economy grew in 2021 when lockdowns were lifted and monetary policies were relaxed, which led to a 5.7% growth in the gross domestic product. As soon as businesses reopened, business got back to normal, and the insurance industry saw a 9.5% rise in premiums due to a hardening of market conditions and pricing.

Reactions and Shifts

In conclusion, the current environment is an opportunity for investors and companies. The wholesale and energy markets are two of the fastest-growing parts of the insurance business. Both have grown by more than 10% in the last five years. The reasons for this growth include the following:

1) A shift from traditional to alternative risk transfer vehicles (e.g., reinsurance).

2) Increased demand for higher margin products such as catastrophe bonds and other forms

The wholesale insurance and E&S markets are growing because more customers, competition, and new technologies make business easier. But the industry is also changing because insurance companies are trying to cut costs and become more efficient. These changes have created opportunities for brokers and agents who can provide innovative solutions that help their clients succeed.