QBE Insurance Group took another step in its quest to achieve strong results, consistently, by reporting a cash profit after tax of $715 million during 2018, a significant improvement on the cash loss of$262 million reported in 2017.
Group CEO Pat Regan attributed the results to the company’s restructuring and re-underwriting program, the lower level of global natural catastrophe activity after record industry losses in 2017 as well as lower attritional (or non-catastrophe) losses.
QBE’s formula for success is targeted rate increases, strong retention of good accounts and selective new business, he said during an investors’ earnings call this week.
“The combined operating ratio improved by just over 8 points to 95.7 percent, reflecting the significant improvement in the attritional claims ratio, coupled with the lower level of [catastrophe] activity after record industry losses in 2017,” said QBE Chief Financial Officer Inder Singh. This ratio compares with the 103.9 percent reported in 2017. (A combined ratio below 100 percent indicates the company is making an underwriting profit).
QBE reported $13.7 billion worth of gross premiums in 2018, a 3 percent increase over the $13.3 billion reported in 2017.
Regan went on to detail QBE’s playbook for success during 2018, which the company aims to repeat during the coming year.
While the global pricing environment generally has been more supportive in 2018, Regan said the company’s approach to monitoring price at a portfolio level in the cell reviews has been a key differentiator for QBE, helping the company to achieve group-wide premium rate increases of 5.0 percent on average during the year (compared with 1.8 percent in 2017, according to the financial results).
Such price increases are “in excess of almost all of our peer group, and the cell review process does allow us to target rate in the right portfolios that are the least price adequate…,” Regan emphasized.
“The actions we’ve taken to decisively re-underwrite underperforming portfolios and more disciplined risk-taking have led to a 10-point improvement in the attritional loss ratio. And pleasingly, these improvements have been evident in nearly all of our major markets,” he affirmed.
“Overall, I’m encouraged by the progress we made in 2018. We’ve done what we set out to do, executing against these strategic priorities for the year, and we now have a business that’s more focused on the markets where we have scale,” Regan continued. “We’ve embedded a rigorous performance management process. And we’ve upgraded our capabilities in the core areas of insurance: pricing, underwriting and claims.”
Looking at the year ahead, Regan said the company sees opportunities for targeted growth in all its divisions, “but we will continue to be disciplined about our risk selection, seeking margin overgrowth, broadly repeating our 2018 playbook.”