One of the themes at this year’s reinsurance Rendez-Vous de Septembre (RVS) was that reinsurers have rediscovered client need, client interest and have again started to put clients at the center of conversations, according to Dirk Spenner, managing director at Gallagher Re, EMEA.

On the other hand, the big theme of last year’s RVS was that reinsurers had put their interests at the center of the conversations, Spenner said. “I need this, I want that. I can’t do that anymore, and these are my rules,” he said in a recollection of talks with reinsurers during the 2022 RVS.

“[L]ast year it seemed like ‘cat’ was the bad word of the market, he said, during an interview at this year’s RVS in Monte Carlo. “And if you just said, ‘I’ve got some cat business for you,’ they put the phone down on you. So that’s clearly changed.”

Dirk Spenner

The main change from October, November, and December of last year is that the reinsurers now have a much better idea about their risk appetite, he explained. “They provided a commitment to provide quotes, which again, wasn’t necessarily the case last year.”

Reinsurers have greater confidence to provide a clear commitment of capacity “and they’ve defined where they want to play and what’s off limits,” Spenner said. “And so I think overall that will very likely lead to a much more orderly market.”

This is really core for Gallagher Re clients—that they can go with confidence into the renewal process and will get their programs placed, he added. “At some point last year, it sort of looked like, okay, well was anyone playing here, guys? And so that’s a big shift in market behavior.”

In pre-RVS renewal briefings, executives from Aon and Guy Carpenter echoed Spenner’s thoughts about the more orderly reinsurance market seen throughout 2023—after the disorderly January 2023 renewal season—and that order was also expected for January 2024. At the same time, they agreed that rebuilding reinsurer-cedent relationships was essential.

Through the year, it became a lot more ordered with a lot of competition seen at the top-end of programs – a trend that started at the June 1st renewals and is likely to continue, according to Andy Marcell, CEO of Aon’s Risk Capital and Reinsurance Solutions, in its reinsurance renewal briefing.

“[C]lients are looking for stability, closer reinsurance relationships as we walk into 2024 and to rebuild a stable relationship in terms of capital management with their reinsurance partners, and that is something that they are uniquely focused on,” Marcell said. “And, of course, they’re very, very interested to see how the reinsurers will react to the renewal coming up at the 1st of January…,” he said, noting that about 45 percent of Aon Reinsurance Solutions’ global cat placements renew at Jan. 1.

Marcell acknowledged, however, there are places in the world that have had losses, so the question is to see how the market reacts to the Turkish quakes, Italian floods and some of the flood losses in the Nordics.

“But in the main, a lot of the volatility and the losses that have occurred have been at the lower end programs where the global insurers, for example, have managed that in their own ways,” he said, explaining that Aon expects to see some private placements to help cedents manage that volatility.

However, he pointed out that there are many types of different insurance companies, regionals and mutuals and nationals in the global insurance market, and the amount of volatility that is now sitting on their balance sheets “is at a place that is challenging for them.”

“So they will be looking to find ways to get more frequency covered to the extent possible at affordable prices. And I expect that to be an ongoing discussion through 2024,” Marcell said.

Return to Profitability

Spenner acknowledged that “there’s still significant risk out there that the reinsurers are covering.”

Reinsurers forced through changes in prices and terms and conditions that helped them create a portfolio that’s much more likely to give them a significant profit, he indicated. “And fair enough, after five years of misery, [that’s why] that push was happening last year.”

The question is how far should that stretch out, can that stretch out and how much pain “was pushed back to the cedents who now have to carry that risk by themselves,” Spenner said.

Reinsurers forced through changes in prices and terms and conditions that helped them create a portfolio that’s much more likely to give them a significant profit, he indicated. “And fair enough, after five years of misery, [that’s why] that push was happening last year,” Spenner said.

Cedents made quite a lot of concessions at the end of last year and throughout this year’s mid-year renewals, which has resulted in reinsurers’ producing outstanding combined ratios and return on equities for the first half of 2023, he said.

It’s fair to say that this is only after six months, “and I’m sure everyone in the reinsurance world wants to see [similar results] after 12 months in order to make it a proper good year,” Spenner added. “But the indicators and the starting points are very good and that obviously changes the content of the conversation.”

Spenner emphasized that Monte Carlo only provides early-toes-in-the-water conversations about how everyone’s doing, but “the ‘truth’ is in the pudding.” “And so we’ll see when the quotes come in, how the conversations here transfer into reality.”

Increased Appetites

Some reinsurers are showing increased appetites, going into the renewals, based on the market conditions as they stand today, “which is a bit of a change relative to what we’ve seen in prior years,” said Mike Van Slooten, head of Business Intelligence for Aon’s Reinsurance Solutions division.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are some companies that are still managing volatility as well, so this is an environment where the best outcomes are achieved by navigating those risk appetites, he said.

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While the industry has seen loss activity through a variety of regions such as the earthquake in Turkey, “ceded losses to date remained well within expected loss ratios for the year,” said Tracy Hatlestad, executive managing director and global property segment leader at Aon.

“Last year, obviously the discussion around renewals was centered around capacity. And this year we think on both sides of the trade, the discussion should really be centered around differentiation of how you come to market for trading with a specific reinsurer or viewing a specific insurance company,” Hatlestad said.

On the reinsurer side, Aon expects a much more orderly renewal season this year, she said.

“And the ways that reinsurers will ultimately show up for that is transparency and pricing and meeting quote and authorization deadlines that insurance companies set for 2024 renewals. But for the reinsurers that are looking to really improve relationships and grow in today’s market, there’s definitely an opportunity to differentiate how you can provide value to insurance companies,” Hatlestad continued.

Heading into the January 2024 renewals, Guy Carpenter believes “demand for reinsurance will grow with reinsurers’ willingness to deploy capital also increasing, although underwriting discipline will not subside. Thorough preparation and thoughtful differentiation will enable cedents to adjust their own approach and leverage a range of solutions to transfer risk into profitable returns,” said David Priebe, CEO of Guy Carpenter, in the broker’s pre-Monte Carlo briefing.

Adequate Catastrophe Rates?

Lara Mowery, Guy Carpenter’s global head of distribution, commented: “With the significant adjustments in 2023, catastrophe rates are broadly adequate, but their perceived adequacy may be dependent on the ongoing patterns of loss activity and development.”

The total insured large losses for the first half of 2023 currently aggregate to $49 billion, which includes the Turkey earthquake, New Zealand floods and cyclone, Italy floods and U.S. storms, Mowery said.

“These recent losses emphasize the continued importance of individual renewal characteristics and cedent differentiation,” she said, noting that market drivers are expected to extend into next year, as average losses at H1 2023 are 24 percent above the 10-year historical norm, inclusive of losses from COVID-19 and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

“While loss trends for events in excess of a billion dollars is increasing on an annual basis, many of these events remain of a size that is largely retained by insurers, particularly as retentions on cat programs have shifted up,” Mowery noted.

In addition, a substantial portion of the 2023 loss activity has been generated by U.S. events “where retention increases were material virtually across the board,” she said.

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A longer version of this article, “From Disorderly to Orderly Reinsurance Renewals–What a Difference a Year Makes,” was previously published by Insurance Journal. Reporter L.S. Howard is the International and Reinsurance Editor of Carrier Management and Insurance Journal.