Prospects for Future Catastrophe Losses Look Dim for Insurance Industry

A new report notes that insured losses from global natural catastrophes in 2011 exceeded US$110bn according to industry sources, the second-highest figure ever recorded. 

The report, from catastrophe modelling firm AIR Worldwide, reveals that there is nearly a 7% probability that the global insurance industry will experience this loss level or greater in any given year – translating to a 15-year return period loss.

AIR’s report, titled
Taking a Comprehensive View of Catastrophe Risk Worldwide
, aims to put the 2011 losses in perspective while examining scenarios that could result in much larger worldwide insurance losses. For example, AIR estimates that the 1% exceedance probability loss (or the 100-year return period loss) is just over US$200bn, a figure that could be driven by an active and severe US hurricane season or by a combination of different perils in different regions, as was the case in 2011.

AIR also estimates the average annual loss (AAL) from natural catastrophes is US$59bn, in line with global catastrophes losses from 2012, which are estimated to be around US$58bn based on perils and regions modelled by the group.

“Many in the industry were surprised at the aggregation of losses in 2011, especially since we didn’t have a major US hurricane,” said Bill Churney, senior vice president (SVP), AIR Worldwide. “However, AIR’s models incorporate years with losses much greater than what we experienced in 2011. This is the real value of having a credible catastrophe model – to fully anticipate possible outcomes, including future catastrophes and future years that will produce losses exceeding any historical amounts.”

Natural catastrophes of 2011 included the Tohoku earthquake in Japan, flooding in Thailand, earthquakes in New Zealand, and a record-breaking severe thunderstorm season in the US, resulting in US$110bn in insured losses as reported by Swiss Re – making it the second-highest figure ever recorded from global natural catastrophes.

“Despite the significance of the toll in 2011, insured losses fell well within the range for which global insurers and reinsurers should be prepared,” said Churney. “It’s our hope that the report will help companies increasingly concerned about escalating levels of loss to better understand and own their risk.”

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