The Directors & Officers (D&O) market has been one of the most challenging and stressed segments in the insurance marketplace for some time. High volumes of claims activity, particularly concerning securities class-actions, have dramatically impacted insurer profitability, leading to inflated premium costs and reduced market capacity.

Fortunately, some encouraging signs suggest that the volatile conditions that have disrupted the D&O market in recent years are starting to stabilise. The market is by no means reversing course entirely, but several key performance indicators suggest that the general outlook for insurance buyers is far more optimistic as we head into the second half of 2022.

According to multiple industry sources, the D&O market is finally returning to profitability following a sustained period of inflated premium costs that peaked in late 2021. Major legislative reforms to Australia's class action regime, which the Federal Government announced during the pandemic, has also boosted insurer appetite in the marketplace.

These developments, together with a dip in securities litigation frequency, are attracting fresh capacity from new insurers entering the market, driving a more competitive environment and providing some relief on pricing.

For example, a recent report published by Aon showed that the average rate increases experienced by their ASX 200 clients (primary rate per million dollars of capacity/sums insured) had dropped to less than 7% between 2020 and 2021; down from +18% in the previous year. They further reported that average premium increases for private companies had also dropped (in the main) for well-performing risks with no ongoing claims.

“We expect increases for this segment to ease further as the year goes on, particularly for companies whose risk profile is appropriately aligned with an insurers risk selection criteria”, Aon stated.

Increasing competition in the marketplace has also positively impacted self-insured retention levels (deductibles). As a result, insurers are becoming less inclined to impose higher deductibles – a common requirement in recent years – with many insurers generally willing to maintain the existing levels.

However, while the D&O market is showing signs of improvement and pressure on pricing is starting to ease, Aon caution that some insurers profit margins are still limited.

“For the first time in many years, the Combined Operating Ratio (“COR”) fell slightly below 100%”, Aon stated. “As D&O insurers' target for COR is between 80% and 88%, the market still has some way to reach a margin that allows them to deliver an acceptable dividend to shareholders”.

While the market outlook moving forward is generally trending in a more positive direction, securing D&O insurance will continue to be a challenge for some industries and businesses, particularly those impacted by COVID-19 and/or those with historical claims issues.

Many brokers believe that insurers will remain conservative when deploying their capacity and are likely to persist with targeted policy exclusions or limitations that enable them to control their own exposures more efficiently.

Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) risk is an emerging exposure for many companies and one that has become a major area of focus for insurers in the D&O space. Cyber security has also become a key focus, with many insurers placing higher demands on company directors to ensure appropriate reporting and cyber security systems are in place.

An increasing onus on company directors to effectively demonstrate their ability to manage these issues will continue to influence insurers’ appetite and impact the cost and availability of D&O insurance.

Ultimately, D&O insurers continue to impose higher premiums, but the rate of increases are declining. Companies that experienced severe adjustments in recent renewals are generally seeing smaller increases, while 'high-risk' accounts are still experiencing spikes in pricing.

Securing the right cover at a reasonable price will still be challenging for many organisations in what remains a complex D&O market. Organisations with ongoing/open claims, poor corporate governance, or weak balance sheets may struggle to see any benefit from the improving market conditions.

For this reason, your insurance broker's performance is crucial. As your spokesperson and exclusive representative in the marketplace, their ability to successfully sell your risks to insurers is critical to ensure you secure the best deal available in the current climate.

Navigating the world of business insurance can be fraught. So contact Australia’s leading specialist consultancy group that supports businesses through the complex exercise of implementing efficient insurance programs.

Extreme weather events continue to ravage communities around the world, with devastating bushfires and floods across Australia highlighting the risks in our own back yard, and hurricanes and fires terrorising North America. The rest of the world is not immune, either.

The losses have been enormous. According to Munich Re, climate-related insurance losses have hit more than US$100 billion a year globally, presenting challenges for governments and businesses alike while underlining the need for relevant and affordable insurance to mitigate risk, especially in relation to physical and liability risks.

For business leaders, tackling this insurance issue has become an important part of their due-diligence role.

Stress-test your enterprise
With more catastrophic events appearing to be inevitable, businesses face the prospect of spikes in insurance premiums or, worse still, not being able to get cover at all if they are deemed to be too great a financial risk to insurers.

So, it is crucial for businesses of all sizes to stress-test their exposure to climate risk to ensure their policies are relevant and that they match the latest market offerings. Over time, business conditions change and insurance may need to change with it.

The starting point to protect your business is to conduct a comprehensive review of environmental risks and insurance policies. Do you have cover for major weather events, and is it fit for purpose if an event does actually occur? To spread out their risks, insurance companies typically sell a diverse range of policies that cover a wide variety of scenarios, yet different businesses will always have different needs. This means a one-size-fits-all insurance approach is unlikely to be adequate.

For example, climate change presents particular challenges as many insurance policies are written on a one-year basis, whereas business and property owners need to assess risks that could happen over the lifetime of their operations.

Given such factors and, depending on the scale and complexity of your business, an insurance review can become a messy process for the uninitiated. This is where engaging with a broker or an external insurance specialist makes sense in so much as you can explore the best insurance offerings in domestic and international markets with greater certainty.

The role of advisers
Climate risk insurance covering areas such as property and casualty can help protect businesses from the ravages of extreme weather events. Given that insurance protects people and properties, it is no understatement to suggest that insurers and brokers have a significant responsibility to their clients when it comes to risks faced due to climate change.
Those threats are becoming more pronounced, leading to possible scenarios whereby insurance becomes too expensive for some businesses or making it impractical for insurers to provide coverage. The fallout from recent flood events in cities such as Lismore, NSW, and Gympie, Queensland, are a reminder of this dilemma.

As climate risks become more significant and immediate for businesses, the role of the broker will become more and more crucial as they educate and help their clients consider all forms of risk, climate risk included. Talking to clients about their strategies to mitigate climate risk, and bringing insights and research to the table, is essential.

Although an experienced broker can help you ensure that you maintain an optimal insurance program that factors in issues such as climate risk, the challenge in many cases is to find a broker who truly understands your business’s specific requirements and who can deliver the best possible on-budget insurance policy.

An independent insurance consultancy can help businesses implement and manage a competitive tender process for the provision of insurance broking services. Such a check can reveal any insurance shortfalls and give you confidence that your broker, your policies and premiums are appropriate.

The one apparent certainty in the years ahead is that climate-related risks are going to keep rising for businesses and communities. In combatting that danger, insurance will be an increasingly vital tool – if you make the right policy choices.

Seeking assistance from experts to ensure that you get the most appropriate cover at the right price is simply a smart business move.

For more details on mitigating climate risks and finding the best insurance deal for your business, speak to one of our experienced insurance experts.

Also read Your important complete cyber liability market update.