In this chapter of our Annual Insurance Review 2020, we look at the main developments in 2019 and expected issues in 2020 for brokers.
Key developments in 2019
For insurance brokers, 2019 was all about the hardening UK insurance market. A combination of unprecedented natural and weather-related disasters and a downturn in economic activity forced insurers to try to recoup losses through tightened underwriting and increased premiums. This happened far quicker - and hit far harder - than many had predicted, affecting nearly every line, and it brought with it a number of issues for the UK's insurance broking profession.
Brokers tend to be in the driving seat in a soft market environment. The vast majority of brokers in practice today will never have experienced a hard market; they won't have seen a situation where demand outstrips supply, let alone to the point where the ability to find competitive quotes becomes all-but impossible, and the 'deals' that have been the hallmark of our perennially low-cost market for so many years entirely dry up.
As the market tightens even further, insurers will look to decrease the number of brokers they do business with. From a risk perspective, now is the time when brokers, who have relied less on the technical presentation of risks and more on relationships built on volume, will start to be exposed. Insureds have grown used to extensive covers at ever decreasing prices but, in a market that is in a state of very rapid flux, insurers are finding themselves in the position of being able to offer less and charge more. The broker's job of discerning the best deal - in circumstances where they may now only have access to one market or receive one quote - has suddenly become very difficult indeed. It will be essential for brokers to get ahead of the game: get out into the market early, ensure good quality submissions, explain to clients why their premium is going up, and be prepared to re-market.
The Insurance Act will now assume even greater significance than it might have done in more benign 'soft' times. Insurers will look to control their losses by scrutinising claims more closely. Brokers would be well advised to re-familiarise themselves with its obligations and duties in 2020.