Bahamas First estimates ‘across the board’ 15 to 20 percent increase in premium rates

Bahamas First estimates ‘across the board’ 15 to 20 percent increase in premium rates
NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Bahamas First’s top executive yesterday projected a 15-20 per cent ‘across the board’ increase in premium rates as a result of Hurricane Dorian.
Patrick Ward, the property and casualty insurer’s president and chief executive, described the increase as ‘moderate’ given the $1.5 to $2 billion dollar market loss.
“The industry is very resilient,’ he said.
“There are a number of companies rated by AM Best. Very quickly after they initially put the market under review status that was lifted. That confirms that from their perspective the companies they have rated are strong and able to operate. If the market is resilient that means it can provide further ongoing cover in a position of strength rather than weakness.”

Ward continued: “While there will be increases I think you would find that those increases are relatively moderate compared to the size of the loss. I would think that you are looking at anywhere from 15-20 per cent across the board and given the size of the loss I think that is a very moderate increase.”

Ward noted that up to this point the insurer has settled 80 per cent of its Dorian related claims.

“I would say in the very beginning and particularly in the case of Abaco there were some challenges getting boots on the ground. Parts of Abaco and Marsh Harbour in particular were inaccessible and we had to wait effectively for a two to three-week period to get into Abaco.”

He continued: “Grand Bahama was easier because we could get access sooner. In both cases we delegated groups of loss adjusters to go into the field. Basically they took with them a list of our clients in the respective areas which made it easier for them to have a record of who was insured with Bahamas First and the amounts they were covered for.

“We realized that there would be who couldn’t have access to their own records because they were either destroyed or couldn’t easily be found. That seemed to work well for us because it eliminated a lot of potential bureaucracy that could have been involved in the process.”

Ward said all this was in an effort to try and make it the class process as easy as possible for the company’s clients.

“We were in a relatively short space of time able to see a number of the damaged properties,” he said.

“I would say at this stage we have seen 100 per cent of all of the claims reported to us. At this point in the process we are over 80 per cent complete in terms of coming to an agreed settlement for claims. We have not paid out 80 per cent of the losses yet because some of them are at varying stages of being finalized. At this point we are confident that we have effectively agreed settlement on at least 80 per cent of the claims.”

Ward continued: “By the end of the first quarter of 2020 we are hoping to be largely completed with the process. If that holds true I think that would be a fairly good response not just from our perspective but from an industry point of view because I think most of the companies in the market are in a similar position.”

“Abaco as a whole generated in terms of the number of claims reported somewhere in the range of 40 per cent but the dollar value of those claims represents 70 per cent of what ew estimate will be the total cost of claims. That tells you Abaco has more severe losses even though they did not have the same number of claims as Grand Bahama.”

He said: “Grand Bahama accounted for roughly 50 per cent of the number of claims reported but close to 30 per cent of the dollar value of the claims effectively. The bulk of our losses for Hurricane Dorian will come from Abaco and Grand Bahama which will account for about 95 per cent of the total number of claims we expect to receive.

“We think the market loss is going to be somewhere between $1.5 billion dollars and maybe approaching $2 billion dollars. It represents the largest loss we have ever has as an industry.

Ward added: “From a comparison standpoint Hurricane Matthew was around $400 million as an industry. This will be four times the size or five times the size of Hurricane Matthew.”

The Bahamas First top executive noted that fortunately New Providence was largely spared from Hurricane Dorian’s wrath. “That made it easier for us to recover and bring assistance and to really manage the claims process as efficiently as we have been able to because New Providence did not receive any significant damage and it meant that the infrastructure we have to deal with these claims was largely intact. That’s clearly helped us to be able to get were we are at this point,” said Mr Ward.