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Library: BCG – Reinvention Paves the Way to a Bright Future

Executive summary:

An industry that exists to protect people from unforeseeable events and associated financial losses can’t be expected to come through a year like 2020 unscathed. And the insurance industry didn’t come through 2020 unscathed, certainly not from the perspective of shareholder returns.

 The Digital Insurer reviews BCG’s Report on Reinvention Paves the Way to a Bright Future

Necessity is the mother of reinvention

Bottom feeders

Amid expectations of large payouts for all kinds of insurance companies—and the damage that low interest rates in developed markets inflicted on insurers—the average total shareholder return (TSR) of publicly held insurance companies fell into negative territory in 2020. The –5% average TSR for insurers was well below the 15% average shareholder return across industries, putting insurance near the bottom of the 33 sectors tracked by Boston Consulting Group.

It’s getting better

This year has already been better, with insurance stocks making up some of the ground they lost in 2020. Perhaps there’s relief that, as bad as it was, the pandemic’s impact hasn’t been worse. Insurers helped people through a period of immense challenges without eroding their own economic foundations. The pandemic turned out to be an earnings event for the industry, not a balance sheet one.

Swings and roundabouts

Life insurance claims were financially and operationally manageable. In personal lines, a sharp decline in the number of cars on the road meant a significantly lower frequency of automobile claims, which more than offset the billions in premiums returned to policyholders. Commercial property and casualty (P&C) insurers had to deal with a high number of weather catastrophes in addition to pandemic-related losses from business interruptions and event cancellations. Offsetting these losses were a hardening market and a decline in the frequency of workers’ compensation claims as many people shifted to remote work.

Total Shareholder returns from 2016 to 2020

Insurers’ TSRs fell sharply in the last five years. The average annual TSR, weighted by market capitalisation, was 5.1% from 2016 through 2020, 3 percentage points lower than in the previous five-year period—and significantly below the average insurer’s cost of equity.

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