Colchester: Insurance group Hiscox reports underlying growth in first quarter revenues

Bronek Masojada, chief executive of Hiscox.

Bronek Masojada, chief executive of Hiscox. - Credit: Archant

International specialist insurer Hiscox said today that adverse currency changes had added to the challenge of a softening in market conditions during the first quarter of 2014.

The Bermuda-based group, which is listed on the London Stock Exchange and whose UK presence includes underwriting, customer service and claims teams in Colchester, said gross written premiums in the three months to March 31 were 0.9% lower in sterling terms at £501.6m.

In local currency terms, however, Hiscox said gross written premiums were 2.3% up compared with last year’s first quarter, with the strongest growth coming in its United States business which was 20.4% up in sterling terms and 28.5% ahead at local rates.

Hiscox said that, as predicted, rates in reinsurance had continued to decline, with Japanese earthquake rates around 15% lower during the recent renewal season and the US catastrophe market affected by new capital on top of a benign period for claims.

Rates in insurance lines were either broadly stable or softening, the group said, adding: “We have been increasing our risk appetite in areas where rates are healthy particularly in the mid-market catastrophe exposed property business written in the London Market.”

The first quarter saw a “diverse” list of losses, including marine liability, upstream energy and movie production claims. The group also has a small exposure to the loss of Malaysian Airline flight 370 and the Korean ferry disaster.

Claims for the UK floods and storms in 2014 had been reserved at net £10m, up from the £5m incurred by mid-February when the rain was still falling, it added.

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Chief executive Bronek Masojada said: “The market is softening, but conditions in many of our insurance lines are good. Our retail businesses continue to benefit from long-term investment in the brand and our acquisition of DirectAsia represents another important milestone.”