Growth of the Insurance-linked securities (ILS) market continued to slow in the first quarter of 2019 following the reduction seen in Q4 2018. Slightly more than $1.1 billion was raised through non-life catastrophe bond issues, compared with an average of $1.8 million over the most recent six first quarters, the lowest during the period, and around one-third of the record-breaking activity observed in Q1, 2018, according to the new ILS Market Update from Willis Re, the reinsurance division of Willis Towers Watson, the leading global advisory, broking and solutions company .

Windstorm losses were the peril most commonly protected, with $450 million of capacity dedicated to pure US wind peril, and $550 million to peak multi-peril coverage. An additional c. $50 million of diversifying multi-peril protection was issued, including a first: frequency protection against weather-related perils. 

Another innovation was the first-ever issue of a £75 million bond dedicated to terrorism reinsurance. Weighted average last-12-month risk premium for non-US wind-exposed bonds jumped 2.2 points to 6.5% in Q1 2019, while for US wind-exposed instruments it rose 0.3 points to 6.1%. Seasonality has contributed to market heaviness, whilst loss-affected bonds continued to be marked lower.

Recent cases of loss creep have put actuarial models to the test. Investors unfamiliar with loss creep now have a better understanding, and in future are likely to look closely at issuers’ records of timely and transparent loss reporting when making allocations. Given investors’ need for regular valuations, current modelling methods are being critically assessed.  

More consistent valuation approaches may spur substantial growth in ILS capacity, as it would increase end-investors’ confidence in their evaluation of potential managers and support new allocations to the asset class.

William Dubinsky, Managing Director & Head of ILS at Willis Towers Watson Securities, said: “We don’t believe the slowdown in issues we saw in the final quarter of 2018 and again in Q1 reflects any long term change in appetite for ILS risk from the capital markets, but understandably some investors are looking harder at the mechanics. Data quality and accurate modelling are seen as essential and are under scrutiny, from the initial pricing throughout the life of a transaction. As ever, transparency is crucial, especially in post-loss reporting, which is becoming an important differentiator for cedants. Of course, transparency will still not eliminate reserve volatility, which is simply inherent to a business where every new event differs from its predecessors.”