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London turns to portfolio management to improve underwriting profitability, study finds

Strong portfolio management is becoming an “increasingly important” tool in the London market to deliver underwriting profit, according to a study published by Lloyd’s of London and Willis Towers Watson.

The top quartile performers in the benchmarking study had on average a combined operating ratio (COR) of 98% compared to an average of 103% across all Lloyd’s participants.

The two organisations conducted the study of senior executives and underwriters in the London Market to “better understand the impact of portfolio management on business performance”, which included Lloyd’s market organisations representing 75% of Lloyd’s gross written premium.

In the study, 72 attributes of portfolio management were identified and used to create an overall performance index. For participating Lloyd’s syndicates, this performance was compared to their 2018 profitability , helping to establish a clear link between good portfolio management and the likelihood to deliver sustained underwriting profit.

Caroline Dunn, head of underwriting at Lloyd’s, said: “First-class underwriting performance is a critical foundation upon which Lloyd’s strategy to build the world’s most advanced insurance marketplace is based. The highest underwriting standards are essential to protect customers, the market’s reputation, the central fund and our credit rating, as well as ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Lloyd’s market.

“Despite this, relatively few companies have looked in depth at what constitutes best-in-class portfolio management and what advantages there are to adopting best practice. This is particularly relevant for underwriting, where the roles are evolving to become more rounded, managing portfolios rather than being just single-class specialists.”

Richard Clarkson, head of London Market Consulting at Willis Towers Watson, said: “We identified three strategic drivers impacting the London Market today – performance remediation, market modernisation and culture, including skills needed in the future.

“Portfolio management is a critical capability that operates across all these drivers and will become even more important as insurers move to adopt new business models as the market modernises.”

He added: “The report findings should benefit Lloyd’s market participants by describing what constitutes a strong portfolio management capability, which may allow them to systematically fully understand and improve the performance and financial sustainability of the different parts of their business.”

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