PCI On Getting More Mascular

By Claire Ann Austria

Oct 24, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

There is an edgy and sharp increase in the instances of state regulators making requests for data from insurers is a major cause for concern for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), adding to an already big regulatory burden and increasing costs at an already challenging time for the industry. 

David Sampson told PCI Today that he feels many regulators are starting to overreach their mandates to the point they are requesting information and considering regulation that would affect insurers that is outside their remit and unnecessary. This trend is driving costs for insurers up in the process.

Sampson explained that the PCI monitors the levels of these data calls. Between 2013 and 2015 there was a sharp rise in the number of such instances, leading to compliance costs within its members increasing by 19 percent in that period.

The data calls that Sampson cited as being unreasonable include a request by the California Insurance Commissioner for insurers to annually disclose their carbon-based investments including those in oil, gas and coal, and another by five states that required insurers to disclose levels of diversity in their workforce.

He added that this excessive intrusion by state regulators is compounded by an increasingly complex regulatory picture at both a federal and an international level. 

At the federal level, the PCI is working across multiple initiatives to ensure the voice of its members is heard. These range from the way terrorism insurance is managed and changes to automotive insurance, to excessive claims and litigation around hail claims and moves by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development to change the underwriting criteria used for home insurance to avoid alleged discrimination.

He stressed that some of the initiatives happening at a federal level are very positive for the industry. There are several sectors where the government looks increasingly likely to move risk into the private sector, a trend that could offer much-needed growth opportunities for insurers. 

This is already happening thanks to Congress encouraging Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the US government-backed financial institutions that provide liquidity to the US mortgage markets by buying mortgages from lenders, to move more risk into the private sector. The National Flood Insurance Program has also started buying more reinsurance and moves are afoot to move more of that risk if the problem of the heavy subsidies could be overcome.

The theme of the 2016 PCI conference is 'An era of uncertainty' which Sampson described as summing up the concerns of many members given the ongoing fragile economy, an increased terrorism threat, and political uncertainty around the US presidential election and the UK's vote to leave the European Union, for example.

"There are big question marks in so many areas at the moment. No-one really knows how robust the recovery is or what direction the economies in Europe or the US are going. For insurers that makes things very difficult and it comes on top of an ongoing soft market, a low interest rate environment and huge disruptive forces in their industry in the form of new technology.

There is also more focus on a greater use of analytics and the way that can revolutionise the way insurers operate, and other disruptive forces such as the rise of the sharing economy-all of which present insurers with both challenges and opportunities." Samson ended.

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