The CNBC anchors acted like I’d yelled fire in a crowded movie house when I pointed out this morning that it was investment losses driving insurance premium increases, not Hurricane Gustav or Katrina. You can watch the clip here
"A big allegation," the insurance industry spokesperson I was debating agreed. Well, the trade press has been buzzing about insurers’ investment losses driving a coming push for premium increases soon. And, yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were as attractive to insurers as to other investors.
"Where’s your proof?" the CNBC anchor asked. How about those record profits in the three years following Katrina, and the $500 billion in reserves the industry has amassed. (Yes, it’s actually $250 BILLION in profits for the industry over the last five years!) Claims are not driving any premium increases requests. It’s the insurers need to make up for investment losses. As one analyst told Business Insurance, an industry trade paper: "With the uncertaintly of the credit markets and the asset-quality issues that loom, investment risk is evolving as the big unknown for the industry, the big concern for the industry in the short term. (August 25, 2008)
I emailed the Business Insurance clip to the CNBC producer. Something tells me this debate’s just beginning.