Press release

22 Jan 2021 Port-Of-Spain, TT

The Premium Volume 4 - Trinidad and Tobago 2019 Insurance Trends

It is our pleasure to share with you our analysis and overview of key trends in the Trinidad and Tobago insurance sector. This publication was prepared by EY in partnership with the Association of Trinidad and Tobago Insurance Companies (ATTIC). 

Overview

2019 was a challenging year for Trinidad and Tobago with GDP declining 1.2%, mirroring a decline in oil production of 7.3%, despite the start of operations and Heritage. Gas production, however, increased by 2.6%.

The Energy Commodity Price Index, which is an indicator of the average prices of T&T’s energy exports, declined by 4.8% y-o-y from the end of 2018 to 2019.

Other sectors showed decline. Notably, new car sales which impacts the motor line of the general insurance segment fell by 2.9%. The general insurance segment would have also been negatively impacted by further declines in the US dollar exchange rate and in continued shortages of US dollars impacting their reinsurance programmes.

On the other hand, positive developments were seen in the stock market where the TTSE index grew by 9.5% (compared to 2.9% in 2018); and the yield on Trinidad and Tobago bonds showed a slight increase from 5.6% to 5.9%. Whilst these developments would have a positive impact on the investment returns of the long term insurance segment, the impact is not significant. Sustained low investment returns continues to impact this segment as well as the lack of access to suitable investment instruments to meet asset-liability matching.

In July 2019, S&P Global Ratings lowered its long-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit rating on Trinidad and Tobago to BBB from BBB+ and moved it from negative to stable outlook. 

It is reassuring that against the backdrop of a decline in GDP, gross written premiums increased across all segments

Insurance sector

1.9%

Total insurance sector GWP growth in 2019

However, low penetration rates would suggest that the industry has not yet reached capacity.

Market players may agree as there continues to be significant transaction activity as a few major players appear to be seeking regional scale — in 2019 Motor One Insurance was acquired by General Accident out of Jamaica; Trident Insurance, Barbados was acquired by Ansa McAl and in 2020, 51% of ICBL was bought by Paynes Bay. The region also welcomed a new entrant, Canopy Insurance in October 2019, when GraceKennedy and the Musson Group, out of Jamaica, launched a joint venture to provide life and health insurance.

Other developments include the announcement by Scotia and Sagicor, who mutually agreed not to proceed with their proposed partnership agreements.

General Insurance

Overview - 2019

The general insurance segment recovered in 2019 after experiencing unusually low profits in 2018 largely as a result of significantly lower loss ratios in both the property and motor lines of business. The inclusion of profits from General Accident (formerly Motor One) also contributed 12% of the increase. GWP saw low single digit growth in 2019, similar to 2018, however NWP grew by 2.9% compared to a 2.2% decline in the previous year.

General Insurance sector

1.3%

General Insurance sector GWP growth in 2019

More significant, however, is that the shift in GWP has changed significantly at the bottom half of the market. While GGIL, TATIL and COLFIRE continue to hold the top three position by GWP, the rest of the market have jostled for market share with some such as Beacon, Maritime, NAGICO, Gulf and Presidential passing their competitors.

The property line of business saw the most significant reduction in loss ratios with nine out of the fourteen companies that offer property insurance, including the largest contributor, GGIL, seeing significant reduction in their loss ratios. This is not surprising for the Trinidad and Tobago business which saw no major losses. The motor line also experienced lower loss ratios, although the impact was smaller than the property line.

Reductions were also seen in the expenses line; however we are yet to see any significant changes in spending. Rather the reductions arose, as exceptionally high bad debt expenses experienced by two companies, in 2018 did not recur in 2019. Expenses may also have been affected by the introduction of IFRS16. One company reduced advertising expenses by $4m.

Outlook

Penetration of insurance remains low with only 1.8% of GDP being spent on general insurance premiums. 

General Insurance sector

1.8%

General insurance penetration, 2019

As economic activity is expected to shrink in 2020, general growth and profitability are likely to be hit as gains from benign claims environment in select lines (e.g. motor) are likely to be negated by declines in economic activity and new business.

On the other hand, the pandemic is likely to elevate the importance of protection and sustainability discussions over the long term and has presented the opportunity for initiatives around digitisation and cost optimisation which can have a long term impact on the industry.

Life Insurance and Pension

Overview - 2019

The life insurance segment would have experienced 2.5% growth in GWP and unit linked premiums in 2019, except for a $400m increase in single premium annuities at one company; including this single premium, growth was 12.5%. Further, excluding the unit linked funds, the increase in GWP was 15.3%.

Even taking into account this increase in single premium annuities, penetration of insurance remains low with only 2.9% of GDP being spent on life insurance and retirement planning protection (inclusive of unit-linked products and the large single premium noted).

Life Insurance and Pensions

2.9%

Life insurance and pension penetration including the increase in single premiums, 2019

Life Insurance and Pensions

2.7%

Life insurance and pension penetration excluding the increase in single premiums, 2019

The distribution of GWP also remained unchanged, with Guardian Life and Sagicor continuing to dominate the sector.

Overall returns were strong, however, even before the impact of the pandemic, declining investment return had the most significant impact on profitability. This was offset only slightly by reduced expense ratios.

Outlook

The primary concern for life insurers is likely to come from falling equity markets and interest rates which will put pressure on balance sheets, stress product profitability and lower investment management fees related to insurers’ savings products portfolio.

The sudden impact on economic activity may also impact premium levels and whilst Trinidad and Tobago was spared any significant level of spread, it may be too early, to assess any impact on claims.

On the other hand, the pandemic is likely to elevate the importance of life insurance, increasing demand for related products in the medium to long term.

 

 

 

 

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Notes to Editors

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