Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Property/Casualty Insurance Accounting

Property/Casualty Insurance Accounting

Income Statement of Property/Casualty Insurance Company
Premium revenue is also known as earned premium.  This premium revenue is used to fund:
  1. Claim payments (loss expense).
  2. Sales commissions for insurance agents (commission expenses)
  3. Operating expenses (OPEX)

Claim expenses, for example, typically consume 75% of an insurer’s net revenues.

(1)    + (2) + (3) / Premium revenue = Combined ratio
Combined ratio is an insurance company’s key underwriting profit measure.

A combined ratio under 100 indicates an underwriting profit. 
For example:  A combined ratio of 95 means that the insurer paid out 95% of its premium revenue for losses.  The 5% remaining is the underwriting profit.

A combined ratio exceeding 100 indicates an underwriting loss. 
For example:  An insurer with a combined ratio of 105 paid out 105% of its premium revenue to cover losses,  meaning that it had an underwriting loss equal to 5% of revenues.

Companies with combined ratios exceeding 105 for more than a short time have a difficult time recouping their losses via investment earnings, and this type of poor underwriting track record suggests that an insurer’s competitive position is unusually weak.  Insurers unable to earn even the occasional underwriting profit will produce the industry’s poorest returns and may be tempted to accept large investment risks to boost profitability.

Investment income of Insurance companies
Insurers also make money from investment income.  They are often reported as a ratio of premium.
Adding the investment ratio to the combined ratio yields the operating profit ratio.  In many instances, investment income is a key profit determinant because it offsets underwriting losses.

Combined ratio  + Investment ratio  = Operating Profit ratio

Balance Sheet of Property/Casualty Insurance Company 
In addition to float, most insurers invest a large portion of their own retained earnings as well.  The investment account reveals the size of an insurer’s investments relative to its asset base and details the asset allocation employed.

Investment account = Float deployed + Retained Earnings deployed.

Look at the asset allocation of this investment account.  Look for insurers with no more than 30% invested in equities (unless the company is run by Warren Buffett).

Unearned Premiums of Property/Casualty Insurance Company
Unearned premiums represent premiums received but not yet considered revenue.
This oddity reflects an accounting convention.  When an insurer receives a premium, it is deemed to earn it gradually across the year.  After all, if a customer cancels a policy, the insurer must refund that portion of the coverage not consumed.  After six months, an annual auto policy would be 50% earned, and half the premium would be considered revenue.  Before this occurs, the premiums are held in the unearned premium account, and the insurer is free to invest them.

The best property/casualty insurer is one that is able to consistently earn underwriting profits on a large, growing customer base.  In effect, this insurer would be getting paid to profit from investing other people’s money and could retain this float indefinitely (as long as it grows).  Unfortunately, for investors, these situations rarely occur.

Insurance Companies of Malaysia
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