Swiss Re to accelerate growth of international programme business in 2024

Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, the direct commercial unit of reinsurer Swiss Re, expects further growth in its international programme business this year as it takes on new large clients and signs up more insurers and brokers to its technology platform.

“We are very much open to business and continue to grow. International programmes remain a significant strategic initiative for Corporate Solutions and therefore has the full support of Andreas Berger [CEO of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions], who is passionate about the programme business,” said Ian Long, head of international programme solutions at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

“Last year, we put in place a new structure formalising Tina Baacke as global head of international programmes within Corporate Solutions. Geographically we are pretty much there and have seen our first deals written in South Africa, and have strengthened our team in Asia Pacific, where we appointed a regional leader for international programmes,” Long told Commercial Risk.

Swiss Re started underwriting international programme business on its own platform in 2019, having previously serviced customers in a pilot stage through the RSA network in North America and XL Catlin (now AXA XL) in Europe. Corporate Solutions now has some 700 international programmes on its books at the start of 2024, with further growth expected.

“From a top line perspective, our plan takes us beyond a billion dollars of premium in the near term,” according to Long. “We are very much engaging again. For large accounts, 2023 was a year of consolidation, and we are now looking to push ahead with that this year,” he said.

Swiss Re focused on growing its mid-market international programme business last year, having enjoyed “great success” attracting larger customers in 2020-2022, explained Long. However, it paused the onboarding of new large clients in 2023 and focused on mid-market companies to ensure it maintained service levels.

“We grew significantly last year, just less significantly than we did the year before,” Long said. “We continue to grow while keeping the portfolio balanced. Mid-sized companies are very important to us, and we see growth in that area, and we balance this with growth in flagship accounts, so we maintain service levels,” said Long.

“We take quite a deep and methodical approach to the targeting and pipeline science to make sure that we understand the customer needs, so when we land them, we are able to deliver,” he said.

The hard insurance market, and the move by more companies towards a centralised approach to risk management, has supported growth in the international programme market, according to Long. Current estimates put the size of the international programme market at between $50bn-$60bn in terms of annual premiums. “I believe that the international programme market is growing a couple of points faster than the overall commercial insurance market,” he said.

Long predicts further growth in the international programme market in 2024. “The market remains healthy and while we see increases slowing down, we still see positive rates, and customers continue to convert to international programmes,” he said.

“In our customer base we still see increases in globalisation, but with global [geopolitical and economic] uncertainty, more companies are looking at their risk in the round. And that is good news for international programmes. We still see companies looking to move to an international programme for the first time, which helps expand the programme market as a whole,” said Long.

Companies are also moving over to international programmes with improvements in service levels. International programmes can be complex and burdensome to set up and administer, but technology is helping iron out many bugbears.

“Generally, service is improving and there is more transparency around international programmes. If we can help solve some of the deeper concerns around international programmes – in terms of whether they are too complicated or expensive and service is not good enough – then the market itself will grow naturally,” he said.

In addition to writing international programmes, Swiss Re licenses its technology portal PULSE and its 150-plus country network to insurers. PULSE users now include Austrian insurer UNIQA, Japanese insurer Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance, German insurer Württembergische, Finnish insurer LocalTapiola and US insurer The Hartford. It also provides PULSE on a software-as-a-service basis to brokers, including European broker network BrokersLink and The Worldwide Insurance Network Group.

“We have a total of 11 carriers and two broker networks on our platform now, and we also have lined up a standalone broker as well. We continue to have traction and expect more to sign up next year. On the carrier side, we look for steady growth, and hopefully we will add three to five carriers next year. Balancing growth against service, and making sure we scale appropriately, is one of our big mottos,” said Long.

Swiss Re continues to invest and grow its PULSE platform, with a particular focus on improving the end-to end flow and exchange of data. Last year, Swiss Re added a customer portal capability to the broker version of its platform, and has created a certification programme for its people to ensure consistent knowledge and service.

Artificial intelligence will also help improve service levels for international programmes, according to Long. “There is a particular opportunity for AI in international programmes around language, improving translation services. That would give a better understanding of the risk and what is being covered and where,” said Long.

AI will help speed up the exchange of data and make information more consistent, but it is not a silver bullet to the service challenges of international programmes, according to Long. For the foreseeable future, AI will be about augmenting human interaction and human input. The large part of the complexity in the market is the significant number of people involved and the sheer number of interactions required to implement a programme,” he said.

Connectivity remains a hot topic for international programmes, as information on policies and claims needs to flow between insureds, brokers and carriers, explained Long.

“From what we are seeing, the market is still at the stage of each company sorting out its own house. The complexity of international programmes has held that back a bit. I think we are still two to three years away from having broader data exchange capabilities, but there is the opportunity for consistency as data models mature,” he said.

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