SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, DC 20549
ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the Fiscal Year Ended December 31, 2020
TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Commission file number 001-36777
JAMES RIVER GROUP HOLDINGS, LTD.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
|(IRS Employer Identification No.)|
Wellesley House, 2nd Floor, 90 Pitts Bay Road, Pembroke HM08, Bermuda
(Address of principal executive offices)
Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (441) 278-4580
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
|Title of each class||Trading Symbol(s)||Names of each exchange on which registered|
|Common Shares, par value $0.0002 per share||JRVR||NASDAQ||Global Select Market|
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Act. Yes ¨ No x
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports) and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§ 232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files). Yes x No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, non-accelerated filer, a smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):
|Large accelerated filer||x|
Smaller reporting company
Emerging Growth Company
If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the Registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act. ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report . ☒
Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ☐ No x
The aggregate market value of the Registrant’s common shares held by non-affiliates of the Registrant as of June 30, 2020, computed by reference to the closing sales price on the NASDAQ Global Select Market on that date, was approximately $1,332,336,690.
The number of the Registrant’s common shares outstanding was 30,765,510 as of February 23, 2021.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE:
Portions of the James River Group Holdings, Ltd. Proxy Statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the year covered by this Form 10-K with respect to the 2021 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference into Part III hereof.
Unless the context indicates or suggests otherwise, references in this Annual Report on Form 10-K to “the Company,” “we,” “us” and “our” refer to James River Group Holdings, Ltd. and its consolidated subsidiaries.
SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K (“Annual Report”) contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These statements may be identified by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts. In some cases, forward-looking statements may be identified by the use of words such as “anticipates,” “estimates,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans”, “seeks” and “believes,” and similar expressions or future or conditional verbs such as “will,” “should,” “would,” “may” and “could.” These forward-looking statements include, among others, statements relating to our future financial performance, our business prospects and strategy, anticipated financial position, liquidity and capital needs and other similar matters. These forward-looking statements are based on management’s current expectations and assumptions about future events, which are inherently subject to uncertainties, risks and changes in circumstances that are difficult to predict.
Our actual results may differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, the forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report as a result of various factors, many of which are beyond our control, including, among others:
• the inherent uncertainty of estimating reserves and the possibility that incurred losses may be greater than our loss and loss adjustment expense reserves;
• inaccurate estimates and judgments in our risk management may expose us to greater risks than intended;
• the potential loss of key members of our management team or key employees and our ability to attract and retain personnel;
• adverse economic factors resulting in the sale of fewer policies than expected or an increase in the frequency or severity of claims, or both;
• a decline in our financial strength rating resulting in a reduction of new or renewal business;
• reliance on a select group of brokers and agents for a significant portion of our business and the impact of our potential failure to maintain such relationships;
• reliance on a select group of customers for a significant portion of our business and the impact of our potential failure to maintain, or decision to terminate, such relationships;
• our ability to obtain reinsurance coverage at prices and on terms that allow us to transfer risk and adequately protect our company against financial loss;
• losses resulting from reinsurance counterparties failing to pay us on reinsurance claims, insurance companies with whom we have a fronting arrangement failing to pay us for claims, or a former customer with whom we have an indemnification arrangement failing to perform their reimbursement obligations;
• inadequacy of premiums we charge to compensate us for our losses incurred;
• changes in laws or government regulation, including tax or insurance law and regulations;
• the ongoing effect of Public Law No. 115-97, informally titled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which may have a significant effect on us including, among other things, by potentially increasing our tax rate, as well as on our shareholders;
• in the event we do not qualify for the insurance company exception to the passive foreign investment company (“PFIC”) rules and are therefore considered a PFIC, there could be material adverse tax consequences to an investor that is subject to U.S. federal income taxation;
• the Company or any of its foreign subsidiaries becoming subject to U.S. federal income taxation;
• a failure of any of the loss limitations or exclusions we utilize to shield us from unanticipated financial losses or legal exposures, or other liabilities;
• losses from catastrophic events, such as natural disasters and terrorist acts, which substantially exceed our expectations and/or exceed the amount of reinsurance we have purchased to protect us from such events;
• the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated government actions on our operations and financial performance;
• potential effects on our business of emerging claim and coverage issues;
• exposure to credit risk, interest rate risk and other market risk in our investment portfolio;
• the potential impact of internal or external fraud, operational errors, systems malfunctions or cyber security incidents;
• our ability to manage our growth effectively;
• failure to maintain effective internal controls in accordance with Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as amended (“Sarbanes-Oxley”);
• changes in our financial condition, regulations or other factors that may restrict our subsidiaries’ ability to pay us dividends; and
• other risks and uncertainties discussed under “Risk Factors” and elsewhere in this Annual Report.
Accordingly, you should read this Annual Report completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from what we expect.
Forward-looking statements speak only as of the date of this Annual Report. Except as expressly required under federal securities laws and the rules and regulations of the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), we do not have any obligation, and do not undertake, to update any forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances arising after the date of this Annual Report, whether as a result of new information or future events or otherwise. You should not place undue reliance on the forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report or that may be made elsewhere from time to time by us, or on our behalf. All forward-looking statements attributable to us are expressly qualified by these cautionary statements.
Item 1. BUSINESS
James River Group Holdings, Ltd. is a Bermuda-based holding company. We own and operate a group of specialty insurance and reinsurance companies. For the year ended December 31, 2020, approximately 70.2% of our group-wide gross written premiums originated from the U.S. excess and surplus (“E&S”) lines market. Substantially all of our business is casualty insurance and reinsurance, and for the year ended December 31, 2020, we derived 97.0% of our group-wide gross written premiums from casualty insurance and reinsurance. Our objective is to generate compelling returns on tangible equity, while limiting underwriting and investment volatility. We seek to accomplish this by earning profits from insurance and reinsurance underwriting and generating meaningful risk-adjusted investment returns, while managing our capital. Our group includes three operating segments: Excess and Surplus Lines, Specialty Admitted Insurance and Casualty Reinsurance.
We write very little property or catastrophe insurance and no property catastrophe reinsurance. For the year ended December 31, 2020, property insurance and reinsurance represented 3.0% of our gross written premiums. When we do write property insurance, we buy reinsurance to significantly mitigate our risk. We have structured our reinsurance arrangements so that our modeled net pre-tax loss from a 1/1000 year probable maximum loss ("PML") event would not exceed $10.0 million on a group-wide basis.
We report our business in four segments: Excess and Surplus Lines, Specialty Admitted Insurance, Casualty Reinsurance and Corporate and Other.
The Excess and Surplus Lines segment sells E&S commercial lines liability and property insurance in every U.S. state and the District of Columbia through James River Insurance Company (“James River Insurance”) and its wholly-owned subsidiary, James River Casualty Company (“James River Casualty”). The Excess and Surplus Lines segment produced 55.6% of our gross written premiums and 69.6% of our net written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020. James River Insurance and James River Casualty are both non-admitted carriers. Non-admitted carriers writing in the E&S market are not bound by most of the rate and form regulations imposed on standard market companies, allowing them flexibility to change the coverage terms offered and the rate charged without the time constraints and financial costs and delays associated with the filing of such changes with state regulators and seeking approval for the filings. In 2020, the average account in this segment (excluding commercial auto policies) generated annual gross written premiums of approximately $24,000. The Excess and Surplus Lines segment distributes primarily through wholesale insurance brokers. Members of our management team have participated in this market for over three decades and have long-standing relationships with the wholesale brokers who place E&S lines accounts.
The Specialty Admitted Insurance segment has admitted licenses and the authority to write excess and surplus lines insurance in 50 states and the District of Columbia through Falls Lake National Insurance Company (“Falls Lake National”) and its wholly-owned subsidiaries, Stonewood Insurance Company (“Stonewood Insurance”) and Falls Lake Fire and Casualty Company (“Falls Lake Fire and Casualty”). The Specialty Admitted Insurance segment produced 32.5% of our gross written premiums and 9.2% of our net written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020. The Specialty Admitted Insurance segment has two areas of focus. We write a select book of workers’ compensation coverage for building trades, healthcare employees and light manufacturing, among other light to medium hazard risks in select U.S. states. We also write fronting business which has become a significant element of our revenues and profits in this segment. In our fronting business, we retain a small percentage of the risk, generally 10%-20%, and seek to earn fee income. When we front, we use our legal authority, financial strength rating, underwriting experience and claims infrastructure to write insurance to service clients (usually managing general agents and reinsurers) who assume the vast majority of the risk on each fronted policy. Because we retain little premium or risk in our fronted business, we can allocate less capital per dollar of revenue to fronted policies than to policies where we retain more risk, which we believe enhances our returns on equity. The Specialty Admitted Insurance segment accepts applications for insurance from a variety of sources, including independent retail agents, program administrators and managing general agents (“MGAs”).
The Casualty Reinsurance segment distributes through reinsurance brokers and produced 11.9% of our gross written premiums and 21.2% of our net written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020. The Casualty Reinsurance segment provides proportional and working layer casualty reinsurance to third parties and to our U.S.-based insurance subsidiaries. Typically, we structure our reinsurance contracts (also known as treaties) as quota share arrangements, with loss mitigating features, such as commissions that adjust based on underwriting results. We frequently include risk mitigating features in our working layer excess of loss treaties, such as paid reinstatements. These risk mitigation features allow the ceding company to capture a greater percentage of the profits should the business prove more profitable than expected, or alternatively, provide us with additional premiums should the business incur higher than expected losses. We believe these structures best align our interests with the interests of our cedents. On a premium volume basis, treaties with loss mitigation features including sliding scale ceding commissions represented 68.3% of the net premiums written by our Casualty Reinsurance segment during 2020. We typically do not assume large individual risks in our Casualty Reinsurance segment, nor do we write property catastrophe
reinsurance. Most of the underlying policies assumed by our Casualty Reinsurance segment have a $1.0 million per occurrence limit, and we typically assume only a portion of that exposure. We believe this structure reduces volatility in our underwriting results. We do not assume stand-alone third-party property business at our Casualty Reinsurance segment, but we do have a small amount of assumed business with ancillary property exposure. 72.1% of premiums written by our Casualty Reinsurance segment during 2020 were general liability accounts.
The Casualty Reinsurance segment writes third party business through one entity, JRG Reinsurance Company Ltd. ("JRG Re"). Through December 31, 2017, we had intercompany reinsurance agreements under which we ceded 70% of the net written premiums of our U.S. subsidiaries (after taking into account third-party reinsurance) to JRG Re. Effective January 1, 2018, we generally discontinued ceding 70% of our U.S.-written premiums to JRG Re and instead ceded 70% of our U.S.-written premiums to Carolina Re Ltd ("Carolina Re"). This business is ceded under quota-share reinsurance treaties with ceding commissions that are negotiated at arm’s length. We exclude the effects of intercompany reinsurance agreements from the presentation of our segment results, consistent with the way we manage the Company. At December 31, 2020, 43.7% of our invested assets were held at JRG Re, which benefits from a favorable operating environment, including an absence of corporate income or investment taxes.
The Corporate and Other segment consists of the management and treasury activities of our holding companies, equity compensation for the group, and interest expense associated with our debt.
In 2020, our operating subsidiaries wrote $1,257.0 million of gross written premiums, allocated by segment and underlying market as follows:
|Gross Written Premiums by Segment||Gross Written Premiums|
December 31, 2020
|% of Total|
|Excess and Surplus Lines segment||$||699,143 ||55.6 ||%|
|Specialty Admitted Insurance segment||408,691 ||32.5 ||%|
|Casualty Reinsurance segment||149,166 ||11.9 ||%|
|$||1,257,000 ||100.0 ||%|
|Gross Written Premiums by Market|
|Non-admitted markets||$||882,770 ||70.2 ||%|
|Admitted markets||374,230 ||29.8 ||%|
|$||1,257,000 ||100.0 ||%|
The A.M. Best Company (“A.M. Best”) financial strength rating for our group’s regulated insurance subsidiaries is “A” (Excellent). This rating reflects A.M. Best’s evaluation of our insurance subsidiaries’ financial strength, operating performance and ability to meet obligations to policyholders and is not an evaluation directed towards the protection of investors.
The financial strength ratings assigned by A.M. Best have an impact on the willingness of brokers and agents to submit applications for insurance and reinsurance to our regulated subsidiaries and on the risk profiles of the submissions for insurance that our subsidiaries receive. The “A” (Excellent) ratings assigned to our insurance and reinsurance subsidiaries are consistent with our business plans and we believe allow our subsidiaries to actively pursue relationships with the agents and brokers identified in their marketing plans.
In 2002, a group of experienced insurance executives with a history of starting and operating profitable specialty insurance operations created James River Group, Inc. (“James River Group”). James River Group was listed on the NASDAQ Stock Market (symbol: JRVR) in 2005 and consistently produced attractive underwriting results. James River Group had two insurance company subsidiaries, James River Insurance and Stonewood Insurance Company (“Stonewood Insurance”). Both of these subsidiaries as well as James River Group remain subsidiaries of ours.
In 2007, James River Group’s management team decided to enhance James River Group’s long-term profitability by combining the earnings power of James River Group with the efficiency of an affiliated Bermuda domiciled reinsurer. A group of investors acquired James River Group, at which point it ceased trading as a public company. Simultaneously, the investors and management founded and capitalized JRG Re, and we began the process of building our present company.
In December 2014, we completed an initial public offering of our common shares (the “IPO”). Institutional investors sold all of the common shares in the IPO. Neither the Company nor any of its management or other shareholders sold shares in the IPO.
Our Competitive Strengths
We believe we have the following competitive strengths:
Proven and Strong Management Team Whose Financial Interests are Aligned with Shareholders. The Company's Non-Executive Chairman of the Company’s Board of Directors (the “Board”), J. Adam Abram, has a history of forming and managing profitable specialty insurance companies. He was a founder of the Company and our predecessor company. Our Chief Executive Officer, Frank D'Orazio, has significant experience in the insurance and reinsurance industries in both the United States and Bermuda. Mr. D'Orazio has held senior positions in operations and underwriting of several different insurance and reinsurance companies over the course of his career. Our Chief Operating Officer, Robert P. Myron, who has served in various capacities with our group since 2010, has a history of working in a senior management capacity in the insurance and reinsurance industries in both the United States and Bermuda. Mr. Myron has significant experience working in operations, finance and underwriting of several different insurance and reinsurance companies over the course of his career. Our Chief Financial Officer, Sarah C. Doran, joined our group in January 2017. She has significant experience with capital markets and corporate development related to the insurance and financial services industry. Ms. Doran has a history of working in a senior capacity in finance and advisory both within the insurance and reinsurance industry and for various investment banks.
The President and Chief Executive Officer of our Excess and Surplus Lines segment, Richard Schmitzer, who has been with our group since July 2009, has a history of working in a senior management capacity in the E&S lines industry. Mr. Schmitzer has significant experience working in underwriting and operations of several different insurance companies over the course of his career.
The President and Chief Executive Officer of our Specialty Admitted Insurance segment, Terry McCafferty, has extensive experience as an insurance underwriter, operator and executive, and has deep experience and industry knowledge to continue to build out our business initiatives in the fronting and specialty admitted risk business.
The President and Chief Executive Officer of our Casualty Reinsurance segment, Daniel Heinlein, has significant experience as a broker and underwriter of specialty reinsurance risks, particularly in the small account market where we concentrate.
All members of our executive management and senior management own our common shares and have equity grants that we believe help align their interests with those of our long-term shareholders.
Broad Underwriting Expertise. We strive to be innovative in tailoring our products to provide solutions for our distribution partners and insureds, and we are willing to entertain insuring many types of risk classifications. As a result, we believe we are a “go to” market for a wide variety of risks. We are able to structure solutions for our insureds and the wholesale brokers with whom we work because of our deep technical expertise and experience in the niches and specialties we underwrite.
Emphasis on Lowering Volatility. We earn our profits by taking underwriting and investment risk. We underwrite many classes of insurance and invest in many types of assets. We actively seek to avoid underwriting business or making investments that expose us to an unacceptably high risk of large losses. We believe we have minimal exposure to material property risks and did not have material losses from property risks during 2020.
We seek to limit our catastrophic underwriting exposure in all areas, but in particular to property risks and catastrophic events. Our U.S. primary companies purchase reinsurance from unaffiliated reinsurers to reduce our net exposure to any one risk or occurrence. In addition, our policy forms and pricing are subject to regular formal analysis in an effort to ensure we are insuring the types of risks we intend and that we are being appropriately compensated for taking on those risks. When we write reinsurance, we seek to avoid catastrophic risks and contractually limit the amount of exposure we have on any one risk or occurrence. We prefer to structure our assumed reinsurance treaties as proportional or quota share reinsurance, which is generally less volatile than excess of loss or catastrophe reinsurance. We believe this structure aligns our interests with those of the ceding company.
Meaningful Risk Adjusted Investment Returns. We seek to generate meaningful contributions to company profitability from our investment portfolio. We attempt to follow a diversified strategy that emphasizes the preservation of our invested assets, provides adequate liquidity for the prompt payment of claims and produces attractive results for our shareholders. Within that context, we seek to improve risk-adjusted returns in our investment portfolio by allocating a portion of our portfolio to investments where we take measured risks based upon detailed knowledge of certain niche asset classes. Investment grade fixed maturity securities make up the majority of our investment portfolio, and we are comfortable allocating a portion of our assets to non-traditional investments. We consider non-traditional investments to include investments that are (1) unrated bond
or fixed income securities, (2) non-listed equities or (3) investments that generally have less liquidity than rated bond or fixed income securities or listed equities. Non-traditional investments represented 8.8% of our total invested assets at December 31, 2020, consisting of syndicated bank loans (6.7%) and other invested assets (2.1%) that include interests in limited liability companies that invest in renewable energy opportunities, limited partnerships that invest in debt or equity securities, notes receivable for renewable energy projects, and a private debt security. While we are willing to make investments in non-traditional types of investments, we seek to avoid asset classes and investments that we do not understand. The weighted average credit rating of our portfolio of fixed maturity securities, bank loans and preferred stocks as of December 31, 2020 was “A”. At December 31, 2020, the average duration of our investment portfolio was 3.8 years.
Talented Underwriters and Operating Leadership. The managers of our 15 underwriting divisions have an average of over 25 years of industry experience, substantial subject matter expertise and deep technical knowledge. They have been successful and profitable underwriters for us in the specialty casualty insurance and reinsurance sectors. Our segment presidents all have extensive backgrounds and histories working in management capacities in specialty casualty insurance and reinsurance.
Robust Technology and Data Capture. We seek to ground our underwriting decisions in reliable historical data and technical evaluation of risks. Our underwriters utilize intuitive systems and differentiated technologies. We have implemented processes to capture extensive data from our book of business, before, during and after the underwriting analysis and decision. We use the data we collect to inform and, we believe, improve our judgment about similar risks as we refine our underwriting criteria. We use the data we collect in regular formal review processes for each of our lines of business and significant reinsurance treaties.
Focus on Small and Medium-Sized Casualty Niche and Specialty Business. We believe that small and medium-sized casualty accounts, in niche areas where we focus, are consistently among the most attractive subsets of the property-casualty insurance and reinsurance market. We think the unique characteristics of the risks within these markets require each account to be individually underwritten in an efficient manner.
Many carriers have chosen either to reject business that requires individual underwriting or have attempted to automate the underwriting of this highly variable business. Since our inception, we have embraced technology to greatly reduce the cost of individually underwriting these accounts in our Excess and Surplus Lines and Specialty Admitted Insurance segments. We are investing in technologies that may bring additional insights to our underwriters and allow them to refine and improve their risk selection and pricing. We continue to have our underwriters make individual judgments regarding the underwriting and pricing of accounts. Our experience leads us to believe this approach, combining expert judgment and technology designed to provide our underwriters with relevant information and quick processing, is still more likely to produce consistent results over time and across markets. While we believe the insurance and reinsurance industry is generally overcapitalized at this time, we are successfully increasing rates in our Excess and Surplus Lines and Specialty Admitted Insurance segments. Pricing on our E&S renewal book has increased for sixteen consecutive quarters. The E&S and Specialty Admitted segments combined represented 88.1% of our gross written premiums and 78.8% of our net written premiums for the twelve months ended December 31, 2020. We believe that there are compelling opportunities for measured but profitable growth in many sectors of the insurance markets we target.
Active Claims Management. Our U.S.-based primary insurance companies actively manage claims as part of keeping losses and loss adjustment expenses low. We attempt to investigate thoroughly and settle promptly all covered claims, which we generally accomplish through direct contact with the insured and other affected parties. We have historically been able to close approximately 95% of claims from a particular policy year within the five subsequent years, and as of December 31, 2020, our reserves for claims incurred but not reported (“IBNR”) were 55.3% of our total net loss reserves.
Efficient Operating Platform. We have what we believe to be an extremely attractive expense ratio, as we carefully manage personnel and all other costs throughout our group while growing our business. For the year ended December 31, 2020, our expense ratio was 26.7%. Additionally, our Bermuda domicile and operations can provide for flexibility and an efficient tax structure. At December 31, 2020, 43.7% of our invested assets were held at JRG Re, which benefits from a favorable operating environment, including an absence of corporate income or investment taxes.
We believe our approach to our business will help us achieve our goal of generating compelling returns on tangible equity while limiting volatility in our financial results. This approach involves the following:
Generate Consistent Underwriting Profits. We seek to make underwriting profits each and every year. We attempt to find ways to grow in markets we believe to be profitable, but are less concerned about growth than maintaining profitability in our underwriting activities (measured without regard to investment income). We are willing to reduce the premiums we write when we cannot achieve the pricing and contract terms we believe are necessary to meet our financial goals.
Maintain a Strong Balance Sheet. Balance sheet integrity is key to our long-term success. In order to maintain balance sheet integrity, we seek to estimate the amount of future obligations, especially reserves for losses and loss adjustment expenses, in a consistent and appropriate fashion.
Earn a Meaningful Contribution from Investments. We seek to earn a meaningful contribution to our overall returns from our investment portfolio activities each year. We attempt to balance the preservation of assets, liquidity needs and mitigation of volatility with returns across our portfolio. We believe our diversified portfolio and ability to source investment opportunities positions us well to generate returns while balancing the importance of maintaining a strong balance sheet.
Focus on Specialty Insurance Markets and Fee Income. We focus on specialty markets in which our underwriters have particular expertise and in which we have fewer competitors than in standard markets, and greater flexibility to price and structure our products in accordance with our underwriting strategy. We believe underwriting profitability can best be achieved through restricting our risk taking on insurance and reinsurance to niches where, because of our expertise, we can distinguish ourselves in the underwriting and pricing process. We also believe that we can achieve attractive returns on capital through the growth of our fronting business, as we carefully manage credit and collateral to generate attractive fee income, while generally utilizing less capital than in our highly underwritten businesses.
Use Timely and Accurate Data. We design our internal processing and data collection systems to provide our management team with accurate and relevant information in real-time. We collect premium, commission and claims data, including detailed information regarding policy price, terms, conditions and the nature of the insured’s business. This data allows us to analyze trends in our business, including results by individual agent or broker, underwriter and class of business and expand or contract our operations quickly in response to market conditions. We rely on our information technology systems in this process. Additionally, the claims staff also contributes to our underwriting operations through its communication of claims information to our underwriters.
Respond Rapidly to Market Opportunities and Challenges. For the year ended December 31, 2020, gross written premiums for the Excess and Surplus Lines segment excluding commercial auto (“Core E&S”) increased by 29.5% over the same period in 2019. We plan to grow our business to take advantage of opportunities in markets in which we believe we can use our expertise to generate consistent underwriting profits. We seek to measure rates monthly and react quickly to changes in the rates or terms the market will accept. In this favorable pricing environment, we have taken steps to grow and are increasing gross written premiums across most underwriting divisions in this segment. In 2020, our growth was primarily focused in our Excess Casualty, General Casualty, Manufacturers & Contractors, Excess Property, and Life Sciences divisions within our Excess and Surplus Lines segment. This very specific evaluation of each risk or class of risks is a hallmark of our underwriting.
When market conditions have been challenging, or when actual experience has not been as favorable as we anticipated, or when the size or risk profile of certain insureds or lines of business change, we have tried to act quickly to evaluate our situation and to make course corrections in order to protect our profits and preserve tangible equity. Our actions have included reducing our writings when margins tightened and exiting lines or classes of business when we believed the risk of continuing in a line outweighed the potential rewards from underwriting. We do not hesitate to increase loss estimates when we determine that it is appropriate. Our proactive approach is exemplified by the Company's decision in October 2019 to deliver a notice of early cancellation, effective December 31, 2019, of all insurance policies issued to our largest customer, Rasier LLC and its affiliates (collectively, “Rasier”). The decision, coming after careful deliberation and a thorough review, was made due to a number of factors including changes in the risk, unsatisfactory underwriting profits from the Rasier business, and a desire to refocus on the Company's growing Core E&S lines of business where the Company has experienced many years of profitable underwriting results.
Manage Capital Actively. We seek to make “both sides” of our balance sheet generate better than average risk-adjusted returns. We invest and manage our capital with a goal of consistently increasing tangible equity for our shareholders and generating attractive returns on tangible equity. We intend to expand our premium volume and capital base to take advantage of opportunities to earn an underwriting profit or to reduce our premium volume and capital base if attractive underwriting opportunities are not available. We expect to finance our future operations with a combination of debt and equity and do not intend to raise or retain more capital than we believe we can profitably deploy in a reasonable time frame. We may not, however, always be able to raise capital when needed. We declared dividends to our shareholders of $37.1 million ($1.20 per share) during 2020, $36.8 million ($1.20 per share) in 2019 and $36.3 million ($1.20 per share) in 2018. While we have declared a special dividend in the past, we continue to find what we believe are attractive opportunities to earn a compelling return on our capital in the businesses that we target and therefore did not declare a special dividend in 2018, 2019, or 2020. Our ratings from A.M. Best are very important to us, as are our relationships with our regulators, and maintaining them in good order is a principal consideration in our decisions regarding capital management.
The chart below displays our corporate structure as of December 31, 2020 as it pertains to our holding and operating subsidiaries.
Excess and Surplus Lines Segment
We underwrite non-admitted business through our subsidiaries, James River Insurance Company and James River Casualty Company, from offices in Richmond, Virginia; Scottsdale, Arizona; and Atlanta, Georgia. James River Insurance is our largest subsidiary as measured by gross written premiums (55.6% of consolidated gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020 came from our Excess and Surplus Lines segment) and has been engaged in E&S insurance for 18 years. James River Insurance has had a consistent record of underwriting profitably since its second year of operation.
The E&S industry focuses on insuring commercial insureds that may be unable to purchase insurance from standard lines insurers typically due to perceived risk related to their products or operations. Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment underwrites property-casualty insurance in all states and the District of Columbia. We utilize a network of authorized wholesale brokers and general agents throughout the United States. In 2020, our Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s gross written premiums shrank by 24.2% relative to 2019 due to the early cancellation in late 2019 of a large commercial auto account. Gross written premiums for our Core E&S business, which excludes our commercial auto division, grew by 29.5% over 2019. The Excess and Surplus Lines segment produced an average combined ratio of 90.1% from 2011 through 2020.
Companies that underwrite on an E&S lines basis operate under a different regulatory structure than standard market carriers. E&S lines carriers are generally permitted to craft the terms of the insurance contract to suit the particular risk they are assuming. E&S lines carriers are, for the most part, free of rate and form regulation. In contrast, standard market carriers are generally required to use approved insurance forms and to charge rates that have been authorized by or filed with state insurance departments. However, as E&S carriers, our insurance subsidiaries in the Excess and Surplus Lines segment are not backed by any state’s guarantee fund, and in most states these subsidiaries may only write coverage for an insured after they have been denied coverage by the standard market and signed declarations stating that the insured is aware that it will not have access to any state guarantee funds should these subsidiaries be unable to satisfy their obligations.
Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment underwrites coverage for a wide range of businesses and does not write personal lines insurance. Applications for insurance are presented to us by authorized wholesale brokers who are typically engaged by retail agents after their clients have been rejected by standard markets.
In late 2017, the Excess and Surplus Lines segment started a binding contract unit (as part of our Small Business underwriting division) where limited authority for underwriting is delegated to a select, but growing, group of agents on a limited number of General Liability classes through a company designed online portal.
All claims for business written by the Excess and Surplus Lines segment are managed by its internal claims department although we use independent adjusters for inspection and payment of certain claims.
The chart below identifies the Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s divisions and sets forth the amount of gross written premiums by each division.
|Gross Written Premiums|
Year Ended December 31,
|Excess Casualty||$||213,037 ||30.5 ||%||$||118,954 ||$||66,452 ||$||51,160 ||$||43,574 |
|General Casualty||125,433 ||17.9 ||%||115,832 ||54,127 ||38,097 ||36,858 |
|Manufacturers and Contractors||122,880 ||17.6 ||%||105,096 ||79,160 ||85,719 ||83,279 |
|Energy||51,109 ||7.3 ||%||45,442 ||33,942 ||29,704 ||29,709 |
|Excess Property||37,332 ||5.3 ||%||31,606 ||16,963 ||14,447 ||14,083 |
|Life Sciences||35,163 ||5.0 ||%||24,462 ||16,636 ||12,981 ||11,132 |
|Commercial Auto||30,029 ||4.3 ||%||405,565 ||322,126 ||247,960 ||110,050 |
|Allied Health||26,918 ||3.9 ||%||26,713 ||30,450 ||19,181 ||14,413 |
|Small Business||24,790 ||3.6 ||%||19,725 ||14,808 ||11,307 ||9,104 |
|Environmental||17,753 ||2.5 ||%||16,539 ||10,499 ||7,920 ||5,321 |
|Professional Liability||6,881 ||1.0 ||%||6,441 ||5,916 ||6,326 ||8,361 |
|Sports and Entertainment||6,118 ||0.9 ||%||4,212 ||3,685 ||3,021 ||2,221 |
|Medical Professionals||1,700 ||0.2 ||%||1,733 ||1,774 ||2,297 ||2,739 |
|Total||$||699,143 ||100.0 ||%||$||922,320 ||$||656,538 ||$||530,120 ||$||370,844 |
Excess Casualty underwrites excess liability coverage for a variety of risk classes including manufacturers, contractors, distributors and transportation risks. Typically, we provide between $1.0 million and $10.0 million per occurrence limits above a $1.0 million attachment point. Of this amount, we retain up to $1.0 million of exposure per occurrence and cede the balance to our reinsurers. We write excess liability coverage above our own primary policies, as well as policies issued by third parties. When we write above others’ policies, we are selective regarding underlying carriers, focusing on the nature of the business, the financial strength of the carrier, their pricing and their claims handling capabilities. The underwriter who heads this division has 37 years of industry experience.
General Casualty writes primary liability coverage on businesses exposed to premises liability type claims including real estate, mercantile and retail operations, apartments and condominiums, daycare facilities, hotels and motels, restaurants, bars, taverns and schools. The head underwriter in this division has 33 years of experience. Typically, we write $1.0 million per occurrence in limits, and we retain the entire $1.0 million limit.
Manufacturers and Contractors writes primary general liability coverage for a variety of classes, including manufacturers of consumer, commercial, and industrial products and general and trade contractors. Typically, we issue a $1.0 million per occurrence limit in this division and we retain the entire $1.0 million limit. The individual overseeing this division has 37 years of industry experience.
Energy writes risks engaged in the business of energy production, distribution or mining, and the manufacture of equipment used in the energy business segment. Examples of classes underwritten by this division include oil and gas exploration companies, oil or gas well drillers, oilfield consultants, oil or gas lease operators, oil well servicing companies, oil or gas pipeline construction companies, fireworks manufacturing, mining-related risks, utilities, and utility contractors. We provide policy limits up to $11.0 million, with typical limits between $1.0 million and $5.0 million per occurrence, retaining up to $1.0 million in limit net on either a primary or excess basis. The underwriter leading this division has more than 35 years of experience in the business.
Excess Property writes property risks providing limits in various layers above the primary coverage layer for a variety of classes, including apartments, condominiums, resorts, shopping centers, offices and general commercial properties. Typical per risk limits offered range from $5.0 million to $30.0 million on a gross basis, and a maximum of $5.0 million on a net of reinsurance basis. The average net per risk limit is approximately $1.9 million as of December 31, 2020. We retain up to the first $5.0 million in any one event or catastrophe. The underwriter leading our Excess Property division has 35 years of experience in the industry.
Life Sciences underwrites general liability, products liability and/or professional liability coverage for manufacturers, distributors and developers of biologics (antibodies & vaccines used for the prevention of disease), nutraceuticals (health,
nutrition and herbal supplements), human clinical trials, pharmaceuticals (mainly generics and over-the-counters) and medical devices. This division also writes a book of various types of business engaged in the medical and adult-use cannabis industry. We provide policy limits up to $11.0 million (up to $10.0 million on cannabis), with typical limits between $1.0 million and $5.0 million per occurrence, retaining up to $1.0 million in limit net. The underwriter at the head of this division has 37 years of experience in the industry.
Commercial Auto underwrites primarily the hired and non-owned auto liability exposures for a variety of industry segments including package delivery services, food delivery services and livery service organizations, and has developed a particular niche for insuring organizations' operating networks connecting independent contractors with customers (transportation network companies and similar usage-based networks). On December 31, 2019, we terminated coverage for our largest commercial auto insured (Rasier) which comprised $374.2 million of gross written premiums, representing 40.6% of the Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s gross written premiums and 25.4% of our consolidated gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2019. The head underwriter in this division has 33 years of experience. Limits assumed are retained by the Company, in some cases subject to self-insured retentions of the insureds.
Allied Health underwrites casualty insurance for allied health and social service types of risks, such as long-term care facilities, independent living apartments, group homes, half-way houses and shelters, drug rehabilitation, home health care and medical staffing enterprises. We provide policy limits up to $11.0 million, with typical limits between $1.0 million and $5.0 million per occurrence, retaining up to $1.0 million in limit net. The underwriter responsible for this unit has 27 years of experience in the business. Approximately 89% of the premiums written by our Allied Health division from inception through 2020 have been written on a claims made and reported form. We believe this policy form significantly reduces our long-term exposure in this complicated class of business.
Small Business concentrates on accounts with annual primary liability insurance premiums of less than $10,000. For these smaller risks, we limit flexibility in coverage options and pricing to facilitate quick turnaround and efficient processing. We generally write $1.0 million per occurrence limits and retain the entire amount. The underwriter leading this division has 27 years of industry experience.
Environmental underwrites contractors’ pollution liability, products pollution liability, site specific pollution liability and consultant’s professional liability coverage on a stand-alone basis and in conjunction with the general liability coverage. The underwriter heading our Environmental division has more than 35 years of experience in the business. Typically, we write environmental coverage for contractors who are not engaged in environmental remediation work on an occurrence form. We provide policy limits up to $11.0 million, with typical limits between $1.0 million and $5.0 million per occurrence, retaining up to $1.0 million in limit net on a primary or excess basis.
Professional Liability writes professional liability coverage for accountants, architects, engineers, lawyers and certain other professions. We provide policy limits up to $11.0 million, with typical limits between $1.0 million and $5.0 million per occurrence, retaining up to $1.0 million in limit net. The individual who directs our professional liability division has 27 years of industry experience. All of our professional liability coverage is written on a claims made and reported basis.
Sports and Entertainment underwrites primary liability coverage for sports and entertainment related risks, including special events, family entertainment centers, tourist attractions, health clubs and sport teams, leagues and complexes. Typical limits offered are up to $1.0 million per occurrence, and we retain the entire $1.0 million limit. The underwriter at the head of this division has 33 years of experience in the industry.
Medical Professionals underwrites non-standard physicians’ professional liability for individuals or small groups. Our healthcare business is a mix of both surgical and non-surgical classes. We typically provide between $1.0 million and $3.0 million per occurrence limits and retain up to $1.0 million of exposure per occurrence and cede the balance to our reinsurers. All of the policies written by this division have been issued on a claims-made and reported basis. The underwriter leading this division has 27 years of experience.
The following table identifies the top producing states by amount of gross written premium for our Excess and Surplus Lines segment for the year ended December 31, 2020 and the amount of gross written premium produced by such states for the years ended December 31, 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016. The table also shows the percentage of each states’ gross written
premium to total gross written premium in the Excess and Surplus Lines segment for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018.
|% of |
|% of |
|% of |
|California||$||136,532 ||19.5 ||%||$||368,488 ||40.0 ||%||$||213,729 ||32.6 ||%||$||153,340 ||$||114,107 |
|New York||108,778 ||15.6 ||%||89,680 ||9.7 ||%||54,417 ||8.3 ||%||47,585 ||39,407 |
|Florida||104,120 ||14.9 ||%||67,700 ||7.3 ||%||47,918 ||7.3 ||%||55,502 ||35,765 |
|Texas||79,338 ||11.4 ||%||51,978 ||5.6 ||%||31,604 ||4.8 ||%||29,567 ||26,708 |
|Pennsylvania||19,008 ||2.7 ||%||16,206 ||1.8 ||%||8,562 ||1.3 ||%||12,041 ||8,666 |
|New Jersey||17,621 ||2.5 ||%||13,425 ||1.5 ||%||12,147 ||1.9 ||%||17,486 ||11,150 |
|Washington||16,407 ||2.4 ||%||16,573 ||1.8 ||%||17,329 ||2.6 ||%||13,697 ||10,270 |
|Illinois||16,243 ||2.3 ||%||14,491 ||1.6 ||%||20,893 ||3.2 ||%||25,853 ||16,548 |
|Louisiana||13,968 ||2.0 ||%||16,001 ||1.7 ||%||12,654 ||1.9 ||%||8,508 ||6,584 |
|Massachusetts||13,762 ||2.0 ||%||34,494 ||3.7 ||%||19,758 ||3.0 ||%||13,587 ||8,496 |
|Arizona||12,782 ||1.8 ||%||9,023 ||1.0 ||%||5,160 ||0.8 ||%||8,302 ||6,220 |
|Georgia||11,934 ||1.7 ||%||10,936 ||1.2 ||%||9,120 ||1.4 ||%||15,787 ||7,464 |
|Missouri||10,080 ||1.4 ||%||14,628 ||1.6 ||%||9,424 ||1.4 ||%||5,729 ||3,572 |
|Ohio||9,210 ||1.3 ||%||10,537 ||1.1 ||%||13,043 ||2.0 ||%||8,283 ||4,701 |
|Virginia||8,932 ||1.3 ||%||23,563 ||2.6 ||%||15,532 ||2.4 ||%||10,741 ||6,534 |
|All other states||120,428 ||17.2 ||%||164,597 ||17.8 ||%||165,248 ||25.1 ||%||104,112 ||64,652 |
|Total||$||699,143 ||100.0 ||%||$||922,320 ||100.0 ||%||$||656,538 ||100.0 ||%||$||530,120 ||$||370,844 |
Marketing and Distribution
The Excess and Surplus Lines segment distributes its products through a select group of authorized E&S lines brokers we believe can consistently produce reasonable volumes of quality business. These brokers procure policies for their clients from us as well as from other insurance companies. At December 31, 2020, the segment had authorized 111 broker groups to submit applications to us. The Excess and Surplus Lines segment generally makes broker authorizations by brokerage office and underwriting division. The segment does not grant its brokers underwriting or claims authority. The segment does delegate limited authority under several programs underwritten by exclusive General Agents as well as a growing number of General Agents underwriting small-account commercial risks through our online contract binding portal.
Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment selects its brokers based upon management’s review of the experience, knowledge and business plan of each broker. While many of our Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s brokers have more than one office, we evaluate each office as if it were a separate entity. Brokers must be able to demonstrate an ability to competently produce both the quality and quantity of business that we seek. Brokers unable to produce consistently profitable business, or who produce unacceptably low volumes of business, may be terminated. Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s underwriters regularly visit with brokers in their offices to discuss the products that we offer and the needs of the brokers. We believe the personal relationships we foster with individual brokers and our ability to respond to a wide variety of risks placed by these brokers make us an important market for them.
Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s three largest brokers produced $452.2 million of gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020, representing approximately 64.7% of the Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s gross written premiums and 36.0% of consolidated gross written premiums for 2020. The three largest brokers produced $165.8 million (Truist Insurance Holdings), $157.5 million (AmWins Group), and $128.9 million (Ryan Specialty Group) of gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020, respectively, representing 23.7%, 22.5%, and 18.4% of the Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s gross written premiums and 13.2%, 12.5%, and 10.3% of consolidated gross written premiums for 2020, respectively.
In 2020 and 2019, our Excess and Surplus Lines segment paid an average commission to producers of 15.1% and 10.7%, respectively, of gross written premiums. This difference in commission reflects the change in our mix of business resulting from the termination of our Commercial Auto program with Rasier effective December 31, 2019.
Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s staff includes over 175 individuals directly employed in underwriting policies as of December 31, 2020. We are very selective about the policies we bind. Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment binds approximately 3% of new submissions and one out of every five new quotes. We realize all excess and surplus lines applications have already been rejected by the standard market. If our underwriters cannot reasonably expect to bind coverage at the combination of premiums and coverage that meet our standards, they are encouraged to quickly move on to another prospective opportunity. For the year ended December 31, 2020, we received approximately 304,000 submissions (new and renewal, excluding commercial auto policies), quoted over 62,000 policies and bound over 22,000 policies.
When we accept risk in our Excess and Surplus Lines segment, we are careful to establish terms that are suited to the risk and the pricing. As an excess and surplus lines writer, we use our freedom of rate and form to make it possible to take on risks that have already been rejected by admitted carriers who have determined they cannot insure these risks on approved forms at filed rates. We attempt to craft policies that offer affordable protection to our insureds by tailoring coverage in ways that make potential losses more predictable and are intended to reduce claims costs.
We design our internal processing and data collection systems to provide our management team with accurate and relevant information in real-time. We collect premium, commission and claims data, including detailed information regarding policy price, terms, conditions and the nature of the insured’s business. This data allows us to analyze trends in our business, including results by individual broker, underwriter and class of business and expand or contract our operations quickly in response to market conditions. We rely on our information technology systems in this process. Additionally, the claims staff also contributes to our underwriting operations through its communication of claims information to our underwriters.
We believe that effective management of claims settlement and any associated litigation avoids delays and associated additional costs.
Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment’s claims department consists of over 150 claims professionals as of December 31, 2020 with significant claims experience in the property-casualty industry.
Our excess and surplus lines business generally results in claims from premises/operations liability, professional liability, hired and non-owned auto liability, auto physical damage, first party property losses and products liability. We believe the key to effective claims management is timely and thorough claims investigation. We seek to complete all investigations and adjust reserves appropriately as soon as is practicable after the receipt of a claim. We seek to manage the number of claims per adjuster to allow adjusters sufficient time to investigate and resolve claims. Senior management reviews each case above a specified amount at least quarterly to evaluate whether the key issues in the case are being considered and to monitor case reserve levels. We keep the settlement authority of front-line adjusters low to ensure the practice of having two or more members of the department participate in the decision as to whether to settle or defend. In addition, cases with unusual damage, liability or policy interpretation issues are subjected to peer reviews. Members of the underwriting staff participate in this process. Prior to any scheduled mediation or trial involving a claim, claims personnel conduct further peer review to make sure all issues and exposures have been adequately analyzed.
Our claims staff also contributes to our underwriting operations through communication of claims information to our underwriters. The Senior Vice President and Chief Claims Officer heads our forms committee, which reviews and develops all policy forms and exclusions, and is also a member of the underwriting review committee.
Approximately 95% of all claims received are closed within five years in the Excess and Surplus Lines segment.
The calendar year net loss ratios for the Excess and Surplus Lines segment for the last ten years were:
The 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017 calendar year loss ratios for the Excess and Surplus Lines segment were impacted by adverse reserve development of $91.4 million, $57.4 million, $20.7 million and $38.7 million, respectively, in the commercial auto line of business. The adverse development was primarily related to the 2016, 2017, and 2018 contract years with Rasier.
Specialty Admitted Insurance Segment
The Falls Lake Insurance Companies (“Falls Lake”) comprise our other U.S. insurance segment, Specialty Admitted Insurance. Falls Lake consists of Falls Lake National Insurance Company (an Ohio domiciled company, licensed in 48 states and the District of Columbia and registered as a surplus lines company in California), and its subsidiaries Stonewood Insurance Company (a North Carolina domiciled company) and Falls Lake Fire and Casualty Company (a California domiciled company). The Specialty Admitted Insurance segment produced 32.5% of consolidated gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020.
Our plan is to continue to use our broad licensure and significant management expertise to earn substantial fee income as well as underwriting profits. The Specialty Admitted Insurance segment consists of:
• Individual risk workers’ compensation business, underwritten by our staff and generated by appointed agents in 15 states, that produced 15.6% of 2020 gross written premiums in this segment, (16.4% in 2019, 14.8% in 2018, 13.9% in 2017, 21.7% in 2016, and 39.5% in 2015); and
• Fronting and program business written through selected MGAs, insurance carriers, and other producers, which represented 84.4% of 2020 gross written premiums in this segment, (83.6% in 2019, 85.2% in 2018, 86.1% in 2017, 78.3% in 2016, and 60.5% in 2015).
Traditional Workers’ Compensation Business
Our individual risk workers’ compensation business, produced through a distribution channel comprised of appointed independent retail agents and a limited number of appointed wholesale brokers, remains a regionally focused effort in select Southeastern U.S. states. We made the strategic decision in 2020 to focus our efforts towards the Southeast, and to substantially reduce our presence in other states. This decision was based upon a wide range of factors, including ability to exceed internal performance metrics, regulations regarding pricing and cost containment, and our agent relationships. For the year ended December 31, 2020, approximately 34% of our retail produced workers’ compensation direct written premiums were in North Carolina, 18% were in Georgia, 14% were in Virginia, and 12% were in Missouri. Building trades represented approximately 31% of the direct premiums in force in our retail produced workers’ compensation book in 2020. Other significant industry groups include specialty transportation (15%), healthcare employees (14%), goods and services (14%), manufacturing (12%), and agriculture (7%). We view our retail produced workers’ compensation business as a core competency and seek to make consistent underwriting profits from it. We recognize the cyclical nature of this line and are prepared to contract the business rapidly when rates decline, or the regulatory or economic environment makes it difficult to contain costs.
Fronting & Program Business
In our fronting business we issue insurance policies for another insurance company which may not have the licensure, product suite or rating to serve its desired market, or for a program supported by reinsurance or alternative capital provider(s). We generally retain 10%-20% of the underwriting risk in our fronting business. The issuance of our policy makes us contractually responsible to the insured in the event they experience a covered loss. We enter into these arrangements selectively with counterparties which have significant experience and market presence in their desired segment of property-casualty, workers' compensation or automobile business. Underwriting, claims and financial performance is subject to regular review by our staff, and we hold appropriate collateral to manage counterparty credit risk. We specifically grant limited authority for underwriting and claims administration and employ a rigorous review process to ensure the authority is appropriately used within the terms of our contract, and that collateral held by us is appropriate as determined by our personnel. We charge fees as a percentage of gross written premiums for issuing these policies. We establish fronting opportunities through a variety of sources, including direct carrier relationships, MGAs and reinsurance brokers.
Due to our broad licensure and product filings, we are positioned to support this business on a broad basis throughout the United States. Because of the limited capital allocation required to support it, we believe the fronting business represents an efficient use of capital, and we continued to expand this business in 2020. Two fronting agencies produced $125.5 million (Atlas General Insurance Services) and $46.4 million of gross written premiums in 2020, representing 10.0% and 3.7% of consolidated gross written premiums and 30.7% and 11.4% of the Specialty Admitted Insurance segment's gross written premiums, respectively. Our fronting business saw growth related to eight new fronting relationships added in 2020 that generated $35.0 million of gross written premium in the year ended December 31, 2020.
Our objective over time is to utilize the combination of fee income and underwriting profits from our Specialty Admitted Insurance segment to leverage our capital and enhance returns on tangible equity. Additionally, we expect that this fee income,
which was $19.3 million in 2020, $15.8 million in 2019, and $14.8 million in 2018, will be increasingly material in future periods and provide us with a steady revenue stream.
In a fronting arrangement, we give selected MGAs authority to act on our behalf to produce, underwrite and administer policies that meet our strict underwriting and pricing guidelines. We enter into these arrangements selectively with agents who have significant experience and market presence in specialty classes of property-casualty and automobile risks. Underwriting, claims and financial performance is subject to regular review by our staff. We only work with MGAs who permit us to actively engage with them through a combination of onsite and offsite resources to facilitate our real-time supervision of their work. We specifically grant limited authority for underwriting and claims administration and employ a rigorous review process to ensure the authority is appropriately used.
We focus our coverage on casualty risks in our fronting business, although some property insurance is written. We seek to limit our risk generally through reinsurance either on a proportional or excess of loss basis, or sometimes both. For initial claims oversight and administration, we generally outsource frequency layer claims management to third-party administrators for the first $50,000 of a claim, and then provide supervisory control above this amount.
Under the terms of these program agreements, we pay fixed commissions, often with a profit contingency. Our fronting business is distributed primarily through MGAs and program managers.
Excluding our Atlas program, we have fifteen active fronting arrangements as of December 31, 2020. During 2020, these arrangements represented 52.7% of the segment’s gross written premium.
Casualty Reinsurance Segment
We report our business of writing reinsurance for third party insurance companies in our Casualty Reinsurance segment (representing 11.9% of consolidated gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020). We participate in the reinsurance business through our Bermuda domiciled reinsurance subsidiary, JRG Re, which is a Class 3B reinsurer. JRG Re provides proportional and working layer excess of loss treaty reinsurance to third parties and, through December 31, 2017, also to our U.S.-based insurance subsidiaries. For purposes of management evaluation, this segment’s underwriting results only include premiums ceded by, and losses incurred with respect to, business assumed from unaffiliated companies and does not include premiums and losses ceded under the internal reinsurance arrangements.
Our Casualty Reinsurance segment underwrote $149.2 million in gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020, 97.0% of which consisted of E&S risks. Of those third-party premiums written by JRG Re, 72.1% is classified by the company as general liability and 18.1% as non-medical professional liability, with the balance primarily related to excess casualty and commercial auto coverages. We typically structure our reinsurance treaties as quota share arrangements with loss and risk mitigating features that align our interest with that of the ceding companies. On a premium volume basis, treaties with loss mitigation features including sliding scale ceding commissions represented 68.3% of the third-party net written premiums during 2020 and treaties written as “proportional” arrangements represented 94.8%. We purchase very little retrocessional coverage in this segment. Almost all of the segment’s premiums are for casualty lines of business. The Casualty Reinsurance segment writes virtually no reinsurance designed to respond specifically to natural catastrophes.
The Casualty Reinsurance segment’s three largest brokers generated $55.8 million, $34.9 million, and $22.4 million of gross written premiums, respectively, representing 75.8% of the segment’s gross written premiums in the year ended December 31, 2020. The Casualty Reinsurance segment’s three largest relationships with unaffiliated ceding companies generated $127.2 million of gross written premiums ($85.1 million, $23.1 million, and $19.1 million, respectively) representing 10.1% of consolidated gross written premiums and 85.3% of the Casualty Reinsurance segment's gross written premiums for the year ended December 31, 2020.
Underwriting profits and investment income earned by JRG Re are exempt from U.S. taxation. We do, however, pay a 1% U.S. Federal excise tax on premiums ceded to JRG Re. At December 31, 2020, JRG Re invested assets made up 43.7% of our total invested assets.
Corporate and Other Segment
Our Chief Executive Officer, President and Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer and other holding company employees are part of the Corporate and Other segment. This is where we set and direct strategy for the group as a whole as well as high level objectives for each of the three operating segments. We make all capital management, capital allocation, treasury functions, information technology and group wide risk management decisions in this segment. Our decisions at this level also include reinsurance purchasing.
Purchase of Reinsurance
We routinely purchase reinsurance for our Excess and Surplus Lines and Specialty Admitted Insurance segments and, less frequently purchase retrocessional coverage for our Casualty Reinsurance segment. The purchase of reinsurance reduces
volatility by limiting our exposure to large losses and provides capacity for growth. In a reinsurance transaction, an insurance company transfers, or cedes, all or part of its exposure in return for a portion of the premium. In a retrocession transaction, a reinsurer transfers, or cedes, all or part of its exposure in return for a portion of the premium. Our companies remain legally responsible for the entire obligation to policyholders and ceding companies, irrespective of any reinsurance or retrocession coverage we may purchase. Typically, we pay claims from our own funds and then seek reimbursement from the reinsurer or retrocessionaire, as applicable. There is credit exposure with respect to losses ceded to the extent that any reinsurer or retrocessionaire is unable or unwilling to meet the obligations ceded by us under reinsurance or retrocessional treaties. The ability to collect on reinsurance or retrocessional reinsurance is subject to many factors, including the solvency of the counterparty and their interpretation of contract language and other factors. As of December 31, 2020, we have no material, ongoing disputes with any reinsurer or retrocessionaire, and we are not aware of any credit quality issues with any of our reinsurers or retrocessionaires at December 31, 2020.
Purchased Property Reinsurance
Our focus on return on tangible equity leads us to avoid lines of business that we know are exposed to high degrees of volatility. The Excess and Surplus Lines segment writes a limited book of excess property risks (approximately $37.3 million direct written premiums in 2020). The risks assumed in this book are geographically dispersed and significantly reinsured to limit losses. The Excess and Surplus Lines segment may retain up to $5.0 million per risk on our excess property book; however, the average retained amount per risk is approximately $1.9 million. In our Specialty Admitted Insurance segment, we focus on casualty business, but we do write a limited amount of property insurance, principally through our fronting and programs business. The focus in our Casualty Reinsurance segment is also primarily casualty business, but we do have a relatively small amount of assumed business with property exposure.
In our Excess and Surplus Lines segment, we purchased a surplus share reinsurance treaty specifically designed to cover property risks. The surplus share treaty along with facultative reinsurance helps ensure that our net retained limit per risk will be $5.0 million or less. Additionally, we purchased catastrophe reinsurance of $40.0 million in excess of a $5.0 million retention for the group that is intended to cover the 1 in 1,000 year modeled aggregate PML on the segment’s excess property book. We buy such high limits because we believe the property catastrophe models are less accurate when applied to small books of business like ours than when applied to larger portfolios. Where the Specialty Admitted Insurance segment incurs incidental property risks in its program book of business, the segment has purchased coverage for $4.0 million in excess of $1.0 million per occurrence, in addition to the protection provided under the corporate $40.0 million in excess of $5.0 million catastrophe treaty. This is also intended to cover the 1 in 1,000 year modeled aggregate PML on any property exposures the Specialty Admitted Insurance segment assumes. In our Casualty Reinsurance segment, we believe that our maximum loss from a catastrophic event is approximately $2.0 million and, as a result, we do not currently purchase retrocessional reinsurance coverage for property-catastrophe risks. We believe our pre-tax group-wide PML from a 1 in 1,000 year catastrophic event is approximately $10.0 million, inclusive of reinstatement premiums payable.
Purchased Casualty Reinsurance
In our Excess and Surplus Lines segment, there are five divisions where we only write $1.0 million per occurrence limits (Commercial Auto, Manufacturers and Contractors, General Casualty, Small Business and Sports and Entertainment), and therefore, we do not purchase any specific reinsurance for these policies. In the other divisions, where we issue policies with larger limits, we purchase reinsurance in excess of $1.0 million per occurrence.
In our Specialty Admitted Insurance segment, there are two distinct reinsurance strategies. For individual risk workers' compensation, we purchase $29.0 million excess of $1.0 million per occurrence; and, effective January 1, 2020, we also purchased a 70% quota share coverage of the primary $1.0 million. For our fronting and program business, we purchase proportional reinsurance and excess of loss reinsurance to limit our exposure to no more than $500,000 per occurrence.
For both our Excess and Surplus Lines segment and our Specialty Admitted Insurance segment, we purchase a clash and contingency reinsurance treaty that covers all casualty business for $10.0 million in excess of $2.0 million per occurrence. This coverage is intended to respond in a situation where we have multiple insured losses from the same event as well as extra contractual obligations or excess policy limits on an individual occurrence basis. Effective January 1, 2020, we purchased an additional $10.0 million in claims made coverage for excess policy limits and extra contractual obligations exposures above the clash and contingency treaty for the period 2014 to present.
In our Casualty Reinsurance segment, we currently purchase quota share retrocessional reinsurance in support of an individual assumed treaty where an expense override is achieved. In prior periods, we have purchased proportional and excess of loss retrocessional coverage for particular situations related to specific treaties, but have only done so on a limited basis.
For 2020, our top ten reinsurers represented 73.7% of our total ceded reinsurance recoverables, and all of these reinsurance recoverables were from reinsurers with an A.M. Best rating of “A+” (Superior), are collateralized with letters of credit or by a trust agreement, or represent recoverables from a state residual market for automobile insurance. The following table sets forth our ten most significant reinsurers by amount of reinsurance recoverables on unpaid losses and the amount of reinsurance recoverables pertaining to each such reinsurer as well as its A.M. Best rating as of December 31, 2020:
Recoverable as of
December 31, 2020
|A.M. Best Rating|
December 31, 2020
|Swiss Reinsurance America Corporation||$||250,869 ||A+|
|Berkley Insurance Company||83,076 ||A+|
|Safety National Casualty||51,351 ||A+|
|Hannover Ruck SE||35,848 ||A+|
|Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance Company||33,977 ||A+|
|Munich Reinsurance America||32,947 ||A+|
|North Carolina Reinsurance Facility||28,355 |
|American European Insurance Company||27,873 |
|Endurance Assurance Corporation||27,626 ||A+|
|Partner Reinsurance Company||22,267 ||A+|
|Top 10 Total||594,189 |
(1) This reinsurer is below A-. All material reinsurance recoverable amounts from this reinsurer are collateralized.
(2) The North Carolina Reinsurance Facility is a residual market mechanism for automobile insurance in North Carolina.
Amounts Recoverable from an Indemnifying Party
The Company previously issued a set of insurance contracts to Rasier under which the Company pays losses and loss adjustment expenses on the contracts. The Company has indemnity agreements with Rasier (non-insurance entities) and is contractually entitled to receive reimbursement for a significant portion of the losses and loss adjustment expenses paid on behalf of Rasier and other expenses incurred by the Company. Rasier is required to collateralize all amounts currently due to the Company and to provide additional collateral sufficient to cover the amounts that may be recoverable under the indemnity agreements, including, among other things, case loss and loss adjustment expense reserves, IBNR loss and loss adjustment expense reserves, extra contractual obligations and excess of policy limits liabilities. The collateral is provided through a collateral trust arrangement established in favor of the Company by a captive insurance company affiliate of Rasier.
As permitted under our indemnification agreements with Rasier and the associated trust agreement, we have withdrawn the collateral posted to the trust account. At December 31, 2020, the Company held collateral funds of $859.9 million. The funds withdrawn from the trust account, currently invested in short term U.S. Treasury securities and included in restricted cash equivalents on the Company's consolidated balance sheet, will be used to reimburse the Company for the losses and loss adjustment expenses paid on behalf of Rasier and other related expenses incurred by the Company to the extent not paid as required under the indemnity agreements.
The Company has ongoing exposure to estimated losses and expenses on these contracts growing at a faster pace than growth in our collateral balances. In addition, we have credit exposure if our estimates of future losses and loss adjustment expenses and other amounts recoverable, which are the basis for establishing collateral balances, are lower than actual amounts paid or payable. The amount of our credit exposure in any of these instances could be material. To mitigate these risks, we closely and frequently monitor our exposure compared to our collateral held, and we request additional collateral when our analysis indicates that we have uncollateralized exposure.
We seek to establish reserves that will adequately meet our obligations. We have eight credentialed actuaries on staff, and we engage independent actuarial consultants to review our decisions regarding reserves.
We maintain reserves for specific claims incurred and reported, reserves for claims incurred but not reported (“IBNR”) and reserves for uncollectible reinsurance when appropriate. Our ultimate liability may be greater or less than current reserves. In the insurance industry, there is always the risk that reserves may prove inadequate. We continually monitor reserves using new information on reported claims and a variety of statistical techniques and adjust our estimates as experience develops or new information becomes known. Such adjustments (referred to as reserve development) are included in current operations. Anticipated inflation is reflected implicitly in the reserving process through analysis of cost trends and the review of historical development. We do not discount our reserves for losses and loss adjustment expenses to reflect estimated present value.
When setting our reserves, we use a blend of actuarial techniques that are chosen to reflect the nature of the lines of insurance we underwrite. We seek to be consistent and transparent in establishing our reserves.
In many cases, several years may elapse between the occurrence of an insured loss, the reporting of the loss and our eventual payment of the loss. We establish loss and loss adjustment expense reserves for the ultimate payment of all losses and loss adjustment expenses incurred. We estimate the reserve for losses and loss adjustment expenses using individual case-basis valuations of reported claims. We also use statistical analyses to estimate the cost of losses that have been incurred but not reported to us. These estimates are based on historical information and on estimates of future trends that may affect the frequency of claims and changes in the average cost of claims that may arise in the future. We also consider various factors such as:
• Loss emergence and insured reporting patterns;
• Underlying policy terms and conditions;
• Business and exposure mix;
• Trends in claim frequency and severity;
• Changes in operations;
• Emerging economic and social trends;
• Changes in the regulatory and litigation environments; and
• Discussions with third-party actuarial consultants.
The procedures we use to estimate loss reserves assume that past experience, adjusted for the effects of current developments and anticipated trends, is an appropriate basis for predicting future events. It also assumes that adequate historical or other data exists upon which to make these judgments. These estimates are by their nature subjective and imprecise, and ultimate losses and loss adjustment expenses may vary from established reserves.
Our Reserve Committees consist of our Chief Actuary, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, and Chief Accounting Officer. Additionally, the presidents, chief financial officers and chief actuaries of each of our three insurance segments are also members of the Reserve Committee for their respective segments. The Reserve Committees meet quarterly to review the actuarial recommendations made by each chief actuary and use their best judgment to determine the best estimate to be recorded for the reserve for losses and loss adjustment expenses on our quarterly balance sheet.
The following table reflects our favorable (adverse) reserve development by segment during the calendar years 2020 to 2011 individually and in aggregate.
|3,822 ||(4,185)||23,716 |
|3,531 ||(12,637)||16,318 |
|5,854 ||(5,719)||27,418 |
|1,410 ||(4,692)||37,452 |
|2011||21,034 ||1,712 ||(2,835)||19,911 |
|Cumulative Development||$||13,031 ||$||29,975 ||$||(119,940)||$||(76,934)|
(1) Includes $91.4 million of adverse development in the commercial auto line of business that was primarily related to the 2018 and prior contract years with Rasier, partially offset by $32.0 million of favorable development from other divisions.
(2) Includes $57.4 million of adverse development in the commercial auto line of business that was primarily related to the 2016 and 2017 contract years with Rasier, partially offset by $6.2 million of favorable development from other divisions.
(3) Includes $20.7 million of adverse development in the commercial auto line of business that was primarily related to the 2016 contract year with Rasier, partially offset by $5.7 million of favorable development from other divisions.
(4) Includes $38.7 million of adverse development in the commercial auto line of business that was primarily related to the 2016 contract year with Rasier, partially offset by $18.6 million of favorable development from other divisions primarily from the 2014 through 2016 accident years.
(5) Includes $10.0 million of favorable development from the 2015 accident year, $10.7 million from the 2014 accident year and $4.5 million from the 2013 accident year.
(6) Includes $17.3 million and $10.5 million of favorable development from the 2014 and 2013 accident year, respectively.
(7) Includes $7.9 million of favorable development from the 2011 accident year, $4.2 million from the 2007 accident year and $5.0 million from the 2009 accident year.
(8) Includes $11.8 million of favorable development from the 2009 accident year, $7.3 million of favorable development from the 2007 accident year and $5.8 million of favorable development from the 2008 accident year.
(9) Includes $8.0 million of favorable development from the 2009 accident year, $4.3 million of favorable development from the 2008 accident year and $4.1 million of favorable development from the 2007 accident year.
(10) Includes adverse development primarily related to accident years 2014 through 2018. This adverse development was mainly in the general liability and commercial auto lines of business.
(11) Includes adverse development primarily related to accident years 2011 through 2016. This adverse development was mainly in the general liability and commercial auto lines of business.
(12) Includes $9.0 million of adverse development on assumed crop business almost entirely from the 2011 accident year and $7.6 million of adverse development on other assumed business.
Among the indicators of reserve strength that we monitor closely are the number of claims outstanding from a given year and the amount of IBNR reserves held on our balance sheet for claims that have been incurred but not yet reported to us. As a general rule, every known claim has a specific case reserve established against it which management believes is adequate to resolve the claim and pay attendant expenses based on information available at the time.
A significant portion of reported claims from prior policy years were closed at December 31, 2020. The table below sets forth the percentage of claims closed by policy year for our Excess and Surplus Lines and Specialty Admitted Insurance segments for the policy years indicated.
|Percentage of Claims Closed at December 31, 2020|
|Policy Year||Excess and|
|2004||100.0 ||%||— ||100.0 ||%||— |
|2005||100.0 ||%||— ||100.0 ||%||— |
|2006||99.9 ||%||— ||100.0 ||%||— |
|2007||99.5 ||%||— ||100.0 ||%||— |
|2008||99.7 ||%||— ||99.8 ||%||— |
|2009||99.0 ||%||— ||99.9 ||%||— |
|2010||99.5 ||%||— ||100.0 ||%||— |
|2011||99.5 ||%||— ||99.8 ||%||— |
|2012||97.9 ||%||— ||100.0 ||%||— |
|2013||97.4 ||%||99.8 ||%||100.0 ||%||98.8 ||%|
|2014||94.8 ||%||99.8 ||%||100.0 ||%||98.5 ||%|
|2015||94.0 ||%||99.7 ||%||99.9 ||%||98.0 ||%|
|2016||89.6 ||%||99.4 ||%||99.3 ||%||95.6 ||%|
|2017||86.1 ||%||98.3 ||%||98.4 ||%||91.8 ||%|
|2018||88.6 ||%||96.5 ||%||92.3 ||%||87.9 ||%|
|2019||80.7 ||%||94.5 ||%||72.8 ||%||80.3 ||%|
Another indicator of reserve strength that we monitor closely is the percentage of our gross and net loss reserves that are comprised of IBNR reserves. The table below sets forth our IBNR, total gross reserves and the percentage that IBNR represents of the total gross reserves, in each case by segment and in the aggregate, at December 31, 2020. The percentage that IBNR represents of total gross reserves at December 31, 2020 is 58.7%.
|Gross Reserves at December 31, 2020|
% of Total
|Excess and Surplus Lines||$||741,585 ||$||1,276,054 ||58.1 ||%|
|Specialty Admitted Insurance||356,615 ||600,309 ||59.4 ||%|
|Casualty Reinsurance||188,093 ||315,717 ||59.6 ||%|
|Total||$||1,286,293 ||$||2,192,080 ||58.7 ||%|
The table below sets forth our IBNR, total net reserves (prior to the $335,000 allowance for credit losses on reinsurance recoverables) and the percentage that IBNR represents of the total net reserves, in each case by segment and in the aggregate, at December 31, 2020. The percentage that IBNR represents of total net reserves at December 31, 2020 is 55.3%.
|Net Reserves at December 31, 2020|
% of Total
|Excess and Surplus Lines||$||527,537 ||$||983,354 ||53.6 ||%|
|Specialty Admitted Insurance||56,473 ||94,893 ||59.5 ||%|
|Casualty Reinsurance||182,308 ||307,814 ||59.2 ||%|
|Total||$||766,318 ||$||1,386,061 ||55.3 ||%|
We attempt to generate better than market average risk-adjusted returns in our investment portfolio by taking measured risks based upon detailed knowledge of certain niche asset classes. While we are willing to make investments in non-traditional types of investments, we avoid risks that we do not understand well, as well as structures or situations we think could cause substantial loss of capital. The vast majority of our investment portfolio is managed by third party, independent investment managers.
The majority of our investment portfolio is invested in what we refer to as our Core Portfolio of investment grade fixed income securities. This portfolio provides predictable income with low risk of principal loss. We seek to augment the return on the Core Portfolio by investing in bank loans and other higher yielding securities, including dividend paying common equities and private investments. We designed these strategies to improve our investment return, and we are focused on opportunistic investing in areas where we believe our management, directors or employees have expertise or appropriate understanding of the risk and return of the investment.
Our strategy is designed to earn higher returns than an investment grade fixed income approach alone while maintaining a high average portfolio credit rating and investing in asset classes and allocations that are consistent with the insurance regulatory and rating agency framework within which we operate. We generally focus on securities that provide some current income.
As a result of affiliated and third party reinsurance contracts, we have a significant asset base at JRG Reinsurance Company Ltd, which is domiciled in Bermuda and is not subject to U.S. corporate taxation. At December 31, 2020, 43.7% of our invested assets were held at JRG Re.
Our long term premium growth has allowed us to build our asset base. Cash and invested assets, excluding restricted cash equivalents, represents 4.1 times our tangible equity as of December 31, 2020.
A summary of our investment portfolio at December 31, 2020 is as follows:
|December 31, 2020|
|Portfolio||Book Value||Market Value||Carrying Value||Book Yield||% of Carrying|
|($ in thousands)|
|Core||$||1,804,344 ||$||1,892,875 ||$||1,892,875 ||2.39 ||%||84.9 ||%|
|Bank Loans||170,528 ||160,654 ||160,654 ||6.79 ||%||7.2 ||%|
|Incremental Yield||115,935 ||130,185 ||130,185 ||6.74 ||%||5.8 ||%|
|Private Investments||46,548 ||NA||2.1 ||%|
|Total||2,230,262 ||100.0 ||%|
|Less cash and cash equivalents in Core and Bank Loans||(33,204)|
|Total Invested Assets||$||2,197,058 |
We have generally managed our overall portfolio to a duration of 3 to 5 years. At December 31, 2020, the average duration of our investment portfolio was 3.8 years.
The Core Portfolio consists of cash, investment grade fixed income securities and a small dividend yield focused equity portfolio. Our objective in the Core Portfolio is to earn attractive risk-adjusted returns with a low risk of loss of principal. We use a third-party manager to manage the Core Portfolio.
The Bank Loan portfolio primarily consists of investments in participations in syndicated bank loans, but may also include a small allocation of bonds. Bank loans in our portfolio are generally senior secured loans with an average credit quality of “B” as of December 31, 2020 and floating interest rates based on spreads over LIBOR. We believe bank loans are an attractive asset class because (1) floating-rate loans help to reduce our risk of loss in the event of rising interest rates, (2) the loans are generally senior secured, (3) the asset class has a history of relatively high recovery rates in the event of default, (4) the portfolio provides an attractive yield and (5) the maturities of the loans are relatively short (average of approximately 5 years). We invest in this asset class by owning individual loan participations that are carried at fair market value. We have over ten years of experience in investing in this asset class through a third-party manager.
Incremental Yield Portfolio
The Incremental Yield Portfolio consists of investments in low investment grade and below investment grade bonds, preferred stocks, dividend paying common equities and exchange traded funds. The average credit quality of the fixed income securities in this portfolio as of December 31, 2020 is BBB. We generally invest in fixed income securities where we believe that risk of default is low relative to the potential yield on the securities. We own preferred stocks, generally in the financial services industry. In some instances, we will purchase exchange traded funds. However, these purchases are generally used as an effective means to get access to a high yielding asset class.
Private Investment Portfolio
We make selective investments in private debt or equity securities in areas where we see significant opportunity or attractive risk and return characteristics. We focus on investments where we believe we have an understanding of the risk and opportunity and have the ability to monitor them closely. At December 31, 2020, we held 10 private investments with a total carrying value of $46.5 million. Our portfolio consists of investments in wind and solar energy, banking, small cap equities, loans of middle market private equity sponsored companies, and tranches of distressed home loans. We are opportunistic in our private investment strategy and our portfolio may grow or shrink based on the opportunities available to us. Despite being only 2.1% of our portfolio, we believe our Private Investment Portfolio has added meaningful returns to our tangible equity. Our Private Investment strategy has significant risk and not all investments are successful. As a result, we intentionally keep this portfolio as a small portion of the overall investment portfolio.
Our recent total returns on our portfolio are as follows:
|2018||2019||2020||Trailing 3 years|
|Core||0.73 ||%||6.80 ||%||5.74 ||%||4.38 ||%|
|Bank Loans||3.82 ||%||3.56 ||%||7.46 ||%||4.93 ||%|
|Incremental||0.42 ||%||14.34 ||%||5.64 ||%||6.64 ||%|
|Total||1.32 ||%||6.87 ||%||5.88 ||%||4.54 ||%|
Total returns are calculated as the realized or unrealized gain or loss of an asset plus interest and dividends paid while the asset is held.
We consider a portion of our investment portfolio to be invested in non-traditional investments. We consider non-traditional investments to include investments that are (1) not rated fixed income securities (2) non-listed equities or (3) investments that generally have less liquidity than rated fixed income securities or listed equities. Non-traditional investments held at December 31, 2020 and their respective percentage of our total invested assets at such date consist of syndicated bank loans (6.7%) and private investments (2.1%). We will continue to actively review opportunities to invest in non-traditional assets and may invest in additional non-traditional assets in the future.
Our invested assets totaled $2,197.1 million as of December 31, 2020. The weighted average credit rating of our portfolio of fixed maturity securities, bank loans and preferred stocks as of December 31, 2020 was “A”. We have intentionally maintained a cautious interest rate risk position by having an average duration of 3.8 years at December 31, 2020. This compares to an average duration at December 31, 2019 of 3.3 years. Based on the current duration of 3.8 years, a 1.0% increase in interest rates would result in a pre-tax decline in the market value of our portfolio of approximately $83.0 million.
Insurance Cycle Management and Growth
The insurance and reinsurance business is cyclical in nature, with “hard” and “soft” cycles. Hard markets occur when insurance underwriters limit their exposure in a line of business or across their entire portfolio. When underwriters exercise restraint, insurance buyers are forced to pay more to induce underwriters to cover their risks. A hard market can also be created by economic expansions when capital committed to backing insurance policies does not grow as fast as the demand for insurance. There is generally a correlation between interest rates and the willingness of insurance companies to commit their capital to writing insurance. When fixed income yields are low, insurance companies need to raise insurance prices to improve underwriting results in order to offset loss of investment income.
We are currently in a growth phase for our U.S. primary operations. In both our Excess and Surplus Lines and Specialty Admitted Insurance segments, we are experiencing growth in premiums driven by favorable rates as well as increases in policy count and exposures. However, the growth in the Excess and Surplus Lines segment in 2020 was impacted by the termination of our insurance contracts with Rasier effective December 31, 2019. The Rasier account generated $374.2 million of gross written premium in 2019 and $0 in 2020. Excluding Rasier, E&S gross written premium increased 27.5% from $548.2 million in 2019 to $699.1 million in 2020. The table below shows the changes in gross written premiums we have experienced in our operating segments from 2018 through 2020.
|Gross Written Premiums||$||% Change||$||% Change||$||% Change|
|($ in thousands)|
|Excess and Surplus Lines||$||699,143 ||(24.2)||%||$||922,320 ||40.5 ||%||$||656,538 ||23.8 ||%|
|Specialty Admitted Insurance||408,691 ||5.4 ||%||387,642 ||3.6 ||%||374,346 ||18.3 ||%|
|Casualty Reinsurance||149,166 ||(7.2)||%||160,773 ||18.3 ||%||135,889 ||(42.3)||%|
|Total||$||1,257,000 ||(14.5)||%||$||1,470,735 ||26.1 ||%||$||1,166,773 ||7.8 ||%|
In years prior to those presented, the business written at our U.S. primary operations has, at times, been subject to “soft” market conditions, reflected both in price decreases and reduced underlying exposures. The recession in the United States from 2008 to 2010 was a significant driver of these soft market conditions.
Our Excess and Surplus Lines segment is the most sensitive to hard and soft markets. We have, therefore, sought to diversify this business by geography, line of business and revenue stream. From 2006 to 2010, we reduced the gross written premiums in this business from $249.1 million to $116.1 million, or 53.4%. While we have been growing this business and achieving increasing or stable rates for several periods through December 31, 2020, there will likely be periods in the future where our growth moderates, stagnates or turns negative. The market for most lines of commercial insurance, other than workers' compensation, are currently in a hardening phase.
The Excess and Surplus Lines segment has historically been able to make an underwriting profit regardless of the state of the underwriting cycle. This segment's weighted average combined ratio for 2011 through 2020 is 90.1%.
Traditionally, admitted insurance lines have been very susceptible to market cycles. We believe this trend is continuing. We seek to isolate ourselves from these trends in our Specialty Admitted Insurance segment by writing lines of business we believe are slightly less competitive, by prudently purchasing reinsurance and by being willing to dramatically reduce our writings when market conditions warrant.
A material portion of the profitability we seek to achieve from our fronting business will come from fee income that is generated via policies that are issued by our insurance companies and then mostly or wholly reinsured to third parties. Because we earn substantial fees from underwriting business on which we retain little or no insurance risk, this business can be profitable to us even in soft market conditions. We have $344.7 million of gross written premiums for fronting and program business for 2020 ($41.1 million on a net basis), and we expect our fee income will continue to grow in future periods and provide us with a steady revenue stream that will be relatively insulated from conditions in the admitted insurance market.
In the Casualty Reinsurance segment, we have the ability to manage the cycle by growing or shrinking our business according to market conditions and the corresponding prices and terms being offered for the assumption of specific risks. We have a small team of seven people in Bermuda who underwrite and administer the business written by JRG Re in Bermuda. Accordingly, our overhead is low and does not necessitate us growing this business from its current size.
We compete in a variety of markets against a variety of competitors depending on the nature of the risk and coverage being underwritten. The competition for any one account may range from large international firms to smaller regional companies in the domiciles in which we operate. To remain competitive, our strategy includes, among other measures: (1) focusing on rate adequacy and underwriting discipline, (2) leveraging our distribution network, (3) controlling expenses, (4) maintaining financial strength and issuer credit ratings and (5) providing quality services to agents and policyholders.
Excess and Surplus Lines
Competition within the E&S lines marketplace comes from a wide range of carriers. In addition to mature E&S companies that operate nationwide, there is competition from carriers formed in recent years. The Excess and Surplus Lines segment may also compete with national and regional carriers from the standard market willing to underwrite selected accounts on an admitted basis. Competitors in this segment include ACE Westchester Specialty Group, AmRisc Insurance Company (Truist), Apollo Syndicate, Alleghany Corporation, Arrowhead General Insurance Agency, Inc., Ategrity Specialty Insurance Company, Axis Insurance Company (Axis Capital Holdings Limited), Beazley Group (Lloyd’s), Brit Insurance (Lloyd’s), Colony Specialty Insurance Company (Argo Group International Holdings, Ltd.), Fairfax Financial Holdings, Ltd., Hiscox Insurance Company (Lloyd’s), Houston Casualty Company (a subsidiary of Tokio Marine HCC), Kinsale Capital Group, Lexington Insurance Company (American International Group, Inc.), Markel Corporation, Navigators Insurance Company (Hartford), OneBeacon (Intact Financial Corporation), QBE Insurance Group Ltd., RLI Corp., E&S/Specialty (Nationwide Mutual Group), Starr Insurance Company (C.V. Starr & Company), Swiss Re Ltd, United Specialty Insurance Company, W.R. Berkley, and other large national and multi-national insurance carriers. In addition, in the last twelve months, there are several newly formed
or repurposed start-up companies that are focusing on writing Excess and Surplus lines insurance and we expect will be competing with us for this business.
Specialty Admitted Insurance
Due to the diverse nature of the products offered by the Specialty Admitted Insurance segment, competition comes from various sources. The majority of the competition for our workers’ compensation business comes from regional companies or regional subsidiaries of national carriers in the domiciles in which they operate. National carriers tend to compete for fronting and program accounts along all product lines. Competitors in our workers’ compensation business include Builders Mutual Insurance Company, Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, W. R. Berkley Corporation, American Interstate Insurance Company (AMERISAFE, Inc.), and Amtrust Group. Competition for our fronting business includes but is not limited to State National (now part of Markel), Argo Group, Clear Blue, Spinnaker, Trisura, Red Point, Equity Insurance Company, Worth Insurance, and Amtrust. In addition, in the last 12 months, there are several newly formed fronting companies that we expect will be competing with us for this business.
The reinsurance industry is highly competitive. We expect to compete with major reinsurers, most of which are well-established, have a significant operating history and strong financial strength ratings and have developed long-standing client relationships. Competitors in this segment include AXA XL, Axis Re, MS Amlin, Odyssey Re, Sompo International Re, Swiss Re, Transatlantic Re, various Lloyd's syndicates, and other carriers that underwrite U.S. casualty reinsurance. In addition, in the last 12 months, there are several newly formed reinsurance companies that are planning on writing casualty reinsurance and we expect will be competing with us for this business.
Bermuda Insurance Regulation
The Insurance Act 1978 and related rules and regulations (the “Insurance Act”), which regulates the insurance business of both Carolina Re and JRG Re, provides that no person shall carry on insurance business in or from within Bermuda unless registered as an insurer under the Insurance Act by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (the “BMA”). The BMA, in deciding whether to grant registration, has broad discretion to act as it thinks fit in the public interest. The BMA is required by the Insurance Act to determine whether the applicant is a fit and proper body to be engaged in the insurance business and, in particular, whether it has, or has available to it, adequate knowledge and expertise. The registration of an applicant as an insurer is subject to its complying with the terms of its registration and such other conditions as the BMA may impose at any time.
It is not necessary that the insurance company be incorporated in Bermuda. A foreign corporation may obtain a permit under the Companies Act 1981 of Bermuda (the “Companies Act”) to carry on business in Bermuda and then be registered as an insurer in Bermuda under the Insurance Act.
The Insurance Act does not distinguish between insurers and reinsurers; companies are registered (licensed) under the Insurance Act as “insurers” (although in certain circumstances a condition to registration may be imposed to the effect that the company may carry on only reinsurance business). The Insurance Act uses the defined term “insurance business” to include reinsurance business.
The Insurance Act also grants to the BMA powers to supervise, investigate and intervene in the affairs of insurance companies.
An Insurance Advisory Committee appointed by the Bermuda Minister of Finance advises the BMA on matters connected with the discharge of the BMA’s functions and subcommittees thereof supervise, investigate and review the law and practice of insurance in Bermuda, including reviews of accounting and administrative procedures.
The Insurance Act imposes solvency and liquidity standards on Bermuda insurance companies, as well as auditing and reporting requirements.
Certain significant aspects of the Bermuda insurance regulatory framework applicable to Class 3A insurers and/or Class 3B insurers are set forth below.
Classification of Insurers
The Insurance Act distinguishes between insurers carrying on long-term business, insurers carrying on general business and insurers carrying on special purpose business. There are seven classifications of insurers carrying on general business, ranging from Class 1 insurers (pure captives) to Class 4 insurers (large commercial underwriters). Carolina Re is licensed as a Class 3A insurer and JRG Re is licensed as a Class 3B insurer and each is regulated as such under the Insurance Act.
Minimum Paid-Up Share Capital
A Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer are each required to maintain fully paid up share capital of at least $120,000.
Principal Representative and Principal Office
A Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer are each required to maintain a principal office and to appoint and maintain a principal representative in Bermuda. For the purposes of the Insurance Act, the principal office of Carolina Re and JRG Re is located at Wellesley House, 2nd Floor, 90 Pitts Bay Road, Pembroke, HM 08, Bermuda. Carolina Re’s and JRG Re’s principal representative is Helen Gillis, the Chief Financial Officer of JRG Re and Carolina Re.
Without a reason acceptable to the BMA, an insurer may not terminate the appointment of its principal representative, and the principal representative may not cease to act as such, unless 30 days’ prior notice in writing to the BMA is given of the intention to do so.
It is the duty of the principal representative to forthwith notify the BMA where the principal representative reaches the view that there is a likelihood of the insurer (for which the principal representative acts) becoming insolvent, or on it coming to the knowledge of the principal representative, or the principal representative having reason to believe, that a reportable “event” has occurred. Examples of a reportable “event” include a failure by the insurer to comply substantially with a condition imposed upon it by the BMA relating to a solvency margin or a liquidity or other ratio, a significant loss reasonably likely to cause the insurer to fail to comply with its enhanced capital requirement (discussed below) and the occurrence of a material change (as such term is defined under the Insurance Act) in its business operations.
Within 14 days of such notification to the BMA, the principal representative must furnish the BMA with a written report setting out all the particulars of the case that are available to the principal representative.
Where there has been a significant loss which is reasonably likely to cause the insurer to fail to comply with its enhanced capital requirement, the principal representative must also furnish the BMA with a capital and solvency return reflecting an enhanced capital requirement prepared using post-loss data. The principal representative must provide this within 45 days of notifying the BMA regarding the loss.
Furthermore, where a notification has been made to the BMA regarding a material change, the principal representative has 30 days from the date of such notification to furnish the BMA with unaudited interim statutory financial statements in relation to such period as the BMA may require, together with a general business solvency certificate in respect of those statements.
A Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer shall each maintain its head office in Bermuda. In determining whether the insurer satisfies this requirement, the BMA shall consider, inter alia, the following factors: (i) where the underwriting, risk management and operational decision making of the insurer occurs; (ii) whether the presence of senior executives who are responsible for, and involved in, the decision making related to the insurance business of the insurer are located in Bermuda; and (iii) where meetings of the board of directors of the insurer occur. In making its determination, the BMA may also have regard to (a) the location where management of the insurer meets to effect policy decisions of the insurer; (b) the residence of the officers, insurance managers or employees of the insurer; and (c) the residence of one or more directors of the insurer in Bermuda. This provision does not apply to an insurer that has a permit to conduct business in Bermuda under the Companies Act or the Non-Resident Insurance Undertakings Act 1967.
Loss Reserve Specialist
A Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer are each required to appoint an individual approved by the BMA to be its loss reserve specialist. In order to qualify as an approved loss reserve specialist, the applicant must be an individual qualified to provide an opinion in accordance with the requirements of the Insurance Act and the BMA must be satisfied that the individual is fit and proper to hold such an appointment.
A Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer are each required to submit annually an opinion of its approved loss reserve specialist with its capital and solvency return in respect of its total general business insurance technical provisions (i.e. the aggregate of its net premium provisions, net loss and loss expense provisions and risk margin, as each is reported in the insurer’s statutory economic balance sheet). The loss reserve specialist’s opinion must state, among other things, whether or not the aggregate amount of technical provisions shown in the statutory economic balance sheet as at the end of the relevant financial year (i) meets the requirements of the Insurance Act and (ii) makes reasonable provision for the total technical provisions of the insurer under the terms of its insurance contracts and agreements.
Annual Financial Statements
A Class 3A insurer and Class 3B insurer are each required to prepare and submit to the BMA, on an annual basis, audited financial statements which have been prepared under generally accepted accounting principles or international financial reporting standards (“GAAP financial statements”) and audited statutory financial statements.
The Insurance Act prescribes rules for the preparation and substance of statutory financial statements (which include, in statutory form, a balance sheet, an income statement, a statement of capital and surplus and notes thereto). The statutory financial statements include detailed information and analysis regarding premiums, claims, reinsurance and investments of the insurer.
The insurer’s annual GAAP financial statements, and the auditor’s report thereon, and the statutory financial statements are required to be filed with the BMA within four months from the end of the relevant financial year (unless specifically extended with the approval of the BMA). The statutory financial statements do not form a part of the public records maintained by the BMA but the GAAP financial statements are available for public inspection.
Declaration of Compliance
At the time of filing its statutory financial statements, a Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer are each also required to deliver to the BMA a declaration of compliance, in such form and with such content as may be prescribed by the BMA, declaring whether or not the insurer has, with respect to the preceding financial year (i) complied with all requirements of the minimum criteria applicable to it, (ii) complied with the minimum margin of solvency as at its financial year end, (iii) complied with the applicable enhanced capital requirements as at its financial year end, (iv) complied with applicable conditions, directions and restrictions imposed on, or approvals granted to, the insurer and (v) complied with the minimum liquidity ratio for general business as at its financial year end. The declaration of compliance is required to be signed by two directors of the insurer, and if the insurer has failed to comply with any of the requirements referenced in (i) through (v) above or observe any limitations, restrictions or conditions imposed upon the issuance of its license, if applicable, the insurer will be required to provide the BMA with particulars of such failure in writing. A Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer shall be liable to a civil penalty by way of a fine for failure to comply with a duty imposed on it in connection with the delivery of the declaration of compliance.
Annual Statutory Financial Return and Annual Capital and Solvency Return
A Class 3A insurer and a Class 3B insurer are each required to file with the BMA a statutory financial return no later than four months after its financial year end (unless specifically extended with the approval of the BMA).
The statutory financial return of an insurer shall consist of (i) an insurer information sheet, (ii) an auditor’s report, (iii) the statutory financial statements and (iv) notes to the statutory financial statements.