Commercial Motor Insurance in the UK, Key Trends and Opportunities to 2018

Date: 2015-09

“The UK commercial motor insurance category has recorded growth since 2008, despite the synchronous recessionary backdrop. Gross written premiums rose at an annual rate of 7.2% in 2012, to a total of GBP3.4 billion and a five-year high. During the review period (2008–2012), premiums posted a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.50%.

The recession resulted in faltering business confidence, lenders reducing the availability of credit, and a slump in capital spending − including investment in commercial vehicles. Faced with a reduction in the underlying demand for commercial motor insurance, rate rises in the category were largely due to insurers hiking rates to protect profits.

The total combined operating ratio for insurers operating in the category remained above 100% during the review period and stood at a five-year low of 106% in 2012, indicating long-standing profitability struggles. Premium increases enacted during the review period have not been able to offset rising claims payouts, an increase in operating expenses, and record-low interest rates limiting returns on investments. The category is not expected to return to profit until 2015.

Motor insurance claims rose sharply during the review period, reflecting a higher incidence of fraudulent claims related to staged accidents and the resulting payouts for personal injury and whiplash claims. The number of motor-related personal injury compensation cases registered with the government’s Compensation Recovery Unit surged in the five years to 2012, in contrast to a 15% fall in road traffic accidents during the period.

The motor insurance industry has collectively prioritized a significant reduction in fraud, introducing measures which include the development of software and databases to improve core risk underwriting, as well as systems to detect false or inflated claims. In addition, the growing use of telematics in commercial vehicle policies and the implementation of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishing of Offenders Act (LASPO) in April 2013 will also have a mitigating effect on commercial motor claims.

The strengthening UK economy has already begun to spur an increase in commercial vehicle registrations, and the Department of Transport forecasts that goods vehicles will be the fastest-growing category of road traffic to 2020. The revival in demand will support a CAGR of 6.23% for gross written premiums over the forecast period (2014−2018), up to a peak value of GBP4.52 billion in 2018. Insurers’ overconfidence in the cost-saving effects of the LASPO bill will limit growth in 2014, before rates are adjusted upwards from 2015.

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