Historic Reinsurance Cycle Under Extreme Strain and ILS Funds Not Immune From Challenges - Willis Re 1st View

LONDON, April 1, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The urgent - and ever increasing - need for change across the reinsurance industry as it forms a new paradigm is highlighted in the latest "1st View" renewals report from Willis Re, the reinsurance division of risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance broker Willis Group Holdings plc (NYSE:WSH).

The thrice-yearly report highlights that as at April 1, 2015, the historic market cycle continues to come under extreme strain and as a consequence, there is now a clear sense of urgency as reinsurers seek to implement major changes to their strategies and business models. The need for change is compounded by the growing transparency of major buyers around their core partner strategies, and their reluctance to deal with smaller following markets.

M&A activity amongst reinsurers also continues to gather pace, with three major M&A transactions announced since January 1, 2015. And with the pool of potential partners shrinking, aspiring consolidators are now increasingly concerned about missing out on what many observe to be industry change that could last across generations.

The report also highlights that Insurance-linked securities (ILS) funds are not immune from the current market challenges, with reduced returns and the downward pressure on fees placing the business models of some smaller standalone ILS managers under duress.

Commenting on this trend, Peter Hearn, Global Chairman, Willis Re said: "ILS fund managers evolving into more traditional reinsurer models and reinsurers expanding their own fund management activities appear best placed to trade through this difficult period; they can manage investors and access business more effectively.

"But while this convergence trend is both logical and anticipated, it is creating a conundrum: as ILS funds evolve their business models to look more like traditional reinsurers, they are diluting the differentiation of the very offering which has proved so attractive to date for major primary buyers."

John Cavanagh, Global CEO of Willis Re, said: "The April 2015 renewal season has reinforced current trends and the market continues to favour the buyer. There are no signs that the current tide of falling rates and widening terms and conditions will be reversed. Diversification is now the key competitive advantage in this increasingly consolidated and converged reinsurance industry, and the ability to deliver a differentiated service offering is critical. Everyone should be broadening their horizons."

He concluded, "As investment banks rush to orchestrate the new model reinsurers of the future, previous views about possible M&A transactions are being challenged, including any thoughts that size may be an obstacle. As ever, the key to a successful transaction is demonstrating that the combination of two entities is greater than the sum of the two parts. Perversely, this imperative is likely to increase competition in the short-to-medium term, which may prolong the current soft market. Analysts are increasingly concentrating on the portfolio make-up of any potential new entity – and reinsurance is being seen as less attractive than specialty insurance business."

Download the report: The Willis Re 1st View report includes specific commentary on key trends throughout the world's major reinsurance classes and regions: it is available to download via the Willis Re website.

About Willis Re

One of the world's leading reinsurance brokers, Willis Re is known for its world-class Analytics capabilities, which it combines with its Reinsurance expertise in a seamless, integrated offering that can help clients increase the value of their businesses. Willis Re serves the risk management and risk transfer needs of a diverse, global client base that includes all of the world's top insurance and reinsurance carriers as well as national catastrophe schemes in many countries around the world. The broker's global team of experts offers services and advice that can help clients make better reinsurance decisions and negotiate optimum terms. For more information, visit www.willisre.com.

About Willis

Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global risk adviser, insurance and reinsurance broker. With roots dating to 1828, Willis operates today on every continent with more than 18,000 employees in over 400 offices. Willis offers its clients superior expertise, teamwork, innovation and market-leading products and professional services in risk management and transfer. Our experts rank among the world's leading authorities on analytics, modeling and mitigation strategies at the intersection of global commerce and extreme events. Find more information at our website,www.willis.com, our leadership journal, Resilience, or our up-to-the-minute blog on breaking news, WillisWire. Across geographies, industries and specialisms, Willis provides its local and multinational clients with resilience for a risky world.

CONTACT: Media: Laura Molloy +44 20 3124 8555 Email: Laura.Molloy@willis.com Investors: Peter Poillon +1 212 915 8084 Email: Peter.Poillon@willis.com

Source:Willis Group Holdings