Lloyd's of London bemoans "extremely challenging" underwriting conditions as results are saved by investment returns

 
Oliver Gill
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Lloyd's of London announced this morning it will set up an EU base in Brussels (Source: Getty)

Lloyd's of London profits were saved by bumper investment returns after its underwriting performance fell off a cliff.

Loss ratios spiked as the the iconic insurer said conditions in 2016 were "extremely challenging".

Read more: It’s official: Lloyd’s of London is opening its EU base in Brussels

The figures

Gross written premiums for the year were £29.9bn, up from £26.7bn.

However, profits were flat at £2.1bn and the insurance giant's combined ratio jumped from 90 per cent to 97.9 per cent.

Underwriting returns dived from £2.0bn to £0.5bn.

The firm's combined ratio, the losses and expenses incurred as a proportion of premium's earned, jumped from 90 per cent to 97.7 per cent.

The market's investment returns went the other way, more than tripling from £0.4bn to £1.3bn.

Why it's interesting

While everyone is focussing on this morning's announcement that Lloyd's has chosen Brussels as its EU base, it slipped an interesting set of annual numbers out at the same time.

The insurer gave an honest assessment of 2016 in its statement: "Conditions over the course of the year were extremely challenging with continued downwards pressure on pricing."

Losses incurred as a result of Hurricane Matthew and the Fort McMurray wildfire in Canada meant losses were above the long-term average and the fifth highest since 2000.

Read more: Lloyd's of London says it's prepared for these four apocalyptic events

Returns on investments saved the day with the underwriting depression. And it was sterling's plight that benefited Lloyd's.

A weakening pound meant foreign exchange gains for the Lloyd's and falling bond yields gave a further boost to investments.

What the company said

Chief executive Inga Beale said:

“This has been a year of challenge for the insurance sector with premiums once more under continued downward pressure.

It is vital that the corporation does everything it can to support the market and make the platform attractive, whilst demonstrating value for money.

“It is critical throughout 2017 we continue to demonstrate that Lloyd’s is the home for creativity and expertise.”

Read more: Arise, Dame Inga: Lloyd's boss awarded damehood in new year's honours

Chairman John Nelson, said:

“The results confirm that we must have an unrelenting focus on underwriting discipline through 2017.

The challenge for all of us is to reduce the cost of conducting business because within the market this is impacting on already thin underwriting margins.

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