GREECE: Life insurers appear to have fared much better in the recent past

1 August 2013 —
"Greece Insurance Report Q3 2013" reports that the news flow and data from Greece's insurance sector highlights three key themes. First, the economic crisis has finally had a (brutal) impact on the non-life segment. Second, premiums in the life segment have held up remarkably well. Third, the consolidation of Greece's banking sector is something of a wildcard, and may bring around a consolidation among insurance companies as well.

As of early 2013, we are still awaiting the publication by the EAEE, the insurers' trade association, of the final data for premiums written by Greece's insurers in 2012. As we have discussed in previous reports, the news flow through the later months of last year indicates that non-life penetration has fallen quite sharply during 2012. This represents a major change: over previous years, the non-discretionary element of motorrelated lines, which dominate the non-life segment, had meant that gross written premiums had contracted by less than nominal GDP. Consequently, penetration had remained resilient - or even increased - even as successive Greek governments had wrestled with massive, and well publicised, financial problems.

Specifically, the figures published by the EAEE indicate that non-life premiums fell by 11.4% in H112. The fall is mostly due to a 22.8% contraction in CASCO premiums and a 13.8% drop in CMTPL premiums relative to H111. In essence, Greece's non-life insurers have finally arrived at the point where they can no longer resist the brutal effects of the economic depression in the country.

Interestingly, Greece's life insurers appear to have fared much better in the recent past. The EAEE noted that life premiums were EUR2.8% lower in H112 than they were in H111. We think that two factors are at work. One is that the banks have continued to distribute life insurance products, presumably because they can make good money from doing so. There is no evidence that they have stopped distributing products in order to try to attract money that would otherwise have been spent on life insurance as deposits. This is what has happened in Portugal, for instance, with the result that there has been an extraordinarily brutal contraction in life premiums. The other factor is that there has been an extraordinary surge in unit-linked sales. It would appear that particular players have leveraged their distribution networks and brands to reach customers who are still keen to buy life insurance. If these products have been able to exploit the general improvement in investor risk sentiment from Q312, they should have delivered good results to the people that bought them earlier in the year.

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GREECE: Life insurers appear to have fared much better in the recent past
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