The Austrian insurance market’s development in 2022 has been marked by the massive economic impact of the war being waged by Russia against neighbouring Ukraine: a jump in inflation levels, extremely volatile capital markets, economic downturn through to fears of recession and the abrupt change in interest rate policy have all had a massive impact on the insurance industry. As a result, during the first half of this year alone, the assets under management of insurance undertakings fell by nine percent to around € 125 billion – due in particular to massive losses on the capital markets. Many share prices have fallen massively, while bond portfolios with a low interest rates have lost a significant amount of value in light of the rising interest rates. In contrast, income from premiums increased by around seven percent during the same time period. These are the findings of the FMA’s Report on the “State of the Insurance Industry for 2022” that was published today.
Difficult times, but insurers are on a stable footing
“Uncertain times not only leave deep scars on the insurance companies’ financial and capital assets, but also noticeably increase the need for security and therefore also insurance cover. While increasing interest rates on the one hand depress the market values of the existing bond portfolio, they however also make life insurance as an investment product, which is very sensitive to interest rates, attractive again,” is how the FMA’s Executive Board Members, Helmut Ettl and Eduard Müller, explain the contrasting nature of the current developments. Austria’s insurance industry remains well capitalised even in these difficult times, as the FMA’s Executive Directors remark: “Two-thirds of insurance undertakings have a solvency level of over 200 %. This means that they hold more than double the amount of own funds prescribed by regulation to be able to compensate for any negative developments that may occur.”
The danger of being under-insured
The FMA also warns insurance policyholders about a danger that accompanies high inflation levels, but which only becomes painfully apparent in the event of a claim: namely undercoverage, i.e. not having adequate coverage when claiming in the case of contracts that have already been held for a long time. The FMA therefore advises, especially in times of high inflation, to check contracts from time to time with regard to the necessity to change the level of insurance coverage.
As an institutional investor, the Austrian insurance industry is an important player in modifying the European economic model towards one that is more sustainable. Analysis of business models has shown, that all insurance undertakings have already implemented strategies to align their business policy in accordance with environmental, social and governance criteria (ESG factors). The climate stress test that was conducted by the FMA has also shown that they have a higher than average resilience in relation to sustainability risks. The climate-relevant share of insurance undertakings’ assets makes up around one-fifth of their total portfolio.
The full “FMA Report on the State of the Austrian Insurance Industry 2022” can be found on the FMA website in German via the following link: https://www.fma.gv.at/versicherungen/offenlegung/lage-der-oesterr-versicherungswirtschaft/
Journalists may address further enquiries to:
Klaus Grubelnik (FMA Media Spokesperson)
+43/(0)676 882 49 516