The only thing that could change the game in the commercial property insurance market, experts say, would be a catastrophe that inflicts more than $50 billion in damages. Market watchers have wracked their brains to determine how significant an incident would need to be in order to move the needle in a buyer-friendly market.
From an insurance perspective, the prognosis was reached at the 2013 Rendez-Vous de Septembre reinsurance meeting in Monte Carlo. In September, economists said that a only a catastrophe of unprecedented magnitude would harden the market. With the exception of a few events, the industry has handled minor course corrections and routine catastrophic claims that don't meet or exceed a historical record.
"We had Superstorm Sandy, which was a significant event, but for the industry it could be a $100 billion type of event," said Rick Miller, national property practice leader for Aon P.L.C.'s Aon Risk Solutions. "That said, the industry has a lot of surplus right now. Events seem now to be short-term corrections."
With that surplus in mind, extending coverage has been less risky for commercial insurance providers. Additionally, economic recovery following the recession has created conditions that allow more companies to develop or inhabit commercial property. In the United States, most regions saw declines in commercial and industrial vacancy last year. Barring the unthinkable, markets are expected to continue with the steady growth analysts have observed over several years. However, it's the role of insurance providers to plan for the unthinkable.
By comparison, the most significant man-made catastrophic event was September 11, 2001, which is estimated to have cost more than $25 billion in damages. Experts like Alexandra Glickman, area vice chairman of Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services, emphasize that while worst-case-scenarios can create market movement, "no one wants to see that."