As Hurricane Matthew reached peak intensity and set its sights firmly on Florida in early October there was talk of "the big one": a storm of such magnitude that it could alter the inexorable softening course of the US (re)insurance market.
Fast forward a few weeks to the PCI annual convention in Dallas, and it was already clear that the industry was facing a much more modest loss that could end up being closer to $5bn than $10bn.
That put reinsurers, brokers and their clients back on course for the "orderly" 1.1 renewal that had been predicted at the Monte Carlo Rendez-Vous.
But although it was clear that a sub-$10bn insured loss wouldn't turn the property reinsurance market on its own, there was a sense that the psychological impact would further slow the softening, or even stabilise US rates for the upcoming reinsurance renewal.
Florida carriers privately talked about their relief at having dodged a bullet, as a path just a few miles to the west would have sent Matthew churning across land all the way up the coast, rather than just skimming it.
Meanwhile, reinsurers suggested losses from that trajectory would have been closer to $40bn - sufficient to freeze up the retro market.
That could have left reinsurers with a difficult decision as to whether to expose more of their own capital at depressed pricing, without the ability to pass on as much through retro buying.
Against that backdrop, The Insurance Insider met with a cadre of buyers, brokers and reinsurers well-qualified to impart their wisdom on market dynamics in the lead-up to 1.1.
There was naturally discourse on the "what ifs" - particularly how capital markets capacity might have responded to a bigger loss and the prevalence of multi-year covers in Florida.
After a year of attritional cat losses, there was a consensus that even a modest Matthew loss would add pressure to a market where the decline in property cat rates had slowed at mid-year renewals in the US.
Those frequency cat events have also brought the topic of aggregate covers back to the table, although a mismatch of pricing expectations still constrains broader take-up of the product.
And while there may be modest reductions available for some in property because of the remaining surplus capacity, the casualty segment is clearly plateauing, with a number of deals already proving difficult to place if buyers and reinsurance brokers seek aggressive terms.
With reinsurers' margins on quota share deals paper-thin, the ceding commission ceiling appears to have been reached.
The topic of margins led to discussion of the depressed returns across the sector, which are still attractive for investors compared to other segments. This has been a key driver of the capital that has entered the space.
In a market where profitable growth in mature lines of business is hard to find, the conversation turned to opportunities such as under-covered perils like flood and quake, and the fast-evolving area of cyber risk.
We hope you enjoy the read, to view the document please click here...
US Editorial Director,
The Insurance Insider