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Press Release

7% growth in global reinsurance capital, with signs of underlying combined ratio improvement: Willis Re

Climate Risk and Resilience|COVID 19 Coronavirus

April 12, 2021

Willis Re’s Reinsurance Market Report tracks the capital and profitability of the global reinsurance industry.

GLOBAL, April 12, 2021: Total capital dedicated to the global reinsurance industry measured USD 658 billion at year-end 2020 reflecting 7% year-on-year growth. The rise was driven primarily by strong investment market appreciation. New capital raised both by incumbents and new entrants added to the total, but capital returns to shareholders exceeded those new investments, according to the latest Reinsurance Market Report from Willis Re, the reinsurance business of leading global advisory, broking and solutions company Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW).

Willis Re conducts an in-depth analysis of the results of a Subset1 of 17 reinsurers. The subset’s reported combined ratio deteriorated from 100.6% in 2019 to 104.1% in 2020, due entirely to COVID-19 loss reserving. However, on an underlying basis i.e. normalising COVID-19 and natural catastrophe losses and excluding reserve releases, the combined ratio improved from 103.1% to 100.7%. This is the first full-year improvement in this ratio since at least 2014.

Return on equity (ROE), nevertheless, remains under pressure. The subset companies’ reported ROE fell from 9.7% to 2.7%, and the underlying ROE also fell from 3.2% to 1.3%. The underlying deterioration was due to declining investment yields more than offsetting the better underlying underwriting performance. On both a reported and underlying basis, the ROE remained well below the industry’s cost of capital.

Such a solid development of the global reinsurance industry’s capital base would hardly have been expected earlier last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic was gathering pace.”

James Kent
Global CEO, Willis Re

James Kent, Global CEO, Willis Re, said: “Such a solid development of the global reinsurance industry’s capital base would hardly have been expected earlier last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic was gathering pace.  Willis Re’s analysis provides clear evidence of the strength and resilience of reinsurance market capacity.  Reinsurers and insurers alike must contend with the challenges of low interest rates.  But, looking through the turbulence of COVID-19 and nat cat claims, and a declining reliance on reserve releases, there is a clear improving trend in underwriting profitability.”

Download the full report: The Willis Re Reinsurance Market Report is a biannual publication providing in-depth analysis of the size and performance of the reinsurance market. Analysis is based on the Willis Reinsurance Index group of companies. In 2019 The Index includes 39 companies from across the globe.

About Willis Re

One of the world's leading reinsurance brokers, Willis Re is known for its world-class analytics capabilities, which it combines with its reinsurance expertise in a seamless, integrated offering that can help clients increase the value of their businesses. Willis Re serves the risk management and risk transfer needs of a diverse, global client base that includes all of the world's top insurance and reinsurance carriers as well as national catastrophe schemes in many countries around the world. The broker's global team of experts offers services and advice that can help clients make better reinsurance decisions and negotiate optimum terms. For more information, visit

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has over 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas – the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential.


1 Subset is defined as those companies that make the relevant disclosure in relation to catastrophe losses and prior year reserve releases. The appendix of the report identifies the Subset companies.

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