Sigma 3/2013 - World insurance in 2012: Progressing on the long and winding road to recovery

The 400th edition of sigma analyses the life and non-life insurance industry in 2012, while also reviewing long-term premium development over the past and next five decades.

Growth of the global insurance sector was a key focus for sigma since it was first published in 1968, but it also addressed other questions such as: How do burglars break safety locks without damaging the surrounding door? What ways do bird strikes affect aircraft and how can it be mitigated?  How can insurers cope with an expected decline in profitability?

"World insurance in 2012: progressing on the long and winding road to recovery" is the 400th sigma issue, coming in the same year as Swiss Re commemorates its 150th anniversary. This is an opportune time to reflect on how the global insurance market has changed over the past 50 years.

Examining the past: insurance growth and the economy

The connection between the world economy and the insurance industry has been an "evergreen" theme for sigma with its researchers providing an insurance market outlook every five to ten years.

Sigma has also been ahead of the times with its innovative reports. For example, in 1970 the sigma team was already contemplating if insurance market growth could go on forever, two years before the Club of Rome published its influential study "The Limits to Growth." Sigma researchers determined at the time that non-life penetration growth would slow at some point and insurers would need to react by becoming "super service" organizations, offering everything from insurance to car repairs.

Preparing for the future: the industry changes tack

Even though the idea of leaving your car for an oil change at your local insurance provider never came to fruition, insurers have expanded their offerings along the value chain over the past decades: some insurers do have ties to auto service companies to provide better deals to their customers. Another example of expansion is managed care systems, which combine insurance and service provision in health care.

However, non-life market growth has not ended and even continued to outpace economic growth until the 1990s in the advanced countries. Also, new markets opened up in Central and Eastern Europe, Latin American and Asia – not least China, which is now the fourth largest market in the world.

The road ahead

This edition of sigma reviews both life and non-life insurance industries for 2012 and, continuing its forward-thinking tradition, offers a prognosis for long-term outlook for the next 50 years. In addition, "World insurance" also tracks premium growth in advanced and emerging markets.

Find out more: download the 400th edition of sigma, "World insurance in 2012: progressing on the long and winding road to recovery." Explore 33 years of insurance market data with the sigma explorer.

Published 26 June 2013

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