Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another Hurricane Season

Welcome back. I have not had time to post in a while but today as I was doing some "homework" I found that I needed to change the look of the blog, because with Google's new system, they had new template designs, and I had to choose one. I hope you like the look, though I know I don't have that many 'regular' readers. After all, not many people choose to while away their hours reading about insurance. I do have some regular readers of my other blog, www.aroundbabylon.com, but that's because I write about local happenings in our Village.

But while I'm here, I will write a short post. The market for homeowners insurance on Long Island is continuing to change. This past week we had our first call from someone who's being canceled by State Farm. They were told that State Farm is canceling people within a half mile of the water. I had heard that they stopped writing new business within a half-mile of the South Shore of Long Island but not that they were canceling anybody.

I say this not to pick on State Farm in any way. I happen to think they are pretty good company, and they are the biggest in auto and home insurance. Unfortunately, I just point it out to show what is happening in the Suffolk County and overall Long Island insurance marketplace. Even the largest insurance carriers do not have the capacity to absorb the business being shed by their competitors.

We need a lot of changes in not only the insurance business but also in the codes for new home construction and in other government regulations. But in the meantime, what we need most is a number of new carriers to come in the market and each take a small percentage of the business.

A big part of my job these days is keeping my eyes and ears open all the time for these new players. We wrote our first policy with one such insurance program this week. Our agents Association works hard on this issue all the time but Independent Insurance Agents only represent about 35% of the personal insurance market (meaning car and house insurance). And so we are not the "big players."

That would be Allstate, State Farm, Farmers and a few others. The problem is that, as I pointed out above, size is not an advantage here, because of the massive damage that would be possible in a Katrina size hurricane. Allstate is in favor of a government 'backstop', which is the only thing that would help them because of the sheer volume of business they wrote in coastal areas. But that idea has not caught on with most of the other companies, who would rather see a competitive market with risk-based pricing.

And while the public may debate about global warming, and whether it's caused by humans or not, the fact remains that sea levels are rising and temperatures are going up. And so the insurance companies simply don't know what's going to happen. Even if there is no such thing as global warming (and I personally think there is such a thing), we are at the very least in a period of rising temperatures and increased storm activity, even if it's just a natural cycle that will go away at some point. That point may still be 20 or 50 years away during which time we may or may not have some pretty strong storms. When you add that in to the amount of property value there is here on Long Island it's a pretty scary scenario.

Meanwhile, there are also a number of major insurance companies, who need no introduction here, who are chasing just the automobile insurance market without taking any share of the risk 0f catastrophic loss that mainly affects the property market. As these companies suck dollars from the insurance buying public, the effect is to weaken the financial positions of those companies who also take their fair share of the property insurance market.

We live in interesting times. As always, more information is available by visiting our web sites at www.NYInsuranceWithService.com and www.FloodInsuranceNY.com.