2018 Preliminary Results

For the year ended 31 December 2018

“A good result in a challenging year for insurers”




Gross premiums written



Net premiums earned



Profit before tax



Profit before tax excluding FX



Earnings per share



Total ordinary dividend per share for year



Net asset value per share



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Group combined ratio excluding FX



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Foreign exchange losses



Reserve releases




  • Profit before tax tripled to $137.4 million (2017: $39.7 million), with a strong underwriting result of $148.0 million (2017: $43.0 million) in another busy year for claims.
  • Gross premiums written grew by 15.0% with double-digit growth in all segments.
  • The standout performer was Hiscox London Market, which returned to growth and profit after three years of disciplined cycle management.
  • Hiscox Retail wrote over $2 billion of premium and served one million customers for the first time, and its profits cover the dividend for the third consecutive year. 
  • Hiscox Re & ILS was impacted by a second year of significant natural catastrophes and some large individual claims. Kiskadee Investment Managers’ assets under management now at $1.5 billion.
  • Ongoing investment in brand and infrastructure to capture long-term growth opportunity continues.


Bronek Masojada, Chief Executive of Hiscox Ltd, commented:

“We have generated strong growth and good profits in a busy year for claims. The tough action we took in our London Market business is paying off, and we are seeing some positive momentum in big-ticket lines, where rates, terms and conditions are improving. We are growing well in our chosen retail segments, and our small market shares mean the size of the opportunity in retail remains immense. We will continue to invest in our people, infrastructure and brand and maintain our focus on disciplined growth.”

For further information

Hiscox Ltd


Marc Wetherhill, Group Company Secretary, Bermuda

+1 441 278 8300

Kylie O’Connor, Head of Group Communications, London

Ryan Thompson, Investor Relations Manager, London

+44 (0)20 7448 6656

+44 (0)20 7448 6522



Tom Burns

+44 (0)20 7404 5959

Simone Selzer

+44 (0)20 7404 5959

Notes to editors

About The Hiscox Group

Hiscox is a global specialist insurer, headquartered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). Our ambition is to be a respected specialist insurer with a diverse portfolio by product and geography. We believe that building balance between catastrophe-exposed business and less volatile local specialty business gives us opportunities for profitable growth throughout the insurance cycle. It’s a long-standing strategy which in 2018 saw the business deliver a profit before tax of $137.4 million in a challenging year for insurers.

The Hiscox Group employs over 3,300 people in 14 countries, and has customers worldwide. Through the retail businesses in the UK, Europe, Asia and the US, we offer a range of specialist insurance for professionals and business customers as well as homeowners. Internationally traded, bigger ticket business and reinsurance is underwritten through Hiscox London Market and Hiscox Re & ILS.

Our values define our business, with a focus on people, quality, courage and excellence in execution. We pride ourselves on being true to our word and our award-winning claims service is testament to that. For more information, visit www.hiscoxgroup.com.

For the full regulatory statement


Chairman’s statement

Hiscox delivered a good profit before tax of $137.4 million (2017: $39.7 million) despite another busy year for claims. After a relatively benign start, we saw a number of natural catastrophes and significant market losses in the second half which, combined with turbulent financial markets, have impacted our result. Our long-held strategy of balancing the volatility of big-ticket lines with more steady retail earnings continues to serve us well, and the strength of our products, people and brand mean we are able to seize opportunities.

Our retail businesses had a good year, delivering double-digit growth and solid profits as we reached the milestone of one million retail customers. Our business in the USA continues to develop strongly, however as we continue to exercise discipline in the under-performing directors and officers’ account, growth will be tempered.

In big-ticket lines, market conditions have been challenging but our London Market business has reaped the rewards of the tough action we have taken over the last three years to reduce or exit from unprofitable lines, and returned to excellent growth and profitability.

Our reinsurance and ILS operations experienced a very active year for claims, with exposure to hurricanes and wildfires in the US, typhoons in Japan, hailstorms in Australia and large claims in cyber and marine hull.

In our investments, we were impacted by both difficult equity markets and the value of our bond portfolio which naturally reduced as interest rates rose in the US. We will benefit from those same rising interest rates in 2019 and recover 2018 losses as we hold the bonds to maturity.    

Financial performance

The result for the year ending 31 December 2018 was a profit before tax excluding foreign exchange of $151.1 million (2017: $120.6 million). Gross premiums written increased by 15.0% to $3,778.3 million (2017: $3,286.0 million). The combined ratio was 94.9% (2017: 99.9%). Earnings per share increased to 45.1¢ (2017: 12.0¢) and the net asset value per share decreased to 819.1¢ (2017: 835.1¢). Post-tax return on equity was 5.6% (2017: 1.5%). Our investment return of $42.5 million (2017: $112.5 million), before derivatives and fees, equates to a return of 0.7% (2017: 2.0%) on total assets under management.

I am pleased to announce a final dividend of 28.6¢, which is an increase of 5.2%. The record date for the dividend will be 10 May 2019 and the payment date will be 12 June 2019.

The Board has approved a scrip alternative subject to the terms and conditions of Hiscox Ltd's 2016 Scrip Dividend Scheme. The last date for receipt of scrip elections will be 20 May 2019 and the reference price will be announced on 30 May 2019.

Our market      

We are ruled by the market, particularly in big-ticket and reinsurance lines, and adjust our appetite according to the opportunities it provides. Rates did not respond as much as we feel they should have following the losses arising from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017, but where they did we were able to take advantage. A second successive year of historic market losses seems to have done little to spur a widespread market turn, but once again we have been ready, taking opportunities where they have been available.

In London, the Lloyd’s Decile 10 work is making good progress to redress the balance when it comes to capacity and market discipline. We have been very supportive of Lloyd’s, which has put pressure on the market’s underwriters to take action in unprofitable areas. I feel it strange that it takes a regulator to tell businesses that it is a bad thing to lose money, but the process has certainly squeezed out some of the worst performing lines and that is a very good thing indeed.

Although the reinsurance market did not harden as many had hoped, the retrocession market – reinsurance of reinsurers – did become more sensibly priced. This has in the past led to sufficient increases all the way through to insurance pricing. It remains to be seen whether that particular tail still wags the dog.

Progress can feel painstaking, but we are gaining ground on improved rates, and on the technical, but important, area of terms and conditions. As our London Market result shows, we are happy to navigate these waters and our underwriters are up to the task.


People and culture

People and culture make a difference; indeed, culture and values are as important as strategy and distribution, so when it comes to values we expect our top executives and the Board to show leadership. As Hiscox continues to grow, the continuity of our culture is key. It has been pleasing this year to see strong succession from within and, in retail, the top team sharing their expertise with different parts of our business to help drive Hiscox to the next level. 

I am regularly told by those that know us that Hiscox has a distinctive culture underpinned by strong values. Being the highest ranking financial services firm in Glassdoor’s 2019 best places to work in the UK, and receiving very positive customer feedback, validates that our values are being lived. We do not take this for granted, and around every five years, as new people join and the business evolves, we undertake an exercise to refresh them. I am pleased that we are embarking upon another such exercise, led by our Chief Executive Bronek. It doesn’t mean that we feel they are wrong – language becomes dated and core principles need to be expressed so they resonate with new generations of employees. Our values inform all our day-to-day decisions and that makes them critical to maintaining our reputation for integrity and decent and fair behaviour in everything we do.



The diversity of our products and distribution continues to give us options. Our retail operations have again balanced the volatility of the big-ticket lines, validating our long-held strategy. We have talked before about the moderating percentage growth rate in Hiscox USA, but we find the size of the US opportunity exciting.

In the London Market, it has been a war of attrition but rates and terms are improving in many lines and the refinements we have already made to the portfolio mean we are well positioned as renewed discipline courses through the market. Similarly in reinsurance, we believe opportunities will present themselves in loss-affected accounts.  We also expect to benefit from improved investment conditions.

2018 was a year of change and achievement in our operations, and more change is planned in 2019. Although we have completed our structural readiness for Brexit, our investment in infrastructure projects that will boost our abilities to serve customers and create efficiencies continues. This is all good, necessary work, but as we have mentioned previously it will have an impact on growth and expenses in the short term.

I would like to finish by thanking everyone at Hiscox for their efforts this year, particularly as we entered the FTSE100. Their hard work in serving our customers, paying claims, establishing new partnerships, building new systems and supporting our growth has all contributed to this result.

Robert Childs
25 February 2019


Chief Executive’s report

2018 was another eventful year for insurers, with catastrophe activity at historic levels, financial market turmoil and geopolitical uncertainty. In this challenging environment, Hiscox grew gross premiums written by 15.0% to $3,778.3 million and more than tripled profits to $137.4 million (2017: $39.7 million). Our post-tax return on equity was 5.6%, an improvement on last year’s 1.5%, and a fair result in the circumstances.

The standout performer in 2018 was Hiscox London Market which returned to growth and profit after three years of tough action; withdrawing from poor-performing lines and navigating challenging markets. Having done much of the hard work, the team was in a good position to navigate the Lloyd’s Decile 10 profit remediation programme.

Hiscox Retail wrote over $2 billion of premium, served one million customers and has become a strong profit generator for the Group, with its profits covering the dividend for the third consecutive year. As a result of portfolio optimisation, we expect growth in Hiscox Retail to be in the high single digits for the next 12 months. 

Hiscox Re & ILS has been hit by a second year of catastrophe claims. Our aggregate protection products, our risk excess covers and some specialty areas - all areas of focus since 2012 - meant that the higher frequency of mid-sized catastrophes and individual large losses in 2018 hit us harder than 2017’s fewer but larger catastrophes. Our products worked, our clients are happy, and while it cost us more, that is the nature of our business.

Our ambition for 2019 is to continue to grow premiums, albeit at a slightly slower pace than 2018. We are hopeful that positive pricing momentum and ongoing portfolio optimisation will lead to improved underwriting profits, with higher interest rates driving better investment returns.

I review each part of our business in turn below.

Hiscox Retail

Generating profits and creating value; investment in brand and infrastructure continues

Hiscox Retail comprises Hiscox UK & Europe and Hiscox International. In this division, our specialist knowledge and retail products differentiate us and our ongoing investment in brand helps us build a strong market position. Hiscox Retail is the single biggest segment in the Group and this year generated 55% of the Group’s gross premiums written at $2,087.1 million (2017: $1,835.4 million), up 13.7% year-on-year. Our ambition remains to grow our retail business between 5% and 15% per annum in the medium term. We reached the milestone of one million retail customers and $2 billion of premiums during the year, and the fact that our market shares remain small in most of our markets indicates the size of the opportunity still ahead of us. Building a retail business takes time, but persistence pays off. We continue to invest in building our brand across all markets and in multi-year IT infrastructure programmes that will support our growth plans.

Hiscox Retail delivered profits of $136.0 million (2017: $141.6 million), and the combined ratio of 93.6% (2017: 94.6%) is within our 90%-95% target range. The improvement in combined ratio on the larger premium base was insufficient to offset lower investment returns, leading to lower profits from the division. The rating environment across retail also remained broadly flat throughout 2018.

We made some important leadership changes across retail in 2018. As previously announced, Ben Walter moved from CEO of Hiscox USA to the newly created role of CEO Hiscox Global Retail. Ben is helping to sharpen the focus of our retail operations, and address the common challenges that our retail businesses face when it comes to driving product innovation, creating scale and digitising for the modern age. In addition, Steve Langan moved from CEO of Hiscox UK & Ireland to CEO of Hiscox USA while remaining Chief Marketing Officer for the Group. Steve has the business-building experience and branding firepower that our US operations require for their next phase of growth. Bob Thaker, who is currently serving as CEO of DirectAsia, will succeed Steve as Hiscox UK CEO in the first quarter of 2019, and we have begun the search for his replacement. Each of these appointments will help to drive Hiscox Retail forward in the medium to long term, but as each new CEO gets settled in their new roles, I am expecting growth to be more conservative in the short term. 

Hiscox UK & Europe

This division provides personal lines cover – from high-value household, fine art and collectibles to luxury motor – and commercial insurance for small- and medium-sized businesses, typically operating in white collar industries. These products are distributed via brokers, through a growing network of partnerships and, for some simple risks in the UK, France and Germany, direct to customers. Our schemes business offers insurance solutions to customers with similar risk profiles, for example sports clubs, wedding cars and niche industry associations.

Hiscox UK & Ireland

Hiscox UK & Ireland increased gross premiums written by 11.5% to $799.5 million (2017: $717.1 million), or 7.8% in constant currency, with every region contributing and good growth in most of our product areas.

Cyber remains a bright spot and has grown ahead of budget. The introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, and no doubt the constant deluge of data breaches that we all read about in the media, are  rapidly increasing demand for specialist cover. 

Our direct offering is growing well and UK direct reached £100 million of premium this year, helped by a sustained marketing commitment. Building this business has taken time, but the brand we have established and expertise we have embedded is valuable not only to the UK, but also to our other retail operations. It is a model we seek to replicate in our other direct businesses. 

The home insurance market remains competitive, with escape of water claims still prevalent and now some subsidence claims after a dry summer. As a result, premiums have increased, and while we try and mitigate the impact of price increases on our customers, we must be disciplined if we are to provide the service that they expect.

In the broker channel, IT change dominated the agenda this year and growth was lower than in previous years. Adapting to our new system with new ways of working has caused some indigestion and had a knock-on effect to our usual standards of service to our brokers and customers. We appreciate their support as we work to get things right. In 2019, our existing broker high net worth business will begin to transition to the new system. We expect growth in the broker channel will continue to be affected as these changes take place, until we reach full operational capability by mid-2019.

Hiscox Europe

Hiscox Europe had another great year. Gross premiums written grew by 17.2% to $322.3 million (2017: $275.0 million), or 11.4% in constant currency, helped by both strong new business and retention. Cyber, classic car, management liability and technology products continue to perform well in Europe and we continue to invest in them.

Germany is now our largest business in terms of premium, with our technology, management liability, motor and cyber products proving most popular. The Frankfurt branch we opened in 2017 is performing well, and having a physical presence in Germany’s financial capital is yielding good results. We will extend our regional footprint further during 2019, with new offices in Stuttgart and Berlin.

In Spain our management liability, professional indemnity and cyber products are key growth drivers. We have also experienced strong new business through existing partnerships, by bringing new products to existing distribution channels.

Our Benelux business has seen good growth in motor, fine art and high-value household where we have benefited from competitors retreating. We launched our cyber and professional indemnity products in Belgium during the year, with promising early signs.

In France, growth has been more muted. After a challenging period in household, we have taken action, implementing a new underwriting and pricing strategy. Cyber and partnerships with financial institutions have 

performed well, and in motor the partnership we established with Aon has enabled us to materially grow our classic car book.

In most markets, cyber has exceeded our expectations. Our investment in talent and marketing, and the consistency we have introduced in our CyberClear brand is paying off. We have developed a leadership position in Germany and Holland, and Spain has had a very promising response to the cyber product it launched at the start of the year. There is more to do in France, but in time we hope to replicate the success we have had elsewhere.

The shared service centre in Lisbon has grown over the 12 years since it was established, from five people in 2006 to a 400-strong team in 2018. It has created valuable efficiencies for Europe and other parts of our business including Hiscox UK, Hiscox MGA and Group IT now benefit from its support.

The roll-out of our ‘My Hiscox’ broker extranet sites across Europe is progressing to plan, and provides brokers and partners with additional products and convenient self-service features. The robotic process automation (RPA) that I mentioned last year, which allows us to automate back-end processing and further improve our service levels to brokers and partners, has been rolled out across policy administration, claims and finance and resulted in the automation of 70,000 transactions in 2018. Our focus on IT infrastructure in Europe will continue in 2019, when we will start work to prepare the business for a new core policy, claims, billing and collections system. This will be a similar multi-year undertaking to the work we have done within our UK and US businesses.

Due to the structural changes we have made to our business in readiness for Brexit, Ireland will be reported as part of Hiscox Europe from 2019. One of the upsides of the changes we have implemented is that Hiscox Europe will benefit from greater clarity and attention, with its own Board oversight.

Hiscox International

Hiscox International comprises Hiscox USA, Hiscox Special Risks and Hiscox Asia. It grew by 14.5% to $965.3 million (2017: $843.3 million).

Hiscox USA

Hiscox USA underwrites small- to mid-market commercial risks through brokers, other insurers and directly to businesses online and over the telephone. The business continues to achieve strong growth, with gross premiums written increasing by 15.4% to $809.6 million (2017: $701.4 million).

Our online direct and partnerships division, where the business we write is predominantly for small businesses with one to five employees, continues to be the biggest driver of growth for Hiscox USA. It grew by 43% to reach $206 million. Growing partnership distribution and our commitment to building a direct-to-customer brand are impactful here, and the business will be the first beneficiary of the new policy administration system currently being implemented.

In the broker channel, growth was driven by professional risks and general liability and we benefited from good retention, though new business has been hard fought – especially in the architect and engineers market, where competition is heating up at the lower end of the market. We are maintaining our underwriting and pricing integrity in mid-market cyber, where a maturing US cyber market has led to falling prices and widening cover, and we continue to carefully manage our exposure. Like others in the market, we experienced an increased severity of claims and rate inadequacy for directors and officers’ (D&O) for private companies. We have responded with discipline and expect our D&O book to shrink in 2019.

Our new US MGA has now commenced trading, with an initial focus on commercial property. The MGA underwrites on behalf of Hiscox London Market and other Lloyd’s syndicates, allowing us to increase our line size and be a more material participant in the market. There is the potential to broaden the MGA’s scope over time.

The operational resilience of the business has been boosted by new offices in Las Vegas and Phoenix, which improve our capabilities to serve West Coast customers. 

Hiscox Special Risks

Hiscox Special Risks underwrites kidnap and ransom, security risks, personal accident, classic car, jewellery and fine art. Hiscox Special Risks has teams in London, Guernsey, Cologne, Munich, Paris, New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

The business had another good year and delivered gross premiums written of $136.2 million (2017: $127.2 million), an increase of 7.0%. Around half of the business written here are multi-year policies, which impacts on the top line and causes year-to-year volatility in revenues.

We have maintained our market-leading position in kidnap and ransom despite increased competition and ongoing challenges in the rating environment. The Special Risks Underwriting Centre is helping to boost retention and allows underwriters more time to work on complex risks and new business.

Our Security Incident Response product, which responds to a range of security issues such as criminal threats, workplace violence, corporate espionage, mysterious disappearance and cyber extortion, continues to be an important opportunity. It has created a market where none existed previously, and I regularly describe it as the product that every CEO needs. Who do you turn to for help when you face one of these remote, but sadly not unthinkable, events? The product is now available in the UK, USA, Japan, Spain and the Netherlands and we have deployed additional resources to support further growth. The product was recognised with the Innovation Award at Business Insurance magazine’s Innovation Awards 2018.

Hiscox Asia

Our brand in Asia, DirectAsia, is a direct-to-consumer business in Singapore and Thailand that sells predominantly motor insurance.  Hiscox acquired it in 2014.

The business grew its controlled premiums by 32.7% to reach $19.5 million (2017: $14.7 million). This excludes premiums controlled by DirectAsia Thailand, which is currently written via an agency relationship into Hiscox Insurance Company (Bermuda) Limited and reported within Hiscox Re & ILS. From 2019 onwards, premiums controlled by DirectAsia Thailand will be reported within Hiscox Retail, in line with the way the Group reports agency income.

Both Singapore and Thailand remain competitive markets, but focused marketing execution along with product and pricing enhancements in car, motorcycle and travel are helping us to attract and retain more customers. We continue to invest in the business as we strive to reach scale.

We have also expanded our distribution capabilities through commercial partnerships with complementary brands including SingTel, Prudential, DBS, and VICOM in Singapore and KTC in Thailand this year. These partnerships broaden our reach, endorse our brand and help us to grow.

Hiscox London Market

Disciplined cycle management driving excellent results 

Hiscox London Market uses the global licences, distribution network and credit rating available through Lloyd’s to insure clients throughout the world.

The business has delivered a great result for 2018, increasing gross premiums written by 17.1% to $877.7 million (2017: $749.8 million), or 16.3% in constant currency, with particularly strong growth in property, general liability and cyber. It generated a profit of $78.2 million (2017: loss of $46.7 million) and the combined ratio improved to 89.3% (2017: 111.6%).

The discipline our London Market business has shown over the last three years has paid dividends. Since the end of 2016, the team has walked away from $400 million of challenged business and by the end of 2018 they had succeeded in replacing it with stronger performing business.

The tough action taken in previous years continued in the first part of 2018, when we stopped writing aviation hull and liability, and reshaped our D&O exposure. This work meant we were well positioned for the Lloyd’s Decile 10 directive, a crackdown on unprofitable lines by mandating that each syndicate submit plans to address the worst-performing 10% of their business. It made for an interesting business planning process but we had far fewer adjustments to make than some of our peers. We view the action taken by Lloyd’s as positive; we all benefit from the Lloyd’s brand, rating, central fund and licences, and it is their right to make sure members are competitive. Lloyd’s is considered the problem-solver of insurance – its reputation for having the expertise and experience to place complex or unusual risks has been earned through decades of hard work – and we must play our part in helping to retain that.

Our London Market team worked hard to push through rate rises in 2018 and overall rates went up 7%. Notable rate rises for the year were in household and general liability, while terrorism and cyber remain competitive. The 1 January 2019 renewals are most significant for our property and specialty insurance lines, which grew between 5% and 10% year-on-year, and in hull and cargo we saw double-digit rate increases at 1 January. Elsewhere rates were flat or up slightly.

As a result of the hurricanes, our property division had another active year for claims but delivered a profit overall. US flood remains a significant opportunity and our FloodPlus products use proprietary technology and advanced analytics to provide better cover at a fairer price for customers, backed by capacity from the flood consortium we lead. FloodPlus performed well in another major US flood event, and during the year we broadened our offering with a FloodPlus Commercial product which has been well received.

Our casualty team focuses on larger company cyber, D&O and general liability. In cyber, although overcapacity is impacting pricing, we remain ambitious and continue to invest in our cyber training programme for brokers which is helping to boost understanding of what remains a complex risk. We have some exposure to the Marriott data loss whose scale and cost reminds us that this is not a risk-free area of activity. The D&O market remains especially challenging, and we significantly refocused our ambitions during the year. Our general liability book continues to grow well and trends look positive. We will expand our capacity in 2019 using consortia with other Lloyd’s syndicates.

We have maintained our market share in core lines including terrorism, where our market-leading position continues to stand us in good stead despite the competitive market.

In product recall we remain opportunistic. We responded to the Canadian Cannabis Act - which allows recreational use of marijuana in Canada and has meant that marijuana growers now require product recall cover - with a new product in less than a month which is just the sort of fleetness of foot and innovation we want to be known for.

The discipline and careful underwriting of our marine and energy team has driven an outstanding performance in these lines, helped too by a low loss experience. In cargo, we are refocusing the portfolio to reduce our overall exposure and lead on more of the business we write.    

Our alternative risk team focuses on portfolio business, where we match our capacity and experience with the expertise of underwriters in niche lines that complement our core appetite. It has been a challenging year, with some exposure to the California wildfires albeit within our expected loss experience. The team received recognition for their work at the Reactions London Market Awards 2018, where they were awarded Insurance Team of the Year.

We are making progress with Lloyd’s Placing Platform Limited (PPL), the market’s move to digital trading. Hiscox bound 45% of all syndicate risks through PPL, exceeding the target of 30% that was mandated by Lloyd’s. This is good progress, but there is more to do. In 2019 we will support market moves to make the use of PPL for submissions mandatory, as this is where we will begin to gain the greatest efficiencies.

As previously announced, our 2019 business plan for Lloyd’s allows us to underwrite a maximum premium in the year ahead of £1.5 billion for Syndicate 33 (2018: £1.6 billion), a reduction year-on-year as market conditions in 2018 did not tally with our expectations. This gives us sufficient headroom in which to execute our 2019 plans, with some allowance for the unexpected.

Our London Market business is a top quartile performer in Lloyd’s and maintaining that position requires active cycle management. In 2019 we will retain our agility, with a particular focus on areas of opportunity within our investment lines.

Hiscox MGA

Hiscox MGA underwrites and distributes products where customers’ requirements for capacity exceed Hiscox’s own risk appetite, or where the team’s distribution focus - both digital and physical - allows us to access business in local markets around the world. It operates out of London, Paris and Miami.

We stopped writing Latin American property facultative reinsurance in the first half of the year, having not seen sufficient rating correction after the loss events of 2017. In space, launch delays have had some short-term top-line impact due to attaching premium moving over to 2019, however we are benefiting from our technical underwriting approach in this line of business and are recognised as a market leader.

Hiscox Re & ILS

Good ILS performance, reinsurance market remains tough

Hiscox Re & ILS comprises the Group’s reinsurance teams who are based in London and Bermuda, and ILS activity primarily conducted through our flagship Kiskadee funds. The team underwrites on behalf of Hiscox and third-party capital partners, whether they are insurance companies, other syndicates or capital market investors.

Gross premiums written grew 15.9% to $812.0 million (2017: $700.8 million), or 15.0% in constant currency. Property catastrophe reinsurance and specialty reinsurance were the key drivers of growth. A number of natural catastrophes and large claims impacted profits which resulted in a loss of $23.2 million (2017: profit of $25.5 million) and a combined ratio of 116.9% (2017: 101.3%). As explained earlier, the product mix sold to customers responded more to the run of mid-sized catastrophes and large individual losses that occurred in 2018 as compared to the fewer larger catastrophes in 2017. That is the nature of our business - fortuity influences our year-to-year performance, but good underwriting shines through over time.

There was an initial surge of prices in the first quarter following the 2017 hurricane losses, and we were able to write a disproportionate amount of business at that time, but as rate increases tapered off during the course of the year, our growth became more subdued. Overall, we achieved rate increases of 5% for the year.

We continued to develop our specialty lines where we see growing opportunity, launching a first-of-its-kind industry loss warranty product in cyber, and in flood, where our FloodXtra product differentiates us.

During the 1 January 2019 renewal period, we saw overall rate improvements of around 2% across all lines, driven by increases in retro, risk excess, casualty and specialty. As we look towards the Japanese renewals at 1 April and US renewals at 1 June and 1 July, both of which will be loss-affected, we anticipate further pricing correction. 

We have seen sustained demand for our ILS offering. Our funds have performed in line with expectations, with the losses of the second half consistent with modelled outcomes. Assets under management now exceed $1.5 billion after last year’s losses. 

We continue to innovate in ILS and have launched a new fund which allows investors to access insurance lines for the first time. The Kiskadee Latitude fund is supported by a top-tier investor who will access a more diverse insurance and reinsurance portfolio with less focus on pure property catastrophe risk. The fund began underwriting on 1 January 2019, supported by over $100 million.


We experienced a relatively benign first six months of the year for claims; February’s Beast from the East was well within our expected range for a UK weather event, and elsewhere our claims experience was unremarkable. As is the nature of insurance though, anything can happen and it did in the second half of the year, when we experienced a more active environment for both natural catastrophes and large claims. 

Hiscox reserved $165 million for Hurricanes Florence and Michael in the USA, and Typhoons Jebi and Trami in the Far East, together with the impact of historic wildfires in California. 

In addition, we had some exposure to a number of notable individual claims in cyber, media and marine (including a large marine loss of $13 million). In D&O we experienced a higher severity of claims both in the USA and London Market. The claims trends that I have talked about in Hiscox UK & Ireland – escape of water and subsidence – have also had some effect.

We exercise prudence when it comes to claims reserving, and this approach is evident in reserve releases of $326 million (2017: $324 million) from prior years. This includes favourable experience on the $225 million reserves established for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria at the end of 2017.

We also announced that the leadership of our claims function is evolving. Jeremy Pinchin, who has held multiple leadership positions during his 13 years at Hiscox, but served throughout as our Group Claims Director, will retire in 2019. When Jeremy joined us in 2005, he was our first Group Claims Director. That year, we paid total claims of around £450 million and had a claims team of less than 50 people. Jeremy has driven the ongoing professionalism of our claim’s operations, ensuring its capabilities have scaled in line with our growth, and it is under his leadership that we now have an award-winning claims function, a 250-strong team, and in 2018 paid out £1.2 billion in claims. Paying claims is what we are here for and Jeremy has enabled Hiscox to go from strength-to-strength in this regard. He also made a huge contribution to our industry, particularly after 9/11 when he had the unique role of Special Counsel for Lloyd’s and coordinated the market’s management of its exposure to the losses arising from September 11.

During his time at Hiscox, Jeremy also served as the first Chief Executive of Hiscox Re; drove the creation of our ILS capability, including naming our funds Kiskadee, a noisy Bermudian bird; served as Chief Executive of Hiscox Bermuda, and as Hiscox Group Company Secretary and General Counsel. I am thankful for his huge and varied contribution to our business during his time at Hiscox. I am pleased that we will continue to benefit from his wisdom as a Non Executive Chairman of Hiscox Special Risks, and as Chairman of the Hiscox Pension Fund.

He is succeeded as Group Claims Director by Grace Hanson. She will be responsible for the strategic direction of Hiscox’s claims activities across the Group, working with the standard-bearers for Hiscox’s customer promise. We will benefit from Grace’s experience, which includes big-ticket property and casualty claims while at Allied World, and volume claims while at Homesite. This combination of knowledge and experience will shape our claims response to the digital era.


Our marketing is focused on building a differentiated brand in all our markets to drive value over the short and long term. In 2018 we spent $69.7 million on acquisition and brand-building activity (2017: $69.1 million) with award-winning campaigns such as CyberLive in the UK driving double-digit premium growth in our small business offering. The I’mpossible campaign in the USA continued to run across digital, print, radio and in sponsorship, while in the UK the Hiscox Ever Onwards campaign continued its successful combination of outdoor and radio. Cyber-focused campaigns drove increased awareness of Hiscox across both our business and home insurance customers. We saw great momentum in DirectAsia with new marketing campaigns and distribution partnerships driving new business performance.

Across the Group we activated key partnerships in our core interest areas of art, classic cars and technology, driving awareness and affinity of Hiscox.

Information technology and major projects

A robust modern infrastructure is essential, not only for the business we are today but also the business we want to be. The volume of work taking place around the Group to transform some of our underlying infrastructure is not insignificant, and we are making good progress. As previously stated, cumulatively these projects are increasing our expense ratio by 1%-1.5% in the short term.

The staggered approach we have taken to replacing our core underwriting systems across Hiscox Retail, starting with the UK, has been prudent. Embedding new systems and training our teams to use them takes time, and has had a short-term impact on service levels as our UK business adjusts, but in time we will reap the benefits of new infrastructure. In the USA, we remain on track for our direct and partnerships business to start transitioning to a new system towards the end of 2019. This will create efficiencies for the US business that are essential, given the size of the opportunity ahead of us. In Europe, we have reviewed our IT requirements and made some progress on improving our broker portals and relationship management systems. In time, our European operations will require the same core systems replacement as the UK and USA, so the associated business readiness activities will happen this year.

We completed the replacement of our HR systems across the Group in 2018 and our multi-year programme of finance change initiatives is progressing well. We have also taken positive steps regarding robotics and machine learning, for example, by automating some routine IT service desk tasks. In 2019 we will continue to move forward with our digitisation efforts, looking at broader use of technologies like application programming interfaces (APIs) and robotics that support our push towards portfolio underwriting in the UK, as well as personal lines and claims innovations that benefit our customers.

As we have said before, like others we have also had a plethora of external factors to respond to; Brexit (more on that below), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), New York Cybersecurity Regulation, IFRS 17 accounting standards, the Insurance Distribution Directive (IDD) and the updated Senior Managers Certification Regime (SMCR). So as the Chairman has said, 2018 was a year of change and achievement in our operations, with more planned in 2019.  


Our business is ready for Brexit, even if British politicians are not. We have always said that, for Hiscox, Brexit is structural not strategic. We have built a profitable business in mainland Europe and Ireland over the past 25 years, which serves over 200,000 customers and employs 420 staff. We have put in place the structures needed to continue to serve these customers, as well as those of our customers from elsewhere in the world who have assets or exposures in these territories.

We have created Hiscox SA, a new Luxembourg insurer to carry our retail risks, and will utilise Lloyd’s Brussels to insure European Economic Area risks which were previously placed with Lloyd’s of London. Adapting to Brexit cost Hiscox approximately $15 million in one-off costs, the majority of which were incurred during 2018, and an expected ongoing cost of $2.4 million per annum. It has also led to an increase in required capital of approximately €100 million, around half of which will moderate over time.

I am proud of the resolve of our teams around the world who have delivered our Brexit solution and I would like to thank them all for their hard work on the project. The Part VII legal process of transferring relevant policies and their associated liabilities from Hiscox Insurance Company to Hiscox SA, as we have just done, is complex, but provides certainty to our customers that we can legally pay all valid claims, even in a hard Brexit scenario. In 2019 we will work with Lloyd’s as they complete their Part VII transfer.


We manage our investment portfolio with two main objectives in mind: providing sufficient liquidity to pay claims and providing capital to support the underwriting business, while generating strong risk-adjusted returns. These objectives were certainly challenged this year.

Our prediction that the end of 2017 would be a turning point in financial markets proved to be correct, and 2018 was a difficult environment for investors. Interest rate rises, volatility spikes and equity price slumps contrasted sharply with the preceding year. Nevertheless, our cautious approach to risk and asset allocation enabled us to generate reasonable returns in turbulent markets.

In keeping with our long-held conservative approach to investing, we were content to accept the returns on offer in the safer corners of the bond markets while maintaining a modest allocation to equities and hedge funds. As a result of this strategy, our investments made $42.5 million (2017: $112.5 million), before derivatives and fees, a return of 0.7% (2017: 2.0%).

The conventional wisdom that a negative environment for bonds bodes well for equities did not hold true in 2018, with both asset classes underperforming in the majority of markets. In response, we reduced our bond exposure, reducing mark-to-market losses in the process; took refuge in cash, holding more US Dollars than usual; and maintained a low exposure to riskier assets.

While our investment returns were below our initial expectations, we outperformed our indices through a careful selection of active bond, equity and hedge fund managers.

2019 presents yet more uncertainty, with ongoing political instability in Europe and the potential for recession in the USA. While acknowledging the uncertainty, there are reasons to be optimistic; we have seen a material improvement in yields available and are now investing our US bond portfolio at rates in excess of 3%, something we have not been able to do for nearly a decade. We continue to hold a higher than normal allocation to cash and remain well-placed to invest as opportunities emerge. 


Our ambition for 2019 is to continue to grow premiums, albeit at a slightly slower pace than 2018. We expect that improving pricing as a result of Lloyd’s Decile 10 and our ongoing portfolio optimisation will lead to more insurance profit, with higher interest rates driving better investment returns. We will continue to invest in our underlying infrastructure and our brand. All of this will help propel our business forward.

We are maturing into a larger and more prominent company, but we strive to retain our entrepreneurial spirit. We were promoted to the FTSE 100 at the end of 2018, the consequence of our past endeavours. It was a moment of quiet satisfaction, but more of trepidation. More people will have more opinions on what we should or shouldn’t do. We are alive to the responsibilities, but will seek to live up to our ethos of challenging convention. We are fortunate that in many of our chosen areas, we are still small players with plenty of opportunity ahead of us. People, brand, products and strategic ambition differentiate us and we will continue to nurture them in the year ahead to the benefit of customers, staff and shareholders.


Bronek Masojada

25 February 2019

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