Group returns to underwriting profitability for first time since 2009

Ecclesiastical’s UK business reported a 0.6 percentage point improvement in its combined operating ratio (COR) in the first half of 2014 despite £9m of weather claims.

The specialist churches and charities insurer reported a UK COR of 95% in the first half, compared with 95.6% in the same period last year.

The improvement in underwriting performance also came despite a 23% drop in UK gross written premium (GWP) to £118.6m (H1 2013: £153.8m).

Ecclesiastical’s underwriting performance also improved at group level.

The group returned to underwriting profit for the first time since 2009, reporting a COR of 97.5% (H1 2013: 106%).

The underwriting profit was £2.9m, compared with an underwriting loss of £8.9m.

Despite the improvement, group pre-tax profit fell by 25% to £18.4m (H1 2013: £24.4m).

This was caused in part by a 58% drop in investment returns to £14.1m (H1 2013: £33.2m).

GWP for the group fell by 20% to £164.4m (H1 2013: £205.7m).

Ecclesiastical group chief executive Mark Hews said: “This is a strong set of interim results particularly given the UK’s severe weather in Q1.

“Our underwriting performance has improved significantly right across the group, reflecting the implementation of our new strategy over the last year. 

“This turnaround of our underwriting performance comes as a result of many tough decisions made in respect of our business strategy, structure and risk appetite. We have radically strengthened the underlying quality of our portfolio by managing down our GWP and refocusing on our specialist areas. We now have a strong foundation for future profitable growth.”