COR improves by four points to 95.8%

Zurich’s UK general insurance business made an operating profit of £144m in 2013, up 53% on the £94m it made in 2012.

The combined operating ratio (COR) improved by four percentage points to 95.8% (2012: 99.8%). The expense ratio improved by 0.9 points to 29% (2012: 29.9%).

The company attributed the profit boost to expense management and underwriting discipline, as well as lower weather-related losses than in 2012.

Gross written premium was flat at £1.68m, which Zurich said reflected its commitment to write business for long-term profit.

Zurich’s UK general insurance chief executive Steve Lewis said: “These results give real cause for optimism about the progression for our business, as long as we maintain our focus and continue to adapt to and plan for the constantly changing demands of the market.

“2013 was a challenging year for individuals and businesses alike, but it is extremely encouraging to have come through the full year and be able to report such healthy figures.

“It can be a struggle to maintain underwriting discipline, especially given the growing competition. But the industry as a whole needs to keep evolving to reflect the persistent low interest rate backdrop – and our customers want insurance products that represent good value for money.”

Barrage of storms

Lewis noted that while the results were helped by lower weather claims than in 2012, Zurich’s customers had been hit by a “barrage” of storms, tidal surges and wet weather since the end of October 2013.

He said the volume of claims was 500% higher than the normal daily average on some peak days around the end of the year.

But he added: “That’s what we are here for – to help people and businesses get back on their feet as quickly as possible. And making sure our business remains stable and robust is fundamental to us being able to do that.

“We have a highly capable team that is intent on building on the success of the past 12 months. We are committed to further evolving our products and services to best meet the varied and changing needs of our customers.”