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RLI > SEC Filings for RLI > Form 10-K on 27-Feb-2014All Recent SEC Filings

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Form 10-K for RLI CORP


27-Feb-2014

Annual Report


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

OVERVIEW

RLI Corp. underwrites selected property and casualty insurance through major subsidiaries collectively known as RLI Insurance Group. As a niche company with a specialty focus, we offer insurance coverages in both the specialty admitted and excess and surplus markets. Coverages in the specialty admitted market, such as our oil and gas surety bonds, are for risks that are unique or hard-to-place in the standard market, but must remain with an admitted insurance company for regulatory or marketing reasons. In addition, our coverages in the specialty admitted market may be designed to meet specific insurance needs of targeted insured groups, such as our professional liability and package coverages for design professionals and our stand-alone personal umbrella policy. The specialty admitted market is subject to more state regulation than the excess and surplus market, particularly with regard to rate and form filing requirements, restrictions on the ability to exit lines of business, premium tax payments and membership in various state associations, such as state guaranty funds and assigned risk plans. We also underwrite coverages in the excess and surplus market. The excess and surplus market, unlike the admitted market, is less regulated and more flexible in terms of policy forms and premium rates. This market provides an alternative for customers with risks or loss exposures that generally cannot be written in the standard market. This typically results in coverages that are more restrictive and more expensive than coverages in the admitted market. When we underwrite within the excess and surplus market, we are selective in the lines of business and type of risks we choose to write. Using our non-admitted status in this market allows us to tailor terms and conditions to manage these exposures effectively. Often, the development of these coverages is generated through proposals brought to us by an agent or broker seeking coverage for a specific group of clients or loss exposures. Once a proposal is submitted, our underwriters determine whether it would be a viable product based on our business objectives.

The foundation of our overall business strategy is to underwrite for profit in all market conditions and we achieved this for the 18th consecutive year in 2013, averaging an 87.6 combined ratio over that period of time. This foundation drives our ability to provide shareholder returns in three different ways: the underwriting income itself, net investment income from our investment portfolio and long-term appreciation in our equity portfolio. Our investment strategy is based on preservation of capital as the first priority with a secondary focus on generating total return. The fixed income portfolio consists primarily of highly-rated, diversified, liquid investment-grade securities. Consistent underwriting income allows a portion of our shareholders' equity to be invested in equity securities. Our equity portfolio consists of a core stock portfolio weighted toward dividend-paying stocks, as well as exchange traded funds (ETFs). Our minority equity ownership in Maui Jim, Inc. (Maui Jim), a manufacturer of high-quality sunglasses, has also enhanced overall returns. We have a diversified investment portfolio and closely monitor our investment risks. Despite periodic fluctuations in market value, our equity portfolio is part of a long-term asset allocation strategy and has contributed significantly to our historic growth in book value.

We measure the results of our insurance operations by monitoring certain measures of growth and profitability across three distinct business segments:
casualty, property and surety. Growth is measured in terms of gross premiums written, and profitability is analyzed through combined ratios, which are further subdivided into their respective loss and expense


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components.

The casualty portion of our business consists largely of general liability, personal umbrella, transportation, executive products, commercial umbrella, package business and other specialty coverages, such as our professional liability for design professionals. We also offer fidelity and crime coverage for commercial insureds and select financial institutions and recently expanded our casualty offerings to include medical professional liability coverage in the excess and surplus market. The casualty business is subject to the risk of estimating losses and related loss reserves because the ultimate settlement of a casualty claim may take several years to fully develop. The casualty segment is also subject to inflation risk and may be affected by evolving legislation and court decisions that define the extent of coverage and the amount of compensation due for injuries or losses.

Our property segment is comprised primarily of commercial fire, earthquake, difference in conditions, marine, facultative and treaty reinsurance including crop and select personal lines policies, such as recreational vehicle and Hawaii homeowners coverages. While our marine and facultative reinsurance coverages are predominantly domestic risks, these portfolios do contain a relatively small portion of foreign risks. Property insurance and reinsurance results are subject to the variability introduced by perils such as earthquakes, fires and hurricanes. Our major catastrophe exposure is to losses caused by earthquakes, primarily on the West Coast. Our second largest catastrophe exposure is to losses caused by hurricanes to commercial properties throughout the Gulf and East Coast, as well as to homes we insure in Hawaii. We limit our net aggregate exposure to a catastrophic event by minimizing the total policy limits written in a particular region, purchasing reinsurance and through extensive use of computer-assisted modeling techniques. These techniques provide estimates that help us carefully manage the concentration of risks exposed to catastrophic events. Our assumed multi-peril crop and hail treaty reinsurance business covers revenue shortfalls or production losses due to natural causes such as drought, excessive moisture, hail, wind, frost, insects and disease. Significant aggregation of these losses is mitigated by the U.S. Federal Government reinsurance program that provides stop loss protection inuring to our benefit.

The surety segment specializes in writing small-to-large commercial and contract surety coverages, as well as those for the energy, petrochemical and refining industries. We offer miscellaneous bonds including license and permit, notary and court bonds. Often, our surety coverages involve a statutory requirement for bonds. While these bonds typically maintain a relatively low loss ratio, losses may fluctuate due to adverse economic conditions affecting the financial viability of our insureds. The contract surety product guarantees the construction work of a commercial contractor for a specific project. Generally, losses occur due to the deterioration of a contractor's financial condition. This line has historically produced marginally higher loss ratios than other surety lines during economic downturns.

Modest rate improvements, which began on most coverages in 2012, have continued through 2013. The insurance marketplace, however, continues to be intensely competitive in many segments with new entrants and less disciplined markets broadening policy terms and reducing prices. Nevertheless, we believe that our business model is geared to create underwriting income by focusing on sound risk selection and discipline. Our primary focus will continue to be on underwriting profitability, with a secondary focus on premium growth where we believe underwriting profit exists, as opposed to general premium growth or market share measurements.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

On November 2, 2012, we acquired Rockbridge, a Houston-based managing general agency, for $15.5 million in cash, coupled with a contingent earn-out based on future underwriting profitability. Rockbridge specializes in medical professional liability insurance in the excess and surplus market. Coverage is offered to individual physicians and physician groups in all 50 states through a network of retail and wholesale brokers.

On April 28, 2011, we acquired CBIC through an acquisition of its holding company, Data and Staff Service Co., for $135.9 million in cash. CBIC is a Seattle-based insurance company specializing in surety bonds and related niche property and casualty insurance products. CBIC is a leading writer of contractor license bonds in the Northwest.

A more detailed discussion of the impact of these acquisitions is provided in the results of operations and segment highlights, as well as in note 13 to the consolidated financial statements within Item 8, Financial Statements and Supplementary Data.


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GAAP AND NON-GAAP FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE METRICS

Throughout this annual report, we present our operations in the way we believe will be most meaningful, useful and transparent to anyone using this financial information to evaluate our performance. In addition to the generally accepted accounting principles in the United States of America (GAAP) presentation of net income, we show certain statutory reporting information and other non-GAAP financial measures that we believe are valuable in managing our business and drawing comparisons to our peers. These non-GAAP measures are underwriting income, combined ratios and net unpaid loss and settlement expenses.

Following is a list of non-GAAP measures found throughout this report with their definitions, relationships to GAAP measures and explanations of their importance to our operations.

Underwriting Income

Underwriting income or profit represents one measure of the pretax profitability of our insurance operations and is derived by subtracting losses and settlement expenses, policy acquisition costs and insurance operating expenses from net premiums earned. Each of these captions is presented in the statements of earnings but not subtotaled. However, this information is available in total and by segment in note 11 to the consolidated financial statements within Item 8, Financial Statements and Supplementary Data. The nearest comparable GAAP measure is earnings before income taxes which, in addition to underwriting income, includes net investment income, net realized gains/losses on investments, general corporate expenses, debt costs and unconsolidated investee earnings.

Combined Ratio

This ratio is a common industry measure of profitability for any underwriting operation and is calculated in two components. First, the loss ratio is losses and settlement expenses divided by net premiums earned. The second component, the expense ratio, reflects the sum of policy acquisition costs and insurance operating expenses divided by net premiums earned. All items included in these components of the combined ratio are presented in our GAAP consolidated financial statements. The sum of the loss and expense ratios is the combined ratio. The difference between the combined ratio and 100 reflects the per-dollar rate of underwriting income or loss. For example, a combined ratio of 85 implies that for every $100 of premium we earn, we record $15 of underwriting income.

Net Unpaid Loss and Settlement Expenses

Unpaid losses and settlement expenses, as shown in the liabilities section of our balance sheets, represents the total obligations to claimants for both estimates of known claims and estimates for incurred but not reported (IBNR) claims. The related asset item, reinsurance balances recoverable on unpaid losses and settlement expense, is the estimate of known claims and estimates of IBNR that we expect to recover from reinsurers. The net of these two items is generally referred to as net unpaid loss and settlement expenses and is commonly used in our disclosures regarding the process of establishing these various estimated amounts.

CRITICAL ACCOUNTING POLICIES

In preparing the consolidated financial statements, we are required to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and the disclosures of contingent assets and liabilities as of the date of the consolidated financial statements and the reported amounts of revenues and expenses for the reporting period. Actual results could differ significantly from those estimates.

The most critical accounting policies involve significant estimates and include those used in determining the liability for unpaid losses and settlement expenses, investment valuation and other-than-temporary impairment (OTTI), recoverability of reinsurance balances, deferred policy acquisition costs and deferred taxes.

LOSSES AND SETTLEMENT EXPENSES

Overview

Loss and loss adjustment expense (LAE) reserves represent our best estimate of ultimate payments for losses and related settlement expenses from claims that have been reported but not paid and those losses that have occurred but have


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not yet been reported to us. Loss reserves do not represent an exact calculation of liability, but instead represent our estimates, generally utilizing individual claim estimates, actuarial expertise and estimation techniques at a given accounting date. The loss reserve estimates are expectations of what ultimate settlement and administration of claims will cost upon final resolution. These estimates are based on facts and circumstances then known to us, review of historical settlement patterns, estimates of trends in claims frequency and severity, projections of loss costs, expected interpretations of legal theories of liability and many other factors. In establishing reserves, we also take into account estimated recoveries from reinsurance, salvage and subrogation. The reserves are reviewed regularly by a team of actuaries we employ.

The process of estimating loss reserves involves a high degree of judgment and is subject to a number of variables. These variables can be affected by both internal and external events, such as changes in claims handling procedures, claim personnel, economic inflation, legal trends and legislative changes, among others. The impact of many of these items on ultimate costs for loss and LAE is difficult to estimate. Loss reserve estimations also differ significantly by coverage due to differences in claim complexity, the volume of claims, the policy limits written, the terms and conditions of the underlying policies, the potential severity of individual claims, the determination of occurrence date for a claim and reporting lags (the time between the occurrence of the policyholder event and when it is actually reported to the insurer). Informed judgment is applied throughout the process. We continually refine our loss reserve estimates as historical loss experience develops and additional claims are reported and settled. We rigorously attempt to consider all significant facts and circumstances known at the time loss reserves are established.

Due to inherent uncertainty underlying loss reserve estimates, including, but not limited to, the future settlement environment, final resolution of the estimated liability may be different from that anticipated at the reporting date. Therefore, actual paid losses in the future may yield a significantly different amount than currently reserved - favorable or unfavorable.

The amount by which estimated losses differ from those originally reported for a period is known as "development." Development is unfavorable when the losses ultimately settle for more than the levels at which they were reserved or subsequent estimates indicate a basis for reserve increases on unresolved claims. Development is favorable when losses ultimately settle for less than the amount reserved or subsequent estimates indicate a basis for reducing loss reserves on unresolved claims. We reflect favorable or unfavorable developments of loss reserves in the results of operations in the period the estimates are changed.

We record two categories of loss and LAE reserves - case-specific reserves and IBNR reserves.

Within a reasonable period of time after a claim is reported, our claim department completes an initial investigation and establishes a case reserve. This case-specific reserve is an estimate of the ultimate amount we will have to pay for the claim, including related legal expenses and other costs associated with resolving and settling it. The estimate reflects all of the current information available regarding the claim, the informed judgment of our professional claim personnel regarding the nature and value of the specific type of claim and our reserving practices. During the life cycle of a particular claim, as more information becomes available, we may revise the estimate of the ultimate value of the claim either upward or downward. We may determine that it is appropriate to pay portions of the reserve to the claimant or related settlement expenses before final resolution of the claim. The amount of the individual claim reserve will be adjusted accordingly and is based on the most recent information available.

We establish IBNR reserves to estimate the amount we will have to pay for claims that have occurred, but have not yet been reported to us, claims that have been reported to us that may ultimately be paid out differently than reflected in our case-specific reserves and claims that have been closed but may reopen and require future payment.

Our IBNR reserving process involves three steps: (1) an initial IBNR generation process that is prospective in nature, (2) a loss and LAE reserve estimation process that occurs retrospectively and (3) a subsequent discussion and reconciliation between our prospective and retrospective IBNR estimates, which includes changes in our provisions for IBNR where deemed appropriate. These three processes are discussed in more detail in the following sections.

LAE represents the cost involved in adjusting and administering losses from policies we issued. The LAE reserves are frequently separated into two components: allocated and unallocated. Allocated loss adjustment expense (ALAE) reserves represent an estimate of claims settlement expenses that can be identified with a specific claim or case. Examples of ALAE would be the hiring of an outside adjuster to investigate a claim or an outside attorney to defend our insured. The claim professional typically estimates this cost separately from the loss component in the case reserve. Unallocated loss adjustment expense (ULAE) reserves represent an estimate of claims settlement expenses that cannot be identified with a


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specific claim. An example of ULAE would be the cost of an internal claim examiner to manage or investigate a reported claim.

All decisions regarding our best estimate of ultimate loss and LAE reserves are made by our Loss Reserve Committee (LRC). The LRC is made up of various members of the management team including the chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief financial officer, chief actuary, general counsel and other selected executives. We do not use discounting (recognition of the time value of money) in reporting our estimated reserves for losses and settlement expenses. Based on current assumptions used in calculating reserves, we believe that our overall reserve levels at December 31, 2013, make a reasonable provision to meet our future obligations.

Initial IBNR Generation Process

Initial carried IBNR reserves are determined through a reserve generation process. The intent of this process is to establish an initial total reserve that will provide a reasonable provision for the ultimate value of all unpaid loss and ALAE liabilities. For most casualty and surety products, this process involves the use of an initial loss and ALAE ratio that is applied to the earned premium for a given period. The result is our best initial estimate of the expected amount of ultimate loss and ALAE for the period by product. Payments and case reserves are subtracted from this initial estimate of ultimate loss and ALAE to determine a carried IBNR reserve.

For most property products, we use an alternative method of determining an appropriate provision for initial IBNR. Since this segment is characterized by a shorter period of time between claim occurrence and claim settlement, the IBNR reserves are determined by IBNR percentages applied to premium earned. The percentages are determined based on historical reporting patterns and are updated periodically. In addition, for assumed property reinsurance, consideration is given to data compiled for a sizable sample of reinsurers. No deductions for paid or case reserves are made. This alternative method of determining initial IBNR allows incurred losses and ALAE to react more rapidly to the actual emergence and is more appropriate for our property products where final claim resolution occurs over a shorter period of time.

Our crop reinsurance business is unique and is subject to an inherently higher degree of estimation risk during interim periods. As a result, the interim reports and professional judgments of our ceding company's actuaries and crop business experts provide important information which assists us in estimating our carried reserves.

We do not reserve for natural or man-made catastrophes until an event has occurred. Shortly after such occurrence, we review insured locations exposed to the event, catastrophe model loss estimates based on our own exposures and industry loss estimates of the event. We also consider our knowledge of frequency and severity from early claim reports to determine an appropriate reserve for the catastrophe. These reserves are reviewed frequently to consider actual losses reported and appropriate changes to our estimates are made to reflect the new information.

The initial loss and ALAE ratios that are applied to earned premium are reviewed at least semi-annually. Prospective estimates are made based on historical loss experience adjusted for exposure mix, price change and loss cost trends. The initial loss and ALAE ratios also reflect our judgment as to estimation risk. We consider estimation risk by product and coverage within product, if applicable. A product with greater overall volatility and uncertainty has greater estimation risk. Products or coverages with higher estimation risk include, but are not limited to, the following characteristics:

          Significant changes in underlying policy terms and conditions,

          A new business or one experiencing significant growth and/or high
turnover,

          Small volume or lacking internal data requiring significant

utilization of external data,

Unique reinsurance features including those with aggregate stop-loss, reinstatement clauses, commutation provisions or clash protection,

          Longer emergence patterns with exposures to latent unforeseen mass
tort,

          Assumed reinsurance businesses where there is an extended reporting

lag and/or a heavier utilization of ceding company data and claims and product expertise,

          High severity and/or low frequency,

          Operational processes undergoing significant change and/or

          High sensitivity to significant swings in loss trends, economic
change or judicial change.

The historical and prospective loss and ALAE estimates, along with the risks listed, are the basis for determining our initial and subsequent carried reserves. Adjustments in the initial loss ratio by product and segment are made where necessary and reflect updated assumptions regarding loss experience, loss trends, price changes and prevailing risk factors.


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The LRC makes all final decisions regarding changes in the initial loss and ALAE ratios.

Loss and LAE Reserve Estimation Process

A full analysis of our loss reserves takes place at least semi-annually. The purpose of this analysis is to provide validation of our carried loss reserves. Estimates of the expected value of the unpaid loss and LAE are derived using actuarial methodologies. These estimates are then compared to the carried loss reserves to determine the appropriateness of the current reserve balance.

The process of estimating ultimate payment for claims and claim expenses begins with the collection and analysis of current and historical claim data. Data on individual reported claims, including paid amounts and individual claim adjuster estimates, are grouped by common characteristics. There is judgment involved in this grouping. Considerations when grouping data include the volume of the data available, the credibility of the data available, the homogeneity of the risks in each cohort and both settlement and payment pattern consistency. We use this data to determine historical claim reporting and payment patterns, which are used in the analysis of ultimate claim liabilities. For portions of the business without sufficiently large numbers of policies or that have not accumulated sufficient historical statistics, our own data is supplemented with external or industry average data as available and when appropriate. For our newer products such as crop reinsurance, as well as for executive products, professional services and marine, we utilize external data extensively.

In addition to the review of historical claim reporting and payment patterns, we also incorporate estimated losses relative to premium (loss ratios) by year into the analysis. The expected loss ratios are based on a review of historical loss performance, trends in frequency and severity and price level changes. The estimates are subject to judgment including consideration given to available internal and industry data, growth and policy turnover, changes in policy limits, changes in underlying policy provisions, changes in legal and regulatory interpretations of policy provisions and changes in reinsurance structure. For the most current year, these are equivalent with the ratios used in the initial IBNR generation process. Increased recognition is given to actual emergence as the years age.

We use historical development patterns, expected loss ratios and standard actuarial methods to derive an estimate of the ultimate level of loss and LAE payments necessary to settle all the claims occurring as of the end of the evaluation period.

Our reserve processes include multiple standard actuarial methods for determining estimates of IBNR reserves. Other supplementary methodologies are incorporated as necessary. Mass tort and latent liabilities are examples of exposures for which supplementary methodologies are used. Each method produces an estimate of ultimate loss by accident year. We review all of these various estimates and assign weights to each based on the characteristics of the product being reviewed.

Our estimates of ultimate loss and LAE reserves are subject to change as additional data emerges. This could occur as a result of change in loss development patterns, a revision in expected loss ratios, the emergence of exceptional loss activity, a change in weightings between actuarial methods, the addition of new actuarial methodologies, new information that merits inclusion or the emergence of internal variables or external factors that would alter our view.

There is uncertainty in the estimates of ultimate losses. Significant risk factors to the reserve estimate include, but are not limited to, unforeseen or unquantifiable changes in:

          Loss payment patterns,

          Loss reporting patterns,

. . .
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