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AMSF > SEC Filings for AMSF > Form 10-K on 28-Feb-2014All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for AMERISAFE INC



Annual Report

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

The following discussion of our financial condition and results of operations should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto included in Item 8 of this report. This discussion includes forward-looking statements that are subject to risks, uncertainties and other factors described in Item 1A of this report. These factors could cause our actual results in 2014 and beyond to differ materially from those expressed in, or implied by, those forward-looking statements.


AMERISAFE is a holding company that markets and underwrites workers' compensation insurance through its insurance subsidiaries. Workers' compensation insurance covers statutorily prescribed benefits that employers are obligated to provide to their employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment. Our business strategy is focused on providing this coverage to small to mid-sized employers engaged in hazardous industries, principally construction, trucking, manufacturing, oil and gas and agriculture. Employers engaged in hazardous industries pay substantially higher than average rates for workers' compensation insurance compared to employers in other industries, as measured per payroll dollar. The higher premium rates are due to the nature of the work performed and the inherent workplace danger of our target employers. Hazardous industry employers also tend to have less frequent but more severe claims as compared to employers in other industries due to the nature of their businesses. We provide proactive safety reviews of employers' workplaces. These safety reviews are a vital component of our underwriting process and also promote safer workplaces. We utilize intensive claims management practices that we believe permit us to reduce the overall cost of our claims. In addition, our audit services ensure that our policyholders pay the appropriate premiums required under the terms of their policies and enable us to monitor payroll patterns that cause underwriting, safety or fraud concerns. We believe that the higher premiums typically paid by our policyholders, together with our disciplined underwriting and safety, claims and audit services, provide us with the opportunity to earn attractive returns for our shareholders.

We actively market our insurance in 30 states and the District of Columbia through independent agencies, as well as through our wholly owned insurance agency subsidiary. We are also licensed in an additional 17 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Two of the key financial measures that we use to evaluate our performance are return on average equity and growth in book value per share. We calculate return on average equity by dividing annual net income by the average of annual shareholders' equity. Our return on average equity was 10.9% in 2013, 8.0% in 2012 and 7.1% in 2011. We calculate book value per share by dividing ending shareholder's equity by number of common shares outstanding. Our book value per share was $22.41 at December 31, 2013, $20.88 at December 31, 2012 and $19.25 at December 31, 2011.

Investment income is an important element of our net income. Because the period of time between our receipt of premiums and the ultimate settlement of claims is often several years or longer, we are able to invest cash from premiums for significant periods of time. As a result, we are able to generate more investment income from our premiums as compared to insurance companies that operate in other lines of business that pay claims more quickly. From December 31, 2008 to December 31, 2013, our investment portfolio, including cash and cash equivalents, increased from $800.0 million to $1.0 billion and produced net investment income of $27.0 million in 2013, $27.0 million in 2012 and $26.3 million in 2011.

The use of reinsurance is an important component of our business strategy. We purchase reinsurance to protect us from the impact of large losses. Our reinsurance program for 2014 includes 14 reinsurers that provide coverage to us in excess of a certain specified loss amount, or retention level. Our 2014 reinsurance program provides us with reinsurance coverage for each loss occurrence up to $70.0 million, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits. However, for any loss occurrence involving only one claimant, our reinsurance coverage is limited to $10.0 million for any single claimant, subject to applicable deductibles, retentions and aggregate limits. For 2014, we raised our retention from $1.0 million to $2.0 million for each loss

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occurrence. Losses in the layer between $2.0 million and $5.0 million are ceded to a new multi-year reinsurance cover with an aggregate annual deductible of approximately $5.0 million and an aggregate limit of coverage of approximately $11.5 million for 2014. This cover is 75% placed, with Amerisafe retaining a 25% co-participation. For losses between $5.0 million and $10.0 million, we are subject to an annual aggregate deductible of 6.5% of subject earned premium before our reinsurers are obligated to reimburse us. For losses between $5.0 million and $10.0 million, the three year aggregate limit is $20.0 million. As losses are incurred and recorded, we record amounts recoverable from reinsurers for the portion of the losses ceded to our reinsurers.

Our most significant balance sheet liability is our reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses. We record reserves for estimated losses under insurance policies that we write and for loss adjustment expenses related to the investigation and settlement of claims. Our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses represent the estimated cost of all reported and unreported loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred and unpaid at any given point in time based on known facts and circumstances. Reserves are based on estimates of the most likely ultimate cost of individual claims. These estimates are inherently uncertain. In addition, there are no policy limits on the liability for workers' compensation claims as there are for other forms of insurance. Therefore, estimating reserves for workers' compensation claims may be more uncertain than estimating reserves for other types of insurance claims with shorter or more definite periods between occurrence of the claim and final determination of the loss and with policy limits on liability for claim amounts.

Our focus on providing workers' compensation insurance to employers engaged in hazardous industries results in our receiving relatively fewer but more severe claims than many other workers' compensation insurance companies. Severe claims, which we define as claims having an estimated ultimate cost of more than $1.0 million, usually have a material effect on each accident year's loss reserves (and our reported results of operations) as a result of both the number of severe claims reported in any year and the timing of claims in the year. As a result of our focus on higher severity, lower frequency business, our reserve for loss and loss adjustment expenses may have greater volatility than other workers' compensation insurance companies.

For example, for the five-year period ended December 31, 2013 we had recorded 49 severe claims, or an average of 10 severe claims per year for accident years 2009 through 2013. The number of severe claims reported in any one accident year as of December 31, 2013 ranged from a low of 6 in 2011 to a high of 13 in 2010. The average reported severity for these claims ranged from $1.5 million for the 2010 accident year to $2.2 million for the 2013 accident year. For the five accident years, these severe claims accounted for an average of 6.7 percentage points of our overall loss and loss adjustment expense, or LAE, ratio, measured at December 31, 2013.

Further, the ultimate cost of severe claims is more difficult to estimate, principally due to uncertainties as to medical treatment and outcome and the length and degree of disability. Because of these uncertainties, the estimate of the ultimate cost of severe claims can vary significantly as more information becomes available. As a result, at year end, the case reserve for a severe claim reported early in the year may be more accurate than the case reserve established for a severe claim reported late in the year.

A key assumption used by management in establishing loss reserves is that average per claim case incurred loss and loss adjustment expenses will increase year over year. We believe this increase primarily reflects medical and wage inflation and utilization. However, changes in per average claim case incurred loss and loss adjustment expenses can also be affected by frequency of severe claims in the applicable accident years.

As more fully described in "Business-Loss Reserves" in Item 1 of this report, the estimate for loss and loss adjustment expenses is established based upon management's analysis of historical data, and factors and trends derived from that data, including claims reported, average claim amount incurred, case development, duration, severity and payment patterns, as well as subjective assumptions. This analysis includes reviews of case reserves for individual open severe claims in the current and prior years. Management reviews the outcomes from actuarial analyses to confirm the reasonableness of its reserve estimate.

Substantial judgment is required to determine the relevance of our historical experience and industry information under current facts and circumstances. The interpretation of this historical and industry data can be

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impacted by external forces, principally frequency and severity of unreported claims, length of time to achieve ultimate settlement of claims, utilization, inflation in medical costs and wages, insurance policy coverage interpretations, jury determinations and legislative changes. Accordingly, our reserves may prove to be inadequate to cover our actual losses. If we change our estimates, these changes would be reflected in our results of operations during the period in which they are made, with increases in our reserves resulting in decreases in our earnings.

Our gross reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses at December 31, 2013, 2012 and 2011 were $614.6 million, $570.5 million and $538.2 million, respectively. As a percentage of gross reserves at year end, IBNR represented 20.2% in 2013, 21.6% in 2012 and 22.3% in 2011.

In 2013, we decreased our estimates for prior year loss reserves by $12.6 million. In 2012, we decreased our estimates for prior year loss reserves by $2.5 million. In 2011, we decreased our estimates for prior year loss reserves by $6.6 million.

The workers' compensation insurance industry is cyclical in nature and influenced by many factors, including price competition, medical cost increases, natural and man-made disasters, changes in interest rates, changes in state laws and regulations, and general economic conditions. A hard market in our industry is characterized by decreased competition that results in higher premium rates, more restrictive policy coverage terms, and lower commissions paid to agencies. In contrast, a soft market is characterized by increased competition that results in lower premium rates, expanded policy coverage terms, and higher commissions paid to agencies. We believe that the workers' compensation insurance industry is transitioning to a hard market cycle. Our strategy is to focus on maintaining underwriting profitability.

For additional information regarding our loss reserves and the analyses and methodologies used by management to establish these reserves, see the information under the caption "Business-Loss Reserves" in Item 1 of this report.

Principal Revenue and Expense Items

Our revenues consist primarily of the following:

Net Premiums Earned. Net premiums earned is the earned portion of our net premiums written. Net premiums written is equal to gross premiums written less premiums ceded to reinsurers. Gross premiums written includes the estimated annual premiums from each insurance policy we write in our voluntary and assigned risk businesses during a reporting period based on the policy effective date or the date the policy is bound, whichever is later.

Premiums are earned on a daily pro rata basis over the term of the policy. At the end of each reporting period, premiums written that are not earned are classified as unearned premiums and are earned in subsequent periods over the remaining term of the policy. Our insurance policies typically have a term of one year. Thus, for a one-year policy written on July 1, 2013 for an employer with constant payroll during the term of the policy, we would earn half of the premiums in 2013 and the other half in 2014. On a monthly basis, we also recognize net premiums earned from mandatory pooling arrangements.

We estimate the annual premiums to be paid by our policyholders when we issue the policies and record those amounts on our balance sheet as premiums receivable. We conduct premium audits on all of our voluntary business policyholders annually, upon the expiration of each policy, including when the policy is renewed. The purpose of these audits is to verify that policyholders have accurately reported their payroll expenses and employee job classifications, and therefore have paid us the premium required under the terms of the policies. The difference between the estimated premium and the ultimate premium is referred to as "earned but unbilled" premium, or EBUB premium. EBUB premium can be higher or lower than the estimated premium. EBUB premium is subject to significant variability and can either increase or decrease earned premium based upon several factors, including changes in premium growth, industry mix and economic conditions. Due to the timing of audits and other adjustments, the ultimate premium earned is generally not determined for several months after the expiration of the policy.

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We review the estimate of EBUB premiums on a quarterly basis using historical data and applying various assumptions based on the current market, and we record an adjustment to premium, related losses, and expenses as warranted.

Net Investment Income and Net Realized Gains and Losses on Investments. We invest our statutory surplus funds and the funds supporting our insurance liabilities in fixed maturity, equity securities and alternative investments. In addition, a portion of these funds are held in cash and cash equivalents to pay current claims. Our net investment income includes interest and dividends earned on our invested assets, amortization of premiums and discounts on our fixed-maturity securities and returns on our other investments. We assess the performance of our investment portfolio using a standard tax equivalent yield metric. Investment income that is tax-exempt is increased by our marginal federal tax rate of 35% to express yield on tax-exempt securities on the same basis as taxable securities. Net realized gains and losses on our investments are reported separately from our net investment income. Net realized gains occur when our investment securities are sold for more than their costs or amortized costs, as applicable. Net realized losses occur when our investment securities are sold for less than their costs or amortized costs, as applicable, or are written down as a result of other-than-temporary impairment. We classify the majority of our fixed maturity securities as held-to-maturity. We also have some fixed-maturity securities classified as available-for-sale, as are our equity securities and other investments. Net unrealized gains or losses on our securities classified as available-for-sale are reported separately within accumulated other comprehensive income on our balance sheet.

Fee and Other Income. We recognize commission income earned on policies issued by other carriers that are sold by our wholly owned insurance agency subsidiary as the related services are performed. We also recognize a small portion of interest income from mandatory pooling arrangements in which we participate.

Our expenses consist primarily of the following:

Loss and Loss Adjustment Expenses Incurred. Loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred represents our largest expense item and, for any given reporting period, includes estimates of future claim payments, changes in those estimates from prior reporting periods and costs associated with investigating, defending, and administering claims. These expenses fluctuate based on the amount and types of risks we insure. We record loss and loss adjustment expenses related to estimates of future claim payments based on case-by-case valuations and statistical analyses. We seek to establish all reserves at the most likely ultimate exposure based on our historical claims experience. It is typical for our more serious claims to take several years to settle and we revise our estimates as we receive additional information about the condition of the injured employees. Our ability to estimate loss and loss adjustment expenses accurately at the time of pricing our insurance policies is a critical factor in our profitability.

Underwriting and Certain Other Operating Costs. Underwriting and certain other operating costs are those expenses that we incur to underwrite and maintain the insurance policies we issue. These expenses include state and local premium taxes and fees and other operating costs, offset by commissions we receive from reinsurers under our reinsurance treaty programs. We pay state and local taxes, licenses and fees, assessments, and contributions to state workers' compensation security funds based on premiums. In addition, other operating costs include general and administrative expenses, excluding commissions and salaries and benefits, incurred at both the insurance company and corporate level.

Commissions. We pay commissions to our subsidiary insurance agency and to the independent agencies that sell our insurance based on premiums collected from policyholders.

Salaries and Benefits. We pay salaries and provide benefits to our employees.

Policyholder Dividends. In limited circumstances, we pay dividends to policyholders in particular states as an underwriting incentive. Additionally, Florida law requires payment of dividends to Florida policyholders pursuant to a formula based on underwriting results from policies written in Florida over a consecutive three-year period.

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Interest Expense. Interest expense represents amounts we incur on our outstanding indebtedness at the then-applicable interest rate.

Income Tax Expense. We incur federal, state, and local income tax expense.

Critical Accounting Policies

Understanding our accounting policies is key to understanding our financial statements. Management considers some of these policies to be very important to the presentation of our financial results because they require us to make significant estimates and assumptions. These estimates and assumptions affect the reported amounts of our assets, liabilities, revenues and expenses and related disclosures. Some of the estimates result from judgments that can be subjective and complex and, consequently, actual results in future periods might differ from these estimates.

Management believes that the most critical accounting policies relate to the reporting of reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses, including losses that have occurred but have not been reported prior to the reporting date, amounts recoverable from reinsurers, assessments, deferred policy acquisition costs, deferred income taxes, the impairment of investment securities and share-based compensation.

The following is a description of our critical accounting policies.

Reserves for Loss and Loss Adjustment Expenses. We record reserves for estimated losses under insurance policies that we write and for loss adjustment expenses, which include defense and cost containment, or DCC, and adjusting and other, or AO expenses, related to the investigation and settlement of policy claims. Our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses represent the estimated cost of all reported and unreported loss and loss adjustment expenses incurred and unpaid at any given point in time based on known facts and circumstances.

Our reserves for loss and DCC expenses are estimated using case-by-case valuations based on our estimate of the most likely outcome of the claim at that time. In addition to these case reserves, we establish reserves on an aggregate basis that have been incurred but not reported, or IBNR. Our IBNR reserves are also intended to provide for aggregate changes in case incurred amounts as well as for recently reported claims which an initial case reserve has not been established. The third component of our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses is our AO reserve. Our AO reserve is established for those future claims administration costs that cannot be allocated directly to individual claims. The final component of our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses is the reserve for mandatory pooling arrangements.

In establishing our reserves, we review the results of analyses using actuarial methods that utilize historical loss data from our more than 28 years of underwriting workers' compensation insurance. The actuarial analysis of our historical data provides the factors we use in estimating our loss reserves. These factors are primarily measures over time of the number of claims paid and reported, average paid and incurred claim amounts, claim closure rates and claim payment patterns. In evaluating the results of our analyses, management also uses substantial judgment in considering other factors that are not considered in these actuarial analyses, including changes in business mix, claims management, regulatory issues, medical trends, employment and wage patterns, insurance policy coverage interpretations, judicial determinations and other subjective factors. Due to the inherent uncertainty associated with these estimates, and the cost of incurred but unreported claims, our actual liabilities may vary significantly from our original estimates.

On a quarterly basis, we review our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses to determine whether adjustments are required. Any resulting adjustments are included in the results for the current period. In establishing our reserves, we do not use loss discounting, which would involve recognizing the time value of money and offsetting estimates of future payments by future expected investment income. Additional information regarding our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses and the actuarial method and other factors used in establishing these reserves can be found under the caption "Business-Loss Reserves" in Item 1 of this report.

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Amounts Recoverable from Reinsurers. Amounts recoverable from reinsurers represent the portion of our paid and unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses that are assumed by reinsurers and related commissions due from reinsurers. These amounts are separately reported on our balance sheet as assets and do not reduce our reserves for loss and loss adjustment expenses because reinsurance does not relieve us of liability to our policyholders. We are required to pay claims even if a reinsurer fails to pay us under the terms of a reinsurance contract. We calculate amounts recoverable from reinsurers based on our estimates of the underlying loss and loss adjustment expenses, as well as the terms and conditions of our reinsurance contracts, which could be subject to interpretation. In addition, we bear credit risk with respect to our reinsurers, which can be significant because some of the unpaid loss and loss adjustment expenses for which we have reinsurance coverage remain outstanding for extended periods of time.

Premiums Receivable. Premiums receivable represents premium-related balances due from our policyholders based on annual premiums for policies written, including surcharges and deposits and it is adjusted for premium audits, endorsements, cancellations, cash transactions and charge offs. The balance is shown net of the allowance for doubtful accounts and it includes an estimate for EBUB. The EBUB estimate is subject to significant variability and can either increase or decrease premiums receivable and earned premiums based upon several factors, including changes in premium growth, industry mix and economic conditions.

Assessments. We are subject to various assessments and premium surcharges related to our insurance activities, including assessments and premium surcharges for state guaranty funds and second injury funds. Assessments based on premiums are recorded as an expense as premiums are earned and generally paid one year after the calendar year in which the policies are written. Assessments based on losses are recorded as an expense as losses are incurred and are generally paid within one year of when claims are paid by us. State guaranty fund assessments are used by state insurance oversight agencies to pay claims of policyholders of impaired, insolvent or failed insurance companies and the operating expenses of those agencies. Second injury funds are used by states to reimburse insurers and employers for claims paid to injured employees for aggravation of prior conditions or injuries. In some states, these assessments and premium surcharges may be partially recovered through a reduction in future premium taxes.

Deferred Policy Acquisition Costs. We defer commission expenses, premium taxes and certain marketing, sales, underwriting and safety costs that vary with and are primarily related to the acquisition of insurance policies. These acquisition costs are capitalized and charged to expense ratably as premiums are earned. In calculating deferred policy acquisition costs, these costs are limited to their estimated realizable value, which gives effect to the premiums to be earned, anticipated losses and settlement expenses and certain other costs we expect to incur as the premiums are earned, less related net investment income. Judgments as to the ultimate recoverability of these deferred policy acquisition costs are highly dependent upon estimated future profitability of unearned premiums. If the unearned premiums were less than our expected claims and expenses after considering investment income, we would reduce the deferred costs.

Deferred Income Taxes. We use the liability method of accounting for income taxes. Under this method, deferred income tax assets and liabilities are recognized for the future tax consequences attributed to differences between the financial statement carrying amounts of existing assets and liabilities and their respective tax bases. Deferred tax assets and liabilities are measured using tax rates expected to apply to taxable income in the years in which those temporary differences are expected to be recovered or settled. The effect on deferred tax assets and liabilities resulting from a tax rate change impacts our net income or loss in the reporting period that includes the enactment date of the tax rate change.

In assessing whether our deferred tax assets will be realized, management considers whether it is more likely than not that we will generate future taxable income during the periods in which those temporary differences become deductible. Management considers the scheduled reversal of deferred tax liabilities, tax planning strategies and projected future taxable income in making this assessment. If necessary, we establish a valuation allowance to reduce the deferred tax assets to the amounts that are more likely than not to be realized.

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Impairment of Investment Securities. Impairment of an investment security . . .

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