SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
ý ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)
OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2016
¨ TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d)
OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
For the transition period from to
Commission file number 001-31721
AXIS CAPITAL HOLDINGS LIMITED
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
92 Pitts Bay Road, Pembroke, Bermuda HM 08
(Address of principal executive offices and zip code)
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common shares, par value $0.0125 per share
New York Stock Exchange
6.875% Series C preferred shares
New York Stock Exchange
5.50% Series D preferred shares
New York Stock Exchange
5.50% Series E preferred shares
New York Stock Exchange
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act:
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes ý No ¨
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ¨ No ý
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes ý No ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate Web site, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit and post such files). Yes ý No ¨
Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K (§229.405) is not contained herein, and will not be contained, to the best of registrant’s knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ý
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or a smaller reporting company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer”, “accelerated filer” and “smaller reporting company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large accelerated filer
ý Accelerated filer ¨
¨ (Do not check if a smaller reporting company) Smaller reporting company ¨
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes ¨ No ý
The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the registrant, computed by reference to the closing price as of the last business day of the registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter, June 30, 2016, was approximately $4.9 billion.
As of February 17, 2017, there were outstanding 86,118,540 common shares, $0.0125 par value per share, of the registrant.
DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE
Portions of the registrant’s definitive proxy statement to be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission pursuant to Regulation 14A relating to the annual meeting of shareholders to be held on May 4, 2017 are incorporated by reference in response to items 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 in Part III of this Form 10-K. The definitive proxy statement will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission not later than 120 days after the registrant's fiscal year ended December 31, 2016.
AXIS CAPITAL HOLDINGS LIMITED
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Statements
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. We intend these forward-looking statements to be covered by the safe harbor provisions for forward-looking statements in the United States securities laws. In some cases, these statements can be identified by the use of forward-looking words such as “may”, “should”, “could”, “anticipate”, “estimate”, “expect”, “plan”, “believe”, “predict”, “potential” and “intend”. Forward-looking statements contained in this report may include information regarding our estimates of losses related to catastrophes and other large losses, measurements of potential losses in the fair value of our investment portfolio and derivative contracts, our expectations regarding pricing and other market conditions, our growth prospects, and valuations of the potential impact of movements in interest rates, equity prices, credit spreads and foreign currency rates. Forward-looking statements only reflect our expectations and are not guarantees of performance.
These statements involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those indicated in such statements. We believe that these factors include, but are not limited to, those described under Item 1A, 'Risk Factors' in this report, as those factors may be updated from time to time in our periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the "SEC"), which are accessible on the SEC's website at http://www.sec.gov.
We undertake no obligation to update or revise publicly any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
As used in this report, references to “we,” “us,” “our” or the “Company” refer to the operations of AXIS Capital Holdings Limited ("AXIS Capital") and its direct and indirect subsidiaries and branches, including AXIS Specialty Limited ("AXIS Specialty Bermuda"), AXIS Specialty Limited (Singapore Branch), AXIS Specialty Markets Limited, AXIS Specialty Markets II Limited, AXIS Ventures Limited ("AXIS Ventures"), AXIS Ventures Reinsurance Limited ("Ventures Re"), AXIS Reinsurance Managers Limited ("AXIS Reinsurance Managers"), AXIS Specialty Europe SE ("AXIS Specialty Europe"), AXIS Specialty London, AXIS Re SE, AXIS Re Europe, AXIS Specialty Australia, AXIS Specialty Insurance Company ("AXIS Specialty U.S."), AXIS Reinsurance Company ("AXIS Re U.S."), AXIS Reinsurance Company (Canadian Branch), AXIS Surplus Insurance Company ("AXIS Surplus"), AXIS Insurance Company ("AXIS Insurance Co."), AXIS Specialty Finance LLC, AXIS Specialty Finance PLC and Ternian Insurance Group LLC ("Ternian") unless the context suggests otherwise.
Tabular dollars are in thousands. Amounts in tables may not reconcile due to rounding differences.
AXIS Capital is the Bermuda-based holding company for the AXIS group of companies (the "Group") and was incorporated on December 9, 2002. AXIS Specialty Bermuda commenced operations on November 20, 2001. AXIS Specialty Bermuda and its subsidiaries became wholly owned subsidiaries of AXIS Capital pursuant to an exchange offer consummated on December 31, 2002. We provide a broad range of specialty (re)insurance on a worldwide basis, through operating subsidiaries and branch networks based in Bermuda, the United States ("U.S."), Canada, Europe and Singapore. We also maintain marketing offices in Brazil, France, Spain and Dubai. Our business consists of two distinct global underwriting platforms, AXIS Insurance and AXIS Re.
The markets in which we operate have historically been cyclical. During periods of excess underwriting capacity, as defined by availability of capital, competition can result in lower pricing and less favorable policy terms and conditions for (re)insurers. During periods of reduced underwriting capacity, pricing and policy terms and conditions are generally more favorable for (re)insurers. Historically, underwriting capacity has been impacted by several factors, including industry losses, catastrophes, changes in legal and regulatory guidelines, investment results and the ratings and financial strength of competitors.
At December 31, 2016, we had common shareholders’ equity of $5.1 billion, total capital of $7.3 billion and total assets of $20.8 billion.
OUR BUSINESS STRATEGY
We are a global insurer and reinsurer, with our mission being to provide our clients and distribution partners with a broad range of risk transfer products and services and meaningful capacity, backed by excellent financial strength. We manage our portfolio holistically, aiming to construct the optimum consolidated portfolio of funded and unfunded risks, consistent with our risk appetite and the development of our franchise. We nurture an ethical, entrepreneurial and disciplined culture that promotes outstanding client service, intelligent risk taking and the achievement of superior risk-adjusted returns for our shareholders. We believe that the achievement of our objectives will position us as a global leader in specialty risks.
We aim to execute on our business strategy through the following multi-pronged approach:
We offer a diversified range of products and services across market segments and geographies: Our position as a well-balanced hybrid insurance and reinsurance company gives us insight into the opportunities and challenges in a variety of markets. With our origins in Bermuda, today we have locations across the U.S. and in Canada, while in Europe we have offices in Dublin, London, Zurich, Barcelona, Madrid and Paris. We are addressing opportunities throughout Latin America and have a reinsurance office in Sao Paulo while our Singapore branch serves as a gateway to Asia. We have also recently opened an office in Dubai to focus on marketing accident and health specialty reinsurance to our clients in the Middle East and Africa.
We underwrite a balanced portfolio of risks, including complex and volatile lines, moderating overall volatility with risk limits, diversification and risk management: Risk management is a strategic priority embedded in our organizational structure and we are continuously monitoring, reviewing and refining our enterprise risk management practices. We combine judgment and experience with data-driven analysis, enhancing our overall risk selection process.
We modulate our risk appetite and deployment of capital across the underwriting cycle, commensurate with available market opportunities and returns: Closely attuned to market dynamics, we recognize opportunities as they develop and react quickly as new trends emerge. Our risk analytics provide important and continuous feedback, further assisting with the ongoing assessment of our risk appetite and strategic capital deployment. We have been successful in extending our product lines, finding new distribution channels and entering new geographies. When we do not find sufficiently attractive uses for our capital, we return excess capital back to our shareholders through share repurchases or dividends.
We develop and maintain deep and trustful relationships with clients and distribution partners, offering high-levels of service and effective solutions for risk management needs: Our management team has extensive industry experience, deep product knowledge and long-standing market relationships. We primarily transact in specialty markets, where risks are complex. Our intellectual capital and proven client-service capability attract clients and distribution partners looking for solutions.
We maintain excellent financial strength, characterized by financial discipline and transparency: Our total capital of $7.3 billion at December 31, 2016, our high-quality and liquid investment portfolio and our operating subsidiary ratings of "A+" ("Strong") by Standard & Poor's and "A+" ("Superior") by the A.M. Best Company, Inc. (“A.M. Best”) are key indicators of our financial strength.
We attract, develop, retain and motivate an excellent team: We aim to attract and retain the top talent in the industry and to motivate our employees to make decisions that are in the best interest of both our clients and shareholders. We nurture an ethical, risk-aware, achievement-oriented culture that promotes professionalism, responsibility, integrity, discipline and entrepreneurship. As a result, we believe that our staff is well-positioned to make the best underwriting and strategic decisions for the Company.
Our key metrics for performance measurement include non-GAAP operating return on average common equity ("non-GAAP operating ROACE") on an annual basis and diluted book value per common share adjusted for dividends over the long-term. Our goal is to achieve top-quintile industry non-GAAP operating ROACE and growth in book value per share adjusted for dividends, with volatility consistent with the industry average.
Our underwriting operations are organized around two global underwriting platforms, AXIS Insurance and AXIS Re, therefore we have two reportable segments, insurance and reinsurance. We do not allocate our assets by segment, with the exception of goodwill and intangible assets, as we evaluate the underwriting results of each segment separately from the results of our investment portfolio. For additional information relating to our reportable segments, refer to Item 8, Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Segment Information', and Item 7 ‘Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations’. Please also refer to Item 8, Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Segment Information' for a description of the geographic distribution of gross premiums written based on the location of our subsidiaries.
The table below presents gross premiums written in each of our reportable segments for each of the most recent three years.
Year ended December 31,
Lines of Business and Distribution
Our insurance segment operates through offices in Bermuda, the U.S., Canada, Europe, Singapore, and the Middle East and offers specialty insurance products to a variety of niche markets on a worldwide basis. The following are the lines of business in our insurance segment:
Property: provides physical loss or damage, business interruption and machinery breakdown coverage for virtually all types of property, including commercial buildings, residential premises, construction projects and onshore energy installations. This line of business consists of both primary and excess risks, some of which are catastrophe-exposed.
Marine: provides coverage for traditional marine classes, including offshore energy, cargo, liability, recreational marine, fine art, specie, hull and war. Offshore energy coverage includes physical damage, business interruption, operators extra expense and liability coverage for all aspects of offshore upstream energy, from exploration and construction through the operation and distribution phases.
Terrorism: provides coverage for physical damage and business interruption of an insured following an act of terrorism.
Aviation: provides hull and liability and specific war coverage primarily for passenger airlines but also for cargo operations, general aviation operations, airports, aviation authorities, security firms and product manufacturers.
Credit and Political Risk: provides credit and political risk insurance products for banks and corporations. Coverage is provided for a range of risks including sovereign default, credit default, political violence, currency inconvertibility and non-transfer, expropriation, aircraft non-repossession and contract frustration due to political events. The credit insurance coverage is primarily for lenders seeking to mitigate the risk of non-payment from their borrowers. For the credit insurance contracts, it is necessary for the buyer of the insurance (most often a bank) to hold an insured asset (most often an underlying loan) in order to claim compensation under the insurance contract.
Professional Lines: provides coverage for directors’ and officers’ liability, errors and omissions liability, employment practices liability, fiduciary liability, crime, professional indemnity, medical malpractice and other financial insurance related coverages for commercial enterprises, financial institutions and not-for-profit organizations. This business is predominantly written on a claims-made basis.
Liability: primarily targets primary and low/mid-level excess and umbrella commercial liability risks in the U.S. wholesale markets. Target industry sectors include construction, manufacturing, transportation and trucking and other services.
Accident and Health: includes accidental death, travel insurance and specialty health products for employer and affinity groups, as well as accident and health reinsurance for catastrophic or per life events on a quota share and/or excess of loss basis, with aggregate and/or per person deductibles.
We produce business primarily through wholesale and retail brokers worldwide. Some of our insurance products are also distributed through managing general agents ("MGAs") and underwriters ("MGUs"). In the U.S., we have the ability to write business on an admitted basis using forms and rates as filed with state insurance regulators and on a non-admitted, or surplus lines, basis providing flexibility in forms and rates, as these are not filed with state regulators. Having non-admitted capability in the U.S. provides the pricing flexibility needed to write non-standard coverages. Substantially all of our insurance business is subject to aggregate limits, in addition to event limits.
Gross premiums written by broker, shown individually where premiums were 10% or more of the total in any of the last three years, were as follows:
Year ended December 31,
Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc.
Willis Tower Watson PLC
Managing general agencies and underwriters
No customer accounted for more than 10% of the gross premiums written in the insurance segment.
We operate in highly competitive markets. In our insurance segment, where competition is focused on price as well as availability, service and other considerations, we compete with U.S.-based companies with global insurance operations, as well as non-U.S. global carriers and indigenous companies in regional and local markets. We believe we achieve a competitive advantage through a strong capital position and the strategic and operational linking of our practices, which allows us to design insurance programs on a global basis in alignment with the global needs of many of our clients.
Lines of Business and Distribution
Our reinsurance segment operates through offices in Bermuda, the U.S., Canada, Switzerland, Singapore and Brazil. We write business on a proportional basis, receiving an agreed percentage of the underlying premium and accepting liability for the same percentage of incurred losses. We also write business on an excess of loss basis, whereby we typically provide an indemnification to the reinsured entity for a portion of losses, both individually and in the aggregate, in excess of a specified individual or aggregate loss deductible. Our business is written on a treaty basis and primarily produced through reinsurance brokers worldwide.
Our reinsurance segment provides non-life reinsurance to insurance companies on a worldwide basis. The following are the lines of business in our reinsurance segment:
Catastrophe: provides protection for most catastrophic losses that are covered in the underlying insurance policies written by our cedants. The exposure in the underlying policies is principally property exposure but also covers other exposures including workers compensation, personal accident and life. The principal perils in this portfolio are hurricane and windstorm, earthquake, flood, tornado, hail and fire. In some instances, terrorism may be a covered peril or the only peril. We underwrite catastrophe reinsurance principally on an excess of loss basis.
Property: provides coverage for property damage and related losses resulting from natural and man-made perils contained in underlying personal and commercial policies. While our predominant exposure is to property damage, other risks, including business interruption and other non-property losses, may also be covered when arising from a covered peril. While our most significant exposures typically relate to losses from windstorms, tornadoes and earthquakes, we are also exposed to other perils such as freezes, riots, floods, industrial explosions, fires, hail and a number of other loss events. We assume business on both a proportional and excess of loss basis.
Professional Lines: covers directors’ and officers’ liability, employment practices liability, medical malpractice, professional indemnity, environmental liability and miscellaneous errors and omissions insurance risks. The underlying business is predominantly written on a claims-made basis. Business is written on both a proportional and excess of loss basis.
Credit and Surety: consists of reinsurance of trade credit insurance products and includes both proportional and excess of loss structures. The underlying insurance indemnifies sellers of goods and services in the event of a payment default by the buyer of those goods and services. The Company provides credit insurance coverage to mortgage guaranty
insurers and government sponsored entities. Also included in this line of business is coverage for losses arising from a broad array of surety bonds issued by insurers to satisfy regulatory demands or contract obligations in a variety of jurisdictions around the world.
Motor: provides coverage to insurers for motor liability and property damage losses arising out of any one occurrence. A loss occurrence can involve one or many claimants where the ceding insurer aggregates the claims from the occurrence. We offer traditional proportional and non-proportional reinsurance as well as structured solutions.
Liability: provides coverage to insurers of standard casualty business, excess and surplus casualty business and specialty casualty programs. The primary focus of the underlying business is general liability, although workers' compensation and auto liability are also written.
Agriculture: provides coverage for risks associated with the production of food and fiber on a global basis for primary insurance companies writing multi-peril crop insurance, crop hail, and named peril covers, as well as custom risk transfer mechanisms for agricultural dependent industries with exposures to crop yield and/or price deviations. We provide both proportional and aggregate stop loss reinsurance.
Engineering: provides coverage for all types of construction risks and risks associated with erection, testing and commissioning of machinery and plants during the construction stage. This line of business also includes coverage for losses arising from operational failures of machinery, plant and equipment and electronic equipment as well as business interruption.
Marine and Other: includes marine, aviation and personal accident reinsurance.
The reinsurance segment also writes primarily derivative based, risk management products designed to address weather and commodity price risks. The majority of these contracts cover the risk of variations in quantifiable weather-related phenomenon, such as temperature. In general, the portfolio of such derivatives is of short duration, with contracts being predominantly seasonal in nature.
Gross premiums written by broker, shown individually where premiums were 10% or more of the total in any of the last three years, were as follows:
Year ended December 31,
Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc.
Willis Tower Watson PLC
Capsicum & Gallagher
During 2016 and 2015, a large portion of our motor gross premiums written was placed through Capsicum Re, in partnership with Arthur J. Gallagher. In 2014, this business was largely placed through Aon.
No customer accounted for more than 10% of the gross premiums written in the reinsurance segment.
In our reinsurance segment where competition tends to be focused on availability, service, financial strength and, increasingly, price, we compete with major U.S. and non-U.S. reinsurers as well as reinsurance departments of numerous multi-line insurance organizations. In addition to traditional market participants, we also compete with new market entrants supported by alternative capital sources which offer forms of risk transfer protection on a collateralized or other non-traditional basis. Our clients may also acquire reinsurance protection through capital market products such as catastrophe bonds and insurance loss warranties. We believe that we achieve a competitive advantage through our strong capital position, as well as our technical expertise that allows us to respond quickly to customer needs and provide quality and innovative
underwriting solutions. In addition, our customers highly value our exemplary service (including excellent claims management, promptly paying valid claims) and financial strength ratings.
CASH AND INVESTMENTS
We seek to balance the investment portfolios’ objectives of (1) increasing book value with (2) the generation of relatively stable investment income, while providing sufficient liquidity to meet our claims and other obligations. Liquidity needs arising from potential claims are of primary importance and are considered in asset class participation and the asset allocation process. Intermediate maturity investment grade fixed income securities have duration characteristics similar to our expected claim payouts and are, therefore, central to our investment portfolio’s asset allocation. At December 31, 2016, the duration of our fixed maturities portfolio was approximately 4 years, which approximates the estimated duration of our net insurance liabilities.
To diversify risk and optimize the growth in our book value, we may invest in other asset classes such as equity securities, high yield securities and alternative investments (e.g. hedge funds) which provide higher potential total rates of return. Such individual investment classes involve varying degrees of risk, including the potential for more volatile returns and reduced liquidity. However, as part of a balanced portfolio, they also provide diversification from interest rate and credit risk.
With regard to our investment portfolio, we utilize third party investment managers for security selection and trade execution functions, subject to our guidelines and objectives for each asset class. This enables us to actively manage our investment portfolio with access to top talents specializing in various products and markets. We select the managers based on various criteria including investment style, performance history and corporate governance. Additionally, we monitor approved investment asset classes for each subsidiary through analysis of our operating environment, including expected volatility of cash flows, overall capital position, regulatory and rating agency considerations. The Finance Committee of our Board of Directors approves our overall group asset allocation targets and investment policy to ensure that they are consistent with our overall goals, strategies and objectives. We also have an Investment and Finance Committee, comprising senior management, which oversees the implementation of our investment strategy.
For additional information regarding the investment portfolio refer to the Item 7 ‘Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Cash and Investments’ and Item 8, Note 5 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Investments'.
Refer to ‘Risk and Capital Management’ for details relating to the management of our investment risk.
RISK AND CAPITAL MANAGEMENT
Risk management framework – Overview
Mission and objectives
The mission of Enterprise Risk Management ("ERM") at AXIS is to promptly identify, measure, report and monitor risks that affect the achievement of our strategic, operational and financial objectives. The key objectives of our risk management framework are to:
Protect our capital base and earnings by monitoring our risks against our stated risk appetite and limits;
Promote a sound risk management culture through disciplined and informed risk taking;
Enhance value creation and contribute to an optimal risk-return profile by providing the basis for efficient capital deployment;
Support our group-wide decision making process by providing reliable and timely risk information; and
Safeguard AXIS' reputation.
At the heart of our risk management framework is a governance process with responsibilities for taking, managing, monitoring and reporting risks. We articulate the roles and responsibilities for risk management throughout the organization, from the Board of Directors and the Chief Executive Officer to our business and functional areas, thus embedding risk management throughout the business (see ‘Risk governance and risk management organization’ section).
To support our governance process, we rely on our documented policies and guidelines. Our Risk Policies are a formal set of documents we use to specify our approach and risk mitigation / control philosophy for managing individual and aggregate risks. We also have procedures to approve exceptions and procedures for referring risk issues to senior management and the Board of Directors. Our qualitative and quantitative risk reporting framework provides transparency and early warning indicators to senior management with regard to our overall risk profile, adherence to risk limits and improvement actions both at an operating entity and Group level.
Various governance and control bodies coordinate to help to ensure that objectives are being achieved, risks are identified and appropriately managed and internal controls are in place and operating effectively.
Internal capital model
An important aspect of our risk management framework is our internal capital model. Utilizing this modeling framework provides us with a holistic view of the capital we put at risk in any year by allowing us to understand the relative interaction among the known risks impacting us. This integrated approach recognizes that a single risk factor can affect different sub-portfolios and that different risk factors can have different mutual dependencies. We continuously review and update our model and its parameters as our risk landscape and external environment continue to evolve.
As well as being used to measure internal risk capital (see ‘Capital Management’ section), our internal capital model is used as a tool in managing our business and for strategic planning via capital allocations and through to portfolio monitoring, reinsurance purchasing and investment asset allocations.
As a global (re)insurer with a wide product offering across different businesses, diversification is a key component of our business model and risk framework. Diversification enhances our ability to manage our risks by limiting the impact of a single event and contributing to relatively stable long-term results and our general risk profile. The degree to which the diversification effect can be realized depends not only on the correlation between risks but also the level of relative concentration of those risks. Therefore, our aim is to maintain a balanced risk profile without any disproportionately large risks. Our internal capital model considers the level of correlation and diversification between individual risks and we
measure concentration risk consistently across our business units in terms of pre and post diversified internal risk capital requirements.
Risk appetite and limit framework
Our integrated risk management framework considers material risks in our business either from investments, underwriting or operations. Large risks that might accumulate and have the potential to produce substantial losses are subject to our global risk appetite and limit framework. Our risk appetite, as authorized by our Board of Directors, represents the amount of risk that we are willing to accept within the constraints imposed by our capital resources as well as the expectations of our stakeholders as to the type of risk we hold within our business. At an annual aggregated level, we also monitor and manage the potential financial loss from the accumulation of risk exposure in any one year.
Specific risk limits are defined and translated into a consistent framework across our identified risk categories and across our operating entities, and are intended to limit the impact of individual risk types or accumulations of risk. Individual limits are established through an iterative process to ensure that the overall framework complies with our group-wide requirements on capital adequacy and risk accumulation.
We monitor risk, through, for example, risk dashboards and limit consumption reports. These are intended to allow us to detect potential deviations from our internal risk limits at an early stage.
Various external stakeholders, among them regulators, rating agencies, investors and accounting bodies, place emphasis on the importance of sound risk management in the insurance industry. We monitor developments in the external environment and evolve our risk management practices accordingly.
Risk governance and risk management organization
The key elements of our governance framework, as it relates specifically to risk management, are described below.
Board of Directors’ Level
The Risk Committee of the Board ("Risk Committee") assists the Board of Directors in overseeing the integrity and effectiveness of our enterprise risk management framework, and ensuring that our risk assumption and risk mitigation activities are consistent with that framework. The Risk Committee reviews, approves and monitors our overall risk strategy, risk appetite and key risk limits and receives regular reports from the Group Risk Management function ("Group Risk") to ensure any significant risk issues are being addressed by management. The Risk Committee further reviews, with management and Internal Audit, the Group’s general policies and procedures and satisfies itself that effective systems of risk management and controls are established and maintained. Among its other responsibilities, the Risk Committee also reviews and approves our annual Own Risk and Solvency Assessment ("ORSA") report. The Risk Committee assesses the independence and objectivity of our Group Risk function, approves its terms of reference and reviews its ongoing activities.
Following a recommendation by the Chief Executive Officer, the Risk Committee also conducts a review and provides a recommendation to the Board of Directors regarding the appointment and/or removal of the Chief Risk and Actuarial Officer. The Risk Committee meets with the Chief Risk and Actuarial Officer in separate executive session on a regular basis.
The Finance Committee of our Board oversees the Group’s investment of funds and adequacy of financing facilities. This includes approval of the Group’s strategic asset allocation plan. The Risk Committee ensures compliance with the Group’s risk framework. The Audit Committee of our Board, which is supported by our internal audit function, is responsible for overseeing internal controls and compliance procedures and also reviews with management and the Chairman of the Risk Committee the Group’s guidelines and policies regarding risk assessment and risk management.
Group executive level
Our management Executive Committee formulates our business objectives and risk strategy within the overall risk appetite set by our Board. It allocates capital resources and sets limits across the Group, with the objective of balancing return and risk. While the management Executive Committee is responsible overall for risk management, it has delegated some authority to the executive level Risk Management Committee ("RMC"):
The RMC is responsible for overseeing the integrity and effectiveness of the Group's ERM framework, and ensuring that the Group's risk assumption and risk mitigation activities are consistent with that framework, including a review of the annual business plan relative to our risk limits. In addition to the RMC there is an established framework of separate yet complementary management committees and subcommittees, focusing on particular aspects of ERM including the following:
The Investment & Finance Committee oversees the Group’s investment activities by, among other things, monitoring market risks, the performance of our investment managers and the Group’s asset-liability management, liquidity positions and investment policies and guidelines. The Investment & Finance Committee also prepares the Group’s strategic asset allocation and presents it to the Finance Committee of the Board for approval.
The Reinsurance Security Committee ("RSC") sets out the financial security requirements of our reinsurance counterparties and approves reinsurance counterparties, as needed.
The Internal Model Committee oversees the Group's Internal Model framework, including the key model assumptions, methodology and validation framework.
The Cyber Risk Committee oversees the Group's Cyber Risk Framework including the development of a cohesive risk governance plan for the internal controls and risk aggregation of cyber risks across the Company.
The Emerging Risks Committee oversees the processes for identifying, assessing and monitoring current and potential emerging risks.
Group risk management organization
As a general principle, management in each of our business units is responsible in the first instance for both the risks and returns of its decisions. Management is the ‘owner’ of risk management processes and is responsible for managing our business within defined risk limits.
Our Chief Risk and Actuarial Officer reports to the Group Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of the Board Risk Committee, leads our independent Group Risk function, and is responsible for oversight and implementation of the Group's ERM framework as well as providing guidance and support for risk management practices. Group Risk is responsible for developing methods and processes for identifying, measuring, managing and reporting risk. This forms the basis for informing the Risk Committee and RMC of the Group’s risk profile. Group Risk develops our risk management framework and oversees the adherence to this framework at the Group and operating entity level. Our Chief Risk and Actuarial Officer regularly reports risk matters to the Chief Executive Officer ("CEO"), management Executive Committee, RMC and the Risk Committee.
Internal Audit, an independent, objective function, reports to the Audit Committee of the Board on the effectiveness of our risk management framework. This includes assurance that key business risks have been adequately identified and managed appropriately and that our system of internal control is operating effectively. Internal Audit also provides independent assurance around the validation of our internal capital model and coordinates risk-based audits, compliance reviews, and other specific initiatives to evaluate and address risk within targeted areas of our business.
Our risk governance structure is further complemented by our Legal Department which seeks to mitigate legal and regulatory compliance risks with support from other departments. This includes ensuring that significant developments in law and regulation are observed and that we react appropriately to impending legislative and regulatory changes and applicable court rulings.
Our risk landscape comprises strategic, insurance, credit, market, operational, liquidity and other risks that arise as a result of doing business. We provide definitions of these risk categories in the following sections as well as our related risk management. Across these risk categories, we identify and evaluate emerging threats and opportunities through a framework that includes the assessment of potential surprise factors that could affect known loss potentials.
The AXIS risk landscape is reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it remains up-to date based on the evolving risk profile of the Company. In addition we undertake ongoing risk assessment across all enterprise risks, capturing and reviewing risk register outputs through our governance structures.
Strategic risk is the risk of loss arising from the adverse effect of management decisions on both business strategies and their implementation. This includes the failure to devise or adapt a business strategy in light of changes in our internal and external environment. We assess any strategic action in the context of our risk framework by reviewing the impact of the strategy, including any incremental risk, prior to the action taking place. Additionally, what we learn about risk through our monitoring, reporting and control processes provides important feedback in terms of reevaluating our risks and, therefore, reevaluating our business strategy.
We undertake a strategic business planning process on an annual basis which is overseen by our management Executive Committee, business unit leadership and our Board of Directors. Our internal capital model provides an input into this process by providing an assessment as to whether our prospective business and investment strategies are in line with our defined risk appetite and objectives, at both the group and operating entity level. The model also provides a basis for optimizing our risk-return profile by providing consistent risk measurement across the Group. The model outputs are reviewed and supplemented with management’s judgment and business experience and expertise.
We specifically evaluate the risks of potential merger and acquisition transactions both from a quantitative and qualitative perspective. We conduct risk assessments of merger and acquisition transactions to evaluate risks specifically related to the integration of acquiring a business. Additionally, we have governance procedures in place to review and approve strategic investments and potential new initiatives within our existing businesses in order to evaluate whether the risks are well understood and justified by the potential rewards.
Insurance risk is the inherent uncertainty as to the occurrence, amount and timing of insurance liabilities transferred to us through the underwriting process.
Since our inception in 2001, we have expanded our international presence, with underwriting offices in Bermuda, the U.S., Europe, Singapore and Canada. Our disciplined underwriting approach coupled with a group-wide peer review process has enabled us to manage this growth in a controlled and consistent manner.
A key component of the Group's underwriting risk governance is our peer review processes which allow for a collaborative review of risk and pricing and ensures that underwriting is within established protocols and guidelines. Underwriting guidelines are in place to provide a framework for consistent pricing and risk analysis and ensuring alignment to the Group's risk appetite. Limits are set on underwriting capacity, and cascade authority to individuals based on their specific roles and expertise.
We also have significant audit coverage across our business units, including Management Initiated Audits (“MIAs”). MIAs are audits of underwriting and claims files performed by teams independent of those who originated the transactions, the purpose of which is to test the robustness of our underwriting, claims and operating processes and to recognize any early indicators of future trends in our operational risk environment.
Another key component of our mitigation of insurance risk is the purchase of reinsurance on both a treaty (covering a portfolio of risks) and facultative (single risk) basis, on both our short and long tail lines of business.
For treaty reinsurance, we purchase both proportional and non-proportional cover. Under proportional reinsurance, we cede an agreed proportion of the premiums and the losses and loss adjustment expenses on the policies we underwrite. We primarily use proportional reinsurance on our liability and professional lines portfolio, whereby we protect against higher loss frequency rather than specific events. We also use non-proportional reinsurance, whereby losses up to a certain amount (i.e. our retention) are borne by us. Using non-proportional reinsurance we can limit our liability with a retention which reflects our willingness and ability to bear risk, and therefore in line with our risk appetite. We primarily purchase the following forms of non-proportional reinsurance:
Excess of loss per risk – the reinsurer indemnifies us for loss amounts of all individual policies effected, defined in the treaty terms and conditions. Per risk treaties are an effective means of risk mitigation against large single losses (e.g. a large fire claim).
Catastrophe excess of loss – provides aggregate loss cover for our insurance portfolio against the accumulation of losses incurred from a single event (e.g. windstorm).
We have a centralized Ceded Reinsurance department which coordinates external treaty reinsurance purchasing across the Group and is overseen by our Reinsurance Purchasing Group ("RPG"). The RPG, which includes among others, our Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Risk and Actuarial Officer and business unit leadership, approves each treaty placement, and aims to ensure that appropriate diversification exists within our RSC approved counterparty panels.
Facultative reinsurance is case by case risk transfer which we may also use to complement treaty reinsurance by covering additional risks above and beyond what is already covered in treaties. Facultative reinsurance is monitored by the Ceded Reinsurance department.
Natural peril catastrophe risk
Natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, storms, tsunamis and floods represent a challenge for risk management due to their accumulation potential and occurrence volatility. In managing natural catastrophe risk, our internal risk limit framework aims to limit both the loss of capital due to a single event and the loss of capital that would occur from multiple (but perhaps smaller events) in any year. Within this framework, we have an established risk limit for single event, single zone probable maximum loss ("PML") within defined zones and at various return periods. For example, at the 1-in-250 year return period, we are not willing to expose more than 25% of our prior quarter-end common-equity from a single event within a single zone.
The table below shows our mean PML estimates for certain defined single zones which correspond to peak industry catastrophe exposures at January 1, 2017 and 2016:
At January 1,
(in millions of U.S. dollars)
Single zone/single event
Gulf of Mexico
The return period refers to the frequency with which losses of a given amount or greater are expected to occur. A zone is a geographic area in which the insurance risks are considered to be correlated to a single catastrophic event. Estimated losses from a modeled event are grouped into a single zone, as shown above, based on where the majority of the total estimated
industry loss is expected to occur. In managing zonal concentrations, we aim to ensure that the geography of single events is suitably captured, but distinct enough that they track specific types of events. For example, our definition of Southeast wind encompasses five states, including Florida, while our definition of Gulf Wind encompasses four states, including Texas.
Our PMLs take into account the fact that an event may trigger claims in a number of lines of business. For instance, our U.S. hurricane modeling includes the estimated pre-tax impact to our financial results arising from our catastrophe, property, engineering, energy, marine and aviation lines of business. Our PMLs include assumptions regarding the location, size and magnitude of an event, the frequency of events, the construction type and a property’s susceptibility to damage, and the cost of rebuilding the property. Loss estimates for non-U.S. zones will be subject to foreign exchange rates, although we may mitigate this currency variability from a book value point of view.
As indicated in the table above, our modeled single occurrence 1-in-100 year return period PML for a Southeast U.S. hurricane, net of reinsurance, is approximately $0.5 billion. According to our modeling, there is a one percent chance that on an annual basis, our losses incurred from a Southeast hurricane event could be in excess of $0.5 billion. Conversely, there is a 99% chance that on an annual basis, the loss from a Southeast hurricane will fall below $0.5 billion.
We have developed our PML estimates using multiple commercially available vendor models, including AIR Worldwide ("AIR") and Risk Management Solutions ("RMS") (which we also use for pricing catastrophe risk). These models cover the major peril regions where we face potential exposure. We combine the outputs of catastrophe models with our estimate of non-modeled perils and other factors which we believe, from our experience, provides us with a more complete view of natural peril catastrophe risk.
Our PML estimates are based on assumptions that are inherently subject to significant uncertainties and contingencies. These uncertainties and contingencies can affect actual losses and could cause actual losses to differ materially from those expressed above. We aim to reduce the potential for model error in a number of ways, the most important of which is by ensuring that management’s judgment supplements the model outputs. We also perform ongoing model validation both within our business units and at a group level including through our catastrophe model validation unit. These validation procedures include sensitivity testing of models to understand their key variables and, where possible, back testing the model outputs to actual results.
Our estimated net losses from peak zone catastrophes may change from period to period as a result of several factors, which include but are not limited to, updates to vendor catastrophe models, changes in our own modeling, changes in our underwriting portfolios, changes to our reinsurance purchasing strategy and changes in foreign exchange rates. Several of the aforementioned factors, including the opportunistic purchase of more reinsurance/retrocession protection, drove a reduction in our natural catastrophe PMLs during 2016.
Man-made catastrophe risk
Similar to our management of natural peril catastrophe exposures, we also take a similar focused and analytical approach to our management of man-made catastrophes. Man-made catastrophes, which include such risks as train collisions, airplane crashes or terrorism, are harder to model in terms of assumptions regarding intensity and frequency. For these risks we couple the vendor models (where available) with our bespoke modeling and underwriting judgment and expertise. This allows us to take advantage of business opportunities relating to man-made catastrophe exposures particularly where we can measure and limit the risk sufficiently as well as obtain risk-adequate pricing.
As an example of our approach, our assessment of terrorism risk is based on a mixture of qualitative and quantitative data (e.g. for estimating property damage, business interruption, mortality and morbidity subsequent to an attack of a predefined magnitude), which we use to control, limit and manage our aggregate terrorism exposure. We use commercially available vendor modeling and bespoke modeling tools to measure accumulations around potential terrorism accumulation zones on a deterministic and probabilistic basis. We supplement the results of our modeling with underwriting judgment.
The estimation of reserves is subject to uncertainty due to the fact that the settlement of claims that have arisen before the balance sheet date is dependent on future events and developments. Unforeseen loss trends resulting from court rulings, changes in the law, medical and long-term care costs, and economic factors such as inflation can have an impact on the ultimate cost to settle our claim liabilities.
We calculate the reserves for losses and claims settlement costs in accordance with actuarial practice based on substantiated assumptions, methods and assessments. The assumptions are regularly reviewed and updated, and the application of our Group reserving policy and standards of practice ensures a reliable and consistent procedure. Our loss reserving process demands data quality and reliability and requires a quantitative and qualitative review of both our overall reserves and individual large claims. Within a structured control framework, claims information is communicated on a regular basis throughout our organization, including to senior management, to provide an increased awareness regarding the losses that have taken place throughout the insurance markets. The detailed and analytical reserving approach that follows is designed to absorb and understand the latest information on our reported and unreported claims, to recognize the resultant exposure as quickly as possible, and to make appropriate and realistic provisions in our financial statements. We have well established processes for determining carried reserves, which we ensure are applied consistently over time.
Reserving for long-tail lines of business represents a significant component of reserving risk. When loss trends prove to be higher than those underlying our reserving assumptions, the risk is greater because of a stacking-up effect: we carry reserves to cover claims arising from several years of underwriting activity and these reserves are likely to be adversely affected by unfavorable loss trends. We manage and mitigate reserving risk on long-tail business in a variety of ways. First, the long-tail business we write is part of a well-balanced and diversified global portfolio of business. In 2016, our long-tail net premiums written (namely liability and motor business) represented 23% of our total premiums written and 34% of total net reserves. We also purchase reinsurance on the liability business to reduce our net positions. Secondly, we follow a disciplined underwriting process that utilizes available information, including industry trends.
Another significant component of reserving risk relates to the estimation of losses in the aftermath of a major catastrophe event. For further discussion on this, as well as a description of our reserving process, refer to ‘Critical Accounting Estimates – Reserve for Losses and Loss Expenses’ under Item 7.
Claims handling risk
In accepting risk, we are committing to the payment of claims and therefore these risks must be understood and controlled. We have claims teams located throughout our main business units. Our claim teams include a diverse group of experienced professionals, including claims adjusters and attorneys. We also use approved external service providers, such as independent adjusters and appraisers, surveyors, accountants, investigators and specialist attorneys, as appropriate.
We maintain claims handling guidelines and claims reporting control and escalation procedures in all our claims units. Large claims matters are reviewed during weekly claims meetings. The minutes from each meeting are circulated to our underwriters, senior management and others involved in the reserving process. To maintain communication between underwriting and claims teams, claims personnel regularly report at underwriting meetings and frequently attend client meetings.
AXIS fosters a strong culture of review among its claims teams. This includes MIAs, whereby senior claims handlers audit a sample of claim files. The process is designed to ensure consistency between the claims units and to develop Group-wide best practices.
When we receive notice of a claim, regardless of size, it is recorded within our underwriting and claims systems. To assist with the reporting of significant claims, we have also developed a standard format and procedure to produce “flash reports” for significant events and potential losses, regardless of whether we have exposure. Our process for flash reporting allows a direct notification to be communicated to underwriters and senior management worldwide. Similarly, for natural peril catastrophes, we have developed a catastrophe database, along with catastrophe coding in certain systems, that allows for the gathering, blending and reporting of loss information as it develops from early modeled results to fully adjusted and paid losses.
Credit risk represents the risk of incurring financial loss due to the diminished creditworthiness (eroding credit rating and, ultimately, default) of our third party counterparties. We distinguish between various forms of credit exposure; the risk of issuer default from instruments in which we invest or trade, such as corporate bonds; counterparty exposure in a direct contractual relationship, such as reinsurance; the credit risk related to our receivables, including those from brokers and other intermediaries; and the risk we assume through our insurance contracts, such as our credit and political risk and trade credit and bond lines of business.
Credit risk aggregation
We monitor and manage the aggregation of credit risk on a Group-wide basis allowing us to consider exposure management strategies for individual companies, countries, regions, sectors and any other relevant inter-dependencies. Our credit exposures are aggregated based on the origin of risk. Credit risk aggregation is managed through minimizing overlaps in underwriting, financing and investing activities. As part of our credit aggregation framework, we assign aggregate credit limits by country and for any individual counterparty. These limits are based and adjusted on a variety of factors including the prevailing economic environment and the nature of the underlying credit exposures.
Our credit aggregation measurement and reporting process is facilitated by our credit risk exposure database, which contains relevant information on counterparty details and credit risk exposures. The database is accessible by management throughout the Group, thus providing transparency to allow for the implementation of active exposure management strategies. We also license third party tools to provide credit risk assessments. We monitor all our credit aggregations and, where appropriate, adjust our internal risk limits and/or have taken specific actions to reduce our risk exposures.
Credit risk relating to investing activities
Within our fixed maturity investment portfolio, which represents approximately $11 billion or 55% of our total assets, we are exposed to potential losses arising from the diminished creditworthiness of issuers of bonds as well as third party counterparties such as custodians. We limit such credit risk through diversification, issuer exposure limitation graded by ratings and, with respect to custodians, through contractual and other legal remedies. Excluding U.S. Treasury and Agency securities, we limit our concentration of credit risk to any single corporate issuer to 2% or less of our investment grade fixed maturities portfolio for securities rated A- or above and 1% or less of our investment grade fixed maturities portfolio for securities rated below A-. No more than 1.5% of total cash and invested assets can be invested in any single corporate issuer.
We also have credit risk relating to our cash and cash equivalents. In order to mitigate concentration and operational risks related to cash and cash equivalents, we limit the maximum amount of cash that can be deposited with a single counterparty and additionally limit acceptable counterparties based on current rating, outlook and other relevant factors.
Credit risk relating to reinsurance recoverable assets
Within our reinsurance purchasing activities, we are exposed to the credit risk of a reinsurer failing to meet its obligations under our reinsurance contracts. To help mitigate this, all of our reinsurance purchasing is subject to financial security requirements specified by our RSC. The RSC maintains a list of approved reinsurers, reviews credit risk assessments for potential new reinsurers, regularly monitors approved reinsurers with consideration for events which may have a material impact on their creditworthiness, recommends counterparty limits for different types of ceded business and monitors concentrations of credit risk. This assessment considers a wide range of individual attributes, including a review of the counterparty’s financial strength, industry position and other qualitative factors.
We monitor counterparty credit quality and exposures, with special monitoring of those cases that merit close attention.
Credit risk relating to receivables
Our largest credit risk exposure to receivables is from brokers and other intermediaries; the risk arises where they collect premiums from customers to be paid to us or we pay claims to them for onward settlement to customers on our behalf. We have policies and standards in place to manage and monitor credit risk from intermediaries with a focus on day-to-day monitoring of the largest positions.
Credit risk relating to our underwriting portfolio
In our insurance segment, we provide credit insurance primarily for lenders (financial institutions) seeking to mitigate the risk of non-payment from their borrowers. This product has complemented our more traditional political risk insurance business. For the credit insurance contracts, it is necessary for the buyer of the insurance, most often a bank, to hold an insured asset, most often an underlying loan, in order to claim compensation under the insurance contract. The vast majority of the credit insurance provided is for single-name illiquid risks, primarily in the form of senior secured bank loans that can be individually analyzed and underwritten. As part of this underwriting process, an evaluation of credit-worthiness and reputation of the obligor is critical and forms the cornerstone of the underwriting process. We generally require that our clients retain a share of each transaction that we insure. A key element to our underwriting analysis is the assessment of
recovery in the event of default and, accordingly, the strength of the collateral and the enforceability of rights to the collateral are paramount. We avoid insurance for structured finance products defined by pools of risks and insurance for synthetic products that would expose us to mark-to-market losses. We also seek to avoid terms in our credit insurance contracts which introduce liquidity risk, most notably, in the form of a collateralization requirement upon a ratings downgrade. We also provide protection against sovereign default or sovereign actions that result in impairment of cross-border investments for banks and corporations. Our contracts generally include conditions precedent to our liability relating to the enforceability of the insured transaction and restricting amendments to the transaction documentation, obligations on the insured to prevent and minimize losses, subrogation rights (including rights to have the insured asset transferred to us) and waiting periods. Under most of our policies, a loss payment is made in the event the debtor failed to pay our client when payment is due subject to a waiting period of up to 180 days.
In our reinsurance segment, we provide reinsurance of credit and bond insurers exposed to the risks of financial loss arising from non-payment of trade receivables covered by a policy (credit insurance) or non-performance (bonding). Our credit insurance exposures are concentrated primarily within Western European economies, while our surety bond exposures are concentrated primarily within Latin American and Western European economies.
Market risk is the risk that our financial instruments may be negatively impacted by movements in financial market prices or rates such as equity prices, interest rates, credit spreads and foreign exchange rates. Fluctuations in market rates primarily affect our investment portfolio.
Through asset and liability management, we aim to ensure that market risks influence the economic value of our investments and that of our loss reserves and other liabilities in the same way, thus mitigating the effect of market fluctuations. For example, we reflect important features of our liabilities, such as maturity patterns and currency structures, on the assets side of the balance sheet by acquiring investments with similar characteristics.
We supplement our asset-liability management with various internal policies and limits. As part of our strategic asset allocation process, different asset strategies are simulated and stressed in order to evaluate the ‘optimal’ portfolio (given return objectives and risk constraints) at both the group and operating entity level. In our investment department, we centralize the management of asset classes to control aggregation of risk, and provide a consistent approach to constructing portfolios as well as the selection process of external asset managers. We have limits on the concentration of investments by single issuers and certain asset classes, and we limit the level of illiquid investments (see 'Liquidity Risk' below). Further, our investment guidelines do not permit the use of leverage in any of our fixed maturity portfolios.
We stress test our investment portfolios using historical and hypothetical scenarios to analyze the impact of unusual market conditions and to ensure potential investment losses remain within our risk appetite. At an annual aggregated level, we manage the total risk exposure to our investment portfolio so that the ‘total return’ investment loss in any one year is unlikely to exceed a defined percentage of our common equity at a defined return period.
We mitigate foreign currency risk by seeking to match our estimated (re)insurance liabilities payable in foreign currencies with assets, including cash and investments that are also denominated in such currencies. Where necessary, we use derivative financial instruments for economic hedging purposes. For example, in certain circumstances, we use forward contracts and currency options, to economically hedge portions of our un-matched foreign currency exposures.
Operational risk represents the risk of financial loss as a result of inadequate processes, system failures, human error or external events.
Group Risk is responsible for coordinating and overseeing a Group-wide framework for operational risk management. As part of this, we maintain an operational loss-event database which helps us better monitor and analyze potential operational risk, identify any trends, and, where necessary, put in place improvement actions to avoid occurrence or recurrence of operational loss events.
We manage transaction type operational risks through the application of process controls throughout our business. In testing these controls, we supplement the work of our internal audit team, with regular underwriting and claim MIAs (as discussed above).
We have specific processes and systems in place to focus on high priority operational matters such as information security, managing business continuity, and third party vendor risk:
Major failures and disasters which could cause a severe disruption to working environments, facilities and personnel, represent a significant operational risk to us. Our Business Continuity Management framework strives to protect critical business functions from these effects to enable us to carry out our core tasks in time and at the quality required. During 2016, we continued to review our Business Continuity Planning procedures through cyclical planned tests.
We have developed a number of Information Technology ("IT") platforms, applications and security controls to support our business activities worldwide. Dedicated security standards are in place for our IT systems to ensure the proper use, availability and protection of our information assets.
Our use of third party vendors exposes us to a number of increased operational risks, including the risk of security breaches, fraud, non-compliance with laws and regulations or internal guidelines and inadequate service. We manage material third party vendor risk, by, among other things, performing a thorough risk assessment on potential large vendors, reviewing a vendor’s financial stability, ability to provide ongoing service and business continuity planning.
Liquidity risk is the risk that we may not have sufficient financial resources to meet our obligations when they fall due, or would have to incur excessive costs to do so. As a (re)insurer, our core business generates liquidity primarily through premium, investment income and the maturity/sale of investments. Our exposure to liquidity risk stems mainly from the need to cover potential extreme loss events and regulatory constraints that limit the flow of funds within the Group. To manage these risks, we have a range of liquidity policies and measures in place:
We maintain cash and cash equivalents and high quality, liquid investment portfolios to meet expected outflows, as well as those that could result from a range of potential stress events. We place internal limits on the maximum percentage of cash and investments which may be in an illiquid form as well as a minimum percentage of our investment portfolio to mature within a defined timeframe.
We maintain committed borrowing facilities, as well as access to diverse funding sources to cover contingencies. Funding sources include asset sales, external debt issuances and lines of credit.
Our capital management strategy is to maximize long-term shareholder value by, among other things, optimizing capital allocation and minimizing our cost of capital. We also manage our capital in accordance with our desired financial strength rating, as well as regulatory and solvency requirements.
We monitor the capital positions of the Group and at operating entity level and apply stress tests based on adverse scenarios. This allows us to take appropriate measures to ensure the continued strength and appropriateness of our capital and solvency positions, and also enables us to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Such measures are performed as and when required and include traditional capital management tools (e.g. dividends, share buy-backs, issuances of shares or debt) or through changes to our risk exposure (e.g. recalibration of our investment portfolio or changes to our reinsurance purchasing strategy).
Internal risk capital
We use our internal capital model to assess the capital consumption of our business, measuring and monitoring the potential aggregation of risk at extreme return periods.
Regulatory capital requirements
In each country in which we operate, the local regulator specifies the minimum amount and type of capital that each of the regulated entities must hold in support of their liabilities and business plans. We target to hold, in addition to the minimum capital required to comply with the solvency requirements, an adequate buffer to ensure that each of our operating entities meets its local capital requirements. Refer to Item 8, Note 21 of the Consolidated Financial Statements, 'Statutory Financial Information' for further information.
Rating agency capital requirements
Rating agencies apply their own models to evaluate the relationship between the required risk capital of a company and its available capital resources. The assessment of capital adequacy is usually an integral part of the rating agency process. Meeting rating agency capital requirements and maintaining strong credit ratings are strategic business objectives of the AXIS Group. For further information on our financial strength refer to Item 7 ‘Liquidity and Capital Resources’ section of this report.
The business of (re)insurance is regulated in most countries, although the degree and type of regulation varies significantly from one jurisdiction to another. In addition, some jurisdictions are currently evaluating changes to their regulation and AXIS is monitoring these potential developments. To the extent AXIS is aware of impending changes in regulation, we designate project teams to prepare the organization to comply on a timely basis with such anticipated changes. The following describes the current material regulations under which the Company operates.
Our Bermuda insurance operating subsidiary, AXIS Specialty Bermuda, is a Class 4 general business insurer subject to the Insurance Act 1978 of Bermuda and related regulations, as amended (the “Insurance Act”). The Insurance Act provides that no person may carry on any insurance or reinsurance business in or from within Bermuda unless registered as an insurer by the Bermuda Monetary Authority (the “BMA”) under the Insurance Act. The Insurance Act imposes upon Bermuda insurance companies solvency and liquidity standards and auditing and reporting requirements, and grants the BMA powers to supervise, investigate, require information and demand the production of documents and intervene in the affairs of insurance companies. Significant requirements pertaining to Class 4 insurers include the appointment of an independent auditor, the appointment of a loss reserve specialist, the appointment of a principal representative in Bermuda, the filing of annual Statutory Financial Returns, the filing of annual GAAP financial statements, the filing of an annual capital and solvency return, compliance with minimum and enhanced capital requirements, compliance with certain restrictions on reductions of capital and the payment of dividends and distributions, compliance with group solvency and supervision rules, if applicable, and compliance with the Insurance Code of Conduct.
The BMA has been granted full “equivalence” under Solvency II (as more fully described below under "Ireland") for Bermuda’s commercial insurance sector, including Class 4 insurers, with an effective date of January 1, 2016.
In November 2013, AXIS Capital formed AXIS Ventures and its direct subsidiary Ventures Re. Ventures Re is a Class 3A insurer under the Insurance Act and a registered segregated accounts company under the Bermuda Segregated Accounts Companies Act 2000, as amended. Pursuant to a Direction under Section 56 of the Insurance Act issued by the BMA, Ventures Re is exempt from certain solvency and liquidity standards and reporting requirements.
The BMA acts as group supervisor of AXIS Capital and has designated AXIS Specialty Bermuda as the ‘designated insurer’ of the AXIS Capital group of insurance companies. In accordance with the group supervision and insurance group solvency rules, AXIS Capital is required to prepare and submit annual audited group GAAP financial statements, an annual group Statutory Financial Return, an annual group Capital and Solvency Return and quarterly group unaudited GAAP financial statements, and to appoint both a group actuary and a group auditor. Enhanced group capital requirements (“ECR”) have been phased in since the financial year ending December 31, 2013, when the applicable ECR was 50% of the amount prescribed by the BMA, with an additional 10% applicable each subsequent year through 2018, when the full ECR will be required.
AXIS Capital, AXIS Specialty Bermuda, AXIS Specialty Holdings Bermuda Limited, AXIS Bermuda Services Limited, AXIS Specialty Markets Limited, AXIS Specialty Markets II Limited, AXIS Ventures, Ventures Re, AXIS Specialty Investments II Limited and AXIS Reinsurance Managers must also comply with provisions of the Bermuda Companies Act 1981, as amended (the “Companies Act”), regulating the payment of dividends and distributions. A Bermuda company may not declare or pay a dividend or make a distribution out of contributed surplus if there are reasonable grounds for believing that: (a) the company is, or would after the payment be, unable to pay its liabilities as they become due; or (b) the realizable value of the company’s assets would thereby be less than its liabilities.
The Singapore branch of AXIS Specialty Bermuda, AXIS Specialty Limited (Singapore Branch), established in 2008, is regulated by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (the “MAS”) pursuant to The Insurance Act of Singapore which imposes significant regulations relating to capital adequacy, risk management, governance and audit and actuarial requirements. AXIS Specialty Limited (Singapore Branch) is registered by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (“ACRA”) as a
foreign company in Singapore and is also regulated by ACRA pursuant to the Singapore Companies Act. Prior to establishing its Singapore branch, AXIS Specialty Bermuda had maintained a representative office in Singapore since 2004.
AXIS Specialty Bermuda has reinsurance permissions in China and the Netherlands. AXIS Specialty Limited (Singapore Branch) has a separate reinsurance permission in China.
AXIS Syndicate 1686 (“AXIS Syndicate”), a Lloyd's Syndicate, is licensed through Lloyd's to write insurance and reinsurance in or from Bermuda, except for long-term business. See “United Kingdom” (U.K.) below for additional information regarding AXIS Syndicate.
U.S. Insurance Holding Company Regulation of AXIS Capital’s Insurance Subsidiaries
As members of an insurance holding company system, each of AXIS Insurance Company, AXIS Reinsurance Company, AXIS Specialty Insurance Company and AXIS Surplus Insurance Company, collectively AXIS Capital’s U.S. insurance subsidiaries (“U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries”) are subject to the insurance holding company system laws and regulations of the states in which they do business. These laws generally require each of the U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries to register with its respective domestic state insurance department and to furnish financial and other information which may materially affect the operations, management or financial condition within the holding company system. All transactions within a holding company system that involve an insurance company must be fair and equitable. Notice to the insurance departments is required prior to the consummation of transactions affecting the ownership or control of an insurer and of certain material transactions between an insurer and an entity in its holding company system, and certain transactions may not be consummated without the department’s prior approval.
State Insurance Regulation
AXIS Reinsurance Company is licensed to transact insurance and reinsurance in all 50 of the U.S., the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. AXIS Reinsurance Company is also authorized to transact insurance and reinsurance throughout Canada through its Canadian branch and has reinsurance permissions in Brazil, China, Ecuador, India and Mexico. AXIS Insurance Company is licensed to transact insurance and reinsurance in all 50 of the U.S. and in the District of Columbia. AXIS Specialty Insurance Company is licensed to transact insurance and reinsurance throughout the U.S., except California, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico, New York and Wyoming. AXIS Surplus Insurance Company is eligible to write insurance on a surplus lines basis in all 50 of the U.S., the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Our U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries also are subject to regulation and supervision by their respective states of domicile and by other jurisdictions in which they do business. The regulations generally are derived from statutes that delegate regulatory and supervisory powers to an insurance official. The regulatory framework varies from state to state, but generally relates to approval of policy forms and rates, the standards of solvency that must be met and maintained, including risk-based capital standards, material transactions between an insurer and its affiliates, the licensing of insurers, agents and brokers, restrictions on insurance policy terminations, the nature of and limitations on the amount of certain investments, limitations on the net amount of insurance of a single risk compared to the insurer’s surplus, deposits of securities for the benefit of policyholders, methods of accounting, periodic examinations of the financial condition and market conduct of insurance companies, the form and content of reports of financial condition required to be filed, reserves for unearned premiums, losses, expenses and other obligations.
Our U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries are required to file detailed quarterly statutory financial statements with state insurance regulators in each of the states in which they conduct business. In addition, the U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries’ operations and accounts are subject to financial condition and market conduct examination at regular intervals by state regulators.
Regulators and rating agencies use statutory surplus as a measure to assess our U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries’ ability to support business operations and pay dividends. Our U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries are subject to various state statutory and regulatory restrictions that limit the amount of dividends that may be paid from earned surplus without prior approval from regulatory authorities. These restrictions differ by state, but generally are based on calculations using statutory surplus, statutory net income and investment income. In addition, many state regulators use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners promulgated risk-based capital requirements as a means of identifying insurance companies which may be under-capitalized.
Although the insurance industry generally is not directly regulated by the federal government, federal legislation and initiatives can affect the industry and our business. On July 21, 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (“Dodd-Frank”) was signed into law. Certain sections of that act pertain to the regulation and business of insurance. Specifically, the Federal Insurance Office was created (“FIO”). The FIO has limited authority and serves to collect information and report on the business of insurance to Congress. In addition, Dodd-Frank contained the Nonadmitted and Reinsurance Reform Act of 2010 (“NRRA”). NRRA attempts to coordinate the payment of surplus lines taxes, simplify the granting of alien insurers to become surplus lines authorized and coordinates the credit for certain reinsurance. Various sections of Dodd-Frank become effective over time and regulations have yet to be drafted for certain provisions. AXIS does not anticipate that Dodd-Frank will have any material effect on its operations or financial condition this year, but will continue to monitor its implementation.
Ternian, a leading provider of voluntary, limited benefit, affordable health plans and other employee benefits coverage for hourly and part-time workers and their families, is an authorized insurance producer in all 50 of the U.S. except Hawaii. As a resident insurance producer in Arizona, Ternian is subject to regulation and supervision by the Arizona Department of Insurance and is also subject to the regulation and supervision of the other states in which Ternian transacts business.
In January 2017, the Company launched AXIS Specialty Underwriters, Inc., a reinsurance intermediary licensed in Florida and based in Miami which operates as the Latin American and Caribbean regional coverholder for AXIS Syndicate. AXIS Specialty Underwriters, Inc. provides direct and facultative reinsurance coverage to the Latin American and Caribbean market and is focused on energy and property business.
U.S. Authorizations of our Non-U.S. Insurance Subsidiaries
The insurance laws of each state of the U.S. regulate or prohibit the sale of (re)insurance within their jurisdictions by (re)insurers that are not admitted to do business within such jurisdictions, or conduct business pursuant to exemptions. AXIS Specialty Europe is eligible to write surplus lines business in all 50 of the U.S., the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. AXIS Syndicate is eligible to write surplus lines business in all 50 of the U.S., in the District of Columbia and in all U.S. territories. AXIS Syndicate is authorized to write insurance business, except life insurance business, in the states of Illinois, Kentucky and in the U.S. Virgin Islands under licenses held in the name of “Lloyd's Underwriters” or “Underwriters at Lloyd's, London”. AXIS Syndicate is authorized to write non-life reinsurance business in all 50 of the U.S., the District of Columbia and in all U.S. territories, except for accident and health reinsurance in New York.
In addition to the regulatory requirements imposed by the jurisdictions in which they are licensed, reinsurers’ business operations are affected by regulatory requirements in various states of the U.S. governing “credit for reinsurance” that are imposed on their ceding companies. In general, a ceding company obtaining reinsurance from a reinsurer that is licensed, accredited or approved by the jurisdiction or state in which the ceding company files statutory financial statements is permitted to reflect in its statutory financial statements a credit in an aggregate amount equal to the ceding company’s liability for unearned premiums (which are that portion of premiums written which applies to the unexpired portion of the policy period), loss reserves and loss expense reserves ceded to the reinsurer. The great majority of states, however, permit a credit to statutory surplus resulting from reinsurance obtained from a non-licensed or non-accredited reinsurer to be recognized to the extent that the reinsurer provides a letter of credit, trust fund or other acceptable security arrangement. A few states do not allow credit for reinsurance ceded to non-licensed reinsurers except in certain limited circumstances and others impose additional requirements that make it difficult to become accredited. In connection with the establishment of a Multi-Beneficiary Reinsurance Trust, AXIS Specialty Bermuda obtained accredited or trusteed reinsurer status in all U.S. jurisdictions except for New York.
On November 4, 2015, Ireland transposed the Solvency II Directive (Directive 2009/138/EC) as amended by the Omnibus II Directive (2014/51/EC) (together “the Solvency II Directive”) into Irish Law effective January 1, 2016. This transposition took the form of secondary Irish legislation in the form of a Statutory Instrument, the European Communities (Insurance and Reinsurance) Regulations 2015, which together with the Solvency II Directive are collectively referred to herein as “Solvency II”. Solvency II represents a consolidation and modernization of existing European Commission Solvency I (re)insurance regulation and supervision and includes a new harmonized EU-wide risk based solvency and reporting regime for the (re)insurance sector. Solvency II covers three main areas: (i) the valuation of assets and liabilities and related solvency capital requirements; (ii) governance requirements including key functions of compliance, internal audit, actuarial and risk management; and (iii) new legal entity and European Union ("EU") group reporting and disclosure requirements including
public disclosures. The new capital requirement must be computed using the Solvency II standard formula unless the Central Bank of Ireland ("CBI") has previously authorized a company to use its own internal model. Certain of our European legal entities are subject to Solvency II effective January 1, 2016.
AXIS Specialty Europe
AXIS Specialty Europe is a European public limited liability company incorporated as a non-life insurer under the laws of Ireland. AXIS Specialty Europe is authorized and regulated by the CBI pursuant to the Insurance Acts 1909 to 2000, as amended, repealed or replaced, the Central Bank Acts 1942 – 2014, as amended, repealed or replaced and EU regulation relating to general insurance and statutory instruments made thereunder. AXIS Specialty Europe is authorized to conduct business in 16 non-life insurance classes of business. AXIS Specialty Europe may also write reinsurance business within the classes of insurance business for which it is authorized. Significant additional regulation that applies to AXIS Specialty Europe includes the Corporate Governance Code for Insurance Undertakings 2015, the Guidelines on the Reinsurance Cover of Primary Insurers and the Security of their Reinsurers, the Guideline for Solvency II Undertakings on Directors Certifications, the Domestic Actuarial Regime and related Governance requirements under Solvency II, the Guidance for (Re)Insurance Undertakings on the Fitness and Probity Amendments 2015, the Outsourcing Notification Process under Solvency II, the Cross Industry Guidance in respect of Information Technology and Cybersecurity Risks - September 2016 and the Guidance for (Re)Insurance Undertakings on Head of Actuarial Function Role.
Ireland is a member of the European Economic Area, (“EEA”), which comprises each of the countries of the EU with the addition of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
AXIS Specialty Europe is subject to Solvency II regulation effective January 1, 2016. In accordance with Solvency II, AXIS Specialty Europe is permitted to provide insurance services to clients located in any EEA member state (“Freedom of Services”), provided it has first notified the CBI and subject to compliance with any “general good requirements” as may be established by the applicable EEA Member State regulator. AXIS Specialty Europe has notified the CBI of its intention to provide insurance services on a Freedom of Services basis in all EEA countries.
Solvency II also permits AXIS Specialty Europe to carry on insurance business in any EEA Member State under the principle of “Freedom of Establishment.” In May 2003, AXIS Specialty Europe established a branch in the U.K. to transact general insurance business in the U.K. trading as AXIS Specialty London. The CBI remains responsible for the prudential supervision of the branch; however, AXIS Specialty London is also regulated by the U.K.'s Prudential Regulation Authority (“PRA”) and Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) in respect of the conduct of business rules in the U.K.
In July 2008, AXIS Specialty Europe established an Australian branch, trading as AXIS Specialty Australia, to transact general insurance business in Australia. The CBI remains responsible for the prudential supervision of the branch; however the Australia Prudential Regulation Authority (“APRA”) is also responsible for the authorization of and the ongoing prudential supervision of the branch in accordance with the Insurance Act 1973, as amended, as well as regulations applicable to general insurers in Australia. AXIS Specialty Europe is also registered as a foreign company with the Australia Securities Investment Commission in accordance with Australia’s Corporations Act 2001, as amended. Significant additional regulation relates to branch capital adequacy, assets in Australia, risk management, reinsurance management, governance and audit and actuarial requirements. AXIS Specialty Europe ceased writing new and renewal business in its Australia branch during 2015 and completed a portfolio transfer regarding all the insurance policies, assets and liabilities with effect from February 13, 2017 (see “Australia” below for additional information regarding AXIS Specialty Australia).
AXIS Specialty Europe has obtained local regulatory permission to carry on insurance business in Jersey and has reinsurance permissions in India and China.
AXIS Re SE
AXIS Re SE is a European public limited liability company incorporated as a reinsurer under the laws of Ireland. AXIS Re SE is authorized by the CBI as a composite reinsurer (non-life and life) in accordance with the Insurance Acts 1909 to 2000, as amended, repealed or replaced, the Central Bank Acts 1942 - 2014 as amended, repealed or replaced and EU regulation applicable to reinsurance and statutory instruments made thereunder. Significant additional regulation that applies to AXIS Re SE includes the Corporate Governance Code for Insurance Undertakings 2015, the Guidelines on the Reinsurance Cover of Primary Insurers and the Security of their Reinsurers, the Guideline for Solvency II Undertakings on Directors Certifications, the Domestic Actuarial Regime and related Governance requirements under Solvency II, the Guidance for (Re)Insurance Undertakings on the Fitness and Probity Amendments 2015, the Outsourcing Notification Process under Solvency
II, the Cross Industry Guidance in respect of Information Technology and Cybersecurity Risks - September 2016 and the Guidance for (Re)Insurance Undertakings on Head of Actuarial Function Role.
Solvency II regulation applies to AXIS Re SE effective January 1, 2016.
In September 2003, AXIS Re SE established a branch in Zurich, Switzerland trading as AXIS Re Europe and registered in Zurich as AXIS Re SE Dublin, Zurich branch. The CBI remains responsible for the prudential supervision of the branch. The Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority does not impose additional regulation upon a Swiss branch of an EEA reinsurer.
AXIS Re SE has reinsurance permissions in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.
AXIS Re SE has marketing offices in Brazil, Dubai, France and Spain. These offices are representative offices only and no business may be written or any regulated activity conducted from these offices. AXIS Re SE Escritório de Representação No Brasil Ltda. was established in Brazil as a subsidiary of AXIS Re SE to facilitate the Brazilian Superintendence of Private Insurance (“SUSEP”) regulatory requirements for approval of a representative office of AXIS Re SE and for AXIS Re SE to be registered with SUSEP as an Admitted Reinsurer.
AXIS Specialty Holdings Ireland Limited
AXIS Specialty Holdings Ireland Limited is the limited liability holding company for AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Re SE, incorporated under the laws of Ireland. In its capacity as a holding company of EU regulated (re)insurance companies, AXIS Specialty Holdings Ireland Limited is subject to certain group requirements under Solvency II.
AXIS Syndicate, through Lloyd's, has permission to write insurance, except permanent health, and reinsurance business on a Freedom of Services basis in Ireland.
Under the law of England and Wales, a company may only conduct insurance and/or reinsurance business in the U.K. upon authorization. AXIS Specialty Europe is authorized to transact business in the U.K. pursuant to Solvency II on a Freedom of Establishment basis through its branch, AXIS Specialty London.
The U.K. is a member of the EEA. AXIS Re SE may transact U.K. business on a Freedom of Services basis pursuant to Solvency II.
AXIS Syndicate 1686
The Corporation of Lloyd’s is not an insurance or reinsurance company. The Corporation of Lloyd’s oversees and supports the Lloyd’s market. The Lloyd’s market houses members, syndicates and managing agents. Lloyd’s is a Society of members both corporate and individual, which underwrite insurance and reinsurance (each for their own account) as members of syndicates. A syndicate is made up of one or more members that join together as a group to accept insurance and reinsurance risks. They operate on an ongoing basis, although they are technically annual ventures. Each syndicate is managed by a managing agent. Managing agents write insurance business on behalf of the member(s) of the syndicate, which member(s) receive profits or bear losses in proportion to their share in the syndicate for each underwriting year of account.
Lloyd’s is subject to U.K. law and regulation by the PRA and FCA. The Lloyd’s Act 1982 defines the governance structure and rules under which Lloyd’s operates. Under the Lloyd's Act 1982, the Council of Lloyd’s is responsible for the management and supervision of the Lloyd’s market. Lloyd's Managing Agents are also dual regulated by the PRA and FCA.
AXIS Corporate Capital UK Limited is approved by the Franchise Board of Lloyd’s as the sole (100%) corporate member supporting the business underwritten by AXIS Syndicate. AXIS Syndicate is managed by Asta Managing Agency Limited, a third party managing agent approved by Lloyd’s, PRA and FCA. Lloyd’s has a global network of licenses and authorizations and AXIS Syndicate may write business in and from countries where Lloyd’s has authorized status or pursuant to regulatory exemptions available to non-admitted reinsurers. AXIS Syndicate, through Lloyd's, is permitted to provide insurance, except permanent health, and reinsurance services on a Freedom of Services basis subject to compliance with any “general good
requirements” as may be established by the applicable EEA member state regulators. AXIS Syndicate received approval from Lloyd’s during 2015 to establish an underwriting division at Lloyd’s Insurance Company (China) Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Corporation of Lloyd’s.
Lloyd’s and AXIS Syndicate are subject to Solvency II regulation effective January 1, 2016.
AXIS Re SE conducts reinsurance business from its branch, AXIS Re Europe, in Zurich, Switzerland, subject to the supervision of the CBI.
AXIS Syndicate, through Lloyd's, is authorized to conduct all classes of insurance business, except life, sickness and legal expenses and is authorized to write all classes of reinsurance business in Switzerland.
AXIS Specialty Bermuda conducts (re)insurance business from its branch in Singapore, AXIS Specialty Limited (Singapore Branch), subject to the supervision of the BMA and the MAS which imposes significant regulations relating to capital adequacy, risk management, governance and audit and actuarial requirements. AXIS Specialty Limited (Singapore Branch) is registered by ACRA as a foreign company in Singapore and regulated by ACRA pursuant to the Singapore Companies Act.
AXIS Syndicate, through Lloyd's, is licensed to write insurance from Singapore with the exception of certain compulsory classes and life business. Singaporean business may also be written from outside of Singapore in certain circumstances where it is placed with a Singapore intermediary licensed by the MAS to place business at Lloyd's or by dealing directly with the insured.
AXIS Reinsurance Company conducts (re)insurance business from AXIS Reinsurance Company (Canadian Branch), its branch in Canada, subject to the supervision of the New York State Department of Financial Services and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Canada (“OSFI”), the federal regulatory authority that supervises federal Canadian and non-Canadian insurance companies operating in Canada pursuant to the Insurance Companies Act (Canada). The branch is authorized by OSFI to transact insurance and reinsurance. In addition, the branch is subject to the laws and regulations of each of the provinces and territories in which it is licensed.
AXIS Syndicate, through Lloyd's, subject to the laws and regulations of each of the provinces and territories in which it is licensed, is authorized to write insurance in or from Canada, with the following exceptions: hail insurance in respect of crop in the province of Quebec; home warranty insurance in the province of British Columbia; life insurance; credit protection insurance; title insurance; surety; and mortgage default insurance. AXIS Syndicate, through Lloyd's, is authorized to write reinsurance in or from Canada subject to certain restrictions relating to life reinsurance.
On September 29, 2015, the Board of Directors of AXIS Specialty Europe resolved, with effect from October 8, 2015, to cease writing new or renewal business in the AXIS Specialty Australia branch and to commence the process of placing AXIS Specialty Australia into run-off. AXIS Specialty Europe, by virtue of its branch in Australia, is subject to the supervision of the CBI and APRA. Significant additional regulation that applies to AXIS Specialty Australia relates to branch capital adequacy, assets in Australia, risk management, reinsurance management, governance and audit and actuarial requirements.
In April 2016, AXIS Specialty Australia entered into a 100% Quota Share Adverse Development Reinsurance Cover with a reinsurer regulated by FINMA and APRA. The scheme for the transfer of the insurance business of AXIS Specialty Australia under Division 3A of Part III of the Insurance Act 1973 was approved by the Irish High Court on February 1, 2017 and was approved by the Federal Court of Australia on February 10, 2017. Under this Scheme the insurance policies, assets and liabilities of AXIS Specialty Australia have transferred to the reinsurer with effect from February 13, 2017. AXIS Specialty Australia is in the process of requesting APRA to exercise its power under section 16 of the Insurance Act 1973 (Cth) to revoke AXIS Specialty Australia’s authorization to carry on insurance business in Australia under section 12(1) of the Insurance Act 1973 (Cth).
AXIS Syndicate, through Lloyd’s, is permitted to write insurance and reinsurance in or from Australia with certain exceptions.
The AXIS (re)insurance companies also (re)insure risks in many countries pursuant to regulatory permissions and exemptions available to non-admitted (re)insurers.
AXIS Syndicate may write insurance and reinsurance business where Lloyd's has authorized status or pursuant to regulatory exemptions available to non-admitted (re)insurers.
As of February 17, 2017 we had approximately 1,325 employees. We believe that relations with our employees are excellent.
We are subject to the informational requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), and therefore file periodic reports, proxy statements and other information, including reports filed by officers and directors under Section 16(a) of the Exchange Act, with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The public may read and copy any materials we file with the SEC at the SEC’s Public Reference Room at 100 F Street, NE, Washington, DC 20549. The public may obtain information on the operation of the Public Reference Room by calling the SEC at 1-800-SEC-0330. The SEC maintains an internet site that contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information regarding issuers that file electronically with the SEC (such as us) and the address of that site is http://www.sec.gov. Our common shares are traded on the NYSE with the symbol “AXS” and you can review similar information concerning us at the office of the NYSE at 20 Broad Street, New York, New York, 10005. Our Internet website address is http://www.axiscapital.com. Information contained in our website is not part of this report.
We make available free of charge, including through our internet website, our Annual Report on Form 10-K, Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, Current Reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Exchange Act as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with, or furnished to, the SEC. Current copies of the charter for each of our Audit Committee, Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee, Compensation Committee, Finance Committee, Executive Committee and Risk Committee, as well as our Corporate Governance Guidelines and Code of Business Conduct, are available on our internet website at http://www.axiscapital.com.
You should carefully consider the following risks and all of the other information set forth in this report, including our consolidated financial statements and the notes thereto:
The (re)insurance business is historically cyclical, and we expect to experience periods with excess underwriting capacity and unfavorable premium rates.
The (re)insurance business historically has been a cyclical industry characterized by periods of intense price competition due to excessive underwriting capacity as well as periods when shortages of capacity permitted favorable premium levels. An increase in premium rates is often offset by an increasing supply of (re)insurance capacity, via capital provided by new entrants, new capital market instruments and structures and/or the commitment of additional capital by existing (re)insurers, which may cause prices to decrease. Any of these factors could lead to a significant reduction in premium rates, less favorable policy terms and fewer submissions for our underwriting services. In addition to these considerations, changes in the frequency and severity of losses suffered by insureds and insurers may affect the cycles of the (re)insurance business significantly.
Competition and consolidation in the (re)insurance industry could reduce our growth and profitability.
The (re)insurance industry is highly competitive. We compete on an international and regional basis with major U.S., Bermuda, European and other international (re)insurers and underwriting syndicates, including Lloyd's, some of which have greater financial, marketing and management resources than we do. We also compete with new companies that continue to be formed to enter the (re)insurance markets. In addition, capital market participants have recently created alternative products that are intended to compete with reinsurance products. New and alternative capital inflows in the (re)insurance industry and the retention by cedants of more business have recently caused an excess supply of (re)insurance capital. There has been a large amount of merger and acquisition activity in the (re)insurance sector in recent years and we may experience increased competition as a result of that consolidation with consolidated entities having enhanced market power. In addition, there is a risk of continued consolidation in the sector which could result in competition from larger competitors. Increased competition could result in fewer submissions, lower premium rates, less favorable policy terms and conditions and greater costs of customer acquisition and retention. In addition, if industry pricing does not meet our hurdle rate, we may reduce our future underwriting activities. These factors could have a material adverse effect on our growth and profitability.
Global economic conditions could materially and adversely affect our business, results of operations and financial condition.
During the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, worldwide financial markets experienced unprecedented volatility and disruption including, among other things, dislocation in the mortgage and asset-backed securities markets, deleveraging and decreased liquidity generally, widening of credit spreads, bankruptcies and government intervention in a number of large financial institutions. These events resulted in extraordinary responses by governments worldwide, including the enactment of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the U.S. Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and Dodd Frank. This market turmoil affected (among other aspects of our business) the demand for and claims made under our products, the ability of customers, counterparties and others to establish or maintain their relationships with us, our ability to access and efficiently use internal and external capital resources and our investment performance and portfolio.
Although there have been indicators of some stability returning to the financial markets, there continues to be significant uncertainty regarding the timeline for a full global economic recovery. While inflation has recently been limited and that trend may continue, it is possible that the steps taken by governments to stabilize financial markets and improve economic conditions could lead to an inflationary environment. Further, such steps may be ineffective and actual or anticipated efforts to continue to unwind some of such steps could disrupt financial markets and/or could adversely impact the value of our investment portfolio. In addition, recent indications of slowing economic growth, coupled with the continued strengthening of the U.S. dollar and other macro and micro-economic factors have led to increased volatility in worldwide commodity prices. There are signs that declining commodity prices are already putting significant strain on the financial condition of a number of energy sector companies as well as introducing credit stresses for commodity-exporting countries.
On November 8, 2016, voters in the U.S. elected a new president. While it is uncertain at this time how the results of the U.S. 2016 presidential and other elections could affect our business, the new U.S. administration has called for comprehensive regulatory reform and questioned certain existing legislation, including the Affordable Care Act and Dodd Frank. Governmental action and legislation resulting from the new U.S. administration, as well as political debate, conflicts and compromises related to such actions, may impact the financial markets and consumer confidence and spending or adversely impact the U.S. economy.
Given the on-going global economic uncertainties, evolving market conditions may continue to affect our results of operations, financial position and capital resources. In the event that there is additional deterioration or volatility in financial markets or general economic conditions, our results of operations, financial position, capital resources and competitive landscape could be materially and adversely affected.
Our results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected by the occurrence of natural and man-made disasters.
We have substantial exposure to unexpected losses resulting from natural disasters, man-made catastrophes and other catastrophe events. Catastrophes can be caused by various events, including hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, hailstorms, floods, explosions, severe winter weather, fires, drought, and other natural or man-made disasters. Catastrophes can also be man-made, such as terrorist attacks and other intentionally destructive acts, including those involving nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological events, cyber-attacks, explosions and infrastructure failures. Our exposure to cyber-attacks includes exposure to silent cyber risks. Even in cases where we attempt to exclude losses from cyber-related risks, there can be no assurance that a court or arbitration panel will interpret policy language or otherwise issue a ruling favorable to us. The incidence and severity of catastrophes are inherently unpredictable and our losses from catastrophes could be substantial.
Increases in the values and concentrations of insured property, particularly along coastal regions and increases in the cost of construction materials required to rebuild affected properties, may increase the impact of these occurrences on us in the future. Changes in global climate conditions may further increase the frequency and severity of catastrophe activity and losses in the future. Similarly, changes in global political and economic conditions may increase both the frequency and severity of man-made catastrophe events in the future. Examples of the impact of catastrophe events include our recognition of the net losses and loss expenses of:
$204 million, in aggregate, relating to U.S. weather-related events, Hurricane Matthew, Fort McMurray wildfires, the Japanese, Ecuadorian and South Island earthquakes, North Calgary hailstorm and European floods in 2016;
$201 million, in aggregate, relating to various worldwide catastrophe and weather-related events in 2013;
$331 million in relation to Storm Sandy in 2012;
$789 million, in aggregate, in relation to the earthquakes near Christchurch, New Zealand, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Australian weather events and the Thai floods in 2011; and
$256 million, in aggregate, in relation to the Chilean and September New Zealand earthquakes in 2010.
These events materially reduced our net income in the years noted above. Although we attempt to manage our exposure to such events through the use of underwriting controls and the purchase of third-party reinsurance, catastrophe events are inherently unpredictable and the actual nature of such events when they occur could be more frequent or severe than contemplated in our pricing and risk management expectations. As a result, the occurrence of one or more catastrophe events could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
Global climate change may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations and financial condition if we are not able to adequately assess and reserve for the increased frequency and severity of catastrophes resulting from these environmental factors.
The frequency and severity of natural catastrophe activity, including hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, floods and droughts, has been greater in recent years. Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have increased dramatically since the industrial revolution and there is debate as to whether this has caused a gradual increase in global average temperatures. Increasing global average temperatures may continue in the future and could impact our business in the long-term.
We attempt to mitigate the risk of financial exposure from climate change through our underwriting risk management practices. This includes sensitivity to geographic concentrations of risks, the purchase of protective reinsurance and selective underwriting criteria which can include, but is not limited to, higher premiums and deductibles and more specifically excluded policy risks. However, due to lack of scientific certainty about the causes of increased frequency and severity of catastrophes and the lack of adequate predictive tools, a continuation and worsening of recent trends may have a material impact on our results of operations or financial condition.
We could face unanticipated losses from war, terrorism, political unrest, geopolitical uncertainty and these or other unanticipated losses could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and/or liquidity.
We have substantial exposure to unexpected losses resulting from war, acts of terrorism, political unrest and geopolitical instability in many regions of the world. In certain instances, we specifically (re)insure risks resulting from acts of terrorism.
Even in cases where we attempt to exclude losses from terrorism and certain other similar risks from some coverages written by us, there can be no assurance that a court or arbitration panel will interpret policy language or otherwise issue a ruling favorable to us. Accordingly, we can offer no assurance that our reserves will be adequate to cover losses should they materialize.
We have limited terrorism coverage in our own reinsurance program for our exposure to catastrophe losses related to acts of terrorism. Furthermore, although the Terrorism Risk Insurance Extension Act of 2005 (“TRIEA”) provides benefits in the event of certain acts of terrorism, those benefits are subject to a deductible and to other limitations. Under TRIEA, once our losses attributable to certain acts of terrorism exceed 20% of our direct commercial property and liability insurance premiums for the preceding calendar year, the federal government will reimburse us for 85% of such losses in excess of this deductible. Notably, TRIEA does not provide coverage for reinsurance losses. Given the unpredictable frequency and severity of terrorism losses, as well as the limited terrorism coverage in our own reinsurance program, future losses from acts of terrorism could materially and adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition and/or liquidity in future periods. TRIEA expired at the end of 2014 but was reauthorized, with some adjustments to its provisions, in January 2015 for six years through December 31, 2020. Over the six-year life of the reauthorized program, the federal government reimbursement percentage will drop from 85% to 80%.
Our credit and political risk insurance line of business protects insureds with interests in foreign jurisdictions in the event governmental action prevents them from exercising their contractual rights and may also protect their assets against physical damage perils. The insurance provided may include cover for loss arising from expropriation, forced abandonment, license cancellation, trade embargo, contract frustration, non-payment, war on land or political violence (including terrorism, revolution, insurrection and civil unrest).
Our credit and political risk line of business also provides non-payment coverage on specific loan obligations. We insure sovereign non-payment and corporate non-payment as a result of commercial as well as political risk events. The vast majority of the corporate non-payment credit insurance provided is for single-named illiquid risks, primarily in the form of senior bank loans that can be individually analyzed and underwritten. We avoid insurance for structured finance products defined by pools of risks and insurance for synthetic products that would expose us to mark-to-market losses. We also avoid terms in our credit insurance contracts which introduce liquidity risk, most notably, in the form of a collateralization requirement upon a ratings downgrade. We also attempt to manage our exposure, by among other things, setting credit limits by country, region, industry and individual counterparty and regularly reviewing our aggregate exposures. However, due to globalization, political instability in one region can spread to other regions. Geopolitical uncertainty regarding a variety of domestic and international matters, such as the U.S. political and regulatory environment, the potential for default by one or more European sovereign debt issuers and Brexit (as defined below) could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
A downgrade in our financial strength or credit ratings by one or more rating agencies could materially and negatively impact our business, financial condition, results of operations and/or liquidity.
Our ability to underwrite business is dependent upon the quality of our claims paying and financial strength ratings as evaluated by independent rating agencies. A downgrade, withdrawal or negative watch/outlook by any of these institutions could cause our competitive position in the (re)insurance industry to suffer and make it more difficult for us to market our products. If we experience a credit rating downgrade, withdrawal or negative watch/outlook in the future, we could incur higher borrowing costs and may have more limited means to access capital. A downgrade, withdrawal or negative watch/outlook could also result in a substantial loss of business for us, as ceding companies and brokers that place such business may move to other (re)insurers with higher ratings. We would also be required to post collateral under the terms of certain of our policies of reinsurance.
If actual claims exceed our loss reserves, our financial results could be adversely affected.
While we believe that our loss reserves at December 31, 2016 are adequate, new information, events or circumstances, unknown at the original valuation date, may lead to future developments in our ultimate losses being significantly greater or less than the reserves currently provided. The actual final cost of settling claims outstanding at December 31, 2016 as well as claims expected to arise from the unexpired period of risk is uncertain. There are many other factors that would cause our reserves to increase or decrease, which include, but are not limited to, changes in claim severity, changes in the expected level of reported claims, judicial action changing the scope and/or liability of coverage, changes in the legislative, regulatory, social and economic environment and unexpected changes in loss inflation.
Our relatively limited operating history, which includes periods of rapid growth, means that our loss reserve estimates, particularly on the longer tailed classes of business, may place more reliance on industry benchmarks than might be the case for companies with longer operating histories; as a result, the potential for volatility in our estimated loss reserves may be more pronounced than for more established companies. When establishing our single point best estimate of loss reserves at December 31, 2016, our management considered actuarial estimates and applied informed judgment regarding qualitative factors that may not be fully captured in actuarial estimates. Such factors included, but were not limited to: the timing of the emergence of claims, volume and complexity of claims, social and judicial trends, potential severity of individual claims and the extent of internal historical loss data versus industry information.
Changes to our previous estimate of prior year loss reserves can adversely impact the reported calendar year underwriting results if reserves prove to be insufficient or favorably impact our reported results if loss reserves prove to be higher than actual claim payments. If our net income is insufficient to absorb a required increase in our loss reserves, we would incur an operating loss and could incur a reduction of our capital.
The effects of emerging claim and coverage issues on our business are uncertain.
As industry practices and legal, judicial, social, political and other environmental conditions change, unexpected issues related to claims and coverage may emerge. These issues may adversely affect our business by either extending coverage beyond our underwriting intent or by increasing the frequency and/or severity of claims. For example, the global financial crisis resulted in a higher level of claim activity on professional lines (re)insurance business. In some instances, these changes may not become apparent until some time after we have issued the insurance or reinsurance contracts that are affected by the changes. In addition, our actual losses may vary materially from our current estimate of the loss based on a number of factors (see ‘If actual claims exceed our loss reserves, our financial results could be adversely affected’ above). As a result, the full extent of liability under an insurance or reinsurance contract may not be known for many years after such contract is issued and a loss occurs.
Our investment and derivative instrument portfolios are exposed to significant capital markets risk related to changes in interest rates, credit spreads and equity prices as well as other risks, which may adversely affect our results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.
The performance of our cash and investments portfolio has a significant impact on our financial results. A failure to successfully execute our investment strategy could have a significant impact on our results of operations or financial condition.
Our investment portfolio is subject to a variety of market risks, including risks relating to general economic conditions, interest rate fluctuations, equity price risk, foreign currency movements, pre-payment or reinvestment risk, liquidity risk and credit risk. Although we attempt to manage market risks through, among other things, stressing diversification and conservation of principal and liquidity in our investment guidelines, it is possible that, in periods of economic weakness or periods of turmoil in capital markets, we may experience significant losses in our portfolio.
Our fixed maturities, which represent 85% of our total investments and 78% of total cash and investments at December 31, 2016, may be adversely impacted by changes in interest rates. Increases in interest rates could cause the fair value of our investment portfolio to decrease, resulting in a lower book value (refer to Item 7A 'Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosure About Market Risk' for a related sensitivity analysis) and capital resources.
In addition, a low interest rate environment, such as the current environment, can result in reductions in our investment yield as new funds and proceeds from sales and maturities of fixed income securities are re-invested at lower rates. This reduces
our overall future profitability. Interest rates are highly sensitive to many factors, including governmental and central bank monetary policies, inflation, domestic and international economic and political conditions and other factors beyond our control.
Our portfolios of "other investments" and equity securities expose us to market price variability, driven by a number of factors outside our control including, but not limited to, global equity market performance.
Given our reliance on external investment managers, we are also exposed to operational risks, which may include, but are not limited to, a failure to follow our investment guidelines, technological and staffing deficiencies and inadequate disaster recovery plans.
Our derivative instrument counterparties may default on amounts owed to us due to bankruptcy, insolvency, lack of liquidity, adverse economic conditions, operational failure, fraud or other reasons. Even if we are entitled to collateral in circumstances of default, such collateral may be illiquid or proceeds from such collateral when liquidated may not be sufficient to recover the full amount of the obligation.
We may be adversely impacted by inflation.
Our operations, like those of other insurer and reinsurers, are susceptible to the effects of inflation because premiums are established before the ultimate amounts of loss and loss adjustment expense are known. Although we consider the potential effects of inflation when setting premium rates, our premiums may not fully offset the effects of inflation and essentially result in our under pricing the risks we insure and reinsure. Our reserve for losses and loss adjustment expenses includes assumptions about future payments for settlement of claims and claims-handling expenses, such as the value of replacing property and associated labor costs for the property business we write and litigation costs. To the extent inflation causes costs to increase above reserves established for claims, we will be required to increase our loss reserves with a corresponding reduction in our net income in the period in which the deficiency is identified, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations.
The failure of any of the loss limitation methods we employ could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
We seek to mitigate our loss exposure by writing a number of our (re)insurance contracts on an excess of loss basis. Excess of loss (re)insurance indemnifies the insured against losses in excess of a specified amount. We generally limit the line size for each client and line of business on our insurance business and purchase reinsurance for many of our lines of business. In the case of proportional reinsurance treaties, we seek per occurrence limitations or loss and loss expense ratio caps to limit the impact of losses from any one event. In proportional reinsurance, the reinsurer shares a proportional part of the premiums and losses of the reinsured. We also seek to limit our loss exposure through geographic diversification. Geographic zone limitations involve significant underwriting judgments, including the determination of the area of the zones and the inclusion of a particular policy within a particular zone’s limits. In addition, various provisions of our insurance policies and reinsurance contracts, such as limitations or exclusions from coverage or choice of forum negotiated to limit our risks may not be enforceable in the manner we intend. We cannot be sure that any of these loss limitation methods will be effective and mitigate our loss exposure. As a result of these risks, one or more catastrophe or other events could result in claims that substantially exceed our expectations, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations or financial condition.
If we choose to purchase reinsurance, we may be unable to do so, and if we successfully purchase reinsurance, we may be unable to collect amounts due to us.
We purchase reinsurance for our (re)insurance operations in order to mitigate the volatility of losses upon our financial results. From time to time, market conditions have limited, and in some cases have prevented, (re)insurers from obtaining the types and amounts of reinsurance that they consider adequate for their business needs. There is no guarantee that our desired amounts of reinsurance or retrocessional reinsurance will be available in the marketplace in the future. In addition to capacity risk, the remaining capacity may not be on terms we deem appropriate or acceptable or with companies with whom we want to do business.
A reinsurer’s insolvency, or inability or refusal to make payments under the terms of its reinsurance agreement with us, could have a material adverse effect on our business because we remain liable to the insured. We face counterparty risk whenever we purchase reinsurance or retrocessional reinsurance. Consequently, the insolvency, inability or unwillingness of any of our
present or future reinsurers to make timely payments to us under the terms of our reinsurance or retrocessional agreements could have an adverse effect on our financial condition or results of operations.
We utilize models to assist our decision making in key areas such as underwriting, reserving, reinsurance purchasing and the evaluation of our catastrophe risk but actual results could differ materially from model output.
We employ various modeling techniques (e.g. scenarios, predictive, stochastic and/or forecasting) to analyze and estimate exposures, loss trends and other risks associated with our assets and liabilities. We utilize modeled outputs and related analyses to assist us in decision-making, for example related to underwriting and pricing, reserving, reinsurance purchasing and the evaluation of our catastrophe risk through estimates of probable maximum losses, or "PMLs". The modeled outputs and related analyses, both from proprietary and third party models, are subject to various assumptions, professional judgment, uncertainties and the inherent limitations of any statistical analysis, including the use and quality of historical internal and industry data. Consequently, our actual losses from loss events, whether from individual components (e.g. wind, flood, earthquake, etc.) or in the aggregate, may differ materially from our modeled results. If, based upon these models or other factors, we misprice our products or underestimate the frequency and/or severity of loss events, our results of operations or financial condition may be adversely affected.
With respect to the evaluation of our catastrophe risk, our modeling utilizes a mix of historical data, scientific theory and mathematical methods. Output from multiple commercially available vendor models serves as a key input in our PML estimation process. We believe that there is considerable uncertainty in the data and parameter inputs for these vendor models. In that regard, there is no universal standard in the preparation of insured data for use in the models and the running of modeling software. In our view, the accuracy of the models depends heavily on the availability of detailed insured loss data from actual recent large catastrophes. Due to the limited number of events, there is significant potential for substantial differences between the modeled loss estimate and actual company experience for a single large catastrophe event. This potential difference could be even greater for perils with limited or no modeled annual frequency. We perform our own vendor model validation (including sensitivity analysis and backtesting, where possible) and supplement model output with historical loss information and analysis and management judgment. In addition, we derive our own estimates for non-modeled perils. Despite this, our PML estimates are subject to a high degree of uncertainty and our actual losses from catastrophe events may differ materially.
The risk associated with reinsurance underwriting could adversely affect us.
We do not always separately evaluate each of the individual risks assumed under reinsurance treaties, which is common amongst reinsurers. Therefore, we are largely dependent on the original underwriting decisions made by ceding companies. We are subject to the risk that the ceding companies may not have adequately evaluated the risks to be reinsured and that the premiums ceded may not adequately compensate us for the risks we assume. We also have exposure to a range of risks in connection with alternative capital arrangements.
We could be materially adversely affected if managing general agents, general agents, other producers and third party administrators in our program business exceed their underwriting and/or claims settlement authorities or otherwise breach obligations owed to us.
In program business conducted by our insurance segment, following our underwriting, financial, claims and information technology due diligence reviews, we authorize managing general agents, general agents and other producers to write business on our behalf within underwriting authorities prescribed by us. Once a program commences, we must rely on the underwriting controls of these agents to write business within the underwriting authorities provided by us. Although we monitor our programs on an ongoing basis, our monitoring efforts may not be adequate or our agents may exceed their underwriting or claims settlement authorities or otherwise breach obligations owed to us. To the extent that our agents exceed their authorities or otherwise breach obligations owed to us in the future, our results of operations and financial condition could be materially adversely affected.
If we experience difficulties with technology and/or data security, our ability to conduct our business might be negatively impacted.
While technology can streamline many business processes and ultimately reduce the cost of operations, technology initiatives present certain risks. Our business is dependent upon our employees’ and outsourcers’ ability to perform, in an efficient and uninterrupted fashion, necessary business functions such as processing policies and paying claims. A shutdown or inability to access one or more of our facilities, a power outage, or a failure of one or more of our information technology,
telecommunications or other systems could significantly impair our ability to perform such functions on a timely basis. If sustained or repeated, such a business interruption, system failure or service denial could result in a deterioration of our ability to write and process business, provide customer service, pay claims in a timely manner or perform other necessary business functions. Unauthorized access, computer viruses, deceptive communications (phishing), malware, hackers and other external hazards including catastrophe events could expose our data systems to security breaches. These risks could expose us to data loss and damages. As a result, our ability to conduct our business might be adversely affected.
While we have not experienced a material breach of cybersecurity to date, we have no assurance that such a breach will not occur in the future. However, over time, and particularly recently, the sophistication of these threats continues to increase. While administrative and technical controls, along with other preventative actions, reduce the risk of cyber incidents and protect our information technology, they may be insufficient to prevent cyber attacks and/or other security breaches to our computer systems.
Our business may be adversely affected if third-party outsourced service providers fail to satisfactorily perform certain technology and business process functions.
We outsource certain technology and business process functions to third parties and may do so increasingly in the future. If we do not effectively develop and implement our outsourcing strategy, third party providers do not perform as anticipated or we experience technological or other problems with a transition, we may not realize productivity improvements or cost efficiencies and may experience operational difficulties, increased costs and a loss of business. Our outsourcing of certain technology and business process functions to third parties may expose us to enhanced risk related to data security, which could result in monetary and reputational damages. In addition, our ability to receive services from third party providers might be impacted by cultural differences, political instability, unanticipated regulatory requirements or policies. As a result, our ability to conduct our business might be adversely affected.
Our operating results may be adversely affected by currency fluctuations.
Our reporting currency is the U.S. dollar. However, a portion of our gross premiums are written in currencies other than the U.S. dollar and a portion of our loss reserves are in non-U.S. currencies. In addition, a portion of our investment portfolio is denominated in currencies other than the U.S dollar. From time to time, we may experience losses resulting from fluctuations in the values of these non-U.S. currencies, which could adversely affect our operating results. Although we attempt to manage our foreign currency exposure through matching of our major foreign-denominated assets and liabilities, as well as through use of currency derivatives, there is no guarantee that we will successfully mitigate our exposure to foreign exchange losses. The sovereign debt crisis in Europe and the related financial restructuring efforts, which may cause the value of the euro to deteriorate, and Brexit (defined below), which resulted in the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the British pound, may magnify these risks.
The U.K.’s vote to leave, and the eventual exit of the U.K. from, the European Union could adversely affect us.
On June 23, 2016, the U.K. voted to exit the E.U. (“Brexit”). The U.K. has not yet given official notice of its intention to leave the E.U. Once that notice is given, a minimum two-year period would commence during which the U.K. and the E.U. would negotiate the future terms of the U.K.’s relationship with the E.U., including the terms of trade between the U.K. and the E.U. After Brexit terms are agreed, Brexit could be implemented in stages over a multi-year period. The effects of Brexit will depend on any agreements the U.K. makes to retain access to E.U. markets either during a transitional period or more permanently.
The Brexit vote had an immediate adverse effect on global financial markets, including foreign currency markets, and could continue to contribute to instability in global financial markets and in European and worldwide economic or market conditions, both during and after the Brexit process. The long-term effect of Brexit on the value of our investment portfolio at this time is uncertain and such volatility and uncertainty will likely continue as negotiations progress to determine the future terms of the U.K.’s relationship with the E.U. In addition, Brexit could lead to legal and regulatory uncertainty and potentially divergent national laws and regulations as the U.K. determines which E.U. laws to replace or replicate and the E.U. determines access rights and limitations.
We have significant operations in the U.K. and other E.U. member states. Depending on the final terms of Brexit, we may be required to reorganize our operations, legal entity structure and capitalization in the U.K. and the E.U. in a manner that could be less efficient and more expensive. Brexit may disrupt our U.K. domiciled entities’, including our Lloyd’s syndicate’s,
ability to “passport” within the E.U., which is the system by which our (re)insurance entities currently principally provide re(insurance) across E.U. member states while only being subject to regulation by their “home state” regulators. Brexit may disrupt the ability of our E.U. operating entities to access U.K. business.
Any of these effects of Brexit, and others we cannot anticipate, could adversely affect our business, business opportunities, results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
We may require additional capital in the future, which may not be available or may only be available on unfavorable terms.
Our future capital requirements depend on many factors, including rating agency and regulatory requirements, the performance of our investment portfolio, our ability to write new business successfully, the frequency and severity of catastrophe events and our ability to establish premium rates and reserves at levels sufficient to cover losses. We may need to raise additional funds through financings. If we are unable to do so, it may curtail our ability to conduct our business. Any equity or debt financing, if available at all, may be on terms that are not favorable to us. Equity financings could be dilutive to our existing shareholders and could result in the issuance of securities that have rights, preferences and privileges that are senior to those of our other securities. If we cannot obtain adequate capital on favorable terms or at all, our business, operating results and financial condition could be adversely affected.
Our inability to obtain the necessary credit could affect our ability to offer reinsurance in certain markets.
Neither AXIS Specialty Bermuda nor AXIS Re SE is licensed or admitted as a (re)insurer in any jurisdiction other than Bermuda, Ireland, Singapore and Brazil. Because the U.S. and some other jurisdictions do not permit insurance companies to take credit on their statutory financial statements for reinsurance obtained from unlicensed or non-admitted insurers unless appropriate security mechanisms are in place, our reinsurance clients in these jurisdictions typically require AXIS Specialty Bermuda and AXIS Re SE to provide letters of credit or other collateral. Our credit facilities are used to post letters of credit. However, if our credit facilities are not sufficient or if we are unable to renew our credit facilities or arrange for other types of security on commercially affordable terms, AXIS Specialty Bermuda and AXIS Re SE could be limited in their ability to write business for some of our clients.
The regulatory system under which we operate, and potential changes thereto, could have a material adverse effect on our business.
In a time of financial uncertainty or a prolonged economic downturn or recession, regulators may choose to adopt more restrictive insurance laws and regulations, which may result in lower revenues and/or higher costs and thus could materially and adversely affect our results of operations.
Our (re)insurance subsidiaries conduct business globally and we are subject to varying degrees of regulation and supervision from these jurisdictions. The laws and regulations of the jurisdictions in which our (re)insurance subsidiaries are domiciled require, among other things, that our subsidiaries maintain minimum levels of statutory capital and liquidity, meet solvency standards, participate in guaranty funds and submit to periodic examinations of their financial condition and compliance with underwriting and other regulations. These laws and regulations also limit or restrict payments of dividends and reductions in capital. Statutes, regulations and policies may also restrict the ability of these subsidiaries to write (re)insurance contracts, to make certain investments and to distribute funds. The purpose of insurance laws and regulations generally is to protect insureds and ceding insurance companies, not our shareholders. We may not be able to comply fully with, or obtain appropriate exemptions from, these statutes and regulations. Failure to comply with or to obtain appropriate authorizations and/or exemptions under any applicable laws could result in restrictions on our ability to do business or undertake activities that are regulated in one or more of the jurisdictions in which we conduct business and could subject us to fines and other sanctions. In addition, changes in the laws or regulations to which our (re)insurance subsidiaries are subject or in the interpretation thereof by enforcement or regulatory agencies could have an adverse effect on our business.
Potential government intervention in our industry as a result of recent events and instability in the marketplace for insurance products could hinder our flexibility and negatively affect the business opportunities that may be available to us in the market.
Government intervention and the possibility of future government intervention have created uncertainty in the (re)insurance markets. Government and regulators are generally concerned with having (re)insurers with high solvency ratios and localized capital to ensure the protection of policyholders to the possible detriment of other constituents, including shareholders of (re)insurers. An example of such intervention was the December 2007 extension of the material provisions of TRIA for an additional seven years to December 31, 2014 and expansion of coverage to include domestic acts of terrorism. TRIEA expired at the end of 2014 but was reauthorized, with some adjustments to its provisions, in January 2015 for six years through December 31, 2020.
In recent years certain U.S. and non-U.S. judicial and regulatory authorities, including U.S. Attorney’s Offices and certain state attorneys general, have commenced investigations into other business practices in the insurance industry. In addition, although the U.S. federal government has not historically regulated insurance, there have been proposals from time to time, and especially after the most recent global financial crisis, to impose federal regulation on the U.S. insurance industry. For example, in 2010, Dodd-Frank established a Federal Insurance Office ("FIO") within the U.S. Treasury. The FIO has limited regulatory authority and is empowered to gather data and information regarding the insurance industry, and has conducted and submitted a study to the U.S. Congress on how to modernize and improve insurance regulation in the U.S. This study's findings are not expected to have a significant impact on the Company. Further, Dodd-Frank gives the Federal Reserve supervisory authority over a number of U.S. financial services companies, including insurance companies, if they are designated by a two-thirds vote of a Financial Stability Oversight Council as ‘systemically important’. While we do not believe that we are systemically important, as defined in Dodd-Frank, Dodd-Frank or additional federal or state regulation that is adopted in the future could impose significant burdens on us, impact the ways in which we conduct our business and govern our subsidiaries, increase compliance costs, increase the levels of capital required to operate our subsidiaries, duplicate state regulation and/or result in a competitive disadvantage.
Certain of our European legal entities became subject to the Solvency II Directive on January 1, 2016. Solvency II is a consolidation and modernization of existing European Commission (“E.C.”) Solvency I (re)insurance regulation and supervision. The new regulation covers three main areas: (i) the valuation of assets and liabilities on a Solvency II economic basis and risk based solvency and capital requirements; (ii) governance requirements including key function of compliance, internal audit, actuarial and risk management; and (iii) new supervisory legal entity and group reporting and disclosure requirements including public disclosures. The BMA has been granted full “equivalence” under the Solvency II Directive for Bermuda's commercial insurance sector, including Class 4 insurers, with an effective date of January 1, 2016.
While we cannot predict the exact nature, timing or scope of possible governmental initiatives, such proposals could adversely affect our business by, among other things:
Providing reinsurance capacity in markets and to consumers that we target;
Requiring our further participation in industry pools and guaranty associations;
Expanding the scope of coverage under existing policies; e.g., following large disasters;
Further regulating the terms of (re)insurance contracts; or
Disproportionately benefiting the companies of one country over those of another.
Our international business is subject to applicable laws and regulations relating to sanctions and foreign corrupt practices, the violation of which could adversely affect our operations.
We must comply with all applicable economic and financial sanctions, other trade controls and anti-bribery laws and regulations of the U.S. and other foreign jurisdictions where we operate, including the U.K. and the European Community, which apply to our business where we operate. U.S. laws and regulations applicable to us include the economic trade sanctions laws and regulations administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as well as certain laws administered by the U.S. Department of State. In addition, we are subject to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and other anti-bribery laws such as the U.K. Bribery Act that generally bar corrupt payments or unreasonable gifts to foreign government officials. Although we have policies and controls in place that are designed to ensure compliance with these laws and regulations, it is possible that an employee or an agent acting on our behalf, could fail to comply with applicable laws and regulations and due to the complex nature of the risks, it may not always be possible for us to ascertain compliance with such laws and regulations. In such event, we could be exposed to civil penalties, criminal penalties and other sanctions, including fines or other unintended punitive actions. In addition, such violations could damage our business and/or our reputation. All of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and operating results.
Since we depend on a few brokers for a large portion of our revenues, loss of business provided by any one of them could adversely affect us.
We market our (re)insurance worldwide primarily through (re)insurance brokers and derive a significant portion of our business from a limited number of brokers. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., including its subsidiary Guy Carpenter & Company, Inc., Aon plc and Willis Towers Watson PLC, provided a total of 52% of our gross premiums written during 2016. Our relationships with these brokers are based on the quality of our underwriting and claim services, as well as our financial strength ratings. Any deterioration in these factors could result in the brokers advising our clients to place their business with other (re)insurers. In addition, these brokers also have, or may in the future acquire, ownership interests in insurance and reinsurance companies that may compete with us and these brokers may favor their own (re)insurers over other companies. Loss of all or a substantial portion of the business provided by one or more of these brokers could have a material adverse effect on our business.
Our reliance on brokers subjects us to credit risk.
In accordance with industry practice, we pay amounts owed on claims under our (re)insurance contracts to brokers, and these brokers pay these amounts over to the clients that have purchased (re)insurance from us. Although the law is unsettled and depends upon the facts and circumstances of the particular case, in some jurisdictions, if a broker fails to make such a payment, we might remain liable to the insured or ceding insurer for the deficiency.
Conversely, in certain jurisdictions, when the insured or ceding insurer pays premiums for these policies to brokers for payment over to us, these premiums might be considered to have been paid to us and the insured or ceding insurer will no longer be liable to us for those amounts, whether or not we have actually received the premiums from the broker. Consequently, we assume a degree of credit risk associated with brokers with whom we transact business. These risks are heightened during periods characterized by financial market instability and/or an economic downturn or recession.
Certain of our policyholders and intermediaries may not pay premiums owed to us due to insolvency or other reasons.
Insolvency, liquidity problems, distressed financial condition or the general effects of economic recession may increase the risk that policyholders or intermediaries, such as insurance brokers, may not pay a part of or the full amount of premiums owed to us, despite an obligation to do so. The terms of our contracts may not permit us to cancel our insurance even though we have not received payment. If non-payment becomes widespread, whether as a result of insolvency, lack of liquidity, adverse economic conditions, operational failure or otherwise, it could have a material adverse impact on our revenues and results of operations.
We could be adversely affected by the loss of one or more key executives or by an inability to attract and retain qualified personnel.
Our success depends on our ability to retain the services of our existing key executives and to attract and retain additional qualified personnel in the future. The loss of the services of any of our key executives or the inability to hire and retain other highly qualified personnel in the future could adversely affect our ability to conduct our business. There can be no assurance that we will be successful in identifying, hiring or retaining successors on terms acceptable to us.
Under Bermuda law, non-Bermudians, with some limited exceptions, may not engage in any gainful occupation in Bermuda without an appropriate governmental work permit. Work permits may be granted or extended by the Bermuda government only upon showing that, after proper public advertisement in most cases, no Bermudian or spouse of a Bermudian, holder of a permanent resident certificate or holder of a working resident certificate who meets the minimum standard requirements for the advertised position has applied for the position. Work permits may be requested for one, three, five, six or, in certain circumstances for key executives, ten years. In January 2013, the Bermuda government abolished term limits. This removed the immigration policy put in place in 2001, which limited the duration of work permits for between six to nine years. All executive officers who work in our Bermuda office that require work permits have obtained them.
Our ability to pay dividends and to make payments on indebtedness may be constrained by our holding company structure.
AXIS Capital is a holding company and has no direct operations of its own. AXIS Capital has no significant operations or assets other than its ownership of the shares of its operating (re)insurance subsidiaries, AXIS Specialty Bermuda, AXIS Re SE, AXIS Specialty Europe, AXIS Re U.S., AXIS Specialty U.S., AXIS Surplus and AXIS Insurance Co. (collectively, our “Insurance Subsidiaries”). Dividends and other permitted distributions from our Insurance Subsidiaries (in some cases through our subsidiary holding companies), are our primary source of funds to meet ongoing cash requirements, including debt service payments and other expenses, and to pay dividends to our shareholders. Our Insurance Subsidiaries are subject to significant regulatory restrictions limiting their ability to declare and pay dividends and make distributions. The inability of our Insurance Subsidiaries to pay dividends in an amount sufficient to enable us to meet our cash requirements at the holding company level could have a material adverse effect on our business and our ability to pay dividends and make payments on our indebtedness.
AXIS Capital is a Bermuda company and it may be difficult for you to enforce judgments against it or its directors and executive officers.
AXIS Capital is incorporated pursuant to the laws of Bermuda and our business is based in Bermuda. In addition, some of our directors and officers reside outside the U.S., and all or a substantial portion of our assets and the assets of such persons are located in jurisdictions outside the U.S. As a result, it may be difficult or impossible to effect service of process within the U.S. upon those persons or to recover against us or them on judgments of U.S. courts, including judgments predicated upon civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws. Further, it may not be possible to bring a claim in Bermuda against us or our directors and officers for violation of U.S. federal securities laws because these laws may have no extraterritorial application under Bermuda law and do not have force of law in Bermuda. A Bermuda court may, however, impose civil liability, including the possibility of monetary damages, on us or our directors and officers if the facts alleged in a complaint constitute or give rise to a cause of action under Bermuda law.
There are provisions in our organizational documents that may reduce or increase the voting rights of our shares.
Our bye-laws generally provide that shareholders have one vote for each common share held by them and are entitled to vote, on a non-cumulative basis, at all meetings of shareholders. However, the voting rights exercisable by a shareholder may be limited so that certain persons or groups are not deemed to hold 9.5% or more of the voting power conferred by our shares. Under these provisions, some shareholders may have the right to exercise their voting rights limited to less than one vote per share. Moreover, these provisions could have the effect of reducing the voting power of some shareholders who would not otherwise be subject to the limitation by virtue of their direct share ownership. In addition, our board of directors may limit a shareholder’s exercise of voting rights where it deems it necessary to do so to avoid adverse tax, legal or regulatory consequences.
We also have the authority under our bye-laws to request information from any shareholder for the purpose of determining whether a shareholder’s voting rights are to be limited pursuant to the bye-laws. If a shareholder fails to respond to our
request for information or submits incomplete or inaccurate information in response to a request by us, we may, in our sole discretion, eliminate the shareholder’s voting rights.
There are provisions in our bye-laws that may restrict the ability to transfer common shares and which may require shareholders to sell their common shares.
Our board of directors may decline to register a transfer of any common shares under some circumstances, including if they have reason to believe that any non-de minimis adverse tax, regulatory or legal consequences to us, any of our subsidiaries or any of our shareholders may occur as a result of such transfer. Our bye-laws also provide that if our board of directors determines that share ownership by a person may result in non-de minimis adverse tax, legal or regulatory consequences to us, any of our subsidiaries or any of our shareholders, then we have the option, but not the obligation, to require that shareholder to sell to us or to third parties to whom we assign the repurchase right for fair value the minimum number of common shares held by such person which is necessary to eliminate the non-de minimis adverse tax, legal or regulatory consequences.
Applicable insurance laws may make it difficult to effect a change of control of our company.
Before a person can acquire control of a U.S. insurance company, prior written approval must be obtained from the insurance commissioner of the state where the domestic insurer is domiciled. Prior to granting approval of an application to acquire control of a domestic insurer, the state insurance commissioner will consider such factors as the financial strength of the acquirer, the integrity and management of the acquirer’s board of directors and executive officers, the acquirer’s plans for the future operations of the domestic insurer and any anti-competitive results that may arise from the consummation of the acquisition of control. Generally, state statutes provide that control over a domestic insurer is presumed to exist if any person, directly or indirectly, owns, controls, holds with the power to vote, or holds proxies representing, 10% or more of the voting securities of the domestic insurer. Because a person acquiring 10% or more of our common shares would indirectly control the same percentage of the stock of the AXIS U.S. Subsidiaries, the insurance change of control laws of Connecticut, Illinois and New York would likely apply to such a transaction.
In addition, the Insurance Acts and Regulations in Ireland require that anyone acquiring or disposing of a direct or indirect holding in an Irish authorized (re)insurance company (such as AXIS Specialty Europe or AXIS Re SE) that represents 10% or more of the capital or of the voting rights of such company or that makes it possible to exercise a significant influence over the management of such company, or anyone who proposes to decrease or increase that holding to specified levels, must first notify the CBI of their intention to do so. They also require any Irish authorized (re)insurance company that becomes aware of any acquisitions or disposals of its capital involving the specified levels to notify the CBI. The specified levels are 20%, 33% and 50% or such other level of ownership that results in the company becoming the acquirer’s subsidiary within the meaning of article 20 of the European Communities (non-Life Insurance) Framework Regulations 1994.
The CBI has three months from the date of submission of a notification within which to oppose the proposed transaction if the CBI is not satisfied as to the suitability of the acquirer in view of the necessity “to ensure prudent and sound management of the (re)insurance undertaking concerned.” Any person owning 10% or more of the capital or voting rights or an amount that makes it possible to exercise a significant influence over the management of AXIS Capital would be considered to have a “qualifying holding” in AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Re SE.
While our bye-laws limit the voting power of any shareholder to less than 9.5%, there can be no assurance that the applicable regulatory body would agree that a shareholder who owned 10% or more of our shares did not, because of the limitation on the voting power of such shares, control the applicable Insurance Subsidiary. These laws may discourage potential acquisition proposals and may delay, deter or prevent a change of control of the Company, including transactions that some or all of our shareholders might consider to be desirable.
Anti-takeover provisions in our bye-laws could impede an attempt to replace our directors or to effect a change in control, which could diminish the value of our common shares.
Our bye-laws contain provisions that may make it more difficult for shareholders to replace directors and could delay or prevent a change of control that a shareholder might consider favorable. These provisions include a staggered board of directors, limitations on the ability of shareholders to remove directors other than for cause, limitations on voting rights and restrictions on transfer of our common shares. These provisions may prevent a shareholder from receiving the benefit from any premium over the market price of our shares offered by a bidder in a potential takeover. Even in the absence of an
attempt to effect a change in management or a takeover attempt, these provisions may adversely affect the prevailing market price of our shares if they are viewed as discouraging takeover attempts in the future.
We may become subject to taxes in Bermuda after March 31, 2035, which may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
The Bermuda Minister of Finance, under the Exempted Undertakings Tax Protection Act 1966 of Bermuda, as amended, has given each of our Bermuda resident companies an assurance that if any legislation is enacted in Bermuda that would impose tax computed on profits or income, or computed on any capital asset, gain or appreciation, or any tax in the nature of estate duty or inheritance tax, then the imposition of any such tax will not be applicable to our Bermuda resident companies or any of their respective operations, shares, debentures or other obligations until March 31, 2035. Given the limited duration of the Minister of Finance’s assurance, we cannot be certain that we will not be subject to any Bermuda tax after March 31, 2035.
Our non-U.S. companies may be subject to U.S. tax that may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
We intend to manage our business so that each of our non-U.S. companies will operate in such a manner that none of these companies should be subject to U.S. tax (other than U.S. excise tax on (re)insurance premium income attributable to insuring or reinsuring U.S. risks and U.S. withholding tax on some types of U.S. source investment income), because none of these companies should be treated as engaged in a trade or business within the U.S. However, because there is considerable uncertainty as to the activities that constitute being engaged in a trade or business within the U.S., we cannot be certain that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service will not contend successfully that any of its non-U.S. companies is/are engaged in a trade or business in the U.S. If any of our non-U.S. companies were considered to be engaged in a trade or business in the U.S., it could be subject to U.S. corporate income and additional branch profits taxes on the portion of its earnings effectively connected to such U.S. business. If this were to be the case, our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Our non-U.K. companies may be subject to U.K. tax that may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
We intend to operate in such a manner so that none of our non-U.K. companies should be resident in the U.K. for tax purposes and that none of our non-U.K. resident companies, other than AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Specialty U.S. Services, Inc., should have a permanent establishment in the U.K. Accordingly, we expect that none of our non-U.K. resident companies, other than AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Specialty U.S. Services, Inc., should be subject to U.K. tax. Nevertheless, because neither case law nor U.K. statutes conclusively define the activities that constitute trading in the U.K. through a permanent establishment, the U.K. Inland Revenue might contend successfully that any of our non-U.K. companies, in addition to AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Specialty U.S. Services, Inc., is/are trading in the U.K. through a permanent establishment in the U.K. and therefore subject to U.K. tax.
In addition, there are circumstances in which companies that are neither resident in the U.K., nor entitled to the protection afforded by a double tax treaty between the U.K. and the jurisdiction in which they are resident, may be exposed to income tax in the U.K. (other than by deduction or withholding) on the profits of a trade carried on there even if that trade is not carried on through a permanent establishment. We intend to operate in such a manner that none of our companies will fall within the charge to U.K. income tax in this respect.
If any of our non-U.K. resident companies, other than AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Specialty U.S. Services, Inc., were treated as being resident in the U.K. for U.K. corporation tax purposes, or if any of our non-U.K. companies, other than AXIS Specialty Europe or AXIS Specialty U.S. Services, Inc., were to be treated as carrying on a trade in the U.K., whether or not through a permanent establishment, our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Our U.K. operations may be affected by future changes in U.K. tax law.
Our U.K. resident companies, AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Specialty U.S. Services, Inc. should be treated as taxable in the U.K. Any change in the basis or rate of U.K. corporation tax could materially adversely affect the operations of these companies.
Our non-Irish companies may be subject to Irish tax that may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
We intend to operate our non-Irish resident companies in such a manner so that none of our non-Irish resident companies should be resident in Ireland for tax purposes and that they should not be treated as carrying on a trade through a branch or agency in Ireland.
Accordingly, we expect that none of our non-Irish resident companies should be subject to Irish corporation tax. Nevertheless, since the determination as to whether a company is resident in Ireland is a question of fact to be determined based on a number of different factors and since neither case law nor Irish legislation conclusively defines the activities that constitute trading in Ireland through a branch or agency, the Irish Revenue Commissioners might contend successfully that any of our non-Irish companies, is resident in or otherwise trading through a branch or agency in Ireland and therefore subject to Irish corporation tax. If this were the case, our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
If corporate tax rates in Ireland increase, our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Trading income derived from the (re)insurance businesses carried on in Ireland by AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Re SE is generally taxed in Ireland at a rate of 12.5%. Over the past number of years, various EU member states have, from time to time, called for harmonization of the corporate tax base within the EU. Ireland, along with other member states, has consistently resisted any movement towards standardized corporate tax rates or tax base in the EU. The Government of Ireland has also made clear its commitment to retain the 12.5% rate of corporation tax. If, however, tax laws in Ireland change so as to increase the general corporation tax rate in Ireland, our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
If investments held by AXIS Specialty Europe SE or AXIS Re SE are determined not to be integral to the (re)insurance businesses carried on by those companies, additional Irish tax could be imposed and our business and financial results could be materially adversely affected.
Based on administrative practice, taxable income derived from investments made by AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Re SE is generally taxed in Ireland at the rate of 12.5% on the grounds that such investments either form part of the permanent capital required by regulatory authorities, or are otherwise integral to the (re)insurance businesses carried on by those companies. AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Re SE intend to operate in such a manner so that the level of investments held by such companies does not exceed the amount that is integral to the (re)insurance businesses carried on by AXIS Specialty Europe and AXIS Re SE. If, however, investment income earned by AXIS Specialty Europe or AXIS Re SE is deemed to be non-trading income, Irish corporation tax could apply to such investment income at a higher rate (currently 25%) instead of the general 12.5% rate, and our results of operations could be materially adversely affected.
Changes in U.S. federal income tax law and other tax laws, including changes resulting from the recommendations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ("OECD"), could materially adversely affect us.
In the past, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress intended to eliminate some perceived tax advantages of companies (including (re)insurance companies) that have legal domiciles outside the U.S., but have certain U.S. connections. According to publicly released statements, a top legislative priority of the new U.S. administration and the U.S. Congress may be significant reform of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, including significant changes to the taxation of business entities and the possible implementation of a border adjustment in the computation of taxable income. While there is currently a substantial lack of clarity around the likelihood, timing and details of such reforms, any such changes may have an adverse impact on us. In addition, current U.S. federal income tax laws and interpretations are subject to change, possibly on a retroactive basis. New regulations or pronouncements interpreting or clarifying U.S. federal income tax laws relating to (re)insurance companies may be forthcoming. We cannot be certain if, when, or in what form, such regulations or pronouncements may be provided, and whether such guidance will have a retroactive effect.
The OECD has published reports and launched a global initiative among member and non-member countries on measures to limit harmful tax competition, known as the "Base Erosion and Profit Shifting ("BEPS") project. These measures are largely directed at counteracting the effects of tax havens and preferential tax regimes in countries around the world. We expect many countries to change their tax laws in response to this project, and several countries have already changed or proposed
changes to their tax laws in anticipation of the final reports. Changes to tax laws and additional reporting requirements could increase the complexity, burden and cost of compliance.
The price of our common shares may be volatile.
There has been significant volatility in the market for equity securities in recent years. During 2016, 2015, and 2014 the price of our common shares fluctuated from a low of $51.01 to a high of $66.23, a low of $47.65 to a high of $60.00 and a low of $41.82 to a high of $52.21, respectively. On February 17, 2017, our common shares closed at a price of $68.56. The price of our common shares may not remain at or exceed current levels. The following factors, in addition to those described in other risk factors above, may have an adverse impact on the market price of our common stock:
actual or anticipated variations in our quarterly results, including as a result of catastrophes or our investment performance;
our share repurchase program;
changes in market valuation of companies in the insurance and reinsurance industry;
changes in expectations of future financial performance or changes in estimates of securities analysts;
fluctuations in stock market processes and volumes;
issuances or sales of common shares or other securities in the future;
the addition or departure of key personnel;
announcements by us or our competitors of acquisitions, investments or strategic alliances.
Stock markets in the U.S. continue to experience volatile price and volume fluctuations. Such fluctuations, as well as the general political situation, current economic conditions or interest rate or currency rate fluctuations, could adversely affect the market price of our stock.
UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
We have no outstanding, unresolved comments from the SEC staff at December 31, 2016.
We maintain office facilities in Bermuda, the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Latin America and the Middle East. We own the property in which our offices are located in Dublin, Ireland, and we lease office space in the other countries. We renew and enter into new leases in the ordinary course of business as required. Our global headquarters is located at 92 Pitts Bay Road, AXIS House, Pembroke HM 08, Bermuda. We believe that our office space is sufficient for us to conduct our operations for the foreseeable future.
From time to time, we are subject to routine legal proceedings, including arbitrations, arising in the ordinary course of business. These legal proceedings generally relate to claims asserted by or against us in the ordinary course of insurance or reinsurance operations; estimated amounts payable under such proceedings are included in the reserve for losses and loss expenses in our Consolidated Balance Sheets.
We are not party to any material legal proceedings arising outside the ordinary course of business.
MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Our common shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “AXS”. The following table provides the high and low sales prices per share of our common shares for each of the fiscal quarters in the last two fiscal years as reported on the New York Stock Exchange Composite Tape:
On February 17, 2017, the number of holders of record of our common shares was 18. This figure does not represent the actual number of beneficial owners of our common shares because shares are frequently held in “street name” by securities dealers and others for the benefit of beneficial owners who may vote the shares.
While we expect to continue paying cash dividends in the foreseeable future, the declaration and payment of future dividends will be at the discretion of our Board of Directors and will depend upon many factors, including our earnings, financial condition, business needs, capital and surplus requirements of our operating subsidiaries and regulatory and contractual restrictions, including those set forth in our credit facilities. See Item 7 ‘Liquidity and Capital Resources’ for further information.
ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
The following tables provide information regarding the number of common shares and preferred shares we repurchased in the quarter ended December 31, 2016:
Total Number of Shares
Repurchased as Part of
Plans or Programs(a)
Maximum Number (or Approximate
Dollar Value) of Shares That
May Yet Be Repurchased Under the
October 1-31, 2016
November 1-30, 2016
December 1-31, 2016
Total Number of Shares
Repurchased as Part of
Plans or Programs
Maximum Number (or Approximate
Dollar Value) of Shares That May Yet Be
Repurchased Under the Announced Plans
October 1-31, 2016
November 1-30, 2016
From time to time, we purchase shares in connection with the vesting of restricted stock awards granted to our employees under our 2007 Long-Term Equity Compensation Plan. The purchase of these shares is separately authorized and is not part of our Board-authorized share repurchase program, described in footnote (b).
On December 9, 2016, our Board of Directors authorized a new share repurchase plan for up to $1 billion of our common shares through December 31, 2017. The new share repurchase authorization, effective January 1, 2017, replaced the previous plan which had $253 million available until the end of 2016. Share repurchases may be effected from time to time in open market or privately negotiated transactions, depending on market conditions.
During October and November 2016, we repurchased 1,957,045 Series C preferred shares at an average purchase price of $25.67 per share for $50 million.
SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The following tables set forth our selected historical consolidated financial information for the last five years. This data should also be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and the accompanying notes presented under Item 8 and with ‘Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations’ under Item 7.
At and For the year Ended December 31,
(in thousands, except per share amounts)
Selected Statement of Operations Data:
Gross premiums written
Net premiums earned
Net investment income
Net realized investment gains (losses)
Net losses and loss expenses
General and administrative expenses
Interest expense and financing costs
Preferred share dividends
Net income available to common shareholders(1) (2) (3)
Per Common Share Data:
Basic earnings per common share
Diluted earnings per common share
Cash dividends declared per common share
Basic weighted average common shares outstanding
Diluted weighted average common shares outstanding
Net loss and loss expense ratio
Acquisition cost ratio
General and administrative expense ratio
Selected Balance Sheet Data:
Cash and cash equivalents
Reinsurance recoverable on unpaid and paid losses
Reserve for losses and loss expenses
Total shareholders’ equity attributable to AXIS Capital
Book value per common share(5)(6)
Diluted book value per common share(5)(6)
Common shares outstanding(6)
Common shares outstanding - diluted(6)
During 2015, the Company implemented a number of profitability enhancement initiatives which resulted in a recognition of reorganization and related expenses of $46 million and additional general and administrative expenses of $5 million in the Consolidated Statement of Operations for the year ended December 31, 2015. Refer to Item 8, Note 18 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Reorganization and Related Expenses' for additional information on the profitability enhancement initiatives.
During 2015, the Company accepted a request from PartnerRe Ltd., a Bermuda exempted company ("PartnerRe") to terminate the Agreement and Plan of Amalgamation (the "Amalgamation Agreement") with the Company. PartnerRe paid the Company a termination fee of $280 million.
During 2015, the Company early adopted the Accounting Standard Update (“ASU”) 2015-02, “Amendments to the Consolidation Analysis” issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board. The adoption of this amended accounting guidance resulted in the Company concluding that it is no longer required to consolidate the results of operations and the financial position of Ventures Re. The Company adopted this revised accounting guidance using the modified retrospective approach and ceased to consolidate Ventures Re effective as of January 1, 2015. The 2014 net income available to common shareholders includes an amount attributable from noncontrolling interests of $6,181. Refer to Item 8, Note 14 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Noncontrolling Interests' for additional information on the adoption of ASU 2015-02.
Operating ratios are calculated by dividing the respective operating expenses by net premiums earned.
Book value per common share and diluted book value per common share are based on total common shareholders’ equity divided by common shares and diluted common share equivalents outstanding, respectively.
Calculations and share amounts at December 31, 2015 include 1,358,380 additional shares delivered to the Company in January 2016 under the Company's Accelerated Share Repurchase ("ASR") agreement entered into on August 17, 2015. Refer to Item 8, Note 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Shareholders' Equity' for additional information on the ASR.
MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following is a discussion and analysis of our results of operations for the years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014 and our financial condition at December 31, 2016 and 2015. This should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Financial Statements and related notes included in Item 8 of this report. Tabular dollars are in thousands, except per share amounts. Amounts in tables may not reconcile due to rounding differences.
2016 Financial Highlights
Underwriting Results – Group
Results by Segment: Years ended December 31, 2016, 2015 and 2014
i) Insurance Segment
ii) Reinsurance Segment
Other Expenses (Revenues), Net
Net Investment Income and Net Realized Investment Gains (Losses)
Cash and Investments
Liquidity and Capital Resources
Critical Accounting Estimates
i) Reserves for Losses and Loss Expenses
ii) Reinsurance Recoverable
iv) Fair Value Measurements
v) Other-Than-Temporary Impairments
Recent Accounting Pronouncements
Off-Balance Sheet and Special Purpose Entity Arrangements
Non-GAAP Financial Measures
2016 FINANCIAL HIGHLIGHTS
2016 Consolidated Results of Operations
Net income available to common shareholders of $465 million, or $5.13 per common share and $5.08 per diluted common share
Non-GAAP operating income of $410 million, or $4.48 per diluted common share(1)
Gross premiums written of $5.0 billion
Net premiums written of $3.8 billion
Net premiums earned of $3.7 billion
Net favorable prior year reserve development of $292 million
Estimated pre-tax catastrophe and weather-related net losses, net of reinstatement premiums, of $204 million compared to $100 million for 2015
Underwriting income of $279 million and combined ratio of 95.9%
Net investment income of $353 million
Net realized investment losses of $61 million
Foreign exchange gains of $121 million
2016 Consolidated Financial Condition
Total cash and investments of $14.7 billion; fixed maturities, cash and short-term securities comprise 87% of total cash and investments and have an average credit rating of AA-
Total assets of $20.8 billion
Reserve for losses and loss expenses of $9.7 billion and reinsurance recoverable of $2.3 billion
Total debt of $993 million and a debt to total capital ratio of 13.7%
Total common shares repurchased were 10.5 million, consisting of 9.1 million of common shares repurchased for $512 million and 1.4 million common shares acquired under an Accelerated Share Repurchase agreement, which terminated on January 15, 2016
On December 9, 2016, our Board of Directors authorized a new share repurchase plan for up to $1 billion of our common shares effective January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017
At February 24, 2017, the Company had $963 million of remaining authorization under our Board-authorized share repurchase program for common share repurchases through December 31, 2017
Common shareholders’ equity of $5.1 billion; diluted book value per common share of $58.27
Non-GAAP operating income is a non-GAAP financial measure as defined in SEC Regulation G. See ‘Non-GAAP Financial Measures’ for reconciliation to nearest GAAP financial measure (net income available to common shareholders).
We are a Bermuda-based global provider of specialty lines insurance and reinsurance products with operations in Bermuda, the U.S., Canada, Europe, Singapore, Latin America and the Middle East. Our underwriting operations are organized around our two global underwriting platforms, AXIS Insurance and AXIS Re.
Our mission is to provide our clients and distribution partners with a broad range of risk transfer products and services and meaningful capacity, backed by significant financial strength. We manage our portfolio holistically, aiming to construct the optimum consolidated portfolio of funded and unfunded risks, consistent with our risk appetite and development of our franchise. We nurture an ethical, entrepreneurial and disciplined culture that promotes outstanding client service, intelligent risk taking and the achievement of superior risk-adjusted returns for our shareholders. We believe that the achievement of our objectives will position us as a global leader in specialty risks. Our execution on this strategy in 2016 included:
continued growth of our accident and health lines, which is focused on specialty accident and health products;
growth of our syndicate at Lloyd's which provides us with access to Lloyd's worldwide licenses and an extensive distribution network. During the first quarter of 2016 we commenced writing business through our underwriting division at Lloyd's in China;
continued implementation of a more focused distribution strategy and increased our scale and relevance in key markets;
continued rebalancing of our portfolio towards less-volatile lines of business that carry attractive rates;
continued to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our operating platforms and processes;
increased our investment in data and analytics; and
broadened our risk-funding sources and developed vehicles that utilize third-party capital:
our investment in Harrington Reinsurance Holdings Limited ("Harrington"), the parent company of Harrington Re Ltd. ("Harrington Re"), an independent reinsurance company jointly sponsored by AXIS Capital and The Blackstone Group L.P. ("Blackstone"). Harrington Re’s strategy is to combine a multi-line reinsurance portfolio with a diversified allocation to alternative investment strategies to earn attractive risk-adjusted returns. Harrington has developed a portfolio that optimizes the risk-reward characteristics of both assets and liabilities, leveraging the respective strengths of AXIS Capital and Blackstone while deploying a disciplined and fully integrated approach to both underwriting and investing; and
AXIS Ventures Reinsurance Limited, which manages capital for investors interested in deploying funds directly into the property-catastrophe and other short-tail business.
On January 27, 2016 we redeemed the remaining $3 million of our 7.50% Series B preferred shares. In addition, on November 7, 2016 we issued $550 million of 5.50% Series E preferred shares and used a portion of the net proceeds to repurchase $49 million of our 6.875% Series C preferred shares. The Company intends to redeem or repurchase the remaining $351 million of its Series C preferred shares outstanding using a portion of the remaining net proceeds from the Series E offering. The execution of these transactions will reduce the weighted average annual dividend rate on our preferred equity capital base by 88 basis points to 5.50%, with a minimal impact on our financial leverage.
On November 28, 2016, the Company announced that it has agreed to acquire general aviation insurance and reinsurance leader Aviabel, increasing the Company's scale and relevance in the global aviation market while extending its physical presence into Brussels and Amsterdam. The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2017, subject to regulatory approval and customary closing conditions.
Results of Operations
Year ended December 31,
Net investment income
Net realized investment gains (losses)
Other expenses, net
Termination fee received
Reorganization and related fees
Interest in loss of equity method investments
Amounts attributable from noncontrolling interests
Preferred share dividends
Loss on repurchase of preferred shares
Net income available to common shareholders
Non-GAAP operating income
nm – not meaningful
2016 versus 2015: Total underwriting income decreased by $23 million during 2016 compared to 2015 primarily driven by an increase in catastrophe and weather-related losses and a higher acquisition cost ratio partially offset by an increase in net favorable prior year loss reserve development, a decrease in the current accident year loss ratio excluding catastrophe and weather-related losses and an increase in other insurance-related income.
The reinsurance segment underwriting income decreased by $19 million during 2016 compared to 2015. The decrease in underwriting income was primarily driven by an increase in catastrophe and weather-related losses and a higher acquisition cost ratio partially offset by an increase in net favorable prior year loss reserve development, other insurance-related income and lower general and administrative expenses.
The insurance segment underwriting income decreased by $4 million during 2016 compared to 2015. The decrease in underwriting income was primarily driven by an increase in catastrophe and weather-related losses and higher general and administrative expenses partially offset by a decrease in the current accident year loss ratio excluding catastrophe and weather-related losses and an increase in net favorable prior year loss reserve development.
2015 versus 2014: The $159 million reduction in our underwriting result during 2015 compared to 2014 was primarily driven by the impact of the increase in the current accident year loss ratio, the impact of lower net earned premiums, higher acquisition cost ratio in the reinsurance segment and a decrease in net favorable prior year loss reserve development in the insurance segment.
The reinsurance segment underwriting income decreased by $122 million during 2015 compared to 2014. The decrease in underwriting income was primarily driven by the increase in the current accident year loss ratio. An increase in the acquisition cost ratio and the impact of lower net earned premiums also contributed to the overall decrease. Partially offsetting these decreases was an increase in net favorable prior year loss reserve development.
The insurance segment underwriting income decreased by $37 million during 2015 compared to 2014. The decrease in underwriting income was primarily driven by a decrease in net favorable prior year loss reserve development and the impact of lower net earned premiums. Additionally, partially offsetting the decrease in underwriting income was a decrease in the acquisition cost ratio.
Net Investment Income
The variability in net investment income from 2014 through 2016 was largely attributable to the performance of other investments. Income from this portfolio increased by $22 million in 2016 compared to 2015, as a result of higher returns from
investments in equity tranches of collateralized loan obligations ("CLO-Equities") which increased in value along with other risk assets. Comparatively, income from this portfolio decreased by $37 million in 2015 compared to 2014, driven by lower returns from our hedge funds and a decline in value of CLO-Equities which declined in value along with other risk assets during 2015.
Excluding income from other investments, net investment income increased $26 million compared to both 2015 and 2014. The increase was primarily attributable to contributions from fixed income as a result of longer duration assets and income from commercial mortgage loans as a result of an increased allocation to this asset class during 2016.
Net Realized Investment Gains (Losses)
During 2016, net realized investment losses were $61 million compared to net realized investment losses of $138 million in 2015 and net realized investment gains of $132 million in 2014. Net realized investment losses reported in 2016 and 2015 were primarily due to foreign exchange losses on non-U.S. denominated fixed maturities, as a result of the strengthening of the U.S. dollar. Net realized investment gains in 2014 were due to the strong performance by equity markets in that year. Other than temporary impairment ("OTTI") charges were $26 million, $73 million and $31 million in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Other Expenses (Revenues), Net
Depreciation of the pound sterling against the U.S. dollar drove foreign exchange gains of $121 million during 2016, while depreciation of the euro, pound sterling and Australian dollar against the U.S. dollar drove foreign exchange gains of $102 million during 2015. Foreign exchange gains of $104 million in 2014 were driven by the depreciation of the euro and pound sterling against the U.S. dollar. The foreign exchange gains in each period primarily reflected the remeasurement of our foreign-denominated net insurance-related liabilities.
Excluding these foreign exchange-related amounts, other expenses were $178 million, $164 million and $236 million in 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. Corporate expenses increased to $120 million in 2016 from $110 million in 2015. The increase was attributable to adjustments to senior leadership executive stock compensation awards benefiting 2015, an increase in personnel costs including senior executive transition costs in 2016, partially offset by reorganization related expenses adverse to 2015. Corporate expenses decreased from $136 million in 2014 to $110 million in 2015. The decrease was driven by adjustments to senior leadership executive stock-compensation awards, a decrease in severance expenses, and a reduction in performance-based incentive accruals. These reductions were partially offset by a reduction of certain costs allocated to the operating segments and reorganization related corporate expenses incurred.
Tax expense increased to $6 million in 2016, compared to $3 million in 2015. The effective tax rate can vary between periods depending on the distribution of net income amongst tax jurisdictions, as well as other factors. The increase was driven primarily by an increase in comparative European pre-tax income, offset partially by a decrease in comparative pre-tax income in the U.S. Tax expense decreased to $3 million in 2015, compared to $26 million in 2014. The primary factor in the decrease in the effective tax rate from 2014 to 2015 was the geographical distribution of our net income. While we generated consolidated pre-tax net income in 2015, the majority of our operating income as well as the PartnerRe merger termination fees received were recognized in Bermuda. The tax expense was further impacted by realized losses on investments in our European entities during 2015.
Interest expense and financing costs, primarily related to interest due on our senior notes, in 2016 were consistent to 2015 as there were no significant changes to our debt and financing arrangements. A $24 million decrease in interest expense and financing costs for 2015, compared to 2014, primarily reflected the repayment of the $500 million 5.75% senior unsecured notes which were due on December 1, 2014.
Termination Fee Received
During 2015, the Company announced that we had accepted a request from PartnerRe to terminate the Amalgamation Agreement with the Company. PartnerRe paid the Company $315 million to immediately terminate the Amalgamation Agreement, the amount was comprised of a termination fee of $280 million and a reimbursement of merger-related expenses of $35 million.
Reorganization and Related Expenses
During 2015, the Company implemented a number of profitability enhancement initiatives which resulted in a recognition of reorganization and related expenses of $46 million and additional corporate expenses of $5 million in the Consolidated Statement of Operations. Refer to Item 8, Note 4 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Goodwill and Intangibles' and to Note 18 'Reorganization and Related Expenses' for additional information.
Interest in Loss of Equity Method Investments
Interest in loss of equity method investments represents the Company's aggregate share of losses related to investments in which the Company has significant influence over the operating and financial policies of the investee.
Amounts Attributable from Noncontrolling Interest
During the second quarter of 2015, the Company early adopted ASU 2015-02, "Amendments to the Consolidation Analysis" issued by the FASB. Following the adoption of this ASU, effective as of January 1, 2015, the Company no longer consolidates the results of Ventures Re, a variable interest entity, in its Consolidated Financial Statements. Refer to Item 8, Note 14 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Noncontrolling Interests' for additional information.
We are committed to being a leader in specialty risk, an area in which we already have depth of talent and experience, and have earned an outstanding reputation. Committed to our hybrid strategy, AXIS has developed substantial platforms in both insurance and reinsurance, providing us with balance and diversification. Management believes its positioning, franchise, expert underwriters and strong relationships with distributors and clients will provide opportunities for further profitable growth in 2017, with variances amongst our lines driven by our tactical response to market conditions. At the same time, we are broadening our risk-funding sources and developing vehicles that utilize the industry’s abundant third party capital. Therefore, we expect that our net premiums written will not grow as much as our gross premiums written, as we intend to share more of our risk with strategic capital partners.
Competitive conditions continue to impact worldwide insurance markets with the greatest pressures impacting catastrophe exposed property and certain global specialty lines of business. We also observed greater competitiveness for large accounts compared to smaller risks. These competitive pressures have led to price reductions across most lines of business, with decreases in international markets generally more severe than those observed in the U.S. We expect this trend to continue in the short-term but believe that there are still attractive risks in the market. In this challenging market environment, we are focusing on lines and markets that remain adequately priced or continue to deliver price increases and those that provide opportunities for profitable growth. Where necessary we also continue to shift our business mix toward smaller, less volatile risk accounts which we believe will enable us to achieve a better, more stable attritional loss experience with lower severity.
The reinsurance markets' trading environment remains challenging in many lines of business and geographical regions. The market continues to be influenced by excess capacity, strong balance sheets of established market participants and a consolidation of reinsurance purchasing. Despite these conditions we have observed recent favorable trends which we expect to positively impact trends in our business including many cedants reducing the size of their reinsurer panels, some moderation of pricing pressures, increased resistance to demands for greater commission rates as well as an expansion of terms and conditions, an increase in the number of cedants looking to buy more reinsurance protection and Solvency II and other regulatory or governmental driven opportunities. These factors, combined with AXIS' customer-centric approach, and opportunities in specific lines of business and geographies allow us to execute on our targeted growth strategy. We continue to address the difficult market conditions by taking actions to protect the quality and profitability of our existing book, targeting larger shares of the more attractive treaties, managing the overall volatility of our reinsurance book, and expanding our already strong group of strategic capital partners with whom to share our risks.
We believe that the following financial indicators are important in evaluating our performance and measuring the overall growth in value generated for our common shareholders:
Year ended and at December 31,
Non-GAAP operating ROACE(2)
Diluted book value per common share(3)(4)
Cash dividends declared per common share
Increase in diluted book value per common share adjusted for dividends
ROACE is calculated by dividing net income available to common shareholders for the year by the average shareholders’ equity determined by using the common shareholders’ equity balances at the beginning and end of the year.
Non-GAAP operating ROACE is calculated by dividing non-GAAP operating income for the year by the average common shareholders’ equity determined by using the common shareholders’ equity balances at the beginning and end of the year. Non-GAAP operating ROACE is a non-GAAP financial measure, as defined in SEC Regulation G. Refer to ‘Non-GAAP Financial Measures’ for additional information and a reconciliation to the nearest GAAP financial measure (ROACE).
Diluted book value ("DBV") per common share represents total common shareholders’ equity divided by the number of common shares and diluted common share equivalents outstanding, determined using the treasury stock method. Cash settled awards are excluded from the denominator.
Calculation of DBV per common share at December 31, 2015 includes 1,358,380 additional shares delivered to the Company in January 2016 under the ASR agreement. Refer to Item 8, Note 13 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Shareholders' Equity' for information relating to the ASR.
Return on equity
Our objective is to generate superior returns on capital that appropriately reward our common shareholders for the risks we assume and to grow revenue only when we expect the returns will meet or exceed our requirements. We recognize that the nature of underwriting cycles and the frequency or severity of large loss events in any one year may make it difficult to achieve a profitability target in any specific period and, therefore our goal is to achieve top-quintile industry non-GAAP operating ROACE and growth in book value per share adjusted for dividends, with volatility consistent with the industry average.
The increase in non-GAAP operating ROACE in 2016, compared to 2015, was primarily driven by an increase in net investment income, partially offset by a decrease in underwriting income and higher corporate expenses.
The decrease in non-GAAP operating ROACE in 2015, compared to 2014, was primarily driven by a decrease in underwriting income and net investment income partially offset by a decrease in corporate expenses and lower interest expense and financing costs.
In addition to the items noted above for non-GAAP operating ROACE, ROACE is also impacted by net realized investment gains (losses), foreign exchange losses (gains), termination fee received, reorganization and related expenses and the loss on repurchase of preferred shares.
The decrease in ROACE in 2016, compared to 2015, was primarily driven by the termination fee received from Partner Re in 2015, a decrease in underwriting income and higher corporate expenses partially offset by the favorable impacts of a decrease in net realized investment losses, reorganization and related expenses incurred in 2015 and an increase in net investment income and foreign exchange gains.
The decrease in ROACE in 2015, compared to 2014, was primarily driven the adverse impacts of net realized investment losses, a decrease in underwriting income and net investment income together with reorganization and related expenses incurred in 2015 partially offset by the termination fee received from PartnerRe in 2015, a decrease in corporate expenses and lower interest expense and financing costs.
Diluted book value per common share
We consider diluted book value per common share to be an appropriate measure of our returns to common shareholders, as we believe growth in our book value on a diluted basis will ultimately translate into appreciation of our stock price.
During 2016 and 2015, our diluted book value per common share appreciated by 8% and 7%, respectively, driven primarily by $465 million and $602 million in net income available to common shareholders, respectively. This was partially offset by common dividends declared.
In 2016, a decrease in unrealized losses on investments which are included in accumulated other comprehensive income, also contributed to the growth in diluted book value per share, while in 2015 an increase in unrealized losses on investments partially offset the growth in diluted book value per share.
The decrease in unrealized losses in 2016 reflected a tightening of credit spreads on non-government bonds and strong equity market returns, while the increase in unrealized losses in 2015 reflected an increase in the U.S. interest rates, the widening of credit spreads on non-government bonds and foreign exchange volatility.
Cash dividends declared per common share
We believe in returning excess capital to our shareholders by way of dividends (as well as share repurchases) accordingly, our dividend policy is an integral part of the value we create for our shareholders. Our cumulatively strong earnings have permitted our Board of Directors to approve thirteen successive annual increases in quarterly common share dividends.
Diluted book value per common share adjusted for dividends
Taken together, we believe that growth in diluted book value per common share and common share dividends declared represent the total value created for our common shareholders. As companies in the insurance industry have differing dividend payout policies, we believe that investors use the DBV per common share adjusted for dividends metric to measure comparable performance across the industry.
In 2016, our net income and a decrease in unrealized losses on investments included in other comprehensive income, drove an increase in DBV per common share adjusted for dividends. In 2015 and 2014, our net income, which was partially offset by unrealized losses on investments included in other comprehensive income, drove an increase in DBV per common share adjusted for dividends.
UNDERWRITING RESULTS – GROUP
The following table provides our group underwriting results for the periods indicated. Underwriting income is a pre-tax measure of underwriting profitability that takes into account net premiums earned and other insurance related income (loss) as revenues and net losses and loss expenses, acquisition costs and underwriting-related general and administrative costs as expenses.
Year ended December 31,
Gross premiums written
Net premiums written
Net premiums earned
Other insurance related income (loss)
Current year net losses and loss expenses
Prior year reserve development
Underwriting-related general and administrative expenses(1)
General and administrative expenses(1)
Income before income taxes and interest in income (loss) of equity method investments(2)
Underwriting-related general and administrative expenses is a non-GAAP measure as defined in SEC Regulation G. Our total general and administrative expenses also included $120,016, $109,910 and $135,675 of corporate expenses for 2016, 2015 and 2014, respectively. Refer to 'Other Expenses (Revenues), Net' for additional information related to these corporate expenses. Also, refer to 'Non-GAAP Financial Measures' for further information.
Group (or consolidated) underwriting income is a non-GAAP financial measure as defined in SEC Regulation G. Refer to Item 8, Note 3 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Segment Information', for a reconciliation of consolidated underwriting income to the nearest GAAP financial measures (income before income taxes and interest in income (loss) of equity method investments) for the years indicated above. Also, refer to 'Non-GAAP Financial Measures' for additional information related to the presentation of consolidated underwriting income.
AXIS Capital cedes certain of its reinsurance business to Ventures Re, the Company's third-party capital vehicle, on a fully collateralized basis. Ventures Re is a variable interest entity and as the Company had initially concluded that it was the primary beneficiary of this entity, Ventures Re was consolidated by the Company with the net impact of the cessions included in amounts attributable from noncontrolling interest. During the second quarter of 2015, the Company early adopted ASU 2015-02, "Amendments to the Consolidation Analysis". Following the adoption of the ASU and effective as of January 1, 2015, the Company determined that it was no longer required to consolidate the results of operations and the financial position of Ventures Re. Refer to Item 8, Note 14 to the Consolidated Financial Statements 'Noncontrolling Interests' for more information. For 2014, amounts attributable from noncontrolling interests were $6,181.
Gross and net premiums written, by segment, were as follows:
Gross Premiums Written
Year ended December 31,