The FINANCIAL — Fitch Ratings — London — Fitch Ratings says in a newly-published report that the Dutch insurance market is saturated and has become highly competitive.
"Insurers in the Netherlands were hit hard by the global financial crisis, with most of the largest insurers forced to take state aid or accept support from majority shareholders," says Ella Spencer, analyst in Fitch's Insurance team. "Although the industry has survived the crisis, severe pricing pressure is threatening profitability for life and pension providers, driving companies to cut costs and, in some cases, withdraw from the market."
The life market is also suffering from tax changes that have allowed banks to compete on equal terms with insurers in the savings market. The effect is exacerbated by a slump in insurers' products sold through banks, as banks are increasingly pushing their own saving products.
The unique healthcare insurance system in the Netherlands shields insurers from the underwriting risks normally associated with health insurance. "The Netherlands has the largest private health insurance market in Europe, with annual premiums of around EUR40bn," says Spencer. "However, most of this insurance is, in effect, underwritten by the Dutch government, with insurers covering a lot of the administration associated with healthcare but taking on very little risk."
Indications from the fifth Quantitative Impact Study (QIS5) show that, overall, Dutch insurers look set be well capitalised under Solvency II. However, the industry continues to lobby for less-onerous risk charges for health insurance, believing that the Solvency II calibrations do not reflect the risk-mitigating features of the Dutch system.
Source: Fitch Ratings