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An insurance catastrophe will push up premiums big time!

Peter Switzer
2 March 2022

Earlier this week for my Switzer Report subscribers, I looked at what might constitute a Warren Buffett-like portfolio of Aussie stocks. I compared the stocks Buffett has, such as AMEX, Coke and Bank of America, and looked for local stocks, such as CBA and Woolworths, that look like Buffett-type companies.

But to make it really look like Buffett’s portfolio, I had to throw in some insurers as his company — Berkshire Hathaway — is actually an insurance business with a whole pile of different insurers, which then invests in other listed companies to help build up investment income and payout claims.

One company that he’s invested in — the local IAG insurance business — is up for a lot of claims, due to the excessive rains we're seeing in Queensland and New South Wales.

Nine.com.au reports: “The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) reports that insurers have received almost 31,000 claims related to the floods, a 107 per cent increase on yesterday. Under the ICA's 'insurance catastrophe' declaration, all claims made by policyholders in the affected areas are given priority and claims are triaged to provide urgent assistance to the worst-affected property owners”.

Claims have doubled in a day as the rain keeps falling but insurers have learnt from their past public relations disasters and are reassuring devastated policyholders that they will get a sympathetic ear.

Here are some examples of what nine.com.au has received from insurance company spokespeople:

  • “Personal safety continues to be the number one priority, please follow the directions of the authorities,” said ICA CEO Andrew Hall;
  • for those who have lost everything in the floods, a claim can be started with only the name and address of a policyholder;
  • for those with roof damage, the insurer will arrange emergency works to minimise any hazards and prevent further damage; and
  • advice was given to take photos and videos to help with the claims.

In case you missed it, after the 2011 Brisbane floods, a successful class action against insurers now means insurance policies must have standard flood definitions, so policyholders who opt for this coverage get it even if it has come from water released from a dam!

I have to say it’s great to see sympathetic insurers, at least publicly being supportive, but remember that most insurers only have a short-term period of suffering when natural disasters hit their bottom lines and share prices.

That’s because after these terrible events, premiums rise and they rise for all of us insured, even if we are basically a trouble-free insurance policyholder. The lucky and the low-risk insurance customer helps reduce the risk for insurance companies of those policyholders living on floodplains, near rivers, in bushfire zones and in places where cyclones can undermine the usual paradise these insured people enjoy.

That’s why Berkshire Hathaway’s share price is, wait for it, currently $472,481 dollars. Insurance businesses can lose short term, but they win long term, and we, the insured, help them do it.

It’s annoying when you’re not a claimer but comforting when you are!

And despite not being a great fan of insurance companies and airlines for investing because lots of things can go wrong with these businesses, it’s why I threw IAG and QBE into the Aussie-version of a Buffett-style portfolio in my article in the Switzer Report.

(To see the portfolio, you’ll have to subscribe to the Switzer Report, where you’ll see a lot of other great stock ideas from my team of experts.)

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