LONDON (Reuters) – The biggest uncertainty now facing insurers is whether they will have to pay for a raft of business interruption claims, the Bank of England said, as a court prepares to rule on whether existing policies cover big losses caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Anna Sweeney, the BoE’s executive director for insurance, said the sector has remained robust in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on assets they hold and on liabilities.
“The highest level of uncertainty remains around business interruption,” she told a City & Financial online event.
Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority goes to court this month to clarify whether an array of wordings in business interruption insurance policies back claims for compensation for disruptions caused by pandemic lockdowns.
“A number of insurers are taking steps to make sure there is no ambiguity about who is and isn’t covered for a second wave,” Sweeney said.
Hiscox <HSX.L> is among eight insurers whose policy wordings will come under scrutiny by the courts this month, although the trial could still go to an appeal.
“We would expect both sides to abide by the outcome,” Hiscox Chief Executive Bronek Masojada said.
Lloyd’s of London Chairman Bruce Carnegie-Brown said insurers should consider whether their products were correctly labelled and said brokers had a responsibility to provide clear advice on what is covered.
Association of British Insurers Director General Huw Evans said the industry would be undertaking a “wholesale review of wordings” as a result of the disputes.
Businesses have been struggling to get pandemic cover, with Lloyd’s calling for state-backed policies for pandemics and other systemic risks.
Reinsurers have said they will exclude communicable disease cover from all policies from Jan. 1, Masojada said.
Asked if insurers should bolster capital buffers, Sweeney said her “personal instinct” was that the emphasis should be on being clear on what liabilities were covered and managing those risks.
(Reporting by Huw Jones and Carolyn Cohn; Editing by Edmund Blair)