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Tower says business is strong despite headwinds

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New Zealand’s third-largest general insurer, Tower, achieved a 23% jump in annual underlying profit to $NZ34.7 million ($32.98 million) and plans to launch new marine and pet products soon.

Including the impact of large events, profit rose 3% to $NZ28.4 million ($26.99 million) in the year to September 30. The combined operating ratio was steady at 88.5% while Tower improved its loss ratio to 46% from 48%.

The listed insurer’s topline profit was dented by a $NZ9.5 million ($9.03 million) write-off after it entered a $NZ42.1 million ($39.98 million) settlement with the Earthquake Commission resulting from the 2010/11 Canterbury earthquakes.

“Tower’s results this year are good and at the top end of expectations,” says Tower CEO Blair Turnbull, who joined the company in August. “We’ve achieved this despite some unprecedented headwinds and challenges.”

Tower says customer numbers rose 11% to 300,000 over the year, driving 8% growth in gross written premium (GWP) to $NZ385 million ($365.94 million), of which the Youi NZ portfolio acquired in January contributed around $NZ12.6 million ($11.98 million). Market share in personal lines rose to 9.1%, from 8.3% a year earlier.

Next year underlying net profit is expected to grow 5%, assuming the same large event experience as this year.

In the coming weeks, Tower will launch a new marine product and following that, an “innovative” pet product. Risk-adjusted pricing is being expanded to tailor quotes for individual risk, and Tower will include flood risk by July.

Mr Turnbull says two-thirds of new business is now coming through online channels and 45% of claims are lodged online, up from 27% at the same time last year. The company’s year-old portal MyTower has had more than 50,000 people register.

“Digital and data also allows us to reduce our operating ratios, by giving us the tools and insights we need to manage our claims expenses closely,” he says.

Rationalisation of Tower’s products from hundreds of variations to a core set of 12 is complete for New Zealand and a similar process is underway in the Pacific Islands business.

Tower refunded $NZ7.2 million ($6.84 million) to customers who paid car insurance premiums during the pandemic lockdown.