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Survey Report

Insurance Marketplace Realities 2024 – Middle market

November 9, 2023

While the casualty landscape has continued to trend favorably, the year began with significant headwinds in the property market, and these challenges have persisted and accelerated through 2023.
Rate predictions: Middle market
  Trend Range
Favorable risks
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +10% to +25%
General liability
Neutral increase (purple line, purple arrows pointing up) Flat to +5%
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +5% to +8%
Workers compensation
Neutral decrease (purple line, purple arrows pointing down) -5% to flat
Neutral increase (purple line, purple arrows pointing up) Flat to +10%
Neutral increase (purple line, purple arrows pointing up) Flat to +10%
Challenging risks
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +30% to +50%
General liability
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +10% to +15%
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +10% to +15%
Workers compensation
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +5% to +10%
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +10% to +15%
Increase (Purple arrow pointing top right) +10% to +15%

Marketplace overview

  • Carriers have high retention and growth goals and are aggressively keeping accounts out of the market. Marketing efforts on clean or desirable accounts (e.g., financial institutions, technology, commercial real estate) are resulting in significant rate reductions for insureds.
  • While middle market is an established segment in the broker and carrier community, additional markets continue to enter the space.
  • Several middle market carriers have implemented an industry specialization strategy and are moving away from a generalist model.
  • The insureds that continue to experience hard market pressures either fall within specific industry segments or have significant losses and/or heavy CAT exposures. The tougher classes of business continue to be habitational real estate, transportation, healthcare, social services, hospitality, food and foundries. Proactive measures on risk control will play a key role for accounts in these categories.
  • Property rates have increased at a steeper pace than anticipated throughout the year, particularly for CAT-exposed, challenged occupancies or schedules with valuation concerns. The consensus among insurers is that their clients will continue to pay more for less coverage. Renewal outcomes for these risks can be particularly uncertain when facultative reinsurance is needed.
  • Carriers are strategically leveraging property capacity to influence their participation on casualty lines. Additional capacity is also being reinstated by umbrella and excess markets to gain a competitive edge.


  • Higher frequency, more severe natural catastrophes and mounting losses from secondary unmodeled perils (such as wildfires, floods, convective storms) have strained insurer profitability. Convective storm deductibles are being added in states that previously did not have them, or these deductibles are being increased.
  • Property valuations have been of concern for markets given inflation and supply chain concerns. Corrective action is being taken via rate, increased values and coverage wording such as specific limits or margin clauses (e.g., OLLE). For accounts where valuation was historically untouched, the corrections are more dramatic.
  • Market pressures emanating from treaty reinsurance renewals throughout the year have led to volatility in the market, making CAT exposures extremely difficult to place (named storm, earthquake, flood, wildfires). CAT-exposed risks are realizing increases in price and retentions as well as restricted limits.
  • Tougher property risks that were written on a 100% single-carrier basis are being pushed to shared/layered programs due to their risk profile and the markets’ reluctance to deploy full capacity.
  • A proactive strategy on valuation, accurate COPE, capacity and program structure will help brokers and their clients navigate these challenges. This should include a focus on both outstanding risk control recommendations and coordination of prospective carrier visits. Clients should reevaluate the cost efficiency of risk transfer versus risk retention (via higher deductibles or lower limit purchase).
  • Water damage coverage is experiencing higher deductibles and lowered sub-limits, and water damage mitigation is a focus.
  • Uncertainty around valuation has also extended to business income and extra expense. With that, carriers have become more stringent on their requirements of a completed business income and extra expense worksheet.
  • Given the property market landscape, alternative strategies such as parametrics and facilities are becoming more prevalent in the middle market space.

General liability

  • There is a heightened concern surrounding human trafficking exposures for hospitality and real estate accounts.
  • Habitational real estate is an extremely challenged class necessitating E&S support with more frequency. Most admitted carriers will not consider a habitational schedule due to expected loss activity.
  • Sexual abuse and molestation coverage continues to see capacity reductions and scrutinized underwriting, particularly given reviver laws in several states.
  • For the most part, the wider marketplace is no longer comfortable providing an uncapped per-location aggregate, particularly for industries such as real estate.
  • PFAS and biometric exclusions are becoming more prevalent; increased scrutiny is expected. With respect to PFAS, some carriers are willing to remove with confirmation of no exposure; however, others are taking a more stringent approach. These are both emerging topics and carriers are concerned regarding the potential for class-action suits and the cost to defend.
  • Social inflation has continued to make it difficult for markets to accurately project losses, leading them to take an all-lines approach on accounts rather than have a liability-heavy portfolio.
  • Alternative solutions such as captives have become more prevalent in the middle market space and will continue to be developed to fit the needs of the middle market customer.


  • Mono-line auto risks are exceedingly challenging to place and should always be leveraged with other lines of business.
  • Clients with large fleets and/or fleet makeups outside of private passenger vehicles continue to see a hard market with limited capacity and an increase in cost for that capacity.
  • Hired and non-owned auto continues to be heavily underwritten and higher exposure accounts are less desirable.
  • Rate need has continued as losses in the industry have increased, despite fewer drivers being on the road in recent years. On average, combined ratios are still well above 100%, making this line unprofitable for carriers.
  • The introduction of telematics in fleets has become a risk management norm for insureds.

Workers compensation

  • Carriers continue to view workers compensation as a profitable line and are looking to balance their books of business by writing more of this business.
  • Remote working has created questions surrounding accurate payroll reporting, especially in monopolistic states as coverage needs to be purchased through the state pools.
  • Carriers are requesting details surrounding return to work policies as they impact rating, terrorism capacity and risk control. More underwriting scrutiny is being placed on accounts with exposures in tougher jurisdictions.
  • Auto accidents have more frequently become the cause of severe WC claims over the past few years.

Umbrella and excess liability

  • Additional capacity is being reinstated by umbrella and excess markets to gain a competitive edge.
  • Higher attachment points are being required by lead markets on both general liability and auto policies for higher risk industry. In these scenarios, buffer layers are being introduced more often.
  • While capacity for lead umbrellas has stabilized, there is still a lack of monoline umbrella or “unsupported” lead market appetite.
  • Supported leads tend to be more competitive as carriers leverage the primary lines with their umbrella capacity. In these competitive scenarios, insureds have been able to secure increased umbrella limits undoing retractions that may have happened in recent years.
  • Risk purchasing groups continue to be inconsistent with increased underwriting, appetite changes, reduced capacity, large increases and market participation changes.
  • Clients continue to review contractual requirements and limits purchased.
  • PFAS (or “forever chemicals”), abuse and molestation, traumatic brain injury, wildfire, assault and battery, sex trafficking and biometric exclusions are being added or coverage and capacity have been limited especially where exposure exists.


Willis Towers Watson hopes you found the general information provided in this publication informative and helpful. The information contained herein is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your own legal advisors. In the event you would like more information regarding your insurance coverage, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. In North America, Willis Towers Watson offers insurance products through licensed entities, including Willis Towers Watson Northeast, Inc. (in the United States) and Willis Canada Inc. (in Canada).


Krista Cinotti
Head of Middle Market and Select, North America

Beth Cohon
Head of Middle Market Industry and Broking Strategy

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