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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries

Credit insurance payouts hit 10-year high

Insurance payouts for businesses struggling to cope with bad debts are at their highest level since 2009, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has revealed.

Continuous debt support from trade credit insurers ©iStock
Continuous debt support from trade credit insurers ©iStock

The data shows that the equivalent of 50 new claims are now made every day amid continued Brexit uncertainty, weaker consumer spending and rising business rates.

Competition from online sales and higher operating costs due to a weaker pound have also helped contribute to a “very challenging and difficult trading climate”, the ABI said.

It found that the number of claims made by businesses with debt problems increased by a massive 60% to 17,500 in 2018.

“Trade credit insurers are helping many UK firms through tough times,” ABI assistant director, Mark Shepherd, said. “Uncertainty around Brexit is only adding to the challenges.

“Despite this, trade credit insurers continue to support businesses, with their risk appetite remaining high, even in the volatile economic climate.”

The data shows that the value of claims paid by trade credit insurers to help business with debt stood at £251m last year, equivalent to £5m every week and up 12% on 2017.

High profile company failures in 2018 contributed to this, such as the one involving wholesaler Palmer and Harvey, which resulted in credit insurers paying £30m to help suppliers.

Insurers also paid out £11m when electrical retailer Maplin ran into difficulties, and nearly £3m after Toys “R” Us went bust, with the retail sector losing around 85,000 jobs last year.

The ABI said that the number of trade credit insurance policies is at its highest level since 2008, with nearly 14,000 arrangements supporting British businesses.

“The expertise and support of trade credit insurers is also helping firms to grow and trade with greater confidence, reducing the risk of facing bad debts,” Shepherd continued.

“While the number of firms with this protection is rising, too many firms remain at the mercy of bad debts – we must do more to raise awareness of trade credit insurance.”

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