Hard Times In Surety

The surety bond market is currently a very conservative market. Contract and commercial bond departments throughout the nation have tightened up their underwriting practices due to enormous loses throughout the industry. Many sureties have had to close their doors, other have had their ratings drop to a level where they can not write the same business they could in years past. Obviously this leaves the bonding companies that are still operating with a very conservative outlook when it comes to their underwriting guidelines.

One thing that many do not understand is while the current surety bond market is tough, it is considered a more traditional underwriting approach. Contractors are being angered by decreases in their bond lines, or in worst cases are now being deemed “not bondable”. Business owners seeking commercial bonding such as license bonds to run their business are not only finding it harder to obtain an approval, but are also seeing rates much higher than years past.

Why such a drastic difference? A couple years back the industry saw the softest bond market ever, which caused a backlash to what is now today’s hard market. The surety bond market is cyclical, a member of the Surety Bond Forums commented on the cycle stating:

    Vicious cycle:

  • We need more profit from you – write more business
  • We need to write more business, loosen up underwriting
  • We’ve loosened up underwriting – oops- losses
  • Losses? Sorry, you aren’t contributing to the bottom line – watch it
  • Tighten up underwriting – less premium – but losses still come in from previous underwriting
  • Losses increase – loss ratio increases due to smaller premium and more losses
  • Sorry – we are closing down surety operation and sticking to profitable lines
  • While at another company – lots of business out there due to company a getting out of business – go pick it up we need more business so we can get more profit and on and on and on

    What is a 6 letter word for “doesn’t learn from the past”

    S _ R _ T Y

The good news for anyone looking to obtain a bond is that the market will become more liberal in time. The bad news for agents is this will not be the last time that accounts scramble in mass looking for a new agent that can offer them what you previously were. Fortunately for agents, in general they will find very similar offers from agent to agent, as our industry is smaller than most realize.

Eric is the Chief Marketing Officer of JW Surety Bonds. With years of experience in the surety industry, he is also a contributing author to the surety bond blog. He has held a range of different roles within the surety industry, from agent assistant to bond issuer, which gives him a unique insider perspective on surety related topics.

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