AM Best has affirmed the Financial Strength Rating of A+ (Superior) and the Long-Term Issuer Credit Ratings of “aa-” (Superior) of WestGUARD Insurance Company, AmGUARD Insurance Company, EastGUARD Insurance Company, NorGUARD Insurance Company and AZGUARD Insurance Company (Omaha, NE), which operate under an intercompany pooling agreement. These companies are members of Berkshire Hathaway GUARD Insurance Companies (GUARD) and are domiciled in Wilkes-Barre, PA, unless otherwise specified. The outlook of these Credit Ratings (ratings) is stable.
The ratings reflect GUARD’s balance sheet strength, which AM Best assesses as strongest, as well as its adequate operating performance, neutral business profile and appropriate enterprise risk management, with lift from parental support.
GUARD continued to benefit from rate increases in most of its lines of business, while moderating gross and net premium growth and reducing loss ratios in most of its key lines. During this period, GUARD has consistently maintained a solid risk-adjusted capitalization, as measured by the Best’s Capital Adequacy Ratio (BCAR), at the 99.6% VaR. While GUARD’s operating earnings had declined in the past few years, the company has intensified its efforts to map losses and improve profitability, showing positive results through improved underwriting in the past year. On the investment side, GUARD recorded significant unrealized capital losses as the stock market performance was negative last year, which impacted the company’s common stock portfolio. These losses were recovered partially in the first quarter of 2023. AM Best continues to see GUARD’s operating performance as well-placed in the adequate assessment on an absolute basis and relative to the commercial casualty segment.
Additionally, the ratings further recognize the implicit and explicit financial support provided by GUARD’s immediate parent, National Indemnity Company (NICO), including significant capital support via reinsurance transactions. NICO is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (Berkshire) [NYSE: BRK A and BRK B].
While GUARD’s workers’ compensation business continues to produce long-term favorable return ratios, the group’s fast-growing business lines have shown less favorable performance. However, GUARD has been deliberate and measured in its approach to the market, as the company continues to improve its exposure-mapping processes and controls to prevent losses. Despite these concerns, the stable outlooks reflect GUARD’s enhanced financial flexibility provided by Berkshire, solid balance sheet and long-term underwriting profitability. GUARD’s investment portfolio, which is managed by Berkshire, has contributed significantly to surplus growth through unrealized capital gains and accounted for more than half of surplus growth in the past five years.
The ratings could come under pressure if underwriting results and overall operating performance decreases to a level incompatible with an adequate assessment. The ratings also could experience negative pressure should Berkshire cease to provide sufficient financial and operational support. In addition, a significant reduction in surplus resulting from losses in GUARD’s investment portfolio, which has a significant allocation to equity holdings, or from a material prior year unfavorable reserve development, which also could lead to negative rating pressure.
This press release relates to Credit Ratings that have been published on AM Best’s website. For all rating information relating to the release and pertinent disclosures, including details of the office responsible for issuing each of the individual ratings referenced in this release, please see AM Best’s Recent Rating Activity web page. For additional information regarding the use and limitations of Credit Rating opinions, please view Guide to Best's Credit Ratings. For information on the proper use of Best’s Credit Ratings, Best’s Performance Assessments, Best’s Preliminary Credit Assessments and AM Best press releases, please view Guide to Proper Use of Best’s Ratings & Assessments.
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Guilherme Monteiro Simoes, CFA
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