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The Hartford, Travelers Expect Hundreds Of Millions In Hurricane-Related Losses

Hartford-area property casualty insurers are still counting their losses but they expect to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in claims after the pair of hurricanes that swept through Texas and Houston.

At an industry analyst conference in New York, Beth Bombara, chief financial officer for The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., said it was too early to estimate losses from Harvey, but she did not expect they would exceed $350 million and trigger the company’s reinsurance agreement.

“As we look at that storm, and given the unprecedented flooding that we saw with that, it really is taking probably a little bit longer than typical storms to really come up with an estimate that we feel comfortable sharing in total,” she said.

The Travelers Cos. Inc. Monday evening announced estimated losses from Harvey in the range of $375 million to $750 million. The company also halted a share buyback program, as it has done after other major catastrophes, like Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

“The company did not provide any additional commentary on the loss estimate, but we believe it is largely in its commercial insurance business,” Harry Fong, managing director at MKM Partners, said in a note to investors Tuesday.

Elyse Greenspan, a senior analyst with Wells Fargo Securities, said the insurance industry as a whole stands to lose $20 billion from Harvey and an additional $40 billion from Irma. Claims will be higher for Irma because much of Harvey’s damage was from flooding, which typical homeowners insurance policies don’t cover.

Bombara said adjusters from The Hartford, in many cases, haven’t been able to determine the full extent of Irma’s damage in Florida. The large number of evacuations means the company must wait for homeowners to return and file claims.

“Our claims adjusters are poised and ready to go,” she said. “They’re very eager to get in there and help our policyholders and see what the exposure is.”

Early models show The Hartford suffering less than $350 million in losses related to Irma, Bombara said, but she cautioned that it was still early in the evaluation process.

“These are two very large events, and events that we’re still in the process of assessing,” she said.

The Hartford is not a major player in the insurance market in either Florida or Texas, Bombara said. No new homeowners insurance policies have been written in Florida since 1995 and there are about 21,000 policies active, she said.

Both The Hartford and Travelers sent personnel from Connecticut to assist with the companies’ work in Florida and Texas, which is expected to be ongoing for months.

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