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State Farm still dominates, but P&C list in motion.

THE FACT THAT THE 10 PROPerty and casualty insurance carriers that wrote the most premium in Arkansas last year didn't change from 2002 almost makes it sound like the market is stable.

It isn't.

The P&C market in Arkansas grew by 8 percent in 2003, according to comprehensive data supplied by the Arkansas Insurance Department. Four of the top 10 companies--including perennial No. 1, State Farm Insurance Cos. of Bloomington, Ill.--didn't even keep up with that pace.

State Farm's premium grew by 6.4 percent last year to $478.5 million, hampered perhaps by the fact that it refused to write new homeowner's policies in the state for the first half of the year. In June, however, it began accepting new homeowner applications.

The No. 2 carrier, Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Cos. of Ridgeland, Miss., caught up a bit by adding 11.2 percent to its premium collections last year. But its Arkansas business, $252 million, was still barely half of State Farm's.

The only Arkansas-based carrier on the list, Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. of Arkansas Inc., added 13.3 percent to its premium figure. And its $164.5 million in business was enough to take the No. 5 spot away from American International Group (AIG), whose premium remained virtually unchanged last year after growing dramatically in 2002.

The most impressive growth on the list was reported by Progressive Insurance Cos. of Mayfield Village, Ohio. It collected 37.7 percent more premium from Arkansas consumers in 2003 than it had the year before--$100.3 million vs. $72.8 million--but even that wasn't enough to move it from its No. 10 position.

Double-digit growth and similar declines were common. Liberty Mutual moved from 14th to 12th on growth of 32.8 percent, and State Auto Insurance Cos. of Columbus, Ohio, moved from No. 22 to No. 19 by writing almost 25 percent more premium last year.

Meanwhile, Firemans Fund Insurance Co. of Novato, Calif., which once had a significant presence in Little Rock, saw its decline accelerate and dropped out of the top 25 list entirely. Its premium dropped by, 41 percent last year to $24.6 million. In 2001, Firemans Fund wrote $48.6 million in premium in Arkansas.

Also gone from the list is Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Co. of Warwick, R.I., last year's No. 23. It was replaced by DaimlerChrysler Insurance Co., which entered the list at No. 21.

Another obvious loser was St. Paul Insurance Cos. At the end of 2001, the St. Paul, Minn., company announced that it would no longer write or renew medical malpractice coverage in Arkansas.

At that time, 2,300 physicians and 40 hospitals were using St. Paul for medical professional liability coverage. It appears that many of them have landed with State Volunteer Mutual Insurance Co. of Brentwood, Tenn.

SVMI has been writing medical liability insurance in Arkansas since 1989, according to regional account executive Thad Dehart, but it hasn't cracked the top 25 list before this year. It landed at No. 24 with $32.3 million in 2003 premium a 27.8 percent increase from 2002.

Most of its growth has come in the past couple of years as it has filled the void left by St. Paul and other carriers that backed out of the med mal line, including Farmer's, CNA and Medical Mutual of North Carolina.

Look for SVMI to move even further up the list when ranked by 2004 premium. Dehart said SVMI now covers 3,200 doctors in Arkansas, and the premiums they are paying continue to grow. This year's rate increases averaged 10 percent, he said.

New Player

AssuranceAmerica Corp. of Atlanta last month received approval from the Arkansas Department of Insurance to begin operations in Arkansas.

The company has operations in Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

AssuranceAmerica is a property, and casualty carrier specializing in non-standard private passenger automobile insurance. It operates through company-owned retail insurance agencies TrustWay Insurance, AssuranceAmerica Managing General Agency and AssuranceAmerica Insurance Co.

"This is an important step in the execution of our previously announced plan to expand into Southeastern states where we see opportunity, and it is gratifying to see our team executing it so well," said Lawrence "Bud" Stumbaugh, president and CEO.
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Title Annotation:List Overview; property and casualty
Author:Mortiz, Gwen
Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1U7AR
Date:Oct 25, 2004
Words:711
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