Odyssey Group reached new heights in 2021 as Gross Premiums Written climbed 29% to $5.7 billion, Investment Assets rose 12% to $12 billion and Total Equity grew 12.4% (before dividends and other capital transactions) to $5.2 billion.
For a quarter century, Odyssey has been “climbing the mountain,” patiently building our business operations, expanding our product offering and enhancing our service. The fruits of our labor have produced three thriving businesses: Hudson, Newline and OdysseyRe. Over the last five years, Hudson has grown 163%, Newline 190% and OdysseyRe 120%. When we began our journey 25 years ago, we only wrote reinsurance through OdysseyRe and, yet today, the insurance business we write through Hudson and Newline now accounts for half of our rapidly expanding global premium volume.
Growth has come with consistent profitability (we wouldn’t have it any other way!). In 2021, Odyssey Group made an underwriting profit ($103 million) for the 10th year in a row. Over the last decade, we’ve generated $2.1 billion of underwriting profit at an average combined ratio of 92.2%. To illustrate our underwriting proficiency, over the last 40 calendar quarters, only two have had combined ratios greater than 100%.
Underwriting profits were harder to come by in 2021 and have been the last five years, as catastrophe and pandemic-related losses have taken their toll on our results. Last year catastrophes and pandemic losses added 11 points to our global combined ratio of 97.6%, exceeding expectations by 5.4 points ($226 million). Catastrophe and pandemic losses were largely confined to OdysseyRe and were more than offset by strong underwriting results at Hudson and Newline. Diversification has been critical to our combined ratio aims, especially in recent years with heightened catastrophic claims activity.
For the 14th consecutive year, Odyssey Group recorded favorable reserve development with releases reducing our combined ratio 2.8%. Our claims team and reserving actuaries have done a fantastic job of prudently managing the right side of our balance sheet. Even with inflationary pressures mounting, our reserve base remains a store of value.
As we look to the future, we are extremely bullish about our prospects. While market improvements are beginning to slow in many areas, our new business pipeline is solid and underwriting margins continue to expand. The one area where we remain cautious is catastrophe business. The increased volatility we have seen in Cat the last five years has not been rewarded and, absent material improvement, we will continue to focus our expansion efforts in other lines of business.
Odyssey Group is a vast enterprise, encompassing three operating platforms, five divisions, 36 profit centers and a network of 34 principle offices in 13 countries. Please take a few moments to learn more about our Business Operations and Financials in this report, including detailed profiles of Hudson, Newline and OdysseyRe. We hope you find this information helpful.
We are a Company with a big heart. We care passionately about our employees and the communities in which we live and work. When we do well, we want to help others less fortunate. Every year we set aside 1% of our pre-tax earnings for charitable giving, and that figure will be increased to 2% in 2022. Since its formation in 2007, the Odyssey Group Foundation has pledged $62 million supporting more than 450 charities around the world. Last year we donated $4.7 million to 145 worthy causes. For more details about our charitable endeavors, please refer to the Giving Back section of this report.
We’ve had an amazing run, which would not have been possible without the unwavering support from you, our valued clients and business partners. We are grateful for your business and the opportunity to serve you in every way we can. Thank you for continuing to place your trust in us.
Prem Watsa and Andy Barnard had a vision to build a world-class global (re)insurer 25 years ago; henceforth, the Odyssey journey began. We can’t thank Prem, Andy, Peter Clarke and the rest of the Fairfax team enough for inspiring us to reach new heights. We are incredibly proud to be part of the Fairfax family.
It’s been an honor to have been part of Odyssey’s journey from the start and to be leading the Company these past 11 years. One of our enduring strengths has been our ability to retain key people. My management team and our business leaders are responsible for building this Company and running it with distinction. All the credit for our success goes to them and the teams that support them.
Lastly, to my 1,232 Odyssey colleagues, thank you for giving it your all each and every day. We have climbed mountains together for a quarter century and I have no doubt we will scale new heights in the decades to come. Onwards and upwards!
Brian D. Young
President & Chief Executive Officer