Dear Friends, Business Partners and Colleagues,
Odyssey Group had another banner year in 2022. Gross premiums written grew 19% to $6.8 billion, underwriting income more than doubled to $230 million and total assets increased 13% to $19.3 billion. In a year filled with many highlights, perhaps the most notable was Odyssey’s book value holding steady at $5.3 billion while most of our industry peers lost 10% to 35% of their shareholder’s equity. We can thank Fairfax for shrewdly managing our investment portfolio and preserving capital in a year when rising interest rates battered global bond and equity markets.
Growth has been the major headline at Odyssey in recent years. Our gross premium written volume has nearly tripled since 2016, as we have scaled up our insurance operating capabilities and increased our reinsurance risk appetite in a hardening market. Today, Odyssey Group is a global (re)insurance enterprise, encompassing three distinct yet complementary operating platforms supported by six divisions, 37 business units and a network of 30 principal 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 our three platforms: OdysseyRe, Hudson and Newline. We hope you find this information helpful.
Patience and discipline have always been core to our operating philosophy. While growth is easy, generating consistent underwriting profit is not. So, it is with pride that I share with you that we generated an underwriting profit for the 11th straight year in 2022, delivering a combined ratio of 95.9%. Over the last 10 years, we have generated $2.1 billion of underwriting profit at an average combined ratio of 92.1%.
Catastrophes continued to take their toll on our industry. The last six years have been especially difficult, and 2022 was no exception. Last year, property catastrophes added 2.4% to our combined ratio over and above expectations, reducing underwriting profits by $136 million. Over the last six years, catastrophe losses have exceeded expectations by 3.2% (of cumulative net earned premium over the period), reducing underwriting profits by $680 million. Is it any wonder property catastrophe prices are rising dramatically everywhere? Inflationary pressures are clearly not helping the situation either.
For the 15th consecutive year, Odyssey Group recorded favorable reserve development with releases benefiting our combined ratio by 1% in 2022. It should come as no surprise that accident years 2015 to 2019 are not developing favorably for many long tail classes, which explains why reserve releases have ebbed in recent years. Nevertheless, we continue to carry a prudent reserve buffer relative to actuarial best estimate. Our claims and actuarial teams work collaboratively to ensure we tackle reserving issues quickly. Our reserving strategy is simple: we react to bad news early and good news late. This has been instrumental to our underwriting success.
Giving back to the communities where we live and work is core to Odyssey’s mission. When we do well, we want to help those most in need. We had historically set aside 1% of pre-tax earnings for charitable purposes and raised this to 2% in 2022. Since its formation in 2007, the Odyssey Group Foundation has pledged $70 million supporting more than 450 charities around the world. I’m happy to report that we donated $2.7 million to 42 worthy causes in 2022. For more details about our charitable endeavors, please refer to the Giving Back section of this report.
As always, we are eternally grateful to our clients and business partners. We deeply value our trading relationships and will never waiver in our commitment to provide the best service we can to you at all times.
We have been proud members of the Fairfax family for 26 years. Prem Watsa is an inspiring leader who has built a fantastic business and winning culture. We’re blessed to be part of this great organization and can’t thank Prem, Andy Barnard, Peter Clarke and the rest of the Fairfax team enough for their unwavering support.
Recently, it was announced that I would be taking on additional responsibilities assisting Andy Barnard in the management oversight of other Fairfax (re)insurance subsidiaries. I look forward to continuing to lead Odyssey Group, but, as I get more involved with Fairfax, we will be elevating Carl Overy into a new role leading OdysseyRe’s global reinsurance business. At the same time, Bob Pollock will move from a senior underwriting role in our North American Reinsurance division to replace Carl as the head of the London Market Division of Odyssey. Carl has been with Odyssey for 21 years and Bob for 18. We cherish the culture we’ve built and what better way to preserve it than by promoting from within with individuals who have devoted their careers to us. Please join me in congratulating Carl and Bob in their new leadership roles.
My Odyssey journey began more than 26 years ago, and it would be fair to say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I work with great people who care deeply about the Company and each other. So, to all of my 1,340 Odyssey colleagues, I say thank you for your dedicated service and congratulations on another great year. For more than a quarter century, we have proven we can rise to any challenge and be successful in any market. We’ve never been better prepared for what the future brings, and I have no doubt the best is yet to come.
Brian D. Young
President & Chief Executive Officer