Fitch Ratings : occupation not a proxy for gender in UK motor insurance

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    The AA British Insurance Premium Index released this week suggests insurers are putting more weight on factors other than gender, including occupation, now that they are prohibited from using gender as one of the factors to determine the price of premiums. An individual’s occupation provides an insurer with insight into the likely driving habits, lifestyle and hence potential risk of a prospective policyholder. This makes it a valid and valuable factor for motor underwriters, Fitch Ratings says.

    Insurers have historically used occupation as part of the underwriting process. A 2011 pre-EU Gender Ruling survey conducted by suggests that occupation was not used as a proxy for gender in the past. The survey listed pilots of harbour ships being quoted lower premiums than state-enrolled nurses, even though traditionally ship piloting has been a male dominated industry while nursing has been a female dominated industry.

    The same survey listed mobile disco owners as paying the highest insurance premiums. These individuals are most likely to be driving late at night or early in the morning, the period that is statistically proven to have the highest proportion of fatal accidents.

    The recent AA survey showed the premiums for young (17-22 years old) male drivers were roughly static while premiums for young women increased by about 12%, a result we would have expected from the gender ruling. In general, premiums for men of all age groups fell, while premiums for women under 30 increased. The recent general fall in premiums for the market as a whole is more related to long-run pricing trends within the UK personal motor market than the gender ruling.

    Over a longer period, the AA survey indicates that premiums for the 17-22 age group have roughly doubled since January 2010, with substantial increases affecting all age categories over the same period. During this time, insurers have raised prices to restore underwriting profitability, in response to a steep rise in claims costs from fraudulent and bodily injury claims, which the industry continues to seek to control more tightly.

    Occupation though has several shortfalls as a rating factor and therefore needs to be supplemented with other factors, such as postcode, age and driving experience. Postcode is a good indicator of the likelihood of vehicle crime and accident rates, given that a high proportion of accidents happen within five miles of the person’s home.

    The best predictor of an individual’s likelihood of claiming remains their personal driving history. The length of time since a claim or accident is likely to remain the best way of judging a person’s driving history, until black boxes for cars become cheaper and more ubiquitous. Black boxes can be wired in to a car to provide data on speed, braking and driving style to the insurer.