Richard Brindle, Group Chief Executive Officer, commented:
"I am pleased to report a strong close to an exciting year in Lancashire's history. RoE of 3.7% for the quarter and 18.9% for the full year are good results. The special dividend we have announced today reinforces our pledge that our commitment to capital management has not changed. But for Lancashire, 2013 has seen the most dramatic changes in our history. We have broadened our platforms, our core portfolio lines and our reinsurance purchasing capabilities, but without compromising our business model or our focus on underwriting.
There is a lot of gloom about the state of the market. But there is some truth in the old view that good underwriters prefer a soft market. In a hard market the benefits of superior risk selection and a focus on risk-adjusted return are cancelled out by the broad spread of strong pricing. In a soft market the strong underwriting franchises differentiate themselves. We can select the right clients and attachment points in a programme. We have a solid core portfolio but have the discipline to let go of under-priced, opportunistic business. And through the judicious use of reinsurance we can improve the risk-adjusted portfolio returns even when pricing is under pressure.
So whilst it might be an exaggeration to say that we relish the prospect of the coming year, we don't mind hard work, and we think our business model has evolved to cope very well with the softening market. And let's remember that although rates are undoubtedly coming down, they're doing so from what are historically high levels in much of our business.
There are also signs that the panic that affected some commentators who foresaw decimation of the traditional markets was overdone. Many of our clients understand the value of the superior policy features offered by traditional markets like reinstatements and multi-year capacity. They know that relationships are based on an understanding that claims are often a process of negotiation based on detailed policy understanding, which goes beyond the ability to model an output.
So for much of the portfolio there are real barriers to entry, based on product design which make rated capital a better fit for the client. But even in U.S. catastrophe reinsurance, where alternative capital has made the most inroads, it's not all one way traffic. For example, if we look at Cathedral's U.S. mutual portfolio where John Hamblin and Nick Destro's client relationships stretch back as far as twenty years, the penetration of alternative capital is close to, if not actually, zero.
Our own permanent vehicle for third party capital, Kinesis, has made a good start deploying over $252 million of limit at 1 January 2014. Darren Redhead's team has developed a bespoke product combining risk and catastrophe exposures, that offers real benefits to clients on tail risk mitigation. In addition, Lancashire Insurance Company Limited ("LICL") and Lancashire Insurance Company (UK) Limited ("LUK") continue to find new business opportunities such as energy liability, terrorism and obligors to complement the solid core portfolios in offshore energy, aviation and marine.
So we don't share the gloomy outlook. With our three platforms comprising our permanent reinsurance asset management business in Kinesis, our top-performing Lloyd's business in Cathedral and our leading specialist insurance and reinsurance businesses in Lancashire, together with our sound business model and outstanding team, we believe that we can navigate a course through this market, and indeed the next hard market when that comes."