Understanding Runoff Insurance and How It Works

Understanding Runoff Insurance and How It Works

Last Updated on by Daniel Lawrence

Insurance is a vital component of modern life. Whether it’s protecting our homes, vehicles, or businesses, insurance provides us with a safety net in times of uncertainty. However, what happens when an insurance company decides to close its doors or discontinue a specific line of business? This is where runoff insurance comes into play. In this blog post, we’ll explore the concept of runoff insurance and how it works to protect policyholders and insurers alike.

What Is Runoff Insurance?

Runoff insurance, also known as legacy insurance or discontinued business insurance, is a specialized type of insurance that covers liabilities associated with policies or claims that have expired, been canceled, or are no longer actively underwritten by an insurer. It’s typically used by insurance companies to manage and transfer their long-term obligations when they want to exit a particular line of business or when they are winding down their operations.

Key Elements of Runoff Insurance

Runoff Insurance

  1. Policy Liabilities: Runoff insurance deals with existing policy liabilities, which are the obligations that an insurer has to its policyholders. These obligations may include settling claims, paying out benefits, or providing ongoing coverage for long-tail risks.
  2. Closed Blocks of Business: Insurers often transfer closed blocks of business to runoff entities. A closed block refers to a specific set of policies or business lines that the insurer has decided to discontinue. These may include policies for asbestos claims, environmental liabilities, or long-tail risks like medical malpractice.
  3. Transfer of Risk: Through runoff insurance, the insurer can transfer the risk associated with these closed blocks of business to a separate entity that specializes in managing these liabilities. This allows the primary insurer to free up capital, reduce administrative costs, and focus on their ongoing lines of business.

How Runoff Insurance Works

Here’s a simplified step-by-step process of how runoff insurance works:

  1. Assessment: The insurer evaluates its portfolio of policies and identifies the closed blocks of business that need to be managed through runoff insurance. This is often done with the help of actuaries and risk analysts.
  2. Setting Up a Runoff Entity: The insurer may establish a separate legal entity, often called a runoff company, to manage the closed blocks of business. This entity is responsible for handling claims, paying out benefits, and managing the ongoing liabilities.
  3. Transfer of Liabilities: The primary insurer transfers the liabilities associated with the closed blocks of business to the runoff entity. This transfer includes the financial reserves required to cover expected future payments.
  4. Runoff Management: The runoff entity is responsible for managing the policies and claims. This includes settling claims, collecting premiums, and ensuring that policyholders continue to receive the coverage they were promised.
  5. Reporting and Compliance: The runoff entity must comply with regulatory requirements and provide regular reports to both the primary insurer and relevant authorities to ensure transparency and accountability.

Benefits of Runoff Insurance

  1. Capital Efficiency: Runoff insurance allows primary insurers to free up capital that was previously held as reserves for the closed blocks of business. This capital can then be reinvested in more profitable lines of business or used for other strategic purposes.
  2. Risk Transfer: By transferring the liabilities to a runoff entity, the primary insurer reduces its exposure to the risks associated with the closed blocks, thereby improving its financial stability.
  3. Expertise: Runoff entities are often specialists in managing long-tail liabilities. They have the experience and expertise needed to handle complex claims and policies efficiently.
  4. Policyholder Protection: Policyholders are still protected, and their claims will be paid even if the primary insurer discontinues a line of business. Runoff insurance ensures that their rights are safeguarded.


Runoff insurance is a crucial mechanism that helps insurance companies manage and transfer their long-term obligations, allowing them to focus on their core business operations and free up capital. It’s a win-win situation for both insurers and policyholders, ensuring that claims are paid, while insurers can optimize their financial resources and risk exposure. Understanding the concept of runoff insurance is essential for anyone involved in the insurance industry, as it’s a strategic tool that plays a significant role in managing financial and operational risks.