Austrian history is steeped in music, art and an insurance market that dates back to the middle ages when organisations such as mine workers displayed collection boxes into which the "box penny" was paid voluntarily to cover the eventuality of accidents.

I spoke to Axco's specialist researcher after his visit to Vienna in February to learn what's happening in the country at the moment.

WHAT WAS THE MARKET'S MOST PRESSING TOPIC DURING YOUR VISIT?

Vienna escaped the worst of the January’s heavy snow that mainly affected areas in the west of Austria. Weather played heavily on the minds of the market’s non-life insurers based there, given some of the amounts mentioned ran into a couple of hundred euros. While the full extent of any insured losses won’t be known before the end of this month, it is generally thought they will not be as bad as back in 2006.

WHAT HAS AFFECTED MARKET PERFORMANCE?

2018 was another year characterized by natural perils claims, from drought and intermittent heavy rainfall. The Austrian market tends not to see very big fire claims but 2018 saw one of over USD 150mn. The risk was, however, placed with a panel of multinational insurers so the local market was not really affected.  Overall, the market remains buoyant with the full year again showing good profits. According to early figures, non-life insurance premium (excluding healthcare) was EUR 9.5bn (USD 10.55bn), an increase of 3.5%. The market is expected to show similar growth in 2019, more or less in line with the economy.

WAS THERE ANY TALK OF BREXIT?

The Austrian market has generally had little involvement with the London Market, but it was reported that whatever business was placed in the London Market has been almost totally switched to EU markets after some pressure from the supervisory authority.

ARE THERE ANY LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS ABOUT THE COUNTRY'S INSURANCE MARKET? 

Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, Austrian insurance companies have sought to expand their activities eastward. In 2019, Austrian insurance groups are involved in 27 foreign markets, with key markets Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, where companies hold substantial market shares. Another feature is that while the numbers have declined, the market still sees some very long-term contracts, up to 10 years. These are most common for householders or other private lines like legal expenses but can be found in respect of commercial risks, particularly in the provinces where insureds have enjoyed close relationships with local insurers.

WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT VIENNA?

'The Third Man' is one of my favourite films. I always take the opportunity to check out some of the locations where it was shot – post-war Vienna was very much one of the stars of the movie. An underground tour of the sewers where the last scenes of the film are set is highly recommended!