In light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we have taken the necessary steps to provide for the safety of our employees, members, brokers and business partners.
This week, we activated our established business continuity plans to ensure that we deliver the same high level of service you expect from your mutual. On Monday, our AEGIS and AEGIS London staff transitioned smoothly to a remote work environment.
Despite the current economic turmoil, I want to assure you that AEGIS is in a strong financial position. As you will read in our upcoming 2019 annual report, gross written premiums exceeded $1.8 billion, up $248 million over 2018. Of this, the mutual itself saw premiums grow by $128 million, and they exceeded the $1 billion mark for the first time.
This premium growth was driven in part by the 2019 insurance capacity crisis for liability and property risks. Many of you saw your insurance programs disrupted when commercial insurers decreased available limits or exited the market entirely. AEGIS stepped up in both Excess Liability and Property, deploying expanded limits while the commercial market constricted. This is exactly why the mutual was founded in 1975 – to serve members when the commercial insurers exit.
Our surplus, the net assets available over and above member policy obligations, increased to $1.78 billion by year-end, which is an all-time high and an increase of $140 million, or 8%, versus 2018. This increase adds even more support to our 'A' Excellent rating from AM Best and gives AEGIS more financial stability and resilience to withstand any financial shocks from underwriting losses or investment declines. In addition, we have long taken a conservative approach to our investment portfolio, with a minimal allocation to equities, which has and will continue to serve us well during periods of market volatility.
We stand ready to serve our members during these turbulent times with our consistent and transparent underwriting approach and our collaborative claims paying, which are supported as always by our financial strength and stability.
Thank you for your continued support. Together, I know we will all come through this stronger than ever.
William P. Cullen
President & CEO