Category Archives: Risk Management

Behavioral economics and the claims management process

How might behavioral economics apply to the claims management process? Maria Sassian, research manager at the I.I.I., investigates:

A recent edition of Gen Re’s Claims Focus contains a fascinating article that explains some of the key principles of behavioral economics (BE) and demonstrates their application to claims management.

BE theory asserts that individuals make irrational decisions due to cognitive biases they are not aware of. These biases are so common that Dan Ariely coined the term ‘predictably irrational.’  BE has been a hot topic in insurance for some time and interest in it is not fading.

Clio Lawrence, the author of the article, studied a group of self-employed income protection insurance policyholders in the UK. Several BE principles were applied throughout the claims process. She concludes: “While our observations and investigations are ongoing, the anecdotal evidence and feedback has so far supported a link between the application of BE principles and claims outcomes. “

High rise fire risk in Asia

Insurance Information Institute research assistant Brent Carris authors today’s post:

In Gen Re’s Property Matters series, Tom Qiu reports that with the super high rise (SHR) construction rate growing each year, there is potential for large scale loss of life and significant property/casualty claims.

Per the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH) Year in Review: Asia recorded 107 of the 128, or 84% of the completed high rise constructions for 2016. China alone, accounted for 84 (67%) of the global total.

Incidents like the Grenfell Tower fire this year in London (see our prior post) and Address Downtown hotel fire of 2015 in Dubai, remind us of the fire risk and resulting huge claims surrounding high rises.

In order to properly rate SHR buildings, underwriters must carefully assess technical survey reports along with visual inspections. In addition to underwriting risks, claims management can be very difficult due to the numerous types of policies involved in a SHR building fire.

Private market flood insurance is cheaper in many cases

Alongside the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a thriving private flood insurance market would provide wider and in many cases cheaper coverage options, according to a new study.

Consulting firm Milliman, in partnership with risk modeler KatRisk, looked at three states – Florida, Texas, and Louisiana – which combined account for 56 percent of NFIP insurance policies in-force nationwide.

Its analysis compared modeled private flood insurance premiums to those of the NFIP.

Key findings:

  • Some 77 percent of single-family homes in Florida, 69 percent in Louisiana, and 92 percent in Texas could see cheaper premiums with private insurance than with the NFIP.
  • Of the homes modeled, 44 percent in Florida, 42 percent in Louisiana and 70 percent in Texas, could see premiums that are less than one-fifth that of the NFIP.
  • Conversely, private insurance would cost over twice the NFIP premiums for 14 percent of single-family homes in Florida, 21 percent in Louisiana and 5 percent in Texas.

prior post discussed how private carriers are dipping their toes in the flood insurance market.

Private Market Flood Insurance Is Budding

Private carriers are dipping their toes in the turbulent waters of flood insurance, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) research manager Maria Sassian.

This year, for the first time, insurers were required to report in their annual statements data on private flood insurance.

I.I.I. has compiled a list of top insurers in the market by 2016 direct premiums written, based on data from S&P Global Market Intelligence:

As you can see, the top three companies hold almost 81 percent of the market share, and at number one FM Global has a 54 percent market share. Direct premiums written for all companies total $376 million.

Private flood includes both commercial and private residential coverage, primarily first-dollar standalone policies that cover the flood peril and excess flood. It excludes sewer/water backup and the crop flood peril.

Some of the reasons private insurers are becoming more comfortable covering flood risk include: improved flood mapping technology; improved flood modeling; the construction of flood resistant buildings; and encouragement from Congress.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is billions of dollars in debt due to large losses from Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Superstorm Sandy. Opening the market to private insurers is one of several measures enacted by lawmakers to get the program out of debt.

Another step in shoring up the NFIP took place with the January 2017 transfer of over $1 billion in financial risk to private reinsurers. FEMA gained the authority to secure reinsurance from the private reinsurance and capital markets through the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 and the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 (HFIAA).

Minimizing Human Error At The Oscars

One week since we were left scratching our heads following the botched best picture announcement at the 89th Academy Awards ceremony, the liability ripples from an apparent act of human error continue to spread.

Just to recap: the mix-up occurred after a PricewaterhouseCoopers partner mistakenly handed presenter Warren Beatty the wrong envelope for the best picture award.

As the LA Times reported early on, the mistake instantly turned into a public relations nightmare for the accounting firm which has handled the balloting process for the Academy Awards for 83 years.

For its part, PwC quickly moved to mitigate damage to its brand, issuing an apology and accepting full responsibility for the mixup.

Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz, the two PwC partners involved, have been permanently removed from all Academy activities. PwC said the partners did not follow through protocols for correcting the error quickly enough.

Whether or not the Academy will terminate its contract with PwC, industry lawyers say there are a number of potential liability issues that could arise, per this article by The Hollywood Reporter.

Others say public perception and doubts about PwC’s expertise could be a costly risk factor going forward.

As the fallout continues, the two PwC accountants involved now need security protection due to the public backlash.

While this human error did not happen in the process of crunching the numbers, it does highlight how important it is for businesses to manage their professional liability risks.

Insurers have developed professional liability policies to meet the unique needs of a wide range of industries. Crisis response and helping businesses to protect their reputation are among the services insurers provide.

Insurers Innovating To Prevent Driver Distraction

The distracted driving epidemic, and its impact on highway accidents and the cost of auto insurance, continues to be all over the news.

A 2016 underwriting loss of $7 billion for State Farm’s auto insurance business, announced earlier this week, prompted the latest wave of headlines (see Bloomberg report).

Smartphones and gadgets and screens installed in new cars are two major sources of distraction, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.

While technology is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution (see earlier T+C post). A number of insurers are already partnering with technology companies to offer solutions to prevent distracted driving.

Digital Insurance features some of the latest technologies introduced by insurers here. The list includes a distracted driving simulator brought into schools as part of Arbella Insurance’s Distractology program, as well as apps that integrate with usage-based insurance programs to curb distracted driving (see here and here).

An Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) white paper on how more auto accidents and larger claims are driving costs higher is available here.

I.I.I. advice on how to keep your auto insurance affordable here.

What Does Private Market Flood Insurance Look Like?

In his second post from the Cat Risk Management 2017 conference, Insurance Information Institute chief actuary James Lynch discusses private market flood insurance options:

Florida has opened its market to private flood insurance, and there has been some activity in that area. Most plans have been National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) clones in that they mimic how the NFIP prices risk but introduce a lot of underwriting rules to try to avoid problem risks.

Other than mimicking the NFIP program, there are two alternative ways to price risk:

    • Develop a refined rating plan, which resembles (to me at least) a traditional classification plan. The company develops a base rate then credits and debits a risk based on factors like:
      • Elevation.
      • Relative elevation (whether a risk is higher or lower than the areas that immediately surround it).
      • Distance to coast.
      • Distance to river.
    • Use a sophisticated catastrophe model to price each risk individually. That approach is more precise, but it could be more difficult to pass regulatory approval.  (The model might be too much of a black box.) It could also be harder for agents to understand the model and explain it to clients.

Much of the industry long-term seems interested in how computer models can price flood risk, but most people recognize the challenges. A big one is how to build in the precision necessary.

Figuring out how far a property is from a river is easy. But it is hard to use Big Data techniques to determine something as simple as whether a property has a basement; let alone knowing the elevation of the lowest vulnerable point in a property. (Hint: It’s probably not the front threshold.)

Private Market Looks Closely At Flood Insurance

Almost all private insurers have shunned covering flood since the 1950s, but that could be changing fast, writes Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch:

At the Cat Risk Management 2017 conference I attended earlier this month, flood was the hottest topic. Here’s why:

  • Insurers have become increasingly comfortable with using sophisticated models to underwrite insurance risk, and modeling firms are getting better at predicting flood risk.
  • The federal government, which insures the vast majority of flood risk, is looking for ways to share the risk with private industry. Key reasons:
    • The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) owes the Treasury more than $20 billion (thanks to flooding from Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy). It has no practical way to pay that back, and the government has made it clear that it doesn’t want to fund more losses. So the NFIP is purchasing private reinsurance. More on that below.
    • The number of people who lack flood insurance is distressingly high. I.I.I. surveys show that only about 12 percent of Americans have flood insurance. The government wants people to be protected, and encouraging a private flood insurance market could do that.

Here are some of my notes from #catrisk17 on flood insurance:

  • The NFIP reinsurance deal (effective January 1, 2017) means that reinsurance would reimburse NFIP for 26 percent of the losses from an event where losses exceed $4 billion. The maximum recovery is $1.046 billion, and the cost, according to my notes, is $150 million. (If you work in reinsurance it may be easier to think of the pricing this way: NFIP cedes 26 percent of the $4 billion excess $4 billion occurrence layer at a 14.3 percent rate on line.) There have only been a couple of floods that big in NFIP history (Hurricane Katrina and superstorm Sandy), so the cover is in place primarily to protect against storm surge. However, it would cover other major types of flood as well.
  • A significant obstacle to modeling flood risk is the fact that much of the most important data (underwriting and claims information) is in the federal government’s hands. The government wants to share the data responsibly, but its hands are tied by federal rules on sharing data about individuals. The rules are driven both by privacy concerns and cyber security laws. The government will likely be developing a certification process so that professionals could qualify to have access to the data on a limited basis.
  • A live poll found that flood modeling was the most important topic at the conference, cited by 56 percent of respondents – outpacing severe convective (thunder) storm models, cyber insurance models or terrorism models.

From Many Models, One Decision

Insurance Information Institute chief actuary James Lynch previews one of the most important conferences in the catastrophe modeling world.

I will be attending Cat Risk Management 2017 in Orlando next week, and the reason is as close as the weather forecast I’m looking at early Wednesday.

By now, the weather models have more or less converged: my own sliver of New Jersey is forecast to get about 6 inches of snow. The key word in that last sentence is models.

The many organizations that forecast the weather – the Weather Channel, Accuweather, Weather Underground, the National Weather Service – even the hearty jokester on your local station – use multiple models to predict sun, rain or snow.

The similarity to actuarial work is striking. Like an actuary, the weatherman hasn’t built the models but has to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each. And she has to make a single, certain prediction, yet couch that certainty within a pocket of doubt. The National Weather Service predicts 6.7 inches for my hometown: as much as 7 but as little as 3 (Editor’s Note: total snowfall 6.3 inches by Thursday evening).

Actuaries do that with your insurance policy – many uncertainties but one price. Of the many risks with which they must contend is how their portfolio of policies will perform under a catastrophe. Years ago this risk was estimated crudely – the old Casualty Actuarial Society exams included a section on the ISO Excess Wind calculation. Now catastrophe models do the job. And insurers need a lot of catastrophe models, which is what will be taking me to Orlando.

Next week’s conference is a cornucopia of cat models – hurricane models and wildfire models, earthquake and flood models. There is even discussion of how to coordinate the many models insurers must juggle. The conference, presented by the Reinsurance Association of America, is sold out; about 500 will attend.

I will be live-tweeting and will post a report. I.I.I. wants to draw attention to the importance of resilience – helping people understand that the best way to rebound from cataclysm is to prepare for it. Explaining how insurers do their part – in this case using models so that a policy’s price reflects its risk – helps everyone understand how much risk they must prepare for.

And I suppose, yes, will be good to visit balmy Florida after digging out from a half-foot of snow.

I.I.I.’s Facts and Statistics on global catastrophes gives a good idea of the scope of disasters that insurers protect against.

Cyberattacks Top Risk To Doing Business in North America

Cyberattacks are now the greatest risk to doing business in North America, according to the just-released World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Risks Report 2016.

In North America, which includes the United States and Canada, cyberattacks and asset bubbles were considered among the top risks of doing business in the region.

The WEF noted that in the United States, the top risk is cyberattack, followed by data fraud or theft (the latter ranks 7th in Canada, which is why it scores 50 percent in the table below).

The risks related to the internet and cyber dependency are considered to be of highest concern for doing business in the wake of recent important attacks on companies, the WEF observed.

WEF2016NorthAmericaTopRisks

On a global scale, cyberattack is perceived as the risk of highest concern in eight economies: Estonia, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States.

Public sector bodies in at least two of these countries have recently been disrupted by cyberattacks: the US Office of Personnel Management and the Japanese Pension service, the WEF noted.

Attempts to detect and address attacks are made harder by their constantly evolving nature, as perpetrators quickly find new ways of executing them. Businesses trying to match this speed in their development of prevention and response methods are sometimes constrained by a poor understanding of the risk, a lack of technical talent, and inadequate security capabilities.”

Defining clear roles and responsibilities for cyber risk within corporations is crucial, the WEF noted.

Who in the corporation is the actual owner of the risk? While there are many “C” level owners (CISO, CFO, CEO, CRO, Risk Management), each of these owners has differing but related interests and unfortunately often does not integrate risk or effectively collaborate on its management.”

Outdated laws and regulations also inhibit the ability of governments to capture criminals, but also to expedite the often lengthy procedure of implementing legal and regulatory frameworks to reflect evolving realities.

Check out the Insurance Information Institute’s latest report on cyber risks here.