Category Archives: Insurers and the Economy

Charlotte Unrest and Business Insurance

Ongoing civil unrest and protests in Charlotte, North Carolina following the police shooting of Keith Scott are reported to have caused significant property damage to businesses in the central area of the city.

The Charlotte Observer reports that entertainment complex EpiCentre faced looting and sustained significant damage Wednesday night. Numerous businesses were damaged, including Sundries EpiCentre, CVS, Enso and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse, it said.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame was among other sites hit by vandals, with adjacent restaurants and hotels also damaged after officials declared a state of emergency for the city.

As clean-up gets underway it’s important to note that most commercial insurance policies generally include coverage for losses caused by riots. civil commotions and fires.

The definition of rioting covers looting by people who steal merchandise or other property from a premises. Vandalism is also covered.

According to The Charlotte Observer, a possible curfew for Thursday night is being discussed by city officials.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) notes that if a business has to suspend operations or limit hours due to rioting, business interruption coverage is only covered if there is direct physical damage to the premises, forcing a business to suspend operations.

A “civil authority provision” in a business policy provides coverage for lost income and extra expenses in the event the police or fire department bars access to a specific area as a result of the danger caused by a riot or civil commotion.

In April 2015, looting and arson in Baltimore, Maryland, following the funeral for Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old who died after suffering a severe spinal cord injury while in police custody, resulted in estimated property damage of about $24 million, according to the I.I.I..

Five of the costliest civil disorders in the U.S. occurred in the 1960s. Here’s they are:

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Growth Potential of Sharing Economy, and Insurance

If, like me, you’ve taken a ride to the airport with Uber, or looked into renting a holiday home via Airbnb, did you take a moment to think about your insurance coverage?

If the answer to that question is “no,” you’re not alone.

A recent public opinion survey from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that 56 percent of all adult Americans who said they have participated in the sharing economy indicated that they did not consider their insurance coverage at the time.

This is despite the fact that more than half of all respondents said that the sharing economy exposes the general population to increased risk.

Some 71 percent of respondents to the same survey reported little familiarity with the sharing economy, with 46 percent saying they were “not at all familiar” with the sharing economy, while 25 percent reported being “not too familiar.”

Survey respondents gave numerous reasons for not participating in the sharing economy. Unfamiliarity was cited most frequently (65 percent), while lack of need was cited by 60 percent and lack of interest by 54 percent.

However, a lack of insurance was the least cited reason for not participating.

Elizabeth Sprinkel, senior vice president of the IRC, noted:

“The substantial number of people with little experience or familiarity with the sharing economy suggests tremendous growth potential in the years ahead.”

And for insurers, too, we would add.

Check out a recent Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) presentation on the role of insurance in the sharing economy.

Other I.I.I. resources include information on car sharing and peer-to-peer car rental insurance as well as peer-to-peer home rental and homeowners insurance.

The IRC report, The Sharing Economy: Public Participation and Views, presents findings from an online survey conducted by GfK Public Affairs & Corporate Communications on behalf of the IRC.

A total of 1,105 online interviews were conducted for the study, using a sample drawn from GfK’s Knowledge Panel. Survey data were weighted to the U.S. population of adults aged 18 and above.

Billion-Dollar Insured Disaster Events Add Up

The first half of 2016 saw at least six individual billion-dollar insured disaster events globally, three of which occurred in the United States, according to Aon Benfield’s Global Catastrophe Recap: First Half of 2016.

Four of these events crossed the multi-billion dollar threshold ($2 billion and greater).

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As seen in the chart above the most costly event was a series of earthquakes that struck Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture in April with total insured losses—including losses due to physical damage and business interruption—expected to total in excess of $5 billion.

Other major loss events in the first half included:

—the late May and early June flooding and severe weather (Storm Elvira) in Europe ($3.4 billion insured losses);

—the Fort McMurray wildfire ($3.2 billion insured losses);

—the April 10-15 severe convective storm outbreak in the central United States ($3.2 billion insured losses).

Aon Benfield notes that all of the estimates from both public and private insurers are subject to revision as losses are further developed.

A deeper dive into the data reveals that there were at least 14 events that minimally cost insurers $500 million in the first half of 2016, eight of which were recorded in the U.S. and were all severe convective storm or flood-related.

Globally, public and private insurers endured an elevated level of disaster losses—$30 billion—during the first half of 2016, some 60 percent higher than the $19 billion sustained in 2015. The U.S. sustained the highest level of insurable losses at $14 billion.

The aggregated $30 billion was only the third time on record that first and second quarter losses reached that threshold—even after adjusting for inflation to today’s dollars, Aon Benfield said.

Check out Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on global catastrophes here.

Thunderstorms Most Costly U.S. Nat Cat in H1 2016

Severe thunderstorms accounted for the lion’s share of U.S. natural disaster losses in the first half of 2016, according to Munich Re.

Of the $17 billion in U.S. economic losses ($11 billion insured) caused by natural catastrophes in the first half of 2016, some $12.3 billion ($8.8 billion insured) were due to a series of storms in Texas and neighboring states, including destructive hailstorms in Dallas and San Antonio, and severe flooding in the Houston metro area.

Winter storms and cold waves were the next most costly U.S. peril in the first half causing insured losses of $1.5 billion, followed by flood and flash flood events with $1 billion in insured losses.

Wildfire, heatwaves and drought resulted in minor insured losses, and there were no losses due to earthquake or tropical cyclones in the first half, according to Munich Re’s Nat Cat Update.

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Weather extremes in Texas and other southern states are symptomatic of an El Niño phase, which intensifies the subtropical jet stream, which can cause an increase in severe storms in the region, Munich Re said.

Further north, El Niño conditions also caused warm and dry conditions in Alaska and western Canada, helping to trigger the worst wildfire in Canadian history. Direct losses from these fires totaled $3.6 billion, of which $2.7 billion were insured.

The Fort McMurray fire has been declared the costliest natural catastrophe event in Canada’s history.

One beneficial aspect of El Niño conditions is that it tends to reduce springtime tornado activity over the southern Great Plains. While the year’s thunderstorm season got off to an early start, the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas have all seen about 50 percent fewer tornadoes this year than in the first half of 2015, Munich Re observed.

Nationally, the number of observed tornadoes was about 700 by the end of June, significantly below the average of 1,021 for the last 10 years.

Tony Kuczinski, president and CEO of Munich Re America, Inc, noted that homes and businesses incur the brunt of thunderstorm losses.

“Property damage from this spring’s thunderstorm season remind us that a roof is a building’s first line of defense against hail and wind events. Proper roof maintenance, roofing materials and installation are all critical to helping reduce these types of losses.”

To help homeowners build safer, stronger structures in the face of increasing severe weather events, Munich Re and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recently launchd an app that walks homeowners, contractors and architects through the home strengthening process.

FORTIFIED HomeTM On the Go can be downloaded free from the iTunes Store.

U.S. natural catastrophes accounted for almost one quarter of worldwide economic losses in the first half of 2016, and about 58 percent of global insured losses.

June Flood Losses Highlight Insurance Protection Gap

The economic cost of flood losses worldwide in June will exceed $5 billion, though the insured loss portion will be significantly less, according to Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap.

Impact Forecasting, the cat modeling center of Aon Benfield, reports that major June floods highlighted by China and U.S. events, saw the global economic toll mount.

Seasonal “Mei-Yu” monsoon rains led to multiple rounds of significant flooding across central and southern parts of China throughout June, resulting in more than 130 fatalities.

The most damaging floods occurred in the Yangtze River basin as rivers and tributaries overflowed their banks and minimally inundated 200,000 homes. Beyond property damage, there were substantial impacts to the agricultural sector.

Impact Forecasting said:

“Total aggregated economic losses were estimated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs at upwards of CNY29 billion (USD4.4 billion). Given low penetration levels, the insured loss portion was only a small fraction of the overall damage cost.”

Exceptional rainfall in the U.S. state of West Virginia also led to catastrophic flooding in several counties. The federal government declared a disaster after major damage occurred in Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Monroe, Nicholas, Roane, and Summers counties, As many as 5,500 homes and 125 businesses were damaged or destroyed.

“Total economic losses were anticipated to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The insured loss portion of the loss was expected to be less given rather low up-take in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).”

Additional major flood events in the month of June occurred in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Ghana, according to the report.

The gap between economic and insured losses for both major flood events in China and the U.S. illustrates the need for greater insurance penetration around the globe.

A 2015 Swiss Re report estimated the current annual disaster protection gap between insured and total losses at around $153 billion, assuming an average catastrophe loss year.

In absolute terms, the U.S., Japan and China account for more than half that amount, with a combined annual shortfall of $81 billion, Swiss Re said.

A 2015 poll by the Insurance Information Institute found that 14 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy. This percentage has been at about the same level every year since 2009.

Global Insured Disaster Losses in May: $7 billion and Counting

At least $7 billion—that’s how much global disasters and severe weather are expected to cost insurers and reinsurers in May.

Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap Report notes that the Fort McMurray wildfire in Alberta, Canada, will become the costliest disaster in the country’s history.

Insured losses—including physical damage and business interruption—are expected to be in excess of $3.1 billion, while total economic losses will be well into the billions of dollars.

The fire charred more than 580,000 hectares (1.43 million acres) of land and destroyed at least 10 percent of Fort McMurray, including more than 2,400 homes and other structures.

Remarkably, no direct casualties were reported from the event as it prompted the largest evacuation in the history of Alberta.

Adam Podlaha, global head of Impact Forecasting, says:

“The severity of wildfire damage in Fort McMurray is an unfortunate reminder of how significant insurable losses can be from the peril.”

And:

“Since this is just the sixth individual global wildfire to surpass the billion-dollar threshold for insurers, there is not a lot of precedent for a fire event of this magnitude.”

Check out Insurance Information Institute wildfire facts and statistics here.

Elsewhere, severe weather and flooding in Europe where the storm ‘Elvira’ swept across parts of northern Europe between late May and early June caused most damage in Germany, France, Austria, Poland and Belgium, where floods impacted many major metro regions, including Paris.

Preliminary estimates from industry associations in France (MAIF) and Germany (GDV) put the estimated combined minimum claims payouts at in excess of $2.3 billion, while overall economic damage is tentatively estimated at $4.6 billion.

May also saw no fewer than five outbreaks of severe convective storms in the United States, affecting parts of the Plains, Midwest, and Mississippi Valley. Storm-related flooding also caused major damage in parts of Texas.

Total aggregated insured losses were estimated at over $1 billion, Aon’s Impact Forecasting unit said.

Meanwhile, Cyclone Roanu brought torrential rain to Sri Lanka, eastern India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and China during May, damaging or destroying nearly 125,000 homes and structures across all five countries. Estimated reconstruction costs were put at $1.7 billion, though insured losses are substantially less due to low insurance penetration.

Even after all that, May was not done, with other notable natural hazard events around the globe, including:

—Five separate instances of flooding impacted China as aggregated economic losses topped $1.5 billion. Most of the damage was attributed to agricultural interests.

—Other major flood and landslide events in May were reported in parts of Hispaniola, Kenya, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Ethiopia, India and Yemen.

—Tropical Storm Bonnie brought heavy rainfall to portions of the Carolinas and Georgia in the United States at the end of May and into June. Total economic losses were expected to be minimal.

—Earthquakes in Ecuador and China caused damages to thousands of homes and a winter weather outbreak in northern China caused damage to crops totaling $61 million.

P/C Industry Resilient Even in Face of Disaster

The property/casualty insurance industry is, and will remain, extremely well capitalized and financially prepared to pay very large scale losses in 2016 and beyond, according to Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) president Dr. Robert Hartwig and chief economist Dr. Steven Weisbart.

In their commentary on the industry’s 2015 year end results, Drs. Hartwig and Weisbart note that overall industry capacity remains near an all-time record high.

“Overall industry capacity (policyholder surplus) slipped slightly to $673.7 billion as of December 31, 2015, but was still extraordinarily strong, as measured by a premium-to-surplus ratio of 0.76—virtually the strongest it has ever been.”

They go on:

“Thanks to a surging stock market until 2015, policyholders’ surplus has generally continued to increase with the end of the Great Recession and three consecutive years without large-scale catastrophe losses. But the lack of stock gains in 2015 ended (or at least stalled) this trend.”

At $673.7 billion as of December 31, 2015, policyholders’ surplus was down $1.5 billion or 0.23 percent from year-end 2014.

The bottom line is that the industry is extremely well-capitalized, even in the face of disaster.

As the I.I.I. reports:

“The fact that the P/C industry was able to rapidly and fully recoup its losses to surplus even in the event of disasters like superstorm Sandy (which produced $18.8 billion in insured losses in 2012) is continued evidence of its remarkable resilience in the face of extreme adversity.”

Other takeaways of the industry’s 2015 year end results: moderate profits in 2015, as measured by a return on average surplus of 8.4 percent, virtually the same as in 2014; modest premium growth (net written premiums in 2015 crossed the half-trillion-dollar mark to $514.0 billion, although the rate of increase slipped slightly to 3.4 percent growth from 4.2 percent in 2014); and a below-100 combined ratio for the fourth straight year (97.8 in 2015, compared with 97.0 in 2014).

The industry results were released by ISO, a Verisk Analytics company, and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

Tianjin: A Reminder of Insurance Need in Developing Countries

The explosions at the Port of Tianjin, China could ultimately become one of the largest man-made insurance loss events worldwide ever recorded, according to Swiss Re sigma.

Based on Swiss Re’s latest estimates, the total insured property loss of the Tianjin explosions is likely to be around USD 2.5 billion to USD 3.5 billion, making it the largest man-made insured loss event in Asia ever recorded.

Tianjin currently ranks as the third largest man-made insured global loss (in 2015 dollars), behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and the 1988 Piper Alpha oil rig disaster.

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The Tianjin experience highlights the new potential risks facing developing countries with rapidly-developing economies, according to the latest sigma study.

2015 was the third year in a row that the biggest man-made loss globally originated from an emerging market, a reminder of the importance of insurance for developing countries, sigma says.

“The event shows the large loss potential in a country like China, with a fast-growing economy. If further evidence is needed, in 2013 a fire at a major high-tech semiconductor plant in Wuxi, also in China, caused insured losses of USD 0.9 billion.”

Financial protection through insurance is key to restoring business operations and recouping losses, sigma notes.

Accurate assessment of exposures, appropriate coverage terms and adequate pricing are likewise crucial:

“For re/insurers, they need to actively identify monitor and manage exposures in hazard zones and in areas with high asset-value concentrations.”

The complexities of the Tianjin loss have challenged re/insurers, and highlighted the accumulation of risks that can arise from a single large-scale industrial catastrophe event.

While destroyed and damaged vehicles account for most of the Tianjin losses, uncertainties remain as to the types of insurance policies involved.

Property and cargo present major risk accumulation factors in ports, especially in big centers like Tianjin, sigma observes.

The Insurance Information Institute has useful facts and statistics on man-made disasters here.

How Falling Oil Prices Affect Energy Losses

Is there a connection between falling oil prices and insurance claims?

This question is tackled by broker Marsh in a just-released research report: Can Energy Firms Break the Historical Nexus Between Oil Price Falls and Large Losses?

According to Marsh, insured losses in the global upstream energy sector reached a peak in the 1980s, shortly after the price of Brent crude oil fell from $35 to $15 per barrel.

In the late 1990s, this cycle occurred again when the price fell below $10 per barrel and again in the years following the 2008 slump, when the price fell from more than $100 to $32 per barrel.

When oil prices fall, companies face less revenue and more strain on budgets. Already, Marsh notes that oil and gas companies have been canceling projects and making staffing reductions.

But there are other potential cuts that are harder to quantify such as cuts in maintenance, health and safety measures, and employee training.

Cost-cutting decisions such as these appear to have led to increased losses in the past, according to the Marsh report:

Based on past experience, when this pullback in funding occurs, if it hasn’t already, we would expect to see an increase in losses soon after.”

Here’s the chart showing the link between oil prices and insurance claims:

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Despite falling revenues, Marsh urges energy firms to maintain their investment in risk management to reduce the potential for future major incidents and insurance claims.

Marsh also suggests that now is the time for energy firms to take advantage of lower prices in a benign insurance market to push for increased protection in uncertain times.

With the cost of insurance capital at historic lows, the opportunity clearly exists for companies to access cheap sources of capital from the insurance markets, reduce overall insurance premium costs, purchase insurance in areas that were previously omitted due to cost, and renegotiate coverage terms.”