Insurers and the Economy


How free are insurers to provide the insurance products consumers want?

That’s a key question that the R Street Institute’s Insurance Regulation Report Card seeks to answer.

And it’s a very good question.

In the fourth and latest edition of the report R Street observes that regulation, in some cases, may hinder the speed with which new products are brought to market:

We believe innovative new products could be more widespread if more states were to free their insurance markets by embracing regulatory modernization.”

R Street says the most recent illustration of this challenge is seen in the different approaches individual states have taken to enable the timely introduction of commercial and personal insurance policies to cover ridesharing.

A compromise model bill to govern insurance requirements for ridesharing was announced by major representatives of the insurance industry and the burgeoning transportation network companies in March 2015.

The legislation alleviated what had been a major source of interindustry friction, R Street notes.

The model requires that:

— liability insurance with limits of $1 million be in-force any time a driver either is actively transporting a customer or en route to pick up a fare.

— any other time the driver is logged in to the TNC service, he or she must have coverage with minimum liability limits of $50,000 per passenger, $100,000 per incident and $25,000 for physical damage liability.

R Street writes:

The model would permit coverage to be procured either by the driver or the TNC,  expressly stipulates that it may be provided by the surplus lines market, preserves insurers’ right to exclude coverage and encourages states to approve new products to cover this emerging risk.”

Signatories to the compromise include Allstate, the American Insurance Association, Farmers Insurance, Lyft, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, State Farm, Uber Technologies and USAA.

The report notes that in April 2015, Georgia became the first state to pass the compromise model ridesharing bill. The measure, H.B. 190, took effect January 1, 2016.

Have more questions? Check out the Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) Q&A on Ridesharing and Insurance.

An I.I.I. issues update on regulation modernization is available here.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election is one of the rising political risks facing businesses and investors in the year ahead, according to Marsh’s Political Risk Map 2016.

Terrorism and struggling emerging economies, such as China and Russia, are also among the growing political risks businesses face.

Marsh notes that the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California have intensified political rhetoric and brought foreign relations and defense policy topics to the forefront.

With polls showing national security to be a major concern for voters, foreign policy will remain a key theme on the campaign trail in 2016 — and will be top of mind for the next presidential administration.”

Marsh observes that in the last decade multinational organizations have undertaken unprecedented international expansion, leaving them exposed to global credit and political risks like never before.

And those risks—including terrorism and political violence, armed conflicts, increasingly powerful anti-establishment political movements, and persistently low commodity prices—continue to grow.

Against this backdrop, it’s critical for businesses to be prepared for the possibility that political violence, unrest, or other large- scale crises will quickly develop in virtually any part of the world — including those countries that were historically seen as safe or stable, Marsh says.

Companies can prepare for these risks by managing their credit risk, building resilient supply chains, protecting their people and by protecting their assets through insurance.

Marsh notes:

Credit and political risk insurance can protect against a variety of risks, including expropriation, political violence, currency inconvertibility, non-payment, and contract frustration.”

Marsh’s Political Risk Map 2016, with data and insight from BMI Research, presents country risk scores for more than 200 countries and territories, helping businesses and investors make smarter decisions about where and how to deploy financial resources—including risk capital—globally in 2016 and beyond.

Five of the seven individual billion-dollar insured loss natural disaster events in 2015 were recorded in the United States, according to Aon Benfield’s Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report.

The other two billion dollar events were recorded in Europe.

All of the events were weather-related and below the average of eight. The five events in the U.S. were equal to the 2000-2014 average.

Italy’s May 2012 earthquake was the last non-weather billion-dollar insured loss event.

The all-time record of 17 billion-dollar weather events was set in 2011.

The costliest individual insured loss event of the year was a prolonged stretch of heavy snow, freezing rain, ice, and frigid cold that impacted much of the eastern United States in February 2015. That event prompted an estimated $2.1 billion insured loss.

Other billion-dollar insured loss events in the U.S. included a severe thunderstorm outbreak in the U.S. in May and severe thunderstorms and flooding in December. Each of these events cost an estimated $1.4 billion in insured losses.

Another thunderstorm event in the U.S. in April cost $1.2 billion, while the yearlong drought in the West was another $1 billion insured loss event.

The two non-U.S. billion dollar insured loss events of 2015 consisted of the catastrophic December flooding in the UK that cost an estimated $1.3 billion, and European windstorms Mike and Niklas in March and April which resulted in an estimated insured loss of $1 billion.

CostliestInsuredCatLosses2015

Aon Benfield noted that on a global scale disasters caused insured losses of $35 billion in 2015, below the 15-year mean of $51 billion and 14 percent lower than the median ($40 billion).

This was the fourth consecutive year with declining catastrophe losses since the record-setting year in 2011.

The U.S. accounted for 60 percent of global insured disaster losses in 2015, reflecting the high rate of insurance penetration in the country, according to the report.

I.I.I. facts and statistics on U.S. catastrophes are available here.

Natural catastrophes made up the lion’s share of global insured disaster losses in 2015, but a man-made loss was the year’s costliest.

Preliminary estimates from Swiss Re sigma put insured losses from disaster events at $32 billion in 2015, of which $23 billion were triggered by natural catastrophes and $9 billion by man-made disasters.

The explosions at the Port of Tianjin, China in August are expected to lead to claims of at least $2 billion, making it the costliest event of the year and the biggest man-made insured loss in Asia ever, sigma said.

Some 173 people were killed and many more injured in the Tianjin explosions, which damaged and destroyed vehicles, shipping containers, production facilities and surrounding property.

The insured loss estimate is subject to a high degree of uncertainty due to the many different lines of business and coverage impacted, including potentially contingent business interruption, sigma noted.

An earlier report by Guy Carpenter has suggested potential losses of up to $3.3 billion resulting from the Tianjin explosions.

figure_1_2015prel

Insured losses from man-made disasters were up 30 percent in 2015 at $9 billion, from $7 billion in 2014, according to sigma.

However, at $23 billion natural catastrophe insured losses were below the annual average of $55 billion for the previous 10 years.

Losses were caused by various severe natural catastrophes across different perils in 2015, including windstorms, hurricanes, earthquakes, flooding and wildfires.

A February winter storm in the United States was the costliest natural disaster of the year, resulting in insured losses of more than $2 billion.

Low activity during the North Atlantic hurricane season kept the total global insured loss low, sigma noted.

Sadly, approximately 26,000 people lost their lives in disasters this year, double the amount in 2014.

Large disasters in other parts of the world contributed to the high level of fatalities.

The magnitude 7.8 earthquake that struck Nepal and neighboring countries in April triggered a humanitarian catastrophe, killing around 9,000 people.

More than 5,000 people also died in waves of extreme temperatures during the summer season in India, Pakistan, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

And more lives were lost due to capsizing of many boats carrying migrants from conflict zones in northern Africa to Europe, often in unseaworthy vessels, sigma noted.

More facts and statistics on man-made disasters available from the I.I.I. here.

Economic impact from business interruption (BI) is often much higher than the cost of physical damage in a disaster and is a growing risk to companies worldwide, according to a new report from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS).

Its analysis of more than 1,800 large BI claims from 68 countries between 2010 and 2014 found that business interruption now typically accounts for a much higher proportion of the overall loss than was the case 10 years ago.

Both severity and frequency of BI claims is increasing, AGCS warns.

The average large BI property insurance claim is now in excess of €2 million (€2.2 million: $2.4 million), some 36 percent higher than the corresponding average property damage claim of just over €1.6 million ($1.8 million), the global claims review found.

The vast majority of BI losses are not caused by natural catastrophes, with non-natural hazard events such as human error or technical failure accounting for 88 percent of BI losses by value.

Reported loss estimates from the largest non-natural catastrophe BI events across the insurance industry during 2015 total more than $7 billion so far, with the Tianjin loss potentially accounting for almost half this total.

GlobalLossAtlas_471x150

Fire and explosion is the top cause of BI loss around the globe by value (2010-2014), with each incident analyzed averaging €1.7m ($1.9 million) in BI costs alone, but there are some major differences regionally.

Storm and flood related losses are notable in Asia, highlighting the region’s continuing economic development and increasing exposure to natural hazards.

Storm is also the top cause of BI loss in the Caribbean and Central America region, accounting for one-third of insurance claims by value.

As Chris Fischer Hirs, CEO of AGCS, says:

The growth in BI claims is fueled by increasing interdependencies between companies, the global supply chain and lean production processes.

Whereas in the past a large fire or explosion may have only affected one or two companies, today losses increasingly impact a number of companies and can even threaten whole sectors globally.”

Check out Insurance Information Institute resources on business interruption insurance here.

U.S. property-casualty insurers face another year of disruptive change in 2016, according to a new report by Ernst & Young.

In its 2016 U.S. Property-Casualty Insurance Outlook, EY says that digital technologies such as social media, analytics and telematics will continue to transform the market landscape, recalibrating customer expectations and opening new ways to reach and acquire clients.

The rise of the sharing economy, in which assets like cars and homes can be shared, is requiring carriers to rethink traditional insurance models.

An outlook for slower economic growth, along with increased M&A and greater regulatory uncertainty, will set the stage for innovative firms to capitalize on an industry in flux in 2016.

EY’s take:

Insurers that stay ahead of these shifts should reap substantial benefits, while laggards risk falling behind, or even out of the race.”

EY reports that competitive pressures in the insurance industry are building as digital technology erodes the advantages of scale enjoyed by established insurers and empowers smaller players to compete for market share through more flexible pricing models and new distribution channels.

It cites the recent launch of Google Compare, which allows customers to comparison shop for insurance, as the start of a larger wave of insurance tech activity in 2016.

Along with this, customer expectations and behaviors are evolving at a rapid pace, often faster than traditional mechanisms can react.

EY observes:

Driven by their interactions in other digitally enabled industries, such as retail and banking, property-casualty customers are increasingly demanding a more sophisticated and personalized experience—including digital distribution, anytime access, premiums accurately reflecting usage and individual risk and higher levels of product customization and advice.”

Policyholders are also seeking coverage of a broader range of risks, such as cybersecurity and under-protected property exposure, according to EY’s outlook.

Hat tip to Insurance Journal which reported on this story here.

Check out a recent presentation by I.I.I. president Dr. Robert Hartwig titled Insurance, the Sharing Economy, Millennials and More.

As the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close, there’s a lot of talk about how the hurricane forecasters got it right this year, due to a strong El Niño.

Over at the Capital Weather Gang blog, Phil Klotzbach, lead author of the Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane forecasting team, writes that all of the forecasting groups predicted a moderate to strong El Niño event this year, and this turned out to be correct.

Klotzbach observes:

In general, seasonal forecasts did a good job anticipating a below-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2015 due to a strong El Niño event. Most seasonal forecasts predicted a bit less activity than was observed, due to a surprising warming of the tropical Atlantic during the peak of hurricane season this year.”

So what are the key takeaways?

The final tally for the 2015 season was 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

No major hurricanes made U.S. landfall in 2015, which means the U.S. has now gone 10 years without a major hurricane landfall. Hurricane Wilma (2005) was the last, according to CSU’s report on the 2015 season.

Still, it’s important to point out that moisture from Hurricane Joaquin—the first Category 4-5 hurricane to impact the Bahamas during October since 1866—contributed to a weather system that led to catastrophic floods across much of South Carolina resulting in more than $2 billion in total economic losses.

The CSU team of Klotzbach and William Gray also reminds us that while the Atlantic has seen a large increase in major hurricanes during the recent period of 1995-2015 (average 3.4 per year) compared with the prior 25-year period of 1970-1994 (average 1.5 per year), the U.S. has been fortunate that few major hurricanes have made U.S. landfall—except during the two very damaging years of 2004-2005.

Consider this lucky statistic:

The Atlantic basin has had 27 major hurricanes since Wilma, with no major hurricane landfalls. The 20th-century average is that approximately 30 percent of all major hurricanes forming in the Atlantic make U.S. landfall.”

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on hurricanes here.

Suicide-armed assaults and bomb attacks may become an even more attractive tactic for terrorist groups to replicate following the November 13, 2015 attack in Paris, France, according to catastrophe modeling firm RMS.

In a blog post, RMS writes that the Paris attacks—which killed more than 125 people and left 350 injured—are the deadliest in Europe since the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, Spain, where 191 people were killed and over 1,800 injured.

The attacks have exposed France’s vulnerability to political armed violence and alerted the rest of Europe to the threat of salafi-jihadists within their domain, according to RMS.

RMS also notes that the chosen strategy in last Friday’s attacks offers greatest impact. For example, the suicide armed attacks or sieges witnessed at the Bataclan Theater involved a group opening fire on a gathering of people in order to kill as many as possible.

Similar to the Mumbai attacks in 2008, the ability to roam around and sustain the attack, while being willing to kill themselves in the onslaught makes such terrorist attacks more difficult to combat.

From the terrorist’s perspective, these assaults offer a number of advantages, such as greater target discrimination, flexibility during the operation, and the opportunity to cause large numbers of casualties and generate extensive worldwide media exposure.”

Such attacks typically will target people in crowded areas that lay outside any security perimeter checks such as those of an airport or at a national stadium. Probable targets for such attacks are landmark buildings with a large civilian presence, RMS suggests.

Business Insurance reports that victims of the Paris attacks—whether French national or not—can claim compensation for personal injury from Le Fonds de Garantie des Victimes des Actes de Terrorismes et d’Autres Infractions (FGTI), as detailed by France’s insurance industry association Fédération Française des Sociétés d’Assurances on its website here.

France also has a state-backed reinsurer for property losses caused by terrorism, known as GAREAT (Gestion de l’Assurance et de la Réassurance des Risques Attentats et Actes de Terrorisme), which will likely cover any insured property losses resulting from the attacks.

Check out I.I.I. facts and statistics on global terrorism losses here and the latest I.I.I. paper on the renewed and restructured Terrorism Risk and Insurance Program in the U.S.

The expected $2 billion minimum economic cost of the South Carolina and eastern U.S. floods in early October will place the event as one of the top 10 costliest non-tropical cyclone flood events in the country since 1980.

Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap report, which evaluates the impact of natural disaster events occurring worldwide during October 2015, reveals that already public and private insurers have reported more than $400 million in payouts from the event.

Days of relentless record-setting rainfall caused by a complex atmospheric set-up brought tremendous flooding across much of South Carolina, leaving at least 19 dead, Aon reported.

The event caused considerable flood inundation damage to residential and commercial properties, vehicles, and infrastructure after more than two feet (610 millimeters) of rain fell from October 1 to 5.

Aon noted that the minimum $2 billion in total economic losses from the event includes infrastructure and $300 million in crop damage.

Preliminary reports from insurers suggest roughly $350 million in claims.

However, additional insured losses of at least $100 million are expected via the federal National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and the USDA RMA crop insurance program.

A recent article by Insurance Journal noted that the potential exposure home insurers in South Carolina face from the early October event is estimated at $18 billion. That’s according to figures by catastrophe modeling firm CoreLogic.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), none of the 10 largest floods as ranked by NFIP payouts occurred in South Carolina (see below).

However, the state was affected by three of the most costly U.S. hurricanes: Hurricanes Charley and Frances in 2004 and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

The list includes events from 1978 to June 30, 2015, as of August 21, 2015.

Top10FloodEventsNFIP

Those of us in the Northeast still thawing out from the last two winters will be relieved to hear that this year’s winter is likely to bring warmer and wetter conditions thanks to El Niño.

NOAA’s just-released 2015 U.S. Winter Outlook (December through February) calls for cooler and wetter weather in the South, and above-average temperatures in the West and across most of the Northern tier states.

Outlook_map_Precip_2015_2F_2000

Outlook_map_temp2015_2F_2000

That’s not to say there won’t be snow.

NOAA says this year’s El Niño, among the strongest on record, is expected to influence weather and climate patterns this winter by impacting the position of the Pacific jet stream.

In the words of Mike Halpert, deputy director, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center:

A strong El Niño is in place and should exert a strong influence over our weather this winter. While temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are favored, El Niño is not the only player. Cold-air outbreaks and snow storms will likely occur at times this winter. However, the frequency, number and intensity of these events cannot be predicted on a seasonal timescale.”

Other factors that can play a role in the winter weather NOAA says include the Arctic Oscillation, which influences the number of arctic air masses that penetrate into the South and nor’easters on the East Coast, and the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which can impact the number of heavy rain storms in the Pacific Northwest.

Winter storms are historically very expensive for insurers, and the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind hurricanes and tornadoes. Check out the I.I.I.’s insurance-related facts and statistics on winter storms here.

 

 

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