2015 Hurricane Season Opener

By now you’ll have read the latest forecasts calling for a below-average Atlantic hurricane season.

NOAA, Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project, North Carolina State University, WSI and London-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk all seem to concur in their respective outlooks that the 2015 hurricane season which officially begins June 1 will be well below-norm.

TSR, for example, predicts Atlantic hurricane activity in 2015 will be about 65 percent below the long-term average. Should this forecast verify, TSR noted that it would imply that the active phase for Atlantic hurricane activity which began in 1995 has likely ended.

Still it’s important to note that the forecasts come with the caveat that all predictions are just that, and the likelihood of issuing a precise forecast in late May is at best moderate. In other words, uncertainties remain.

These are wise words.

A recent report by Karen Clark & Co pointed to the rising vulnerability of the U.S. to hurricanes and other coastal hazards because of increasing concentrations of property values along the coast.

Of the $90 trillion in total U.S. property exposure, over $16 trillion is in the first tier of Gulf and Atlantic coastal counties, an increase from $14.5 trillion in 2012, KCC said.

KCC then superimposed 100 year U.S. hurricane events on the 2014 property values in its database. The result was that three regions–Texas, Florida and the Northeast–emerge as the most likely for mega-catastrophes.

In all of these regions, the largest losses from the 100 year hurricanes making landfall near Galveston-Houston, Miami and Western Long Island, are much larger than the 100 year PMLs (Probable Maximum Losses).

As insurance industry execs know, it only takes one hurricane to make landfall for a below-average season to become active and record losses to ensue. Here’s a visual of what the 1992 season–the year of Hurricane Andrew–looked like, courtesy of Weather Underground:

at1992

Hurricane  facts and statistics are available from the I.I.I. here.

Price Optimization: What it is and what it isn’t

I.I.I. Florida representative Lynne McChristian sheds light on the topic of price optimization in this post which  first appeared @InsuringFLA blog.

Florida regulators issued a memorandum to insurers recently to eliminate the use of something called price optimization. That’s probably an unfamiliar term to most people. It’s interesting that the memo had to define what “price optimization” is in order for insurers to stop doing it. Simply, the memo from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation was to stop a practice that few insurers are using in the first place and that may actually help lower insurance costs.

Price optimization is a tool that other industries have used for years, specifically the retail and travel industries. It is a new tool for insurers, and it’s one that is designed to add sophisticated computer analysis to the final polishing of insurance prices.

At the very end of setting rates, insurers have always adjusted prices, almost always slightly lower, to reflect the industry’s competitive nature. It used to be a seat-of-the-pants guess by a real, live actuary; now, a computer helps give the final nudge.

That takes human guesswork out of it, yet the computer does the same thing.

Some critics have turned this equation upside down, stating instead that an insurance company is looking only to increase profits. Florida is one of four states that is prohibiting the practice of price optimization before there is a clear understanding of its consumer benefits. Most other states are carefully studying the practice and awaiting a white paper being developed by a special task force established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Insurers use all types of data to establish individual insurance rates. The concern critics have about price optimization is that it is not based on commonly used risk factors for auto insurance. Price optimization gave insurers one more tool to employ more sophisticated computer algorithms to give better prices to consumers. But that won’t be the case for Floridians.

Everyone cares about what they pay for insurance, and there are lots of choices for those shopping for auto insurance. So, if you think you’re not getting the best price, use these tips to shop around for auto insurance. To learn more, check out this Q&A on price optimization.

Litigation Trends and the Class Action Factor

Survey more than 800 corporate counsel representing companies across 26 countries on litigation trends and issues and you get some insightful findings.

Such is the case with the recently released Norton Rose Fulbright 2015 Litigation Trends Annual Survey.

For example, class action lawsuits were listed as the top issue by respondents in the United States, Canada and Australia.

U.S.-based respondents also reported a more litigious business environment than their peers, with 55 percent facing more than five lawsuits filed against their companies in the previous 12 months, compared with 23 percent in the United Kingdom and 22 percent in Australia.

There are also significant differences in the types of litigation that U.S. companies face compared with their peers worldwide.

For example, personal injury litigation is much more prevalent in the U.S. than elsewhere, with 21 percent of those polled selecting it as one of the most numerous types of cases faced in the previous 12 months, compared to just 15 percent in the survey overall.

In addition, intellectual property/patents (18 percent) and product liability (17 percent) cases were more common in the U.S. than worldwide (13 percent and 11 percent, respectively).

Going forward, more U.S. respondents say regulatory/investigations are a top concern (48 percent) compared with the broader sample (39 percent).

Intellectual property (IP)/patents disputes are also of greater concern in the U.S. (30 percent) compared with all respondents (21 percent).

In addition, more U.S. respondents list class actions (25 percent) and product liability (18 percent) as top concerns compared with the total sample (18 percent and 14 percent, respectively).

In the words of Richard Krumholz, head of dispute resolution and litigation, United States, Norton Rose Fulbright:

Our survey clearly demonstrates that the litigation and regulatory environment in the United States continues to pose some of the greatest risks which businesses from around the world face. This is reflected in rising litigation budgets and the size of disputes-focused staff compared to peer companies around the globe.”

Just to be clear, the average U.S. company has 20 in-house lawyers to handle disputes and the number of U.S. companies with an annual litigation spend of $1 million or more increased from 52 percent to 69 percent from 2012 to 2014.

Slightly more than half of the survey respondents are from companies with headquarters in the U.S.

The  Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.)  has an excellent resource on business liability insurance here.

NCCI Conference Roundup

Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) chief actuary James Lynch is on the road.

Spring is heavy conference season. I type this from an Orlando hotel room on May 14, after day one of the Annual Issues Symposium put on by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). Ahead are trips to Colorado, Philadelphia and Atlanta, as well as two meetings close to home, in New York.

The NCCI conference is perhaps best known for president and  chief executive officer  Steve Klingel’s summary of the workers compensation line in a single word or phrase. This year: Calm now . . . but turbulence ahead. With premium up 4.6 percent and the combined ratio (98) at its lowest since 2006, workers comp results have been good, but outside pressures could make the ride bumpy.

One pressure is low interest rates. Years can pass from the time an insurer collects premium and injury claims get paid, and insurers in the meantime invest that premium, with the proceeds helping pay for claims and bolstering profits.

Interest rates have been so low for so long that the industry can’t rely on interest rates to deliver results anymore.

Another is the sharing economy. As  Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I. and an economist, noted later that day, the smartphone has made it easy to summon people to do ad hoc jobs, with the best known being Uber’s ride-sharing battalion.

Those workers are independent contractors (though that has been challenged) and as such don’t get traditional benefits, including workers comp coverage. As the sharing economy grows, workers comp could shrink.

The third is a series of attacks on the basic principles of workers compensation. News reports suggest workers comp doesn’t compensate injuries equitably; lawsuits suggest the line has violated the Grand Bargain that gives up a big tort payoff in exchange for a steady flow of benefits; and a nascent movement would let employers opt out of the workers compensation system altogether.

But workers comp has survived a lot in the century since it took hold in the United States and seems well-equipped to handle the, well, turbulence.

“While I am confident that we will work our way through these challenges,” Klingel said, “it is important to be realistic about current conditions and to recognize that the current positive results may not last.”

The I.I.I. has more workers comp  facts and statistics available here.

Dog Bite Claims, By The Numbers

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is coming up… Here are some numbers to consider:

  • – Dog bites caused more than 33 percent of all homeowners insurance liability claims in 2014, costing in excess of $530 million
  • – The average cost per claim has increased more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014
  • – The number of dog-bite claims actually decreased by 4.7 percent  but the average cost per claim increased 15 percent  from $27,862 in 2013 to $32,072 in 2014
  • – California (1,867), Ohio (1,009) and New York (965) had the highest number of claims in 2014
  • – New York had the highest average cost per claim in the country: a whopping $56,628

Costs per claims have risen due to a variety of factors including increased medical costs and jury awards.   In addition to dog bites, some claims are due to dogs knocking down children, cyclists, the elderly, which can result in fractures and other injuries. All these factors impact the potential severity of losses.

Contact @LWorters for more information.

Cyber Losses vs. Property Losses

The financial impact of cyber exposures is close to exceeding those of traditional property, yet companies are reluctant to purchase cyber insurance coverage.

These are the striking findings of a new Ponemon Institute   survey sponsored by Aon.

Companies surveyed estimate that the value of the largest loss (probable maximum loss) that could result from theft or destruction of information assets is approximately $617 million, compared to an average loss of $648 million that could result from damage or total destruction of property, plant and equipment (PP&E).

Yet on average, only 12 percent of information assets are covered by insurance. By comparison, about 51 percent of PP&E assets are covered by insurance.

The survey found that self-insurance is higher for information assets at 58 percent, compared to 28 percent for PP&E.

In some ways, these results are not surprising.

Cyber insurance is a relatively new product, and while interest continues to increase, it will take time for the purchase rate to catch up with traditional insurances.

That said, the values at stake are enormous and as the report states, the likelihood of loss is higher for information assets than PP&E.

Another important takeaway from the survey is that business disruption has a much greater impact on information assets ($207 million) than on PP&E ($98 million).

This suggests the fundamental nature of probable maximum loss (PML) varies considerably for intangible assets vs. tangible assets, Ponemon says.

Business disruption represents 34 percent of the PML for information assets, compared to only 15 percent of the PML for PP&E.

A footnote states that while the survey results suggest PML in the neighborhood of $200 million, a growing number of companies are using risk analysis and modeling to suggest potential losses in excess of $500 million to over $1 billion and seek cyber insurance limit premium quotes and policy terms for such amounts.

More information on the growth in cyber insurance is available from the I.I.I. here.

Some 2,243 individuals involved in cyber and enterprise risk management at companies in 37 countries responded to the Ponemon survey.

Hail Claims Add Up During April

We’re reading about the economic and insurance impact of severe thunderstorms in the United States in April 2015, as reported by Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap report.

Five separate thunderstorm events in central and eastern parts of the U.S. caused expected insured losses of $2 billion, including more than $750 million from one event alone.

What was the $750 million event?

A widespread multi-day severe weather outbreak that hit central and eastern parts of the U.S. from April 7-10, leaving at least 3 dead and dozens injured.

Major damage was noted across the Plains, Midwest and the Mississippi Valley following 25 confirmed tornado touchdowns, grapefruit-sized hail, damaging straight-line winds, and flooding rains, according to Aon.

The April 9 EF4 tornado that devastated the communities of Fairdale and Rochelle, Illinois, is part of this event.

Total economic losses were estimated at $1 billion, while insurers put losses beyond $750 million.

Interestingly, Aon notes that much of the insured losses in this severe weather event were driven by claims resulting from hail.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) has some useful facts and statistics on hail here.

It cites ISO figures that indicate events involving wind, hail or flood accounted for $16.1 billion in insured catastrophe losses in 2013 dollars from 1994 to 2013 (not including payouts from the National Flood Insurance Program).

The I.I.I. also notes that there were 5,536 major hail storms in 2014, per statistics culled from NOAA’s Severe Storm database. Nebraska had the largest number of severe hail events in 2014, followed by Texas, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri.

Over the 14 years from 2000 to 2013, U.S. insurers paid almost 9 million claims for hail losses, totaling more than $54 billion, according to a recent report by Verisk Insurance Solutions. That’s a hail of an impact.

P/C Insurance Pricing Still Competitive, Says MarketScout

The average price of insurance for all U.S. businesses remained the same in April 2015 as it was in April 2014, according to the latest analysis from online insurance exchange MarketScout.

MarketScout CEO Richard Kerr noted that the market remained flat with a zero percent increase in April 2015, down from a 1.5 percent increase in October 2014, continuing the downward trend of the last eight months.

Kerr said:

It’s not dramatic but it is a trend. Coastal property may experience some slight rate increases since we are on the cusp of the wind season. Rates on all other exposures should continue to be quite competitive.”

By coverage classification, rates for business owners policies (BOP), professional liability and D&O coverages decreased in April 2015 by one percent as compared to March 2015, MarketScout reported.

However, commercial auto coverage actually saw a 2 percent increase, while rates for all other coverages remained the same.

By account size, rates remained the same for all except jumbo accounts (over $1 million in premium) which adjusted to a rate reduction of minus 2 percent in April 2015, compared with rates the previous month, MarketScout said.

I.I.I. provides commentary on the P/C insurance industry financial results here.

 

How To Insure A $120 Million Horse

The Kentucky Derby is upon us and insurers are more than just spectators at this major sporting event.

Bloodstock and equestrian insurance is big business with underwriters who specialize in offering tailored protection for high value animals.

Consider the staggering values at stake. A BloombergBusiness article by Mason Levinson tells the tale of American thoroughbred racehorse Tapit.

Tapit began his stud career with an initial stallion fee of $15,000. That fee has soared 20-fold in the past decade and in 2015 Tapit will generate over $30 million for his owners.

Why?

Tapit’s offspring tend to win races.

As  Bloomberg reports:

By 2009, his offspring’s racetrack earnings placed him 28th on a national ranking of stallions, according to data compiled by the Bloodhorse. He climbed to 12th the next year, then third in 2011 and first in 2014, a position he has maintained over the first four months of this year.”

One of Tapit’s sons, Frosted, is a top contender in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

Today, Tapit’s total value is estimated at about $120 million, the article reports.

Luckily, there’s insurance for that. Whether you own racehorses, stallions, broodmares, or showjumpers, insurers are able to tailor a policy that meets your needs.

A bloodstock insurance policy typically would cover a number of different risks.

For example, all risks mortality would cover the value of the animal if it dies as a result of accident, disease or illness. Theft can also be covered, as well as loss of use (covering financial loss) and public liability.

If you run an equine breeding program, permanent infertility insurance is another important coverage. Stallions are the “calling card” of a major farm and can be synonymous with the farm’s name and reputation.

If a stallion becomes permanently impotent, infertile, or incapable of serving mares, it can be a huge setback for the owner, breeder or shareholder. This important coverage protects one of their most valuable assets.

Perhaps one of the most high-profile equine insurance claims over the years involved the death of thoroughbred Alydar in 1990. Check out this Blood-Horse feature article by Tom Dixon,  the Lloyd’s of London  insurance adjuster who was first on the scene when Alydar was found in his stall at Calumet Farm with a broken leg.