Eight Days and Counting

With just over a week until the start of the 2007 hurricane season, the forecast put out by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is another reminder that an above average season is on the cards and that we should prepare for the worst. According to NOAA, there will likely be 13 to 17 named storms this season, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes. Of those, three to five hurricanes are likely to grow into at least Category 3 storms. This means they will have winds of 111 to 130 mph and possible storm surges of  9 to 12 feet, NOAA notes. Bear in mind an average Atlantic hurricane season brings 11 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including two major hurricanes. The NOAA forecast is similar to the one released by Colorado State University’s Tropical Meterorology Project (see our April 4 posting) that also predicted 17 named storms and  nine hurricanes,  five of which will be intense. Check out I.I.I.’s catastrophe  update and hurricane stats for more information.  Ã‚  Ã‚  

Hall of Famers

We’re delighted to report on the three insurance leaders announced by the International Insurance Society (IIS) as the 2007 winners of the Insurance Hall of Fame awards. Two of the three, Robert Clements and Frederic Reiss (1924-1993), are renowned as pioneers in the alternative risk transfer (ART) field. Mr. Clements, now chairman of insurance broker Integro as well as interim chairman and co-founder of post-Katrina Bermuda start-up Ironshore Insurance Ltd, is considered the father of the Bermuda insurance market where he led the development of ACE and XL. Frederic Reiss, founder of the International Risk Management Group, coined the term “captive insurer† and was the first person to popularize the insurance captive movement. In doing so he helped establish Bermuda as a center for captive domicile companies. Last but certainly not least, the third 2007 Hall of Fame inductee is Josà © Manuel Martà ­nez, chairman and chief executive officer of MAPFRE, Spain’s largest insurance group and now the largest non-life insurer in Latin America. During his tenure, MAPFRE evolved from a local market leader to a large international group. For further info, check out a recent presentation on the world  of captive insurance  from  I.I.I. president and chief economist Dr. Robert Hartwig. Also, the I.I.I.’s  International Fact Book.

Climate Mitigation Technology

It’s been a big week in the Big Apple for climate change, with a number of key initiatives unveiled at the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit 2007. First, the announcement of a major partnership between 16 of the world’s largest cities, five banks, four multinationals and the Clinton Foundation to retrofit buildings in urban areas and reduce carbon emissions. Funded by a hefty $1 billion from the banks it’s hoped the use of more energy efficient products in retrofitting existing buildings will lead to energy savings of 20 to 50 percent. A second initiative announced yesterday will see Microsoft team up with the Clinton Foundation to develop online tools to help cities more accurately monitor, compare and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. These new software tools, available by year-end, will be developed in conjunction with the ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. The idea is for Microsoft to develop a single Web solution to allow cities to clearly understand their environmental footprint so they can improve their energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. An interesting step. For our industry’s part, the Summit included a speech by Swiss Re’s Roger Ferguson, who spoke of a public/private partnership approach to climate change.  

Small Biz Litigation Threat

A hearing down on Capitol Hill today titled “Liability Reform and Small Business† highlights the growing litigation risk faced by small businesses and the need for good liability risk management and adequate insurance. The hearing before the House Small Business Committee includes testimony from the president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR). The ILR has just released two studies showing the impact lawsuits can have on small businesses. According to the studies, the tort system in the U.S. cost small businesses $98 billion in 2005. The threat of lawsuits also alters the way small business owners make decisions, with 62 percent saying they make business decisions to avoid lawsuits. These decisions can have significant effects on the business, such as making products and services more expensive, or making a product or service unavailable to customers. For more information on insurance and risk management for businesses, check out I.I.I.’s new insuring your business website.  

Gun Liability

While we’ve purposely stayed away from the topic of gun liability or risk management lessons to be learned from last month’s shootings at Virginia Tech, an article in the Chicago Sun-Times detailing how a father obtained a gun license for his 10-month-old son forces us to visit this contentious issue. According to the May 13 article, the infant’s father applied on his behalf for the license after his grandfather bought him a shotgun as an heirloom. The application for the license was approved on the third go, after being turned down twice due to technicalities. While the father fully expected the application for the license to be rejected due to his son’s age, it appears that in the state of Illinois there are no age restrictions on issuing a firearms owner’s identification card (FOID). At risk of stating the obvious, we note that 16 remains the age at which a teen, subject to successful completion of driver education, can apply for a driver’s license in Illinois.  As  many states have legislation in place that restricts or prevents lawsuits against the gun industry, the question is should we be concerned? Following the Virginia Tech tragedy and given the lawsuits targeting “Big Tobacco†, and more recent suits against the alcohol industry and fast food industry, could we be looking at a potential rise in claims under liability coverages? What are your thoughts? Check out further I.I.I. info on the liability system.

Road Rage Survey

So for the second year running Miami drivers have been found to be the least courteous in the country, followed by New York and Boston drivers, according to a survey by national auto club AutoVantage. The other two cities with the worst road rage were Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Talking on cell phones, running red lights and slamming on the brakes were some of the frequent behaviors noted by commuters of their fellow drivers. The most frequent cause of road rage cited in the survey was impatient and/or speeding motorists. Drivers also cited poor driving in fast lanes, talking on the cell phone and driving while stressed, frustrated or angry. The most courteous city is Portland, OR, followed closely by Pittsburgh, Seattle/Tacoma, St. Louis and Dallas/Ft. Worth. The obvious link with  our business  is that drivers’ safety habits are just one of the factors that can affect the cost of auto insurance. The cost and crashworthiness of vehicles is another.  This survey also highlights the emerging risk posed by cell phone use while  driving. Check out further data from the I.I.I. on driver behavior and auto crashes  and cell phones and driving.

Workers Comp and 9/11

Late last week NCCI Holdings released its annual “State of the Line” workers compensation market analysis showing that the 2006 calendar year combined ratio was 96.5 percent, the best underwriting result in at least 30 years and the first underwriting profit for the line since 1995. Although the underwriting results are the best in decades, NCCI did flag some critical issues that continue to face the sector in the long-term. Among them, skyrocketing medical costs, low investment returns, a changing political landscape and the projection that the underwriting cycle is likely at its peak. On a day in which illnesses suffered by Ground Zero workers have again made the headlines, we’d like to flag another emerging issue — the latent illnesses and disease among first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack. New York City officials estimate the treatment costs for those suffering respiratory illnesses is already in the hundreds of millions of dollars and that other illnesses such as cancer may eventually be linked to the disaster. For more information on workers compensation check out I.I.I.’s update.

Charitable Update

A little known fact is that the insurance industry ranks among the top 15 contributors when it comes to charitable donations. Indeed, the charitable contributions to U.S. and international causes by 211 of the largest U.S. companies and U.S. corporate foundations amounted to $9.78 billion in 2005, according to a survey by the Conference Board. The survey included 209 firms which gave over $7.78 billion to U.S. causes in 2005. The insurance industry’s donations to U.S. beneficiaries totaled $181.3 million, placing it eleventh out of 19 industry groups. This brings us to the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation. The Foundation’s New York division will hold its next Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, May 17 at 10:00am at AIG, 70 Pine Street. The IICF-New York division has also been busy planning its first annual dinner to be held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on December 5, 2007. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has agreed to be honoree and the dinner will be chaired by Martin Sullivan, chairman and CEO of AIG. Visit the IICF site for more information.     Ã‚  

Twin Threat

As British Prime Minister Tony Blair announces his resignation and with U.S. President George Bush’s tenure soon coming to a close, today we turn to two reports that speak to the growing risks from political violence and terrorism. First, a RAND study finds that technology and knowledge-sharing among diverse terrorist groups is on the up and part of the complex threat posed by terrorism. Given concern about terrorist interest in unconventional weapons, individuals with skills involving chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological (CBNR) technology are frequently a central focus of analysts. But, the RAND study shows the importance of individuals with expertise in conventional explosive technologies as well. Threat assessments should monitor both these areas, it says. Then a report in from Lloyd’s and the Economist Intelligence Unit finds that despite growing awareness of terrorism and political risks, nearly one in four businesses do not have a business continuity plan in place. A further 14 percent of companies believe that their plan is insufficient in the light of political violence. These figures are even greater for smaller firms. Check out I.I.I.’s information on terrorism risk and risk management for small businesses online.  

Cat Models Innovate

Catastrophe models have come under a lot of scrutiny since the record hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. In recent weeks the use of five-year catastrophe models versus 100-year models in the underwriting process has attracted the attention of certain state regulators. Whatever your opinion, it’s important to recognize that catastrophe models are just one of the tools that help insurers, reinsurers and risk managers more accurately analyze, write and price for catastrophe risk. Over the years catastrophe models have been constantly updated and fine-tuned to incorporate the latest technologies, data, and research findings. Take yesterday’s announcement of a collaboration between AIR Worldwide Corp, the International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) and the College of Engineering and Computing at Florida International University (FIU). This initiative will see a computer controlled, mechanical platform, known as the “AIR Turntable† be incorporated into a hurricane simulator that can test the effects of different wind loadings on different building types. The technology is expected to transform residential and commercial construction and retrofitting practices and lead to more effective methods of strengthening buildings against extreme wind events such as hurricanes. Mitigation technology research like this  will be  key to better managing catastrophe risk in the years ahead.

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