Properly selected, placed, and maintained trees can provide excellent wind protection for a house, which can reduce heating costs and noise from neighbors and traffic. By putting thought and energy into planting and maintenance, homeowners can reap these benefits while preventing much potential damage.
While some trees don’t handle wind well, others can withstand some of the most powerful gusts. Blue River Restoration Services in Indianapolis recommends live oaks and maples, crepe myrtles, and cypress trees as “safe bets” when considering wind damage.
“These trees have strong roots to keep them in place and thick bark that supports them in windy conditions,” Blue River’s website says. It also recommends not to plant large shade trees within 12 feet of structures that could be damaged by tree roots.
“While most trees’ roots are not invasive enough to cause damage to your house or pavement, some will,” the website says. “Aspens, willows, American elms, and silver maples all have root systems that can stretch for acres. With these types of trees, there is no way to control their roots that can disrupt the foundation of your home.”
Tree roots don’t destroy the foundation but instead shift the soil under and around them, causing them to become unstable.
“Some homeowners deal with intrusive roots by grinding down or removing them,” Blue River says. “This can be expensive and is very harmful to the tree. Wounding a tree’s roots creates points of entry for pathogens, leaving a tree vulnerable to disease.”
A diseased tree is more likely to have branches that will break off and cause damage during high winds. Trees with inadequate root systems may blow over or break off at the ground line. A general rule is that you should not plant any trees within 20 feet of your house.
Insurance “what ifs?”
What happens if a neighbor’s tree falls on your house? You’ll need to file a claim with your insurance company. If negligence can be proved—such as a diseased tree or tree that wasn’t properly maintained — your company may try to collect from your neighbor’s policy. If that happens, you may be reimbursed for your deductible.
If a tree falls on your car, damage is covered under the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.
Standard home insurance polices also provide coverage for damage to trees and shrubs due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, aircraft, vehicles not owned by the resident, and vandalism Coverage is generally limited to about $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.
Half a billion people worldwide are affected by floods annually, and about 90 percent of all U.S. natural disasters involve flooding. The human and economic tolls are massive, and until recently insuring these risks and helping communities recover fell almost entirely on government programs.
Improved data, analysis, and modeling have helped drive private-sector interest in flood-risk transfer and mitigation. But despite growing private involvement, many experts consider the current system unsustainable. A resilience mindset is required, and that demands more than insurance products.
A new Triple-I paper analyzes the current state of flood risk and resilience and discusses how governments, corporations, academia, and others are rising to the challenges and seizing the opportunities.
“New products alone will not close the protection gap,” says Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan. “Risk transfer is just one tool in the resilience toolkit. Our understanding of loss trends and expertise in assessing and quantifying risk must be joined at the hip to technology, public policy and finance, and science. We need to partner with communities and businesses at every level to promote a broad resilience mindset focused on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery.”
The Triple-I paper describes how this is happening. Tapping its own resources and the expertise of its insurance and risk-management network, Triple-I is pleased to bring you this analysis of the current state of flood risk and resilience.
Improved access to data, analytical tools, and sophisticated modeling capabilities has turned flood insurance from a virtually untouchable risk for insurers to an area of increasing business opportunity. These developments also have put the pieces in place for powerful collaborations between corporations, governments, and nonprofits to drive flood resilience for communities and businesses.
Stormwater management is one example. Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan recently participated in a panel at the P3 Water Summit to discuss flooding and water quality challenges and how insurers, municipalities, rating agencies, and other entities are incorporating flood and climate risks into their businesses.
The view from the middle
“Insurance is in the middle of all of this,” Kevelighan said, referring to three major global crises the moderator had mentioned – biodiversity loss, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic – “and I might add geopolitical risk and social unrest, as well as disruption due to technology and innovation. Triple-I is here to inform all those discussions.”
Climate risk, he said, “is certainly on the forefront of all the discussions we’re having right now, in terms of the larger disruption continuum.”
For decades, he noted, the industry has been looking for ways not just to help customers recover from natural catastrophes but to get out in front of the risks and promote methods to make them more resilient.
Flooding is a particularly pressing risk, Kevelighan noted, because “every year you’ve got about a half billion people who are impacted by floods. About 90 percent of all U.S. natural catastrophes involve some form of flooding. This is a critical part of the catastrophe cycle – and one that is significantly underinsured.”
Flood insurance and recovery assistance historically have fallen to federal and state government to manage. But even as improved data and other capabilities have made writing the coverage an increasingly attractive opportunity for insurers, Kevelighan said, it also has become clear that risk transfer through insurance isn’t enough to close the “protection gap.” Public-private partnerships and other approaches are essential.
Bringing it all together
Richard Seline, managing director of Resilient H2O Partners and co-founder of the Resilience Innovation Hub, talked about his companies’ efforts to “introduce emerging technologies, existing equipment, put it together with public and private interests” to promote activities and behaviors supportive of resilience.
“The Innovation Hub is intended to bring together the best ideas, the best experience, the best capital, and network it more efficiently and effectively,” Seline said. “We’re in lots of discussions with engineering firms, architecture firms, a lot of private equity firms. I didn’t know until a year ago that the Nature Conservancy has its own venture fund! Those are the types of folks we’re pulling together.”
Like Kevelighan, Seline pointed to the importance of data in making these collaborations possible: “Unless we have the data available to do the cost-benefit analysis and the return on investment, it’s all theoretical.”
Thanks to partnerships between organizations like Triple-I and Resilient H2O, he said, it’s now possible to marry hydrological data to financial and economic risk models to better inform investment planning and decision making.
Ready to ‘take off’
Stacey Mawson, director at Fitch Ratings, said the environment now seems ripe for stormwater public-private partnerships to “take off.”
“Over the past couple of years we’ve been seeing more projects coming to us for ratings,” she said. These have included water transport, flood mitigation, privatization of utilities because they need additional investment. “We’re seeing an increased focus on water in all its aspects.”
Companies that issue bonds and other forms of debt rely on rating agencies’ assessments of their creditworthiness to keep their borrowing costs low. A bad rating may cause bond buyers to demand a higher interest rate in return for the greater risk such a rating implies.
Rating agencies like Fitch can play a strong role in advancing environmental and social objectives by incorporating climate and social risks into their rating processes. Mawson discussed Fitch’s environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores and suggested that, over time, if bond-issuing entities aren’t paying sufficient attention to such considerations it could become a rating issue.
Triple-I’s “Insurance Careers Corner” series was created to highlight trailblazers in insurance and to spread awareness of the career opportunities within the industry. This month, we interviewed, Annette Martinez, senior vice president, State Farm, who discusses her 33-year career in insurance, growing diversity and inclusion at her company, and the significance of Jake from State Farm.
Tell us about your role at State Farm and the work that you do. What attracted you to work in the insurance industry?
I’m currently a senior vice president at State Farm and that includes oversight of what I call the “people areas” – human resources, learning and development, public affairs, and the executive succession and development team. I’ve been with State Farm for over 33 years.
My degree is in Biology and Chemistry, and I was working for an R&D facility early in my career. My husband started with State Farm as an auto underwriter, and he encouraged me to come over because of the opportunities.
I began my insurance career in health underwriting. Every two to three years, I was able to recreate myself into new roles. I spent five years in life/health operations before moving to human resources. Within human resources, I was able to work in early succession efforts and then move into leadership in human resources. In 2002, I started the diversity and inclusion initiative and the trajectory of being able to move the organization forward. Like many in the insurance industry, I came in thinking I’d get great experience for a couple of years and now here we are 33 years later, and it’s been an amazing journey.
You launched the first office of diversity and inclusion at State Farm, initiated its diversity council, and started its affinity group program. You’ve also been recognized and awarded on numerous occasions for your work in diversity and inclusion. What inspired you to become a champion of diversity and inclusion?
From the time that I was young, fairness was always important to me, which may be in part because I was raised in an environment where I didn’t see people like me. However, for a long time I have and still believe that everyone should be treated with respect and dignity and have the same opportunities. Opportunity should be open to anyone who has the desire and the capability.
When I began the diversity initiative, I was already conducting diversity training in the organization. State Farm is a fantastic company and has been progressive in programming over the years. We started one of the first minority summer intern programs, but I knew there was more that we could do. My focus was on improving opportunity and bringing people into the organization who had a different pattern of thinking and could positively impact the company. That’s what diversity does. It’s not only a social imperative – we all get to benefit from that – it’s a business imperative about how we treat and gain new customers and how we move forward.
You mentioned that not a lot of people looked like you throughout your career. As a Latinx woman, what obstacles have you faced and overcome?
That’s correct, early on in my career, very few people looked like me. It was isolating. I had to understand that my voice mattered and that I had the opportunity to speak on behalf of many others. There was a lot of pressure with that.
I’ve had some amazing mentors over the years of all genders and races. There was a retired senior vice president, Dave Gonzales, who was the first Hispanic executive that took me under his wing. Dave told me it was going to be a difficult road, but he was and has always been a great support system for me.
We’ve always had mentorship programs at State Farm, but several years ago we started a more formal matching program for people who want to mentor or be mentored. It’s blossomed into a way of life and become part of the culture. I’m active as a mentor and a mentee. I’ve had senior leaders throughout my career who have coached me on to the next level. I’ve also had people [early in their careers] who have guided me into what’s happening at all levels. As a senior leader, it gives me insight into how our actions impact every employee.
How can we foster an honest and open culture at the workplace that welcomes and encourages employees to have conversations around race, discrimination, and equity?
In 2019, we decided to get bold in our conversations. State Farm started working with CEO Act!on For Diversity & Inclusion and implemented a program called “Conversations Worth Having.” In February 2020, we had our first session on racism. We knew that it was going to be a difficult and honest conversation. We had a panel that shared their stories about their lives, their children, and what they experienced.
We had no idea that COVID-19 would happen a month later. The social unrest throughout 2020 was foundational for what we needed to address last year and will continue to address this year. These open conversation forums have continued and are important in allowing people to express their frustration and allowing us to be part of the solution.
We learn every session. Setting ground rules is also important – trust that people’s intentions are honest, listen before you react – some basics in conversations that we talk about each session. If someone responds negatively to a session, we take the time to speak with them one on one to have conversations on a personal level as well.
How has State Farm addressed the current social and racial climate of this past year? Are there any actions or initiatives that State Farm has taken to support Black and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities inside and outside the workplace?
State Farm named a Chief Diversity Officer in 2020, which was an important step for us. We also realized that we needed to be quicker with our communications and the acknowledgment that we stand against racism. In the past, we may have addressed it internally at a more moderate level, but we took the stand that State Farm is against racism and the hatred that leads to racism. This is who we are. We respect people – everyone should be treated with respect and dignity, and there is no place for racism in our organization.
There is more work to go into this. It’s an ever-evolving journey, and I think we’re learning as we communicate. We are the Good Neighbor organization. We care about all our neighbors, and we aren’t exclusive to anyone.
Our CEO, Chief Administrative Officer, and Chief Diversity Officer have also been involved in listening sessions to allow employees the opportunity to talk about an experience that they have had, even at State Farm, to better understand the work ahead of us. We want to be an organization that’s part of the healing process.
Jake from State Farm was recently recast as an African American man, actor Kevin Miles. How do you think this change has made an impact on diversity and representation in insurance and has it helped State Farm reach out to more people of color?
The first Jake from State Farm was an actual employee. We pivoted away to some other campaigns for a while, but then we did some research and realized that Jake from State Farm was still very relevant. We knew the needs in a marketing and advertising world today would require more than what we could ask of an employee, so State Farm began an external talent search. We are typically very intentional about diversity in our marketing and advertisements, but ultimately what we did was pick the right actor for the right role.
The actor [Kevin Miles] is from Chicago. One of my favorite stories involves an event early on in his role as Jake from State Farm. We invited him to do a meet and greet at headquarters. It was a big deal, and he brought his parents to the event. The atrium was packed with employees waiting to meet him. He was humbled, kind, and genuine, he spent hours talking to and taking pictures with employees. His success is not only impressive externally – it’s impressive internally as well. The traits you can see and feel from Jake from State Farm are also traits Kevin embodies. And because of that, we intentionally let a lot of Kevin come through in his role as Jake from State Farm.
Can you speak about any upcoming or future diversity and inclusion initiatives for State Farm that you’re excited about? What are your goals for 2021 and beyond?
We’re proud of the intentionality that we put behind diversity and inclusion. State Farm just kicked off a governance council in January, which is a group of senior leaders in the organization who will drive the future strategy of diversity and inclusion.
One focus area that we are looking at is more transparency. How do we tell our story internally so that our associates feel comfortable? How do we tell the story greater from an external perspective? We’re working on deliberate performance goals for all associates around diversity and inclusion, which will be part of their performance assessment and how they actively engage in that work. We are continuing to define our metrics and tangible ways to measure the progress that we are making as an organization. The “Conversations Worth Having” sessions are scheduled throughout the year as well as the listening sessions with our executive leadership. We’re excited about the continuation of programming and leaning into the opportunities ahead of us.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s pledge to tackle climate change and warning about the economic consequences of failure to act underscore the fact that climate is no longer “merely” an ecological and humanitarian issue – real money is involved.
As long as climate was perceived as a pet project of academics and celebrity activists, driving behavioral change – particularly on the part of industries with billions invested in carbon-intensive technologies and processes – was going to be an uphill effort. But the Titanic has begun to turn, and no industry is better positioned than insurance to help right its course. Insurers are no strangers to climate-related risk – they’ve had a financial stake in it for decades.
Let’s look at the facts:
Global insured weather-related property losses have outpaced inflation by about 7 percent since 1950. Of the $1.7 trillion of global insured property loss reported since 1990, a third is from tropical cyclones, according to Aon data. Nine of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred since 2004, and 2017, 2018, and 2019 represent the largest back-to-back-to-back insured property loss years in U.S. history.
Determining how much such losses are driven by climate versus other factors is complicated, and that’s part of the point.
“I know some have argued that this is a reason for us to move slowly,” Yellen said. “The thinking goes that because we know so little about climate risk, let’s be tentative in our actions—or even do nothing at all. This is completely wrong in my view. This is a major problem and it needs to be tackled now.”
Understanding the complexities of weather, climate, demographics, and other factors that contribute to loss trends requires data, analytical tools, and sophisticated modeling capabilities. Insurers invest heavily in these and other resources to be able to assess and price risk accurately. As a result, they’re uniquely well positioned to inform the conversation, drive action, and present solutions.
And they’re leading by example.
Chubb Chairman and CEO Evan G. Greenberg is among the industry leaders who has been on the forefront of communicating about climate risk. When Chubb announced that it will not make new debt or equity investments in companies that generate more than 30 percent of revenues from coal mining or coal energy production, Greenberg said, “Making the transition to a low-carbon economy involves planning and action by policymakers, investors, businesses and citizens alike. The policy we are implementing today reflects Chubb’s commitment to do our part as a steward of the Earth.”
Swiss Re last month announced a similarly ambitious carbon reduction target of 35 percent by 2025 for its investment portfolio. Zurich Insurance Group last year announced the launch of its Climate Change Resilience Services to help businesses better prepare for current and future risks associated with climate. Aon annually publishes its Weather, Climate and Catastrophe Insight reports.
These are just a few examples of how the insurance industry already is recognizing its stake in addressing climate change and providing resources to help others attack the problem.
As we celebrate Earth Day, it’s important to remember that every day is Earth Day in the re/insurance industry. Our industry plays a critical role in developing innovative adaptation solutions, in measuring and pricing climate risks to inform risk management, and in providing economic support to people and communities when disasters strike.
Climate risk is a priority for member companies of the Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR). They bring their expertise, innovation, commitment and claims paying capacity to secure a more resilient world.
With partners from government, our internationally recognized consolidated regulator the Bermuda Monetary Authority (BMA), and the re/insurance industry with its historic legacy of leadership in responding to global natural catastrophes, Bermuda has the foundational elements to become a leader in climate risk finance.
The recently announced BMA climate sandbox will give Bermuda’s financial services ecosystem the requisite regulatory and supervisory guidance, support and parameters to pursue innovative solutions to climate change risk. When Bermuda innovation and entrepreneurship prevails, consumers around the world benefit.
Over the past 20 years. Bermuda’s re/insurers have paid more than quarter of a trillion dollars in claims from natural and man-made disasters in the United States and European Union alone. All told, Bermuda represents over one-third of the global property & casualty reinsurance market and has a history of taking risks in some of the world’s most disaster-prone regions. At the heart of this commitment is talent. The people who work for our ABIR member companies are second to none when it comes to modeling, analytics and underwriting risk.
Underpinning this risk assessment is scientific research. Because of its location, Bermuda is a ready-made climate lab, surrounded by an ocean that serves as a real-life classroom for studying the forces behind our changing climate. The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, or BIOS, observes and analyzes oceanographic and atmospheric conditions from a research vessel in the Sargasso Sea, which is one of the world’s most diverse open-ocean ecosystems.
The Bermuda market joins insurers and reinsurers across the world committed to activating the global sustainable agenda by fostering new mitigation technologies through their assumption of risk and by investing in sustainable assets.
Armed and informed with the latest research and data, Bermuda is working diligently to close the world’s protection gap of $113 billion in 2020 – the difference between natural catastrophe and man-made economic losses and insured losses.
Most of that gap exists in emerging economies, so ABIR member companies join with the Insurance Development Forum (IDF) in committing $5 billion of re/insurance capacity to developing nations by 2025. In addition, IDF and its affiliates are developing an accessible, open modeling platform – with Bermuda leadership – that will greatly improve predictive capabilities in some of the world’s most disaster-prone regions.
ABIR is proud to join its industry partners from around the world in these efforts. Championed by the Global Federation of Insurance Associations (GFIA), which represents nearly 90% of the global insurance market, we are contributing to the effort to build a sustainable planet. Leveraging their tools, talent and capital, all stakeholders will work together toward resilient and sustainable recovery. As an industry, we are strongly committed to this critical joint effort to #RestoreOurEarth.
On behalf of ABIR and its member companies, Happy Earth Day.
John M. Huff is President and CEO of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) and a former president of the U.S. National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
Losses from winter storms that swept through the southern United States are expected to top the agendas of property and casualty insurance companies as they report first-quarter earnings, according to S&P Global.
“Ten of the 20 largest P&C insurers are expected to record revenue decreases, while nine are expected to log lower [earnings per share] year over year,” S&P Global said, based on an analysis of sell-side forecasts.
During the first quarter, southern states also were pummeled by severe convective storms featuring destructive tornadoes, flooding, and hail.
As states work to recover from these events, they will barely have time to breathe before contending with another above-average hurricane season. The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project team, led by Triple-I non-resident scholar Dr. Phil Klotzbach, predicts 17 named storms during the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. Of those, the researchers expect eight to become hurricanes and four to reach major hurricane strength, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.
Extreme weather and populations shifting into coastal and other disaster-prone areas are major drivers of increasing storm losses in the United States. These growing losses underscore the importance of families, communities, businesses, and policymakers adopting a resilience mindset that focuses on what Triple-I vice president and senior economist Michel Léonard calls “pre-emptive mitigation” and rapid recovery from natural disasters.
That mindset requires going well beyond the traditional emphasis on insurance as a risk-transfer mechanism toward insurers acting as risk-management partners to get out in front of perils to ensure swift recovery.
The future looks brighter every day for the cannabis industry.
From recent findings that cannabis components may lead to treatment or even prevention of coronavirus infection in lung cells to yesterday’s vote by the House of Representatives in favor of the Safe Banking Act, barricades to full legalization just keep falling.
This isn’t the first time the act – which would protect banks from federal penalties for doing business with cannabis-related businesses that comply with state laws – has made it through the House. It was first introduced in March 2019, and the House has approved it three times, only to have the Senate Banking Committee block its progress. But with the current Democrat majority, apparent bipartisan support, and growing public and state-government support for cannabis legalization, the fourth time just might be the charm.
The Drug Enforcement Agency characterizes cannabis as a Schedule I drug, defined as having “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” Without legislative change, banks and insurers can’t do business with business without risking running afoul of federal drug laws.
“There’s more optimism now and an assumption that they’re going to work to pass some of these bills that have been in motion for a while now, but never hit the point of actually moving forward,” said Max Meade, cannabis insurance advisor at Brown & Brown Insurance. “I’m also seeing more conversations around working to bundle some of these bills that they’ve been talking about and do a larger cannabis reform.”
As states continue to decriminalize marijuana to different degrees, one of the biggest issues facing cannabis businesses is the 280E federal tax burden, which means cannabis businesses can’t expense the normal cost of goods or anything a normal business can during the course of operation, from utilities to payroll and rent. This means marijuana businesses often pay federal income tax rates in the 65–75 percent range, compared to 15-30 percent for other businesses. They are taxed on their gross revenues, unlike all regular businesses, which pay tax only on income after their expenses.
The Small Business Tax Equity Act would provide an exception into the Internal Revenue Code to let cannabis operators – as long as they’re in compliance with state laws – make the same deductions as any other business.
Easier to operate
Passage of these laws would make it easier for cannabis-related businesses to operate. The CLAIM Act would let these businesses obtain insurance to cover the same risks of theft, damage, injury, loss, and liability as all other businesses.
“There are upwards of 30 surplus lines carriers and several managing general underwriters that currently service the cannabis industry across many lines of coverage,” the National Law Review reports. “There also is a small handful of admitted carriers that operate in California, and most recently in Arizona.”
While market capacity for property, commercial general liability, product liability and workers’ compensation coverage has expanded – these policies remain more expensive than the same coverage purchased by similar companies in other industries. Passage of the CLAIM Act would open the doors for more insurers and should bring the cost of insuring marijuana-related businesses much less expensive.
THC persistence a challenge
But challenges will remain – particularly with respect to the workplace. When marijuana was illegal under both state and federal law, employers would typically prohibit employees or employment candidates from using marijuana off-duty as a condition of employment. But as states have begun to permit medical marijuana, things have gotten a bit hazier.
No state requires companies to accommodate on-duty marijuana use. As with recreational marijuana, no state that permits medical marijuana requires employers to accommodate on-duty marijuana use, possession, or impairment. States will often explicitly state that medical marijuana laws don’t affect an employer’s drug-free workplace policy.
Does workers compensation cover a workplace accident in which the injured employee tested positive for marijuana? Persistence of THC – the main psychoactive compound in marijuana – complicates this question, and state courts have differed on this issue, depending on the individual details of each case.
Many people think of financial literacy primarily in terms of saving and investing – which is understandable, since watching your wealth grow is the most rewarding aspect.
While fiscal discipline and the magic of compound interest are foundational, it’s important not to overlook wealth protection. Insurance plays a critical – and widely misunderstood – role in ensuring that your wealth-building efforts won’t be overtaken by a costly event or accident.
April is Financial Literacy Month, during which organizations across the United States conduct events and carry out initiatives to improve financial literacy – especially among the nation’s youth. While such awareness-building initiatives are important, financial literacy is a year-round, long-term concern — and the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have added urgency.
Two dozen states are now considering legislation on financial literacy. Proponents say student debt and heightened interest in economic inequality are behind the efforts. As of early 2020, high school students in 21 states were required to take a personal finance course to graduate, according to the Council for Economic Education. That was a net gain of four states since the council’s previous count two years earlier.
“I do think the pandemic is bringing more attention to the topic,” said Billy J. Hensley, president and chief executive of the National Endowment for Financial Education. He noted that after the financial crisis more than a decade ago there was also a flurry of financial literacy proposals in state legislatures.
Nearly half of respondents to a survey from financial planning firm D.A. Davidson said having more financial literacy education would have helped them manage their money better through the pandemic. The study, which surveyed 1,047 U.S. adults, found that 21 percent felt insurance was the subject they understood least – second only to investments.
Triple-I provides information and insights individuals and businesses need to make educated decisions, manage risk, and appreciate the essential value of insurance. Our website, blog, and social media channels offer a wealth of data-driven studies, videos, articles, infographics and other resources dedicated to explaining insurance.
To maintain a competitive private-passenger auto insurance market, state lawmakers must allow insurers to use rating factors aimed at having lower-risk drivers pay less for coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute’s (Triple-I) Chief Actuary.
“It seems clear that all parties sincerely want a more equitable society,” stated James Lynch, the Triple-I’s Chief Actuary, in testimony today to the National Council of Insurance Legislators’ (NCOIL) Special Committee on Race in Insurance Underwriting. “Working cooperatively, we can find solutions that address the issue of systemic racism while preserving the competitive environment that allows the insurance industry to keep its promises and protect its customers. At the same time, it is important that the discussion be based on thorough, fact-based research.”
In his prepared remarks to NCOIL’s 2021 Spring Meeting, Lynch underscored the importance of fact-based research when pricing accurately a private-passenger auto insurance policy. The Triple-I’s Chief Actuary emphasized how actuarial evidence supports the effectiveness of auto insurance rating factors (e.g., a driver’s age and driving record). These factors, combined with dozens of others, such as credit-based insurance scores, effectively gauge the likelihood a driver will file a claim, multiple studies have found. In addition, Lynch noted rating factors are approved by state-based insurance regulators and insurers cannot use information about either a driver’s race or income when pricing their policies.
While addressing NCOIL’s Committee members, Lynch pointed out flaws and errors associated with a 2017 study conducted by ProPublica, in conjunction with Consumer Reports. It alleged insurers systematically overcharged drivers in minority communities in four states: California, Illinois, Missouri, and Texas.
“Once elemental errors in this report are corrected, findings show the exact opposite of what ProPublica asserted: auto insurers charge prices that properly reflect the actual risk in majority white and majority nonwhite neighborhoods,” Lynch stated.
Lynch shared in his testimony findings from Pinnacle Actuarial Solutions, a highly respected actuarial firm retained by the Triple-I, that found “multiple concerns with the analysis and resulting conclusions” in the ProPublica study. Moreover, Lynch also cited state regulators who disputed the key assertion made in ProPublica’s 2017 study.
A comprehensive analysis by the state of Missouri in 2018 determined, “no evidence was found that would indicate that higher-rated territories are charged more relative to risk than lower-rated territories.” Private-passenger auto insurers generally charge drivers more in higher-rated territories.
“The growing awareness of historical injustices make these unprecedented times,” Lynch added. “As the insurance industry, along with the rest of America’s business and governmental institutions, examines past injustices and appropriate remedies, it makes sense to incorporate high-quality, relevant research.”