All posts by Claire

Claire Wilkinson is vice president for Global Issues at the Insurance Information Institute. Ms. Wilkinson researches and analyzes a wide range of international and domestic property/casualty issues. She has co-authored papers on topics such as the handling of catastrophic risks, terrorism and obesity liability. She also acts as an industry spokesperson to the media. Most recently, Ms. Wilkinson co-wrote a chapter on alternative risk transfer for the book International Insurance Markets: Global Dynamics and Local Contingencies that will be published by The Wharton School. She has also authored and co-authored articles that have appeared in numerous publications, including the John Liner Review, National Underwriter and Catastrophe Risk Management magazine. Ms. Wilkinson joined the I.I.I. in 2003, after more than 10 years as a journalist reporting on international insurance issues and trends. Ms. Wilkinson previously served as U.S. bureau chief for the U.K.-based trade newspaper Insurance Day. Prior to her assignment to New York, she was deputy editor of Insurance Day in London. She also worked as a reporter for the Financial Times newsletter and contributed articles to insurance industry surveys published in the Financial Times newspaper. Ms. Wilkinson received her Master of Arts degree in Anglo-American Literary Relations from University College, London. She also has a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism from the University of Wales at Cardiff and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and American Literature from the University of Warwick. She is currently studying for the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation.

Flood Risk Beyond the U.S.

As the issue of flood insurance continues to be in the news, we note that flood risk is also a hot topic across the pond in the U.K. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has just announced that government spending on flood defenses needs to increase by 10 percent annually to approximately $1.5 billion by 2011 to counter an increased risk of flood. Nearly 600,000 U.K. homes are now estimated to be at risk of flood, compared to an estimated 220,000 homes back in 2002. One key difference: while standard homeowners policies in the U.S. do not cover flood damage, U.K. homeowners policies do. However, the ABI notes that U.K. insurers will only continue to be able to offer flood insurance if defenses are kept up to an adequate standard. Maintenance of levees and barriers is obviously important, but flood defenses can take many forms. Preservation of wetlands and saltmarshes is just as important a part of any flood risk management plan. Check out I.I.I.’s flood statistics for more information.

Subzero Market

Surveys of current policy renewal prices as reported by agents and brokers, and corporate risk managers, have confirmed a further softening in the commercial insurance market. With the sole exception of hurricane-exposed coastal property coverages, insurers appear willing to lower prices and place fewer restrictions on coverage to get new business, according to the latest market survey from the Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers (CIAB). Ditto the RIMS Benchmark Survey, where the largest decreases in premium rates in the fourth quarter of 2006 were reported in Directors and Officers (D&O) and workers’ compensation lines. D&O, in particular, continues to be a very competitive line of business with rate decreases further stimulated by the sharp drop in the number of securities class action suits filed in 2006, according to analysis from Advisen. Meanwhile, online insurance exchange MarketScout puts the average P/C rate decrease at -9 percent in January 2007.  

Northern Exposure

We all know cars and deer can be a lethal combination, particularly during deer season which generally runs from October through December. But moose, weighing up to 1,000 lbs, can present even greater risks for drivers and their insurers. For example, reports out of Anchorage warn that moose collisions could be double or even triple the average this winter as heavy snow has led more moose than ever to wander into city limits. The Alaska Moose Federation notes that in 2006 some 236 moose were killed on Alaskan highways, with an average cost per accident of $8,356. Vigilant driving is part of the answer, but new high-tech solutions may also help to better manage this risk. Take Connecticut, where state wildlife officials have just announced they will use GPS collars to track and collect data on the state’s moose population. Now just imagine that regulators allowed auto insurers to use a similar system to monitor the habits of their policyholders.

Twister Toll

It’s easy to forget that tornadoes, though not generally as destructive as hurricanes, are more frequent and can also cause severe damage. We got a stark reminder of this at the end of last week, when tornadoes and storms in Florida left 20 people dead and hundreds of homes and businesses damaged or destroyed. Each year about 1,000 tornadoes with wind speeds as high as 300 mph touch down in the U.S., according to I.I.I. research. Check out our  tornado statistics.  Ã‚  Ã‚  

  

Happy Groundhog Day

For those of us lucky enough to have seen snow this winter (i.e. Denver) the news that Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow and that there will be an early spring in 2007  will be gladly received. For the industry, however, the freeze looks likely to last a little longer. According to the I.I.I. 2007 Groundhog Day forecast, most insurance industry analysts predict slower P/C premium growth in 2007. Nevertheless, this year’s survey results indicate that the respite in catastrophe losses in 2006 will likely propel the industry to its best underwriting performance since 1936. Industry profitability is expected to continue in 2007, albeit with an underwriting performance that generates a much smaller underwriting profit. This apparent paradox—a peak in industry profits, but stalling premium growth—is a clear reminder of the cyclical nature of the property/casualty business, and the fact that our industry’s financial fortunes are influenced by a number of factors.  Ã‚  

  

Avian Flu Watch

New outbreaks of the H5N1 flu virus are reported to have infected and killed birds and poultry in Russia, Hong Kong, Hungary and Japan this week. Meanwhile, Australia, Singapore, and Japan announced they are stepping up their preparedness efforts. I.I.I.’s latest update from our resident bird flu expert and economist Dr. Steven Weisbart notes that at least 164 people have died and 270 have been confirmed infected since December 2003, the start of the current outbreak. In 2006 alone there were one-third more infections and nearly twice as many deaths as in 2005. Human infection is still believed to be mainly from birds to humans, basically from very close contact with infected chickens and similar birds in home environments.  There are still no cases of birds or people in the U.S. with this flu virus.  

Rebuilding is good for the Nation

As insurers, legislators and regulators grapple with how to maintain viable insurance markets in the post-Katrina and Rita era; we tip our hat to Illinois Sen. and presidential hopeful Barack Obama who addressed a Senate committee hearing on Gulf Coast rebuilding held in New Orleans Monday. Obama told the committee: “Rebuilding New Orleans is not just good for the Gulf or the state of Louisiana, it’s good for our nation.† Good point. Some 18 months since the most costly disaster in U.S. history and of the billions of dollars of government aid promised for Hurricane Katrina reconstruction, only a fraction has reached the hands of those affected. For our industry’s part, some 95 percent of the 1.2 million homeowners insurance claims in Louisiana and Mississippi had been settled by the storm’s one-year anniversary on August 2006. With an above-average hurricane season forecast for 2007, and landfall probabilities and intensities up across all regions, the importance of the rebuilding effort in the Gulf cannot be underestimated. Indeed,  insurers are  not alone in pushing for stronger building codes across the country. Check out I.I.I.’s Louisiana insurance market overview. for the latest catastrophe info.

Varying Shades of Green

The potential link between global climate change and extreme weather continues to elicit a wide range of views.   But whatever your perspective, it is clear that our industry is becoming involved in green issues in an ever-growing number of ways.   From hybrid cars to green building technologies to how to manage corporate exposures to climate change, insurers are increasingly participating in the green debate.   For example, Travelers recently said it will offer owners of hybrid cars in California a 10 percent discount on their auto insurance, bringing to 42 the total number of states in which it offers such a discount.   Several other companies have introduced similar incentives to hybrid drivers.   Meanwhile, Fireman’s Fund has introduced a new coverage for green-certified buildings that will offer a discount to building owners due to the lower risk factors.   Another education-related green initiative will see broker Marsh offer a program with Yale University from January to teach corporate board members about their fiduciary responsibility to manage exposure to climate change.   Released earlier this year, III’s report “Global Climate Change and Extreme Weather: An Exploration of Scientific Uncertainty and the Economics of Insurance† by III economists L. James Valverde Jr. and Marcellus M. Andrews examines a range of issues related to global climate change and extreme weather and explores the potential implications for insurers and reinsurers going forward.   Expect more III research on green-related industry issues in future.