Extreme weather and other climate-related hazards.
And now, zombies.
Swiss Re’s chief economist this week said failures of hundreds of “zombie companies” over the next few years are among the concerns prompting insurers to reduce risk and charge higher premiums – a trend that is likely to continue as corporate failures increase.
Zombies – companies that lack the cash flow to cover the cost of their debt – are “a ticking time bomb” whose effects will be felt as governments and central banks withdraw measures that have helped keep these companies alive during the pandemic, Jerome Haegeli told Reuters.
The sobering prediction comes as stock prices hit records and the U.S. economy appears headed for 6.5 percent growth this year. Haegeli said these strengths are illusory because they’re based on temporary fiscal and monetary support.
Insurers are being cautious: reining in underwriting risk, being more prudent about investment allocations, and even taking precautions on insuring operations and supply-chain risk.
“They are not getting fooled by the short-term picture,” Haegeli said. “If you look at the market today, everything looks great. However, it’s illusionary to think that this environment can last” as “life support” is withdrawn in coming months. And that, he said, will bring an increase in long-overdue bankruptcies.
It’s tempting to presume that, as the pandemic-driven aspects of the economic crisis are brought under control, recovery will proceed apace. After all, the economy was doing fine before the pandemic hit, right?
Before the pandemic, the BIS said, about 20 percent of listed firms in the United States and United Kingdom were zombies and 30 percent in Australia and Canada. By comparison, zombies constituted about 15 percent of listed companies in 14 advanced economies in 2017 and 4 percent before the 2008 financial crisis.
Absent any reason to believe these companies’ situations substantially improved during the pandemic or that the contagion didn’t spawn more zombies, the expectation of more corporate collapses seems reasonable.
Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan recently briefed regulators on the steps U.S. insurers are taking to reduce climate-related risks as weather-related catastrophes increase in frequency and severity.
Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues are in the insurance industry’s DNA, Sean said in a panel discussion hosted bythe National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Climate and Resiliency Task Force. “While ESG priorities may seem new to many industries, insurers have long been involved in understanding and addressing these and other risk factors as a fundamental part of doing business.”
Speaking on the first day of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, Sean pointed out investment decisions made by leading insurers that he said will likely lead to carbon emission reductions.
To illustrate the point, he showed an inflation-adjusted chart showing an annual averageof$5 billion in natural disaster-caused insured losses incurred in the 1980s. That figure jumped to an annual average of $35 billion in the 2010s, the same Triple-I analysis found.
Given the millions of Americans who live in harm’s way, the Triple-I launched its Resilience Accelerator initiative to help people and communities better manage risk and become more resilient, Sean said. The goal of the Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator is to demonstrate the power of insurance as a force for resilience by telling the story of how insurance coverage helps governments, businesses and individuals recover faster and more completely after natural disasters.
“The insurance industry’s focus on resilience is starting to pay dividends as more Americans recognize the very real risks their residences face from floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters,” Sean continued.
A Triple-I Consumer Poll released in September 2020 found 42 percent of homeowners had made improvements to protect their homes from floods and 39 percent had done the same to protect their homes from hurricanes.
Colonial Pipeline Co. operates a 5,500-mile system that transports fuel from refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to the New York metropolitan area. It said it learned Friday that it was the victim of the attack and “took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations.”
Individually, the event demonstrates the threat cybercriminals pose to the aging energy infrastructure that keeps the nation moving. More frighteningly, though, it is yet another example of how vulnerable the complex, interconnected global supply chain is to disruptions of all kinds – a message that isn’t lost on risk managers and insurers.
The DHS described the attack on an unnamed pipeline operator that halted operations for two days. Although staff didn’t lose control of operations, the alert said the company didn’t have a plan in place for responding to a cyberattack.
“This incident is just the latest example of the risk ransomware and other cyber threats can pose to industrial control systems, and of the importance of implementing cybersecurity measures to guard against this risk,” a CISA spokesperson said at the time.
Not just energy companies
It isn’t only energy and industrial companies that need to be paying attention. According to cyber security firm VMware, attacks against the global financial sector increased 238 percent from the beginning of February 2020 to the end of April, with some 80 percent of institutions reporting an increase in attacks.
“Cyber is an existential issue for financial institutions, which is why they invest heavily in cyber security,” says Thomas Kang, Head of Cyber, Tech and Media, North America at Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS). “However, with such potentially high rewards, cybercriminals will also invest time and money into attacking them.”
He pointed to two malware campaigns – known as Carbanak and Cobalt – that targeted over 100 financial institutions in more than 40 countries over five years, stealing over $1 billion.
An ACGS report shows technical failures and human error are the most frequent generators of cyber claims, but the financial impact of these is limited:
“Losses resulting from the external manipulation of computers, such as distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) or phishing and malware/ ransomware campaigns, account for the significant majority of the value of claims analyzed across all industry sectors (not just involving financial services companies).”
According to the report, regulators have turned their attention to cyber resilience and business continuity.
“Following a number of major outages at banks and payment processing companies, regulators have begun drafting business continuity requirements in a bid to bolster resilience.”
Not just cyber
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught the world a lot of lessons, not the least of which is how vulnerable the global supply chain – from toilet paper to semiconductors – is to unexpected disruptions. Demand for chlorine increased during 2020 as more people used their pools while stuck at home under social distancing orders and homeowners also began building pools at a faster rate, adding to the additional demand. Such disruptions can ripple through the economy in different directions.
Business interruption claims and litigation have been a significant feature of the pandemic for property and casualty insurers.
When the container ship Ever Given got wedged in the Suez canal – one of the most important arteries in global trade – freight traffic was completely blocked for six days. Even as movement resumed, terminals experienced congestion and the severe drop in vessel arrival and container discharge in major terminals aggravated existing shortages of empty containers available for exports. The ship’s owners and the Egyptian government remain locked in negotiations over compensation for the disruption, and the ship is still impounded.
Spurred in part by this event, the Japanese shipping community is considering alternative freight routes to Europe, both reliant on Russia: the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Northern Sea Route. Neither option is devoid of risks.
In an increasingly interconnected world, there is no bright line distinguishing man-made from natural disasters. After all, the Ever Given grounding was caused, at least in part, by a sandstorm. April’s power and water disruptions that left dozens of Texans dead and could end up being the costliest disaster in state history were initiated by a severe winter storm.
A resilience mindset focused on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery is called for in both cases. There is no “either/or.”
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.
By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I
When mega containership Ever Given wedged herself across a one-way section of the Suez Canal during a sandstorm last month, it brought 10 percent of global trade to a halt for a week. The ship – owned by Taiwanese container transportation and shipping company Evergreen Marine Corp. – was finally refloated and traffic in the canal was able to resume.
A Risk & Insurance cover story, published by Triple-I sister organization Risk & Insurance Group (RIG), describes how – in the context of a trend toward larger container vessels and a global supply chain already disrupted by COVID-19 – this incident should serve as a wake-up call for insurers.
Looking at the Ever Given grounding and disruption of canal traffic from a marine insurance perspective, RIG author Gregory DL Morris highlights the impact on cargo insurance claims and the potential for cargo spoilage. He also discusses compromised maneuverability of these massive vessels in high winds and references an increasing number of on-board fires, challenges surrounding salvage, and lack of suitable repair facilities, noting, “Underwriters need to be aware of this.”
Despite the likelihood that immediate property loss in this case will be minimal, megaships pose serious challenges to marine insurance and risk management. According to MDS Transmodal, a transport and logistics research firm, average vessels capacity grew 25 percent between 2014 and 2018, with ultra-large containerships accounting for 31 percent of the total capacity deployed in the second quarter of 2018. Transmodal attributes this trend to industry consolidation through mergers and acquisitions, as well as growing trade lane co-operation through alliances, slot sharing, and vessel-sharing agreements.
Even as traffic through the canal resumes, terminals will experience congestion. In addition, the severe drop in vessel arrival and container discharge in major terminals will aggravate existing shortages of empty containers available for exports. Delays in shipments, increased costs, and product shortages are therefore likely.
“The fact is that an already heavily disrupted maritime supply chain has taken another hit that will further affect its fluidity, with long-term consequences related to congestions, lead times and predictability,” said Jens Roemer, chair of the Sea Transport Working Group of the International Federation of Freight Forwarders.
While traffic through the canal is now moving, the global supply chain’s vulnerabilities may only now be beginning to become clear.
“Whether a blizzard in Texas or a sandstorm in Egypt,” Morris writes, “the narrow focus on minimal inventories that rely upon just-in-time delivery leaves little allowance for weather or accident.”
Public discussion about re-opening the economy after COVID-19 has mostly revolved around the safety, efficacy, and availability of various vaccines. But in the longer term, other measures and new technologies will be key to getting back to normal and being prepared for future public health emergencies.
Tomer Mann, executive vice president of business development for 22 Miles, discussed his company’s “digital experience platform,” which incorporates temperature-scanning technology, touchless kiosks, virtual concierge, and other applications to provide social distance among customers and employees and early warning of possible infection in business settings.
“In March, when we were seeing a lot of the temperature-scanning solutions coming out of China, we realized we could leverage our software to pivot and create a more secure solution, avoiding some of the sensors that are coming out of China that are blacklisted in the trade market and avoiding some of the data breach implications,” Mann said.
22 Miles’ “workplace workflow” starts at a building’s lobby, using facemask and temperature detection and including badge integration and access control for employees and guests. For companies using shared workspaces, the system tracks what spaces are being used to facilitate sanitization between uses. To minimize physical contact while maximizing interactivity, the system’s components can be activated using voice, gesture, or mobile device.
In addition to facilitating safe, hygienic use of these spaces, the system captures large amounts of data that can provide warnings of possible infections and inform modifications to the workflow.
Scrubbing the air
Santiago Mendoza, senior vice president with Integrated Viral Protection, spoke about his company’s indoor air protection system, which has been shown to capture and destroy coronavirus at a 99-plus percentage rate. The system has shown similar results when tested with anthrax spores and other airborne pathogens.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are “super spreaders” of coronavirus and other pathogens, Mendoza said, adding that most filter systems only catch and don’t kill them.
“Our system heats up to almost 400 degrees Fahrenheit and destroys the pathogens,” he said.
The IVP system is available for commercial and residential uses and has been installed in hospitality venues, health facilities, and schools across the United States, Mendoza said. It comes in multiple sizes, including a personal unit for travelers to use in hotel rooms and other closed spaces.
Early warning in water
Jennings Heussner, business development manager for BioBot Analytics, a wastewater epidemiology company, explained how BioBot went from testing for opioids to tracking coronavirus.
“We analyze wastewater coming into treatment plants for human health markers,” Heussner said. The company originally was focused on the opioid epidemic, helping communities better understand the nature of their local opioid problems to better inform their public health response.
When the pandemic hit, BioBot expanded its focus and became the first company in the United States to identify the presence of the virus in wastewater.
Leveraging existing wastewater sampling processes, BioBot analyzes the sample and reports back within one business day after receiving it, providing a quick, inexpensive, comprehensive early warning system.
Ready and resilient
Such technologies will be essential parts of building a pandemic-ready and resilient society. Anticipating and addressing outbreaks early can help alleviate health-related and business-interruption concerns and head off insurance claims.
Just as the insurance industry played a vital role in improving vehicle safety, infrastructure, building codes, and more, insurers and risk managers – partnering with policymakers, businesses, homeowners, and others – will help determine which of these emerging solutions will endure.
By Marielle Rodriguez, Social Media and Brand Design Coordinator, Triple-I
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.
March is Women’s History Month, and this month we interviewed Susan Holliday, a Senior Advisor at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank where she focuses on insurtech and insurance for SMEs and women. She is also a non-resident scholar at the Triple-I. Holliday sat down with us to discuss developing trends in insurtech, how technology and innovation can help close the protection gap, and the importance of collaboration in tackling climate risk.
Tell us about your current role at the International Finance Corporation (IFC). How did you fall into a career as an advisor and an investor in insurance?
IFC is the private sector arm of the World Bank. We focus on making investments and advisory work in emerging markets in sectors ranging from infrastructure to banking and insurance and healthcare. I’ve had a 33-year career in the financial services industry, particularly focusing on insurance and more recently fintech. I joined IFC to work on insurance and fintech. I’m currently working within different departments at IFC and at the World Bank and building a board portfolio. I’m also a non-resident scholar for the Triple-I.
A lot of your work is focused on insurance for women and SMEs. What do you hope to achieve in investing in insurance for women?
Before I joined the IFC in 2015, the company completed research in conjunction with Accenture and AXA about the insurance market for women. The study found that the insurance market for women could be USD 1.3 trillion globally by 2030 and half of that would be in emerging markets. The research also indicated that women have a better understanding of risk, are very open to insurance, and can be loyal customers and excellent employees in the industry.
After the She for Shield report was published, IFC started advising insurance companies in emerging markets on how to successfully serve women. IFC already had a program called ‘Banking on Women,’ which provided financing for banks to lend to women and women-led SMEs. Whenever we make investments in emerging markets, we are interested in taking an angle that better supports women.
Can you elaborate on the protection gap between women and men and between people with different financial backgrounds?
If you think about it, the insurance industry has a great history and is hundreds of years old. A lot of products were developed a long time ago when society and family structures were very different from what they’re like now. For example, today there are lots of single women and single parents, and most women work, which was not the case when the products were developed. We also have gig economy workers. The default option has always been to continue to offer products that have been offered for 50-100 years, but they do not necessarily meet the needs of today’s customers, whether they are women or men.
This is the reason why I like technology and innovation. To close the protection gap, we need to protect the things that people care about and that need to be protected. There has been a mismatch between traditional products and the actual risks people are facing.
There’s been a report by the Chartered Insurance Institute called “Insuring Women’s Futures” which looked at different times over a lifetime of one person, and it shows where a woman can be treated differently than a man. For example, having time off for maternity leave, having less pension, and living longer. It pointed out all these things that could accumulate and leave a woman being in a much worse position [than men]. Families are no longer a guy who’s working, a stay-at-home woman, and kids. Insurance needs to catch up to reality, and this not only applies to women but all underserved communities. This will not only be a challenge for the industry but also an opportunity to grow.
As an advisor to insurtech start-ups, what impact do you see these companies making?Are there any recent trends or developments in insurtech and fintech that excite you?
I think insurtech, digital, and innovation are critical. There is no insurance without insurtech. We’re never going to close the protection gap unless we use and utilize new technologies to do it.
One of the trends is bite-size insurance on demand. For example, instead of buying an insurance policy for a year, you would be able to turn it on and off, which is relevant to gig economy workers, and is popular in developing countries. Some people would rather access [insurance] when they need it.
Another trend is using alternative data to close the protection gap and get insurance to more people. If we just rely on the old sources of data, a lot of people get excluded from the market or get priced out. It may have built-in biases, which were not intended, but may disadvantage women or certain racial groups. The combination of alternative data sources and artificial intelligence is exciting.
You’re part of the leadership team for Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator. Tell us about your work with the initiative and why you chose to join the team.
An area where the protection gap is big in the U.S. is in natural disasters and climate-related risks. We’ve seen so many things happen in recent years, such as Hurricane Harvey, and most recently, the very cold snowstorms in Texas and the wildfires on the U.S. West Coast. I think this is an extremely important area. It’s something that impacts everybody, regardless of gender, income level, or political identity.
I particularly like Accelerator, because I think insurance has a bigger role to play in prevention and mitigation, not just about compensation, and I like the approach of bringing different stakeholders together.
2020 was a historic year for natural catastrophe losses. What is the insurance industry doing to mitigate future losses and to prepare for a world impacted by climate change? What are the industry’s biggest challenges in creating resilience?
First and foremost, making insurance more available and more affordable. For example, there is parametric, index-based insurance, which can be provided at a micro-level and is used in some developing countries.
We need to get involved in longer-term thinking about how we can be more resilient against these risks in the first place. We must think about building towns, cities, and farmland in a way that they will be more resilient against weather losses. It has to do with planning, infrastructure, and it may have to do with changing certain industries.
I would like to see the insurance industry at the table in these discussions with regulators, local and state governments, and with private sectors so that all sides are working together. The industry needs to have a voice and be taken seriously. We need to think about how different parts of society can share the risk of climate-related losses.
By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I
Like many people, Karen Clark’s career was influenced by circumstances and serendipity rather than advanced planning. In graduate school she developed a love of building computer models, leading to her first job in the research department of Commercial Union Assurance.
“One of my first assignments was to figure out if the insurer had too much coastal exposure because they had been growing along the coastline,” said Clark. “I started to research hurricanes and how I could potentially build a model to estimate hurricane losses.”
That research ultimately led Clark to write her seminal paper “A Formal Approach to Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Management,” published in the Casualty Actuarial Society Proceedings, in which she argued for probabilistic models rather than the subjective rules of thumb then used in underwriting.
“Catastrophe modeling was a game-changer because it introduced a whole new way of understanding and managing risk,” Clark explained. “We don’t just look at worse-case scenarios, but we develop a probability distribution of potential outcomes. What are the chances of a $1 billion versus a $10 billion hurricane loss? You need probabilities so you can evaluate how likely you are to have a solvency-impairing event and how much reinsurance you want to purchase and for pricing the product. You also need to know what the costs and benefits are of different mitigation strategies. That’s what was missing prior to the catastrophe models.”
Being Taken Seriously as a Woman in the Insurance Industry
When Clark first started out, catastrophe reinsurance was primarily written out of Lloyd’s of London. “Lloyd’s was 100% male,” she laughed. “I gave my first presentation in the Lloyd’s Library to about 100 male underwriters. Not only was I a woman, but I was an American woman, and I was seven months pregnant,” she said. “Along with that, I was carting this portable computer. Many underwriters had never seen a portable computer, much less used one.
“After my presentation, there was silence in the room, and little interest, but that didn’t dissuade me. I was determined to find those innovators and forward thinkers and I did find a few in Lloyd’s and in the U.S., who helped me to develop AIR’s first product, CATMAP.”
Clark said it is important early on to find those forward thinkers who believe in what you’re doing and are willing to make a commitment. She advised women not to take no for an answer and to be good communicators. “You always have to ask for what you want. The worse that can happen is you get a no.”
Clark hasn’t looked back since. As founder of the first catastrophe modeling company, Applied Insurance Research, later AIR Worldwide, she became an internationally recognized expert in the new field of catastrophe risk modeling, revolutionizing the way insurers, reinsurers and financial institutions manage their catastrophe risk.
Clark declined many offers to sell her company over the years, but eventually decided to sell AIR to Insurance Services Office (ISO). Several years later, she co-founded Karen Clark & Company (KCC) with her business partner, Vivek Basrur, never intending to develop catastrophe models again. “But as my partner likes to say, life is what happens when you have other plans.”
Reinventing an industry
“Through numerous consulting engagements with global (re)insurers we discovered the models were not meeting all the needs of the senior level decisions makers. We started hearing several consistent themes and eventually developed what we called the CEO Wish List”, said Clark.
That CEO Wish List informed the KCC vision for a new generation of catastrophe models—models that are more accurate, fully transparent, and provide decision makers with additional risk metrics and insight into large loss potential. “We didn’t change the fundamental structure of the models”, says Clark, “but rather how the models are delivered to (re)insurers and how they can be leveraged in new ways.”
Clark said that KCC is doing a few things differently than other modelers and one of them is their scientific approach. “Rather than extrapolating from historical data, we have implemented advanced physical modeling techniques for the more frequent events, such as severe convective storms, winter storms, and extratropical cyclones. This enables our models to capture all weather-related claims and not just those defined as catastrophes. Our internal systems automatically ingest over 30 gigabytes of data a day from all the satellites, radar stations and global models so our clients have high resolution hazard footprints every morning for monitoring and managing daily claims activity.
“Interestingly, reinventing the catastrophe modeling industry was just as challenging as inventing it”, says Clark, “because most people thought it was impossible.” “We again had to find those industry leaders and early adopters who believed in our vision and then worked with us to make it a reality.”
Clark said she’s very fortunate she discovered her passion at a young age when she first started her career. I just love what I do, and until I can come up with something else that I could enjoy doing daily as much as I enjoy KCC, I’ll be right here.”
Sean Kevelighan, Triple-I CEO, will be a featured speaker at the Reinsurance Association of America’s 18th annual Cat Risk Management conference as part of a COVID-19 panel. The panel will discuss the economic impact of the pandemic on insurers, pandemic-related litigation, and reinsurance issues.
The online conference takes place March 22-24 and features a powerhouse roster of experts who will share their views on lessons learned from the tumultuous year just passed, explore risk-management issues, and offer insights on how decision makers can navigate 2021.
Conference registration includes three full days of information, plus an on-demand capability that lets attendees preview sessions before the scheduled presentations and review sessions they might have missed or wish to view again.
The conference targets financial-sector professionals–including insurers, reinsurers, and investment banks–responsible for catastrophe risk management; attorneys specializing in reinsurance; academics; federal/state government officials; and regulators. In addition to the exceptional technical program, it’s a great networking opportunity.
Social inflation – increasing insurance claims costs related to legislative and litigation trends – may be spreading beyond the United States, attendees were told at a webinar with the Greenberg School of Risk Management of St. John’s Tobin College of Business.
The webinar, held on February 10, was aimed to help lawyers and claims professionals understand the phenomenon, which is characterized by claims costs rising faster than general economic inflation can explain.
Annette Hofmann, Ph.D., professor of actuarial science at the Maurice R. Greenberg School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science, pointed out that “though it is largely a U.S. issue, there are signs of social inflation in other countries with potential for further international contagion, albeit not to the same degree as in the U.S.”
She added that the impact of social inflation in the U.S. has been most evident in commercial auto liability insurance.
“Litigation finance, societal attitudes toward corporations and large jury payouts are all behind the phenomenon,” according to James Lynch, Chief Actuary of Triple-I and one of the presenters.
In his presentation, Lynch showed how incurred losses in commercial auto liability have been climbing steeply since 2010.
Lynch said Triple-I studied the link between social inflation and trends in actuarial data (rising loss development factors) by focusing on long-tailed liability lines including Commercial Auto, Medical Malpractice and Other Liability.
He said actuaries look at the pattern of reported losses – the sum of claims experts’ estimates of every known loss. Even if the ultimate amount of claims rises or falls from year to year, the pattern of emergence should stay the same. That hypothesis is at the core of standard actuarial practices.
In this case, it is increasing.
One interesting offshoot of this work is that actuaries can also predict how much in losses will be reported in any 12-month period. The chart on the right shows how actuaries analyzing countrywide data have not been able to do this in commercial auto. And this is not just happening in auto, medical malpractice occurrence, and other liability are seeing the same effect.
Lynch went on to discuss some of the potential reasons behind large jury payouts. One explanation is the darker view of life that people have. Confidence in government has plummeted, incomes and life expectancy have declined, and Google Trends indicates that searches for the word “dystopia” have increased by over 400 percent from 2005 to 2020.
In the meantime, Lynch and another presenter, Julie Campanini of Magna Legal Services, noted that huge amounts of money have been normalized by billion-dollar lottery jackpots, sky-high celebrity net-worth, and news reports of “nuclear” awards verdicts.
Other speakers included:
Jonathan E. Meer, partner at Wilson Elser, who spoke about the state of tort reform.
Jeff Cordray, a vice president and economist at Christensen Associates, who discussed the importance of determining economic damages, particularly when there is a potential for punitive damages in a case.