Category Archives: Risk Management

Insurers Can Support Progress Toward Sustainable Development Goals

Insurers Can Support Progress Toward Sustainable Development Goals

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a group of 17 global goals aimed at reducing poverty and protecting the planet for the future. The SDGs were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012 and are linked to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by 193 countries. While the SDGs describe some of the greatest challenges for governments across the world, achieving them will require collective action including governments, civil society, the private sector, and individuals and communities.

Insurers can tap into new opportunities as both risk underwriters and as investors to support the UN SDGs, a set of globally shared social and economic expectations, which are increasingly being used by both insurers and corporations across a wide range of sectors as a guiding compass for developing their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) strategies. However, insurance’s potential role in achieving SDGs and advancing ESG more broadly has been underestimated, particularly for broader climate and sustainability initiatives.

The Insurance Information Institute recently collaborated with Non-Resident Scholar, Susan Holliday, and her partners at The World Bank Group on a report, Insurance’s Role in the Sustainable Development Goals, which discusses how the insurance industry can support governments and corporations achieving progress toward the SDGs.

Although the SDGs only mention insurance once, the sector has an important role to play, especially in the areas of climate, safe cities, health, and reducing inequality. However, to develop this fully the sector must be more involved in high level working groups on how to make progress towards the SDGs and collaborate to produce consistent global data to demonstrate the role insurance can play.

Click here for the Insurance’s Role in the Sustainable Development Goals report download.

Report: Policyholders
See Climate as a
‘Primary Concern’

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I (06/08/2022)

Nearly three-quarters of property and casualty policyholders consider climate change a “primary concern,” and more than 80 percent of individual and small-commercial clients say they’ve taken at least one key sustainability action in the past year, according to a report by Capgemini, a technology services and consulting company, and EFMA, a global nonprofit established by banks and insurers.

Still, the report found not enough action is being taken to combat these issues, with a mere 8 percent of insurers surveyed considered “resilience champions,” which the report defined as possessing “strong governance, advanced data analysis capabilities, a strong focus on risk prevention, and promote resilience through their underwriting and investment strategies.”

The report emphasizes the economic losses associated with climate, which it says have grown by 250 percent in the last 30 years. With this in mind, 73 percent of policyholders said they consider climate change one of their primary concerns, compared with 40 percent of insurers.

The report recommended three policies that could assist in creating climate resiliency among insurers:

  • Making climate resilience part of corporate sustainability, with C-suite executives assigned clear roles for accountability;
  • Closing the gap between long-term and short-term goals across a company’s value chain; and
  • Redesigning technology strategies with product innovation, customer experience, and corporate citizenship, utilizing advancements like machine learning and quantum computing

“The impact of climate change is forcing insurers to step up and play a greater role in mitigating risks,” said Seth Rachlin, global insurance industry leader for Capgemini. “Insurers who prioritize focus on sustainability will be making smart long-term business decisions that will positively impact their future relevance and growth. The key is to match innovative risk transfers with risk prevention and assign accountability within an executive team to ensure goals are top of mind.”

A global problem

Recent floods in South Africa, scorching heat in India and Pakistan, and increasingly dangerous hurricanes in the United States all exemplify the dangers of changing climate patterns. As Efma CEO John Berry said, “While most insurers acknowledge climate change’s impact, there is more to be done in terms of demonstrative actions to develop climate resiliency strategies. As customers continue to pay closer attention to the impact of climate change on their lives, insurers need to highlight their own commitment by evolving their offerings to both recognize the fundamental role sustainability plays in our industry and to stay competitive in an ever-changing market.”

Data is key

The report says embedding climate strategies into their operating and business models is essential for “future-focused insurers,” but it adds that that requires “fundamental changes, such as revising data strategy, focusing on risk prevention, and moving beyond exclusions in underwriting and investments.”

The report finds that only 35 percent of insurers have adopted advanced data analysis tools, such as machine-learning-based pricing and risk models, which it called “critical to unlocking new data potential and enabling more accurate risk assessments.”

Insurers, Regulators
Push Back on Changes
In S&P Rating Criteria

Insurers, regulators, and members of Congress have expressed concern about proposed changes in how Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings defines “available capital” in its rating criteria. Specifically, S&P would no longer consider certain debt to be counted as available for purposes of rating insurers’ financial strength and ability to pay claims.

“Disruptive” and an “overuse of market power” is how the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR) described the measure in an 18-page letter to S&P, which has requested comments by April 29 on its proposed methodology and assumptions for analyzing the risk-based capital adequacy of insurers and reinsurers.

S&P’s proposed changes, in ABIR’s view, would lead to the sudden removal of billions of dollars overnight that otherwise would be available to underwrite catastrophe risk – a sector in which average insured losses have risen nearly 700 percent since the 1980s.

“This debt is viewed as capital by the regulators,” ABIR CEO John Huff says in a news release. “If carriers are forced to restructure debt, they’ll get less favorable terms today. Any replacement debt will increase financial leverage, which is counter to the stability people seek from a rating agency.”

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, along with the U.S. state insurance regulators, through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, have expressed similar concerns about S&P’s proposed change in its rating criteria.

ABIR points out ambiguity in the timing of the rollout of the planned changes, saying, “Insurers and reinsurers will have no time to respond to the new debt treatment before S&P has indicated the changes will go into effect.”

“There is no glide path or grandfathering,” Huff says. “It’s just a cliff. “

Bermuda’s insurers urge the rating agency to provide a transition period for any such changes, as well as grandfathering debt that already is in place.

“If there’s a transition plan, we can work within that,” Huff says. “But having this so abrupt is quite disruptive. Standard & Poor’s should be adding stability, not causing disruption.”

Bringing Clarity
to Concerns About
Race in Insurance Pricing

There is no place for discrimination in today’s insurance marketplace. In addition to being fundamentally unfair, to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation – or any factor that doesn’t directly affect the risk being insured – would simply be bad business in today’s diverse society.

Concerns have been raised about the use of credit-based insurance scores, geography, home ownership, and motor vehicle records in setting home and car insurance premium rates. Critics say using such data can lead to “proxy discrimination,” with people of color sometimes being charged more than their neighbors for the same coverage. Insurers reply that these tools reliably predict claims and help them match premiums with risks – preventing lower-risk policyholders from subsidizing higher-risk ones.

Public confusion around insurance rating is understandable. The models used to determine insurance rates are complex, and actuaries have to distinguish causal relationships from superficial correlations to appropriately align insurers’ prices with the risks they’re covering. If they get it wrong, the insurers’ ability to keep their promises to pay policyholder claims could be compromised.

And they have to do this while complying with regulations and statutes in 50-plus U.S. jurisdictions. As one of the most heavily regulated industries in the world, insurers have strong incentives to comply with anti-discrimination rules.

To help clarify this complexity, Triple-I has published an Issues Brief on the subject, and the Casualty Actuarial Society has published a series of four research papers, drilling down deep into the topic:

Defining Discrimination in Insurance

Methods for Quantifying Discriminatory Effects on Protected Classes in Insurance

Understanding Potential Influences of Racial Bias on P&C Insurance: Four Rating Factors Explored

Approaches to Address Racial Bias in Financial Services: Lessons for the Insurance Industry

“Insurance pricing is a high-wire act,” CAS says.  “As regulation and society’s understanding of discrimination evolve, however, it is necessary for us to keep abreast of changes in the manner in which discrimination is defined and adjudicated.”

Insurers are well aware of the history of unfair discrimination in financial services. While it would be disingenuous to suggest that all traces of bias have been wrung out of the system, the insurance industry has been responsive over the decades to concerns about fairness and equity. Insurers and actuaries are uniquely positioned to continue helping policymakers, corporate decisionmakers, and the public understand these inequities and to play a constructive role in the policy discussion.

Cyber Tops Allianz 2022 Survey of Business Risks

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

Cyber incidents are the top threat to businesses, according to the latest Allianz Risk Barometer survey, up from third place in 2021. This result follows several significant data breaches and hacks last year, including the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack, which caused a six-day shutdown and cost the company $4.4 million to regain access to its systems.

Business interruption fell to the second most important concern in a year marked by the continued presence of the coronavirus pandemic, cyberattacks, and natural catastrophes. Still, the report notes that the pandemic “has exposed the fragility and complexity of modern supply chains and how multiple events can come together to cause problems, raising awareness of the need for greater resilience and transparency.”

Natural catastrophe risk ranks third on the list – a jump from sixth in 2021. Global insured catastrophe losses increased to $112 billion in 2021, the fourth highest on record, according to Swiss Re.

While cyber is ranked as a more immediate threat to business than climate change, the report says these two perils are “linked by the fact that two of the most significant impacts expected from changes in legislation and regulation (the fifth top risk) in 2022 will be around big tech and sustainability.”

Pandemic outbreak fell to fourth place for 2022, with many companies comfortable that they are now better prepared for the consequences of these occurrences. According to the report, 80 percent of respondents believe they are “adequately” or “well” prepared.

The 11th annual report was developed from a late 2021 survey of 2,650 risk management experts from 89 countries and territories, including Allianz customers, brokers, industry trade organizations, risk consultants, and underwriters, with a focus on large- and small to mid-size companies.

Weather, Supply Chain, Inflation Drive Up Commercial Property Insurance Prices

By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Triple-I

Construction material costs rose dramatically in 2021, altering the underwriting and pricing of commercial property insurance. A recent report by Westchester – Chubb’s excess and surplus specialty product group – details the causes of rising commercial property insurance prices and how they can be mitigated.

The report cites three main factors driving the increase:

  • More frequent and severe insured losses due to extreme weather;
  • A supply chain crisis that has generated higher costs for construction materials; and
  • Rising inflation, which totaled nearly 7 percent in December 2021 from the previous year’s period and is the largest one-year increase in the past 40 years.

Weather, extreme and unpredictable

According to NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, there were 20 weather-related disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion occurred in the United States between January and September 2021. Between 1980 and 2020, the average number of these types of losses was seven.

In the first half of 2021, about $42 billion in insured property losses were recorded by the insurance industry, representing the highest figure in a decade, according to Swiss Re.

Despite this dramatic rise in losses, the report says, catastrophe risk models “may not fully capture the potential losses attributable to unusual weather events like the December 2021 tornado outbreak, Hurricane Ida, and Winter Storm Uri.” The unpredictability of these storms, alongside a need for better hydrological, topological, and geospatial data gathering and analysis, continues to pose a threat for insurers trying to anticipate risks associated with commercial properties.

Supply chain

2021 also saw a fluctuation of pricing changes for many materials — particularly those used for building – courtesy of the pandemic’s disruption of the global supply chain. Although the exorbitant lumber prices fell in the second half of the year, the prices of materials like copper piping and tubing dramatically increased, according to the report. This posed a challenge for insurers to approximate future costs for underwriting and pricing purposes. 

If an unexpected major storm hits a heavily populated region, thousands of homes may need to be repaired or replaced at the same time, pushing the cost of goods and labor – and, ultimately, insurance – even higher. In November 2021, the report says, it was estimated that commercial properties were undervalued for insurance underwriting purposes by more than 30 percent.

Inflation

In addition to pandemic-driven cost increases, underwriters are concerned about the broader inflation picture and its potential impact on interest rates.

“High inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s, for example, adversely affected the industry, resulting in weaker underwriting performance and reserve levels,” the report says. “Rising interest rates, on the other hand, deteriorated the value of fixed income assets.”

Economists recently polled by Reuters said they expect the U.S. Federal Reserve to tighten monetary policy to tame persistently high inflation at a much faster pace than they believed a month earlier.

 Where do we go from here?

Westchester’s report offers several strategies to help combat rising commercial property insurance costs:

  • Insurers, reinsurers, modeling firms, brokers, and risk managers need to develop more accurate and near-real-time data on building condition, drainage systems, real estate trends, and access to construction materials and labor;
  • Risk managers and property owners should consider entering agreements with contractors before weather events to ensure that materials and services are available when the need arises;
  • To ensure more comprehensive underwriting of a building’s replacement value, more frequent and in-depth property damage risk appraisals from qualified sources are needed; and
  • Insurers should consider upgrading loss prevention services provided to commercial property owners and rewarding policyholders with discounts and credits for taking certain risk-mitigation measures.

JIF C-Suite Panel:
Finding Opportunity
Amid Evolving Risks

Credit for all photos in this post: Don Pollard

Insurers – beyond their traditional role as financial first responders – are helping policyholders mitigate the risks posed by natural disasters and cyber threats, panelists at a Joint Industry Forum (JIF) panel said.

The JIF’s C-Suite on Resilience panel was moderated by John Huff, president and CEO of the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR). It included Richard Creedon, CEO, Utica Mutual Insurance Company; Paul Horgan, Head of U.S. National Accounts, Zurich North America; John Smith, CEO, Pennsylvania Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company; and Rohit Verma, CEO, Crawford & Co.

“2021 has been a year of risk that has certainly challenged us,” ABIR’s Huff said. “Eighteen events in the U.S. alone, with over a billion dollars an event. Just a few years ago, those types of numbers would be unheard of, not to mention the 538 deaths and significant economic losses.”

Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 storm that made landfall in Louisiana in August, and the Dixie Fire, which burned 1 million acres in California over four months, were two of the most devastating national disasters this year.

“One recurring theme that we can talk about, especially with hurricanes and wildfires, is that we have growth in population in areas that are significantly impacted by these threats,” said Phil Klotzbach, PhD, a research scientist at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, and a Triple-I non-resident scholar, in introductory remarks.

Huff started the discussion by noting that the notion of resilience seems to have evolved from preparedness to meet and rebound from large, single events like hurricane, earthquake, or wildfire.

“It seems we may have entered a new period for leadership to think of resilience more broadly,” he said. “I’m thinking of the interconnectedness of businesses, individuals, and communities through technology and global commerce; the supply-chain and labor-force disruptions we’ve experienced due to the pandemic; cyber risks, which is such a growing market for our industry but also a growing risk for our global economy. Have risk and resilience fundamentally changed in recent years? Or are we just having to adjust to viewing them through a new lens?”

“There’s certainly a lot more to think about,” said Utica Mutual’s Creedon. “The opportunity moment for us is that there’s market need and expertise we have to expand beyond the traditional risk-transfer product.”

He noted that the industry has historically thought about risk and resilience “in balance-sheet terms, we’re building up large reservoirs of capital and surplus for that large capital- and surplus-draining event that’s going to happen. But nowadays capital is fairly cheap and abundant – it’s almost a renewable resource – and that kind of makes the risk-transfer product more commoditized and sort of a race to the bottom on pricing and product.”

The opportunity lies in insurers’ ability to augment their traditional capabilities with risk management, loss control, and other services to have an impact for consumers, he noted.

“It’s not, in my mind, a fundamental shift in what we define as risk,” said Pennsylvania Lumbermens’ Smith. “It’s that there are so many coming at us. As I think about risk, I do a lot of listening.  That’s why I’m here today, why I’m part of [Triple-I] I want to hear different perspectives.”

Zurich’s Horgan drew a contrast between U.S. insurers and their European counterparts, which, he said, “have been focused on climate change for a much longer time. Zurich has been monitoring its environmental footprint since 2007, has been net neutral since 2014, has signed on to U.N. agreements. These are things that have been hotly debated in the U.S., but they’re buying in.”

 “Our customers are craving for insights,” Horgan continued. “These are evolving risks. Some of them are insurable, some of them are not.  [Our customers] are looking to us for data. They know where they’ve got to be, and they know they have this journey to get there.”

 “I think about resilience as being able to recover from adversity, able to recover from a loss, or prevent that loss from having any impact on you,” Crawford’s Verma said.  “It’s impressive to see what the industry has done. Where there’s a gap is, if the industry was a playing field, everyone is playing like a quarterback, and if everyone is playing like a quarterback you can’t win.”

 Verma said his concern is whether the industry is coming together as a team to “rethink the ecosystem of insurance – the brokers, the claims providers, the carriers” to have a meaningful impact on resilience.

Flood: An Insurable Peril That’s Underinsured

By John Novaria, Managing Director, Amplify

This year’s hurricanes have served as a wakeup call about the importance of flood insurance and the fact that not enough people have it. Only 1 in 6 homes in the United States is insured against flood, yet 90 percent of natural catastrophes in the country involve flooding.

More of the population is moving into flood-prone areas. Not only does this increased residential and commercial development put more people in harm’s way, it reduces the amount of land available to absorb excess water. This means more homes and businesses inundated, more contents damaged or destroyed, and more vehicles immersed.

Nowadays, flooding tends to cause more costly damage than wind. An average storm year will generate uninsured losses of $10 billion due to flooding, compared to insured losses of $5 billion.

“One of the most frustrating things for our industry related to flood is that this is actually an insurable peril and it’s broadly uninsured,” said Keith Wolfe, president of U.S. property & casualty insurance at Swiss Re. Wolf recently spoke with Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan, in the latest edition of Triple-I’s Executive Exchange, about closing the flood-protection gap.

That’s changing, however, as the public and private sectors work together to improve consumer behavior and harden communities. The private market is slowly but surely closing the flood protection gap as it emerges as a viable complement to the National Flood Insurance Program.

Improvements in modeling are making this peril more insurable, and private companies are recognizing the flood-insurance opportunity and entering the market. According to Swiss Re, flood represents a $1.1 billion growth opportunity for insurers.

Is California Serious About Wildfire Risk?

Wildfire is a critical risk facing California, but at least one insurance industry leader argues that the state government isn’t taking it seriously enough.

“Yes, the governor has committed some $2 billion dollars to wildfire budget items,” writes John Norwood of Norwood Associates LLC in an Insurance Journal Op-Ed piece. “These include $404.8 million to hire staff and purchase firefighting equipment; $1.128 billion for forest management, such as thinning and prescribed burns; and $616 million to community investments.”

The details can be found in the Wildfire and Climate Change Fact Sheet provided by the governor’s office.

“However,” the Op-Ed continues, “if you compare that commitment of dollars to the list of other budget allocations the governor has just signed, it appears the administration and the Legislature determined the wildfire problem was only as worthy as some of the lower-priority budget allocations, like cleaning up trash ($1.5 billion) and paying-off delinquent water and electrical bills ($2 billion).”

Norwood is one of California’s top legislative advocates and managing partner of Norwood Associates.  He is considered the leader in the state’s insurance, financial services, and small business sector.

Rising insurance costs

Wildfires over the past five years have burned millions of acres in California, destroyed entire towns, wiped out well over 10,000 homes, killed scores of residents, and blanketed the state with unhealthy air.

“California homeowners and businesses are paying five- and six-figure premiums for property insurance, and that is only when they can find insurance at any price,” Norwood writes. “California’s largest industries – agriculture  and wine production – are being devastated by the lack of available insurance.”

And yet, he continues, “the $2 billion dollars committed to wildfire risks doesn’t even make it into the top five issues in the state based on the budget allocation committed to the fight.”

Role of reinsurance

Reinsurers — which insure insurers — are crucial to how the world handles natural disasters. As the frequency and severity of small-scale disasters increase, they’re having to pay more attention. S&P Global observes that “around one-half of the reinsurers we rate reduced their exposure in absolute terms, with very few players taking on additional catastrophe risk.”

It adds that this “de-risking trend” among reinsurers has been particularly visible in North America in recent years.

Without reinsurance, primary insurance rates must rise as properties in some areas become uninsurable.

Norwood argues that availability and affordability of property insurance are unlikely to change until the global reinsurance market believes California is serious about addressing its wildfire risks and there are demonstrable results in reducing the number and severity of wildfires in the state.

Without the reinsurance market backing California property/casualty insurance companies, there will continue to be an availability crisis in the state for property insurance and prices for such coverage will continue to increase substantially to the detriment of California’s homeowners and businesses.

As Nat Cat Losses Mount,
A Resilience Mindset Matters More Than Ever

Insurance is essential for individuals, businesses, and communities to recover quickly from natural  catastrophes – but perils have evolved to a point at which risk transfer, though necessary, isn’t enough to ensure resilience.

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said during a that better insured communities recover more quickly but “the long-term resilience of both the communities impacted by natural catastrophes and of the industry itself depend on preparedness and improved risk mitigation.”  He was one of three panelists participating in the webinar.

“Something’s Got to Give”

Insured U.S. natural catastrophe losses totaled $67 billion in 2020 after an Atlantic hurricane season which included 30 named storms, record-setting wildfires in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, and a severe derecho in Iowa. This year’s hurricane season looks to be more severe; the Bootleg wildfire in Oregon – so large and intense it has begun to create its own weather and is affecting air quality as far east as New York City – isn’t  expected to be fully contained until late November; and these disasters are taking place on the heels of devastating winter storms in the first quarter.

As Kevelighan put it in his panel remarks, pointing to a 700 percent increase in insurer loss costs since the 1980s, “Something’s got to give.”

“As the country’s financial first responders,” he said, “insurers are not just responsible for providing relief to the communities affected by natural disasters, but also planning for potential catastrophes to come.”  

One of the ways insurers do this, he said, is by building the industry’s cumulative policyholders’ surplus—the amount of money remaining after insurers’ collective liabilities are subtracted from their assets. At year-end 2020, the U.S. policyholders’ surplus stood at a record-high $914.3 billion.

Mitigate and educate

The role of the insurance industry has grown beyond merely taking on risks to educating the public, regulators, and corporate decision makers on the changing nature of risk and driving a resilience mindset characterized by a focus on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery. Triple-I and a host of other insurance industry organizations have played a key role in promoting public-private partnerships and using advanced data and analytics to understand and address hazards in advance.

For example, Triple-I’s online Resilience Accelerator provides access to data and risk maps that empowers the public to assess and prepare for risks specific to their own communities.

This webinar, co-presented by The Institutes’ Griffith Foundation and the Insurance Regulator Education Foundation, included panelists Hanna Grant, Head of the Secretariat, Access to Insurance Initiative; and Dr. Abhishek Varma, Associate Professor, Finance, Insurance and Law, Illinois State University. It was moderated by James Jones, Executive Director, Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services, Illinois State University.

Webinar highlights: