Commercial insurance loss estimates related to the COVID-19 pandemic vary widely, with Lloyd’s estimating global claims as high as $107 billion in 2020 and analysts from investment bank Berenberg projecting total claims between $50 billion and $70 billion.
But a new Allianz paper says the unprecedented size of pandemic-related claims is only part of the story. The paper discusses the changes in loss patterns and causes spurred by the pandemic that “may be the prologue to more far-reaching and disruptive changes in years to come.”
The pandemic has reduced risk in some areas while heightening it in others. The paper points to “material reductions [in claims] in some lines of property and liability insurance, most notably in the aviation sector.”
Reliance on technology and the shift to homeworking for staff and remote monitoring of industrial facilities make companies more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Reduced air travel and increased emphasis on hygiene standards could benefit the risk profile of many industries, while changes in production line processes to facilitate social distancing could increase error rates.
According to Allianz, the cost of business interruption not related to COVID-19 fell in many cases as many manufacturers, their customers, and their suppliers either shut down or scaled back operations. On the other hand, COVID-19 containment measures have led to longer disruptions and more costly claims in some cases.
“For example, a fire at a chemical plant in South Korea forced the closure of the facility,” Allianz reports. “Restricted access due to the coronavirus lockdown prolonged the reinstatement period, increasing the overall cost of the standstill.”
The hibernation of some industries, such as aviation, doesn’t mean all loss exposures have equally disappeared, Allianz says. They’ve just changed, creating new risk accumulations: “For example, large parts of the worldwide fleet are grounded in airports, many of which might be exposed to hurricanes, tornados, or hailstorms. The risk of shunting or ground incidents, when large aircraft fleets are parked temporarily, also increases and can result in costly claims.”
Business resumption brings its own risks. Opening factories and restarting production lines are high-stress situations that can involve machinery breakdowns and fires.
Eye on supply chains
Allianz points to “the current rethinking and de-risking of global supply chains to achieve more operational resilience” as a trend to watch.
“Many companies are reviewing their supply chain strategies and evaluating options such as parallel supply chains with more redundancies or some reshoring from low-cost countries back to more developed markets,” Allianz says. “This will have an important impact for insurers, both in terms of generating demand for new protection solutions, as well as new claims scenarios.”
Potential also exists for claims to materialize from long-tail lines, such as directors and officers (D&O) or professional liability, as well as workers’ compensation, if any negligence or failures to adequately protect against the coronavirus outbreak have been perceived.