The global pandemic accelerated many technological advances that were already underway in the insurance industry – changes that are likely to pick up speed as COVID-19 recedes, according to Rohit Verma, CEO, Crawford & Co.
Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan recently spoke with Verma about the dramatic changes taking place as virtual interactions became more necessary and expected by consumers – especially in the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis. Crawford is a global provider of claims management solutions.
“We have a self-service app which had probably a seven to 10 percent adoption rate,” Verma said in the conversation, which you can watch in full below. “Within the first three months, that adoption rate went up from seven to 10 percent to about 35 to 40 percent.”
Verma said he expects further acceleration of digitization in insurance, with start-ups partnering with larger, established companies to transform how insurance is done. The biggest obstacle, as he sees it, is the question: “Do we approach problems with a viewpoint of how we do solve them digitally, or do we approach them on how we solve them traditionally?”
While property crime (except for car theft) has been on the decline, the United States has been experiencing a worrying surge in violent crime since the start of the pandemic.
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rose 29.4 percent in 2020 from 2019, the biggest rise since recordkeeping began in 1960, according to F.B.I. data. The trend continued in the first half of 2021, when the number of homicides increased 16 percent from the same period in 2020 and 42 percent compared to the same period in 2019. Aggravated assault increased 9 percent, and gun assaults were up 5 percent, according to the Council on Criminal Justice.
Crime analysts have suggested several possible contributing factors, including the many strains brought on by the pandemic; a pullback in enforcement by the police; and a spike in firearm purchases.
When a violent crime occurs on a business or residential property, the victims often can hold the owners liable for damages stemming from “negligent security.” Negligent security cases are based on the obligation (“duty of care”) of a property owner or tenant to provide a safe environment for their customers, residents, or visitors. According to PropertyCasualty 360, such cases are a “significant and growing subset of premises liability.”
Examples of negligent security include:
Lack of security guards or guards who fail to do their job properly, and
Insufficient locks or other security devices.
The duty of care borne by property owners can vary based on the types of businesses they operate. A shopping mall with limited hours may have a lower duty of care than an assisted living facility charged with caring for vulnerable residents 24/7.
Negligent security cases incur significant investigation and settlement costs, though few make it to trial. Cases that do go to trial can get widespread media coverage, and juries, sympathetic to violent-crime victims, can hand down massive awards. In Georgia, for example, lawsuits stemming from criminal attacks in CVS and Kroger parking lots ended in verdicts of $43 million in Fulton County and $69.6 million in DeKalb County, respectively, in 2019. CVS and Kroger were held liable on the basis that they should have had more security.
Property and business owners can prepare to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable precautions by making sure crime prevention practices are in place. Steps that can be taken include:
Have on-site security staff and make sure they follow up-to-date policies and procedures,
Make sure security equipment is up-to-date and working,
Make sure all staff is trained in security and in how to handle potentially dangerous situations,
Perform regular inspections on lighting, stairs, windows, and doors,
Maintain landscaping properly, and
Investigate all threats of criminal activity.
The role of insurance
Negligent security is part of the broader coverage of premises liability. Whether you are covered or not depends on your individual policy. If negligent security is excluded, it should plainly say so in the policy. If the policy language is ambiguous, courts may favor the policyholder in a coverage dispute.
When you’re covered, your insurance underwriting professional will work with you to make sure recognized crime prevention practices are being followed on the property. That way you will be prepared to prove that you followed reasonable precautions if a violent crime occurs.
If a violent crime does happen and a negligent security insurance claim is filed, the insurer will want to respond quickly to investigate the security measures that were in place, retain legal counsel, and engage a premises security expert. Delays in developing a defense plan can adversely affect the outcome and cost of the case. It’s important for the policyholder to have an emergency call list in the event of a crime and to have someone from the claims group on that list.
An insurance adjuster can help to resolve complex claims quickly, as well as help property owners prevent future incidents. The adjuster might dig into a property’s history to illuminate what’s considered “normal” and what activities owners should reasonably have anticipated. A history of break-ins or muggings, for example, could establish that the owner knew about the risk and, therefore, should have strengthened security measures in response, according to Engle Martin & Associates, a loss-adjustment and claims-management provider.
The adjuster may also look at the property owners’ social media and online reviews for previous complaints about security. If the owners issued warnings about criminal activity and shared their attempts to improve security, for example, that can bolster their defense, said Natalie Prescott, casualty claims manager at Engle Martin.
Taking appropriate security measures and understanding your insurance coverage will go a long way toward helping you be prepared if a violent crime happens on your property. Of course, you should seek guidance from your insurance or legal professionals about your specific circumstances.
The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a decrease in life expectancy in the United States for the first time in decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After climbing steadily for many years, life expectancy fell by 1.5 years from 2019 to 2020 – the largest one-year dip since World War II, when it declined by 2.9 years between 1942 and 1943.
Life expectancy at birth for the total population declined from 78.8 years in 2019 to 77.3 years in 2020. The grim prospect of mortality, as well as the financial havoc wrought by the pandemic, has led many people to consider protecting their loved ones with life insurance.
A survey by Life Happens and LIMRA published in April 2021 found that about 31 percent of consumers said they are more likely to buy life insurance because of the pandemic. And the latest data show they followed through on that intention. Total U.S. life insurance premium increased 21 percent in the second quarter 2021, the largest year-over-year increase since third quarter 1987. For the first half of 2021, total premium increased 18 percent, compared with the first six months of 2020, LIMRA reports.
Life insurance is now attracting younger customers. LIMRA’s survey shows that 45 percent of millennials said they are more likely to buy life insurance because of COVID-19. This increased interest could be explained by the fact that younger people are more likely to have children who are minors and higher amounts of outstanding mortgage debt to cover if they died. Younger workers also faced higher unemployment rates throughout the pandemic compared to older workers, so they may have purchased individual coverage to make up for the loss of employer-sponsored policies.
Decisions about buying a policy or increasing coverage also vary by race. Deloitte research found that underinsured Hispanic/Latino buyers were most interested in increasing life insurance coverage as a response to the pandemic, followed most closely by Black buyers. Deloitte speculates that this is due to the higher unemployment rates among Black and Hispanic/Latino people during the pandemic, which resulted in the loss of employer-sponsored life coverage. Overall, Black and Hispanic/Latino people were disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
September is Life Insurance Awareness month, and now turns out to be a good time to get the coverage. Insurers have made it easier to buy policies during the pandemic. Many companies are temporarily waving in-person medical exams and streamlining the buying process with simplified underwriting.
Companies with the strongest digital capabilities are benefitting from a 30 percent to 50 percent increase in online life insurance sales since January 2020, according to Deloitte. Consumers like shopping online, and interest in agent-driven sales is decreasing, with just 41 percent of consumers saying they prefer to buy in-person in 2020 – down from 64 percent in 2011.
People who get life insurance don’t tend to regret it. In fact, LIMRA reports that that almost 40 percent said they wished they had purchased it at a younger age. And while many people believe life insurance is too expensive, most overestimate the cost. LIMRA found that 44 percent of Millennials thought the cost of term life insurance was more than $1,000 a year, when it’s closer to $160 for a healthy 30-year-old to own a $250,000 level term life insurance policy.
Among the many things we’ve missed since the start of the pandemic, travel has been one of the most notable. Whether for business, to visit distant family members, or just get away from our now-too-familiar surroundings, many of us have been keenly anticipating a return to air travel.
Flying is among the safest activities people can engage in (see infographic). But new concerns are being raised about risks emerging in a post-COVID-19 world.
The risks highlighted in a recent report from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) include “rusty” pilots, “air rage”, new aircraft, and even insect infestations.
The industry is slowly rebounding, and AGCS notes that the airline teams have stepped up to ensure that air travel remained safe, despite layoffs, financial struggles, and the pressures attending an overnight shift to remote working.
“But as more aircraft return to the skies,” the report says, “there has been much discussion about the hazards that may arise from such an unprecedented period, as well as some of the changes the sector will see.”
Earlier this year it was reported that dozens of pilots had notified the Aviation Safety Reporting System about making mistakes after climbing back into the cockpit. Operated by NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) watchdog system enables pilots and crew members to anonymously report mechanical glitches and human errors.
“Many of the pilots cited ‘rustiness’ as a reason for the incidents after returning to the skies following months of lockdown,” AGCS reports. “While there have been no reported incidents of out‑of‑practice pilots causing accidents injuring passengers, mistakes reported included: forgetting to disengage the parking brake on takeoff, taking three attempts to land the plane on a windy day, choosing the wrong runway, and forgetting to turn on the anti‑icing mechanism that prevents the altitude and airspeed sensors from freezing.”
Condition of aircraft
At the peak of the first wave of the crisis, airlines parked around two thirds of the total global fleet. More than a year later, many are still mothballed.
“This unprecedented situation has resulted in a host of new challenges,” AGCS writes. “Loss exposures do not just disappear when airplanes are parked.”
Rather, the risks and their costs change. AGCS cites fears of damage among grounded aircraft during thunderstorms in Texas that pelted the region with golf ball‑sized hail.
Aircraft are large and tricky to maneuver on the ground, and ground incidents can result in costly claims. When operators transferred fleets from the runways to storage facilities at the start of the pandemic there were a number of collisions. It would not be surprising, therefore, to see more such incidents as planes are moved in preparation for reuse.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency has reported “an alarming trend…of unreliable speed and altitude indications” related to accumulations of foreign objects, such as insect nests in areas of aircraft that provide flight-critical air data information.
“This has led to a number of rejected take-off and in-flight turn back events,” the agency reports.
On the other hand, as many airlines have retired larger aircraft earlier than planned due to COVID-19, there will be many newer planes on the runways and in the air, which presents its own challenges from an insurance coverage perspective. As we’ve written previously, more modern planes are more expensive to repair or replace when there is an incident, leading to more expensive claims.
Air rage on the rise
In May 2021, an attendant on a Southwest Airlines flight attendant had two teeth knocked out after an altercation with a passenger over wearing a mask – the latest in a spate of highly publicized incidents that moved the FAA to issue a warning about a spike in unruly or dangerous behavior. More recently, an American Airlines flight to the Bahamas was canceled when some among a group of high school students refused to wear masks.
In a typical year in the United States, there tend to be no more than 150 reports of serious onboard disruption, the AGCS report says – but by June 2021 that number had already reached about 3,000, including about 2,300 involving passengers who refused to comply with the federal mandate to wear a mask while traveling.
Few COVID-19 claims
The aviation industry has seen few claims directly related to the pandemic to date, AGCS says, also noting a decline in slip-and-fall and lost-baggage claims at airports because of the reduced number of passengers during the pandemic. Such claims are expected to return to more typical levels as people resume traveling, and insurers will need to be mindful of new hazards that could affect claims experience.
Two narratives about how recovery from the COVID-19-driven economic downturn will play out are competing in the business press – the Federal Reserve’s and that of the financial markets.
Market economists typically forecast wider changes in quarter-over-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) than their counterparts at the Fed. But the current discrepancy is wider than it has been in decades. This is creating so much confusion in financial news that a recent edition of Squawk Box discussed the extent to which “markets seem reluctant to believe the Fed’s policy goals.”
The markets see recent GDP growth as closely aligned to stock market performance: a dramatic drop in the second quarter of 2020 and an equally dramatic recovery from third-quarter 2020 to third-quarter 2021.
The Fed sees GDP as driven by structural economic considerations that move only gradually from quarter to quarter. As a result, the Fed estimated a smaller drop in GDP for second-quarter 2020 and a slower recovery ever since.
Over the last year, the Fed view was proven right multiple times.
“Triple-I’s forecasts fall within the consensus central banks view, as represented by the Fed for the U.S. and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the large insurance markets we follow,” said Dr. Michel Léonard, Triple-I vice president and senior economist. He said the expectations gap comes down to three economic considerations:
Fiscal stimulus and GDP growth: Fed and market economists disagree about the extent of the relationship between fiscal stimulus and growth. When generating GDP forecasts, all economists assign a “multiplier” to quantify the impact of government spending on GDP growth. Market economists tend to assign larger multipliers than central bank economists. Given the historically high fiscal stimulus of the last 12 months, market economists expect historically high GDP growth.
Shifts in economic output: They also tend to weight quarterly data differently. Fed economists focus more heavily on quarter-to-quarter trends, and market economists on changes within quarters. The COVID-19 economy upended how certain activities are carried out and reduced the comprehensiveness of quarterly data. For market economists, this led to overestimating the decrease in activity in the second quarter of 2020 and now overestimating the increase in first and second quarter 2021.
Timing: The Fed and markets agree broadly about GDP growth but disagree on timing. Both expect a comparable amount of growth between now and 2023 but, for the reasons above, allocate it differently across 2021, 2022, and 2023. Market economists allocate most of the growth to 2021, while Fed economists spread it over the 2021-2023 period. This has led to the Fed forecasting higher growth in 2022 than some markets economists.
By James Lynch, Chief Actuary, Senior Vice President of Research and Education, Triple-I
You’ve probably been reading news stories about rising inflation, and auto insurance has been pulled into the picture. But that is a little misleading.
Auto insurance rates aren’t soaring. They are returning to normal, pre-pandemic levels.
Consumer prices in April were 4.2 percent higher than a year ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Wednesday, and its report picked out auto insurance as one of the areas that had “a large impact on the overall increase.”
Auto insurance rates were 2.5 percent higher in April than in March and 6.1 percent higher than a year ago.
That doesn’t mean, though, that the cost of auto insurance is skyrocketing. Remember that a year ago – April 2020 – insurers were busy returning billions of dollars to consumers because of the drastic change in driving patterns the pandemic brought on.
Those givebacks – which eventually totaled $14 billion – drove down the price of insurance, and the official inflation numbers reflected that.
Now driving patterns are returning to pre-pandemic norms – more or less. People are driving somewhat less than before, but they are driving faster and are much more likely to tinker with their smartphones or practice other distracting behaviors.
Premiums are reflecting the new normal, and in terms of the cost of insurance, that looks a lot like the old normal. The price of insurance, using BLS indices, is virtually unchanged from pre-pandemic levels – 0.01 percent higher than it was in March 2020, when the pandemic/recession began.
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.
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.
The U.S.’s auto, home, and business insurers have more than met the challenges raised by COVID-19 over the past year, according to Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).
“2020 proved how this industry can lead through disruption. We can adapt. We can innovate. We can keep our promises and pay claims—even during a global pandemic,” Kevelighan said, in remarks today to the Reinsurance Association of America’s (RAA) virtual 2021 Catastrophe Risk Management conference.
The net income after taxes for U.S. auto, home, and business insurers cumulatively dropped to $35 billion in the first nine months of 2020, a 25-plus percent decrease from where the insurers’ net income after taxes stood after the first nine months of 2019, Kevelighan said. The deterioration was attributable in part to the severity of 2020’s hurricanes, wildfires, and civil unrest.
“If you look at net premiums written growth, we were actually at the 10-year average last year,” Kevelighan continued, reporting how auto, home, and business insurers realized three percent net premiums written growth year-over-year when comparing the first nine months of 2020 to the same timeframe in 2019. Net premiums written are premiums written after reinsurance transactions.
“The FAIR campaign was meant to be an aggressive way to inform the discussion,” Kevelighan stated, “Our customers needed financial support and we knew the federal government was the only entity who could provide it.”
In assessing 2021’s key issues, Kevelighan said he thought telematics and social inflation would take on greater import among insurers and their policyholders. “Telematics is one way our industry can drive safety on our roads,” the Triple-I’s CEO said, referring to the devices drivers can place voluntarily in their vehicles to reduce the cost of auto insurance and to encourage safe driving habits. “Social inflation is getting worse. These massive litigation lawsuits are really putting a strain on the cost of liability insurance,” Kevelighan stated.
Following his remarks, Kevelighan participated in a live question and answer session moderated by Frank Nutter, president, RAA. Katrin Zitzelsberger, senior epidemiologist, Munich Re, and Damon Vocke, partner, Duane Morris, joined them.