Best to be a skilled juggler to be an insurer in today’s environment

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It’s no longer just a water balloon; insurance has become a water balloon morphed with a Rubik’s Cube.  Squeeze here, bulges there, twist row here, colors change there.  Insurance is not a business for the faint of heart but needs to be an industry WITH heart.  Focus has been on COVID-19 issues but all those other perils and occurrences must still be attended and planned for, and the industry’s reputation- always a fragile characteristic- needs consistent effort to prop up.

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his day job. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

Contrarian’s reality of business interruption cover

The insurance world sat on its hands during the early emergence of the coronavirus outbreak, aware that supply chain issues were occurring in China, businesses were being shut down, and economic ripple effects were being felt into western economies, comfortable in the exclusion of cover for systemic risks.  However, as the insurance effects of COVID-19 became more acute when business interruption cover was being considered and denied for cover, insureds, legislators and the plaintiffs’ bar held sway over the narrative.  Seems the concerns have gone a little underground but that just may be a fools’ game to believe.  Insurance companies defend the multi-hundred billion dollar issue on a 9-5 basis; plaintiffs and eager attorney firms team up 24/7.  Sure, insurance industry orgs like NAMIC and APCIA have put out position papers describing the many problems ex post facto changes to insurance contracts re: business interruption insurance changes would cause the industry, and of late the US Treasury Department has advised it is in opposition to having insurance companies take undue responsibility for the BI claims, but of course insurance in the U.S. is not regulated by federal law, and zeal within local jurisdictions is swayed by sentiment.

In addition, policies and coverage differ across the spectrum of carriers’ contracts and certainly across what bespoke risk underwriting provides.  I wonder if insurance carriers are taking the issue seriously enough to have internal ‘war games’ where policies need to be defended provision by provision? Determining cover with a lean to the customer now is much less costly in terms of direct financial cost and indirect reputational cost litigation would present, even as the issue in the U.S. potentially progresses toward a constitutional battle.

Even with this news today out of the state of Louisiana via Business Insurance, Louisiana-lawmakers-scrap-bill-to-make-interruption-coverage-retroactive, insurers need to find other ways to provide risk management service for their customers.  Just because some peril or circumstance isn’t covered- now- doesn’t mean other avenues to assistance can’t be considered.

Insurers in the UK are dealing with a similar issue and business sentiment, just to a lesser economic degree per the Evening Standard.  Whether the concern is a “shortcut to insolvency” as the Association of British Insurers stated in response to U.K.-based risk management association Airmic Ltd’s remarks urging carriers to be responsive to insureds’ needs:

With many corporates facing an existential threat from global governments’ lockdown measures and a deep recession likely to follow, we expect brokers and insurers to demonstrate fairness and flexibility with regards to claims and renewals. The harsh market is already straining relations with many corporate clients, and insurers’ rigid interpretation of wording regarding the pandemic could accelerate this deterioration.

Airmic believes insurers have a choice. They can either interpret ambiguous contract wordings with their balance sheet in mind, or they can act as partners to long-standing customers who seek business protection. All parties will benefit from a partnership approach to the current crisis.

 

it’s clear that the concern remains on the front burner per reporting in Business Insurance.

24/7 efforts and networking of attorneys, insureds, and plaintiff advocates vs. 9-5 defense. Perhaps still a false security (digital communication works, collaboration is effective, and 33 1/3 % of tens of billions of USD is a lot of motivation.)

Insurance and reinsurance company capital buffers have become smaller as a result of stock markets being down 20% or more- does that matter?

Insurance companies are often considered more holders of float than risk managers; a less than stellar underwriting performance in a given year can be mitigated for effect by effective investment of premium float- use of premium dollars paid in that have yet to be accounted for as earned based on policy duration.  Berkshire Hathaway’s founder and CEO, Warren Buffet has been the industry’s float cheerleader for many years, and that attitude has served him and his company well.  However, even the estimable Mr. Buffet’s firm has been rocked by the loss of value due to the effects of COVID-19 and volatility within stock exchanges (see below.)

Sample of insurance company performances- US P&C carriers

Ins Perf 2020

One quarter does not a trend make, but it’s expected investment results for the second quarter of 2020 will be as volatile, and long-term expectations for P&L performance is uncertain.  Underwriting performance for personal lines may reflect better than average based on auto usage and stay at home efforts lessening some homeowners’ policy claim severity.  U.S. Fed actions will settle markets some, but carriers have less appetite for higher return but higher risk vehicles for that portion of float that is not bound to Stat accounting requirements. Perhaps carriers need to begin to plan for intangible asset variances from a risk management standpoint, something that seemed a very company-localized concern just a few months ago.  Is there now a market for parametric products that deal with trigger events relative to macro consideration of intangible assets?  Another look at the work of John Donald  and Dr. Marcus Schmalbach (See “Heartbeat in the Fog” ) gives some thought on the subject.

There are aspects of insurance reserves that do not get as much scrutiny, that being reinsurance and insurance linked securities (ILS).  Rei authority Artemis noted recently that as global stock markets ran 20% or more lower along with impairment of other assets classes the “capital buffers of reinsurance companies have become smaller as a result.”  Lesser values for primary insurers’ securities portfolios, and potentially less capacity in and higher cost for reinsurance- certainly not an ideal short or mid-term prospects.  As for ILS- even though that aspect of risk financing is a relatively small part of the whole that sector remains tight from significant events from 2017-18 (thanks for the perspective, Tom Johansmayer of Verisk PCS.)

For now P&C carriers have wiggle room on the claim side, but new territory to navigate in terms of investment.  If for some significant reason carriers feel they need to establish large reserves to defend and potentially pay BI claims that will affect loss and expense ratios.  Managing core businesses- sales, claims, and service needs to continue with a weather eye on securities’ markets.

 

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Whose perspective is it? Insurance remains not what it seems at first view

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It’s beginning to wear on the insurance industry.  COVID-19?  Kind of.  Moreover it’s the unexpected ripple effects of the outbreak on how lives are led, how insurance intersects life, how perspectives color how insurance news is celebrated or questioned.  We’ve discussed much of COVID-19’s current effects on business and how the future of insurance will need to adapt.  Let’s take this week to see insurance happenings through different lenses, or from a reverse of the Insurance Elephant- from differing perspectives as per sight-impaired gents in the image.

image- MA Devine

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his day job. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

  • COVID-19 cannot be overstated as being a health danger/terror. People have minimal control over exposures, and no control over the extent of symptoms if infected.  Similar thought process applies in business livelihoods of employees and SMEs – there’s little control for an individual over business operations, closures, availability of customers, and recovery funds.  Social distance helps in one aspect, but could be business fatal for the other.

 

  • Reductions in driving due to implementation of working from home protocols and staying at home is resulting in renewal of discussions for mileage-based auto cover. While that’s being considered carriers in the US announce premium rebates (Allstate, Liberty Mutual/Safeco, American Family, and now Progressive) and/or premium credits for renewals (GEICO).  Overall the rebates/credits are estimated to total $3.5 billion;  contrast that with the findings of  The Consumer Federation of America estimating US carriers are benefiting in additional profits in the amount of $2 Bn per month.  Carriers need to ensure this does not become a PR issue like business interruption cover has.  The upside?  Fewer auto accidents.

 

  • Government financial recovery programs have been announced in most countries, building optimism for the citizenry and businesses. Problem with government programs for disasters like pandemics is it’s easier to ramp up politicians/ rhetoric than it is to implement and produce the programs’ results.  Example- US Small Business Administration has an effective economic injury loan program, in essence a working capital backstop.  Plenty of funding has been planned but few loans processed to date.  Scaling up and staffing has been a significant challenge.

The time is nigh for the SBA to hand off disaster financial response to fintechs and InsurTechs– the vetting process for disaster loans is just right to digitize, from app to approval to funds distribution.  Just need to change some of the Code of Federal Regulation.

  • AXA’s CEO, Thomas Buberl, has suggested formation of a government/insurer risk pooling scheme to hedge future pandemic responses by insurers. Other similar schemes exist for property damage; need to ensure more than just cost hedging is planned (see Ten C’s Project  and broadening the spectrum of change).

 

  • Lloyd’s offered a parametric hotel product last fall that would provide payments to hoteliers when occupancy rates fell beyond an agreed index. Few chose to participate; all now have regrets post-COVID.  Whether there was sufficient capacity to take care of all potential interested parties will not be known.  My drumbeat – parametric will become the cover of the coming decade.

 

  • Worker injuries will be reduced due to business closures and work from home status (hmmm- what if an employee gets injured during mandated work from home sessions?), but potential high severity COVID-19 claims will be prompted for WC due to exposures during work. It’s not just state regulators in the U.S. who see the virus as a potential occupational disease, the Social Security Organization in Malaysia has deemed the disease as such, India has guidance to employers that WC applies if an employee contracts the disease (and has advised salary compensation applies for quarantine ordered staff).  The Province of Ontario, Canada has also followed suit for WC guidance for essential workers .

 

  • A promising entry into risk financing is the principle of Insurance Linked Securities (ILS), or capital vehicles used to hedge risk, provide coupon return, and widen the source of risk funding into the huge capital pool. Who wouldn’t want to obtain a return on bond investment that is greater than Treasuries,  and certainly better than potential negative rates?  Well seems the reinsurance world has some early grumblings that ILS are muddying the water and softening the rei market.  The remarks in the market that ILS have a destabilizing effect can be read through as injecting some competition and perhaps scraping some cream off the glass of whole rei milk. Thanks to AM Best and Steve Evans of Artemis.Bm for that commentary.

 

As is typical- insurance doings are strongly influenced by perspective, and little is as it first seems. Stay safe and well.

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Business interruption- cover that’s too big to cover- but needs to be next time

Business interruption insurance

On February 27  Daily Fintech published this article, “Dominoes fall- business disruption and risk management in the COVID 19 environment,” wherein there was a discussion of the indirect effects of the then China-based COVID-19 outbreak, and the estimation of economic damage due to the outbreak being $1 trillion.  We now know the effects of the pandemic will be in the many trillions of dollars, and business enterprises around the globe are realizing that business interruption (BI) financial losses due to the outbreak are generally not covered by their commercial insurance policies.  This is not a surprising finding since BI cover has the policy need of direct physical loss, which a viral pandemic does not produce.  Many implications here regarding coverage gaps and systemic risk, and global application of moral hazard.

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his day job. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

In one month’s time the anticipated BI losses due to COVID-19 increased manifold, became global, and have become difficult to quantify accurately, an apt expression of the unexpected outcome a systemic risk like a pandemic can cause- an uninsurable risk due to those exact criteria.

Business interruption cover is described by Marsh & McClennan as follows:

  1. We will pay for the actual loss of business income you sustain due to the necessary suspension of your “operations” during the period of “restoration.” 
  2. The suspension must be caused by the direct physical loss, damage, or destruction to property.
  3. The loss or damage must be caused by or result from a covered cause of loss.”

The problems with the BI cover regarding COVID-19 effects are…all three points.  Items 2 and 3 are not applicable due to the outbreak being the cause, and a viral and item 1 sets such wide expectations for the insureds as to be impossible to summarize.  Loss of business income? Is that cash flow, ongoing bills, net income reduction (based on what?)

Even in the most direct loss cases, say a fire experienced by a business owner, BI losses are seen differently by the business as compared with the carrier.  Again, what constitutes loss of income, and how is the loss indemnification supported and adjusted?  BI cases are difficult to wrangle and often are simply negotiated.

If that handling were to occur say, in the U.S. for all the COVID-19’s affected insured businesses, the twenty-five million or so claims would need to be adjusted throughout the decade, would result in indemnity amounting to  two to three trillion dollar total severity, would make all commercial carriers insolvent, and result in a consequential insurance catastrophe of loss of the industry.

There is no retrofit that would have the expected effect the insureds would need.  Take for example the intention the New Jersey Assembly has in Assembly Bill 3844.  The NJ Assembly proposes the insurance industry provide BI coverage to NJ businesses with full knowledge that BI cover does not apply and is excluded from cover.  NJ would like carriers to pay the cover through legislated changes to the insurance policies’ contractual intentions, with NJ then reimbursing the carriers in the future for all or part of the payments.  Just that one state’s businesses may have BI claims that exceed $100 billion!  That is not a reasonable nor a legal option (would surely be challenged if enacted) and would challenge the solvency of the state’s carriers.    Ex post legislation is not an answer.

Firms have already initiated legislation in the U.S. for breach of contract, and while most in the industry agree that BI cover is a long shot, the irony is that the claims being made trigger the need for loss and expense reserves, and the initiation of litigation will- absent cases being considered unworthy by courts- require that the respective carriers recognize worst case scenario reserves being placed on their balance sheets- a profitability hit that could be significant due to the volume of potential claims (think asbestos.)

Truly there is not a practical answer to the enormity of the question, so the industry and businesses must be forward looking in anticipation of another like occurrence, whether it’s a viral outbreak, cyber outbreak, or regional natural disaster.  Systemic risk effects will occur again, and mitigative actions need to be considered now.

 

I considered one of many scenarios of systemic risk in the recent article published in InsurTech360, “Rethinking excluded pandemic (and other) risks.  The article discusses just one of many loss occurrences- events and conferences, and considers the many aspects of planning, response, potential cover, admin of the response and potential payments for what is for an indemnity product an excluded peril.  Future cover cannot be full reimbursement as we have discussed- the indemnity factors are troublesome to adjust.  Parametric approaches to shared risk are discussed in the article as is planning and segmentation of the loss layers.

Insurance veteran Mark Geoghegan recently recorded a ‘solo podcast’ on the Voice of Insurance that addressed the topic in depth, and touched on the many issues of BI claims and COVID-19.  The ‘selfie’ podcast, unfair-punishment-and-pandemic-re editorialized on the two-edged sword that BI handling by carriers will produce- 1) carriers cannot reimburse insureds for BI claims in that there is no policy cover, and there are not sufficient resources within the industry to do so, and 2) the carriers will still be left as the parties with record levels of capital that will not be applied to the situation, not a good view for the insured public to consider.  Mr. Geoghegan walked through some efforts that could be put into place going forward, and some collective global actions that would distribute future systemic risk that would have similar effects as COVID-19.  He clearly agrees with the writer that BI indemnity cover remains unreachable, but parametric hybrid products might be a compromise, if there is sufficient global participation by carriers, insureds, and governments.  The industry knows that government subsidized products such as the U.S. NFIP flood program are not the answer.  In fact there are some influential insurance persons who suggest private parametric plans supported by alternate risk sources are the most effective and stable answer, and not government backing as is found in the U.S. Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (see Dr. Marcus Schmalbach’s article, implement-pandemic-perils-into-tria-no-a-free-market-solution-is-needed ).  Dr. Marcus is a knowledgeable proponent of capital markets being a primary force in financing these unique risks.

Mr. Geoghegan suggests that cooperative programs such as might be gained through premium contributions to a global pool of insurance backing for systemic risk response built over years is an option to consider.  The pool would also help fund an important initiative going forward- research into causes of pandemic outbreaks, anticipating new viruses, be prepared to respond with strategic supplies, and with several years of global contributions, a substantial response fund that is not indemnity-based and available to all.  However, what does that mean?  Participation by all countries, carriers, and governments, a daunting task for the best of motivations.  And as Mark reminded the listener- memories are short, and large sums of money are attractive targets for raids by cash-short governments.  The concepts are provocative and if actionable in small part a sure improvement.

The author had a related thought-provoking discussion this week with  Thomas Verduzco-Weisel, Director Central Europe at Symbility – Mobile Claims,  a colleague in Germany who has seen the effects of disappointed customers; the chat focused on any actions that might be taken to respond to customer concerns- now.

We settled nothing categorically but did consider some options carriers can take to mitigate the effects of the constant drum beat in the press coming from businesses that have experienced or anticipate substantial BI losses:

  • Reduce or suspend premiums based on companies’ reduced operations.
  • Coordinate with other carriers in establishing a response fund that can provide direct cash benefits to business customers.
  • Extend coverage for risks that are solely associated with COVID-19 actions, e.g., forward-looking coverage for credit risk, health risk.
  • Partner with government regarding establishing captives- immediately- for mutual sharing of risk within affinity groups
  • Establish help centers for staff to assist in navigating insurance and finance issues
  • Look for coverage within policies that were in force at the inception of the pandemic, e.g., cover for civil authority actions in temp closures.  Don’t wait for a claim to be initiated, create the claim and contact the insureds proactively
  • Know how your product lines will evolve going forward- parametric options, review and retest exclusions, etc. The efforts must be uniform for all like insureds, and reproducible for similar perils.  Not taking any action is going backwards.

Plenty of discussion of a problem that has grown into a multi trillion dollar beast, and a challenge for the industry and its customers, and not to forget, governments. Systemic risk from pandemics can no longer simply be a line in the exclusion section of insurance policies, but by the same token cannot be relegated to macro government response.  For COVID-19 all players have been guilty of the oldest of risk management dodges- moral hazard.  Why bother insuring the outcome if someone else will cover the effects?  Well, that time is now gone.

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Parametrics, alternate risk for outbreaks, and a Heartbeat in the Fog

It’s not often that a nexus of insurance/finance, and tech factors rises in prominence and promise, but seems the time is now.  Blockchain- parametric- captives- business interruption – AI/ML- coverage gaps- ILS- front and center!  Supply chain disruption due to collapse of integral parts of the pre-existing arrangements has rippled strongly through the global economy, and clever, innovative risk management and financing programs are now available for application, however from a previously under-utilized area of insurance.  
Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his …

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COVID 19 – indirect effect coverage gap on steroids

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Unlike a typhoon or hurricane, the current catastrophe cannot be seen, just its effects.  The novel coronavirus (COVID 19) is now and will be causing personal, business, and government disruption and economic loss.  You can’t see the virus, has relatively small direct effects (120,000 persons contracting the virus of some hundreds of millions exposed), but it’s secondary impact ripples widely.  It’s economic impact will eclipse that of natural disasters of the past several years.  Analogous to the concept of velocity of money there is a ‘velocity of consumption’ that has economic loss effects that are not subject to indemnification. 

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his day job. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

COVID 19 is on the front risk burner of pretty much everyone on the globe, and as discussed in a prior blog the effects of the outbreak are wide and deep in the business world.  It is becoming clearer how those effects are impacting the global economies, and if the risk exposure has potential insurance recovery:

  • As reported in the Asia Insurance Review, the Russell Group estimates China trade is exposed to an estimated US $122 billion trade risk due to business interruptions and imbalance in supply chains.  This projected risk is not limited to Chinese exports, but to imports as well, e.g., crude oil and circuit boards.  What is not calculated into the $122 billion is the ‘start up lag’, or the materials and labor costs to get production and services to pre-outbreak levels.  And a great unknown- the volume of businesses that simply will not survive the break in business the outbreak has caused.  Probability of insurance recovery- low.
  • Pandemic catastrophe bonds issued by the World Bank have experienced a crash in price in the secondary markets due to expectations that a full draw-down of these higher risk bonds as triggering conditions continue to be met. The bonds serve as a backstop to the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility.  The details and ramifications of the outbreak on these bonds is well covered by Steve Evans of Artemis, “Pandemic cat bond price plummets on growing coronavirus threat”. Probability of bond holders recovering price- low.
  • Call center operations (often sited in countries other than primary consumption markets) have been affected and the potential for more to be closed is high. In addition as discussed by Mike Daly of 360Globalnet in this advisory, disruption in one facility may be compounded if a firm’s continuity plan includes a back up facility that is also subject to closure.  Absent a plan to work virtually there may be business disruptions that cannot be recovered. Amazon is planning a full organization test of VPN work wherein all employees are being directed to connect to the firm’s operations via remote connection during 3/05/2020- a bench test of organizational resilience.  Probability of recapture of business due to disruption- low.  Probability that business interruption cover applies for a viral outbreak- low.
  • Gig workers in all markets are losing business as outside consumption and movement lessens due the encouragement to the public of limiting exposure outside of one’s dwelling. And, as regions wrestle with the concept of contractor or employee, persons who contract the virus due to exposure during an ordered ‘gig’ may have a case for workers compensation cover (US).  A compounding insurance (or lack of) issue for gig workers is the relative low percentage of gig workers who have health insurance provided to them, a reality that will be costly to the sector.  Inroads are being made to provide gig workers low cost, comprehensive personal insurance by firms like Collective Benefits (UK), and for on demand cover for fares such as what is offered in Singapore by Grab Insure (Grab also has announced COVID 19 cover for drivers.)  Probability of gig workers having health insurance recovery- low.
  • A first line industry that has been significantly impacted by the outbreak is the travel industry. Business interruption cover is generally excluded for health outbreaks, whether it’s inability for staff to man the facilities or reduction in visitors.  Certainly parametric options have become more available and in place, e.g., loss of business for tourist attractions.  Individuals’ travel insurance may not have cover for missed travel due to fears of exposure (some CAFR- Cancel For Any Reason are purchased exceptions to that), but illness while traveling and repatriation may be.  An excellent overview of travel insurance issues is found here in CoveragerProbability of cover for cancelling a trip solely due to concerns about COVID 19- low.
  • Companies that have been on life-support may suffer the fatal blow due to business downturn, e.g., airline Flybe, who have announced a probable collapse of its business due to COVID 19 . The BBC.com article notes that the firm has been on shaky ground, thus supporting the contention that COVID 19 is most apt to affect those who are already compromised, even businesses. Probability of indemnification for lost business- very low.  Passengers- probably on their own.  (Maybe @EUFlightRefund can assist)

There sure are other unexpected influences on business that may benefit firms due to reactions to an economic downturn., e.g., the US Fed’s action to drop US interest rates 50 basis points, the erosion of market capitalization from stock price drops (leverage, pension values), or spot shortages of commodities due to reaction purchases.  A real issue is the non-recoverable gross domestic product that results from drop in production and ensuing drops in consumption.  A double pronged effect- supply and demand effects- will take an absolute half percent off of 2020 global GDP increase, or an almost one half trillion US dollar impact.  The reader surely realizes this impact intuitively or by other sources, but a good overview of COVID 19 global GDP impact can be found here.  One must remember- lost production is seldom fully recovered.

As for now and during the outbreak’s spread, consider the far-reaching economic impacts of COVID 19, have contingency plans as one best can, wash your hands regularly, try to not touch your face, stay home if you feel unwell, and have plans for recovery once the outbreak ebbs.  Oh, and realize there will be another similar occurrence in the future, and have insurance plans to reduce your coverage gap.

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Dominoes fall- business disruption and risk management in the COVID 19 environment

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It’s clear there is much of which to be concerned regarding novel Coronavirus 2019 (aka COVID 19), including  the direct impact of illness and death among those who have contracted the disease, and the indirect effect of closure of travel, quarantine, closures of schools, businesses, and frontiers. 

Who is considering the effect of the virus on local, regional, and global business?  Whether you believe in the extent of virility of the virus or not, one thing is certain- businesses across the globe are showing symptoms from COVID 19.  Is this an insurance disaster or unexpected new market?

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his day job. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

Much of the production and retail business world lives with the two-edged sword of global interaction; on one edge a manufacturer in Barcelona can economically design and digitally source machine parts from a ten person shop located in Hubei Province in China, on the other edge is the disruption that may occur to the Spanish manufacturer if the machine shop is inactive or unable to produce a custom part.  Potential tech problems certainly predated the current viral outbreak, e.g., connectivity, ISP issues, in-house tech issues, etc., but having 59 million inhabitants of this province alone in question being exposed to and managed for contagion is a disruptive analog force that may affect business activity for weeks if not months, with figurative ripples being felt around the globe.

If one considers COVID 19’s global reach as of this writing ( WHO situation rep, 2/26/20220 ):

COVID

And the exposed population, cases and deaths in China alone:

COVID population

The magnitude and effect of the outbreak on just that 1.4 billion population becomes graphically clear.

Unless your business was affected by the SARS outbreak in 2004, affected by the more localized (but terrifying) Ebola virus, or mosquito borne diseases like Dengue or Zika, the business effects of outbreaks are typically small- unless you are immersed in the outbreak.  Businesses in Hubei Province in China certainly understand the effects, as millions of SMEs are shuttered due to the quarantine actions currently in place.  But, were you aware that Brazil reported 2.2 million cases of dengue in 2019 alone, with more than 700 deaths due to the outbreak?  Dengue does not have the quarantine requirement of COVID 19 so life goes on, but life is still disrupted as are businesses.  (full disclosure- the author contracted dengue while posted in a tropical environment- not a fun experience, but also not a disease where death is commonplace.)  The point- by degrees disease outbreaks can have far-reaching effects, and businesses must be aware and have risk management plans.  And you who have service industries and consider yourself immune to these issues- it’s a complex business ecosystem where all are affected.

For this article a deep dive into what’s covered by insurance and what’s not will not be taken- that would be too lengthy an effort for a Daily Fintech reader who needs an overview.  I can say that Business Insurance and Marsh and McLennan have a good summary document here, “Liability policies may respond to coronavirus” .  Travel insurers typically do not afford coverage if a traveler simply decides not to travel due to perceived risk (some policies have the ‘cancel for any reason’ option but it’s an exception placement.)  Suffice it to say that effects of outbreaks do no not fit well into insurance cover.

So what’s the point for this article?

Awareness and consideration of how outbreak ‘dominoes’ can affect your business, and are there insurance options that might provide financial protection?

Consider these quotations from the 2/25/2020 Economist:

“IF China is the world’s factory, Yiwu International Trade City is the factory’s showroom. It is the world’s biggest wholesale market, spacious enough to fit 770 football pitches, with stalls selling everything from leather purses to motorcycle mufflers.  Its reopening was delayed by two weeks because of the COVID-19 virus, the crowd was sparse and the dragon dancers, like everyone else, donned white face-masks for protection. “

And,

“The muted restart of the Yiwu market resembles that of the broader Chinese economy. The government has decided that the epidemic is under control to the point that much of the country can go back to work. That is far from simple. More than 100m migrant workers, the people who make the economy tick, are still in their hometowns, and officials are trying hard to transport them to the factories and shops that need them.”

An outlook from a visiting business person:

“Yiwu is testimony to some of the ways in which people far and wide will feel its economic effects. Agnes Taiwo, a businesswoman from Lagos, arrived in China just as it started to implement its strict controls to stop the outbreak. She had hoped to book a large shipment of children’s shoes and get back to Nigeria by early February. But nearly one month on, snarled by all the closures and delays, she has not yet been able to complete her order. And her return to Nigeria has been complicated because EgyptAir, the airline she took on the way over, has cancelled all flights to China. “This is serious,” she says. It is a sentiment that many others around the world are starting to share.”

The Economist states the case for China business concerns well; what of the cascading effects of supply chain disruption?

Let’s consider the potentials for risk management working backwards from end businesses:

  • Most business interruption covers are based on an occurrence of direct physical loss, either on premises or within a supply chain. Unfortunately, disease outbreaks are seldom considered direct losses, and in most cases are excluded causes of loss.

Continuing, how about:

  • Worker’s compensation?
  • Liability from infection from customers being on premises?
  • Directors and Officers cover if business results flag due to alleged poor planning?
  • Supply chain risk- all along the supply and transportation chain? Has just in time become a liability?
  • Loss of suppliers due to failures of businesses in the worst outbreak areas?
  • Actions of governments? Legal ramifications of non-compliance?
  • Employee actions due to extended periods of no work?
  • Loss of key staff due to inability to maintain salaries?
  • Loss or reduction of digital connectivity due to vendor issues caused by the outbreak?
  • Effects of civil unrest?
  • Interest rate risk from speculation?
  • Capital valuation changes due to stock market responses?
  • Inability to travel to affected areas where management oversight is critical?
  • Increase of cyber risk due to reduced attention to risk?
  • Reduced productivity due to requirements for and inefficiencies of virtual work?
  • Consider the effect that reduced business will have on governments and taxing authorities- will there be significant collateral effects for your business’ taxes, or services received from the government?
  • In the case of a significant outbreak in your area, what government services may be curtailed or cut, and how will that affect your key operations?

Attention, planning, and expectation for a worst-case scenarios are prudent courses as Mother Nature has ways to prove governments wrong.  Re-engaging 100 million workers is a huge undertaking for China, but so may be getting your staff back into routine after a week or two of preventive closures by authorities.

  • Dust off the business continuity plans prepared for natural disasters. Don’t look for the disease outbreak section, it probably doesn’t exist.
  • Contact your insurance broker, have the hard discussion and ask for a frank assessment of your business’s insurance. Ask for the specifics on supply chain, outbreaks, indirect losses, liability, D&O, etc.  What you will learn will be better than not learning at all.
  • Be upfront and inclusive with staff. They are smart, and know things you don’t.
  • Trade war activity over the past year has caused you to find alternative sources for products- contact those sources and solidify your position with them.

Going forward there are learnings for the risk management industry, and for any business that might be affected by issues related to outbreaks.  The availability of parametric insurance may become more commonplace, and the practicality of its inclusion in insurance plans will increase.

Consider the example provided by Parametrix, an Israel-based insurer recently awarded the UK Zurich Innovation Challenge (thanks to Mark Budd and Nicola Cannings who have kept me apprised of the contest’s outcome.)

While not an exact match for supply chain issue parametric cover, the company founded by Neta Rozy “creates parametric (claim-free) insurance for SaaS, PaaS and IaaS downtime such as cloud outages, network crashes, and platform failures. Their products help close a protection gap in business interruption insurance, tailored to the tech-reliant SMEs.”

Carry the parametric principle to supply chain interactions, or any business interaction where a disruptive trigger, or index can be identified, and a risk amount can be applied.  Business disruption due to a specific government command, for example, or supplier closure due to a WHO declared outbreak.  There may be many reasons why indemnity covers are unable to be written, but parametric options must be considered as an alternative.

While SMEs are the typical customer for Parametrix, there is basis for larger, more dispersed firms to consider alternate risk methods, almost as cat bonds might provide for natural disasters.  If an outbreak can affect global GDP to an amount of $1 trillion in lost growth, a globally established firm might suffer effects that are similarly material to its P&L and hedging the risk is prudent.

The key is that global outbreaks do occur,  perhaps not as potentially costly as COVID 19, but significant none the less.

Global reach, fragility of supply chain interactions, and business continuity demand different approaches, and provide the insurance industry new opportunities for risk products.

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Speaking of Blockchain, what of its place in insurance?

blockchain

I’ve felt as an orphan child within the Daily Fintech family, at the end of the common table but the uncomfortable ‘outsider’ because the content I produced for publication was not Fintech or Blockchain oriented.  The Insurtech content has always been embraced as an integral part of the blog, but like the student who does not quite know how to affix the sash on the uniform I have been feeling a little insecure.

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his day job. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

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Hard to believe that lede?  Should be, and is.  My DF colleagues are experts in what they write of- finance, crypto, and by extension, Blockchain, and collegially embrace the InsurTech discussions.  So not under any pressure to do so but having an intellectual and industry curiosity I figure it’s time to discuss insurance and Blockchain- unmixed oil and water, or tasty salad dressing?  Blind dates or maybe life partners?

I am privileged to have insurance connections/colleagues who understand Blockchain and are willing to share perspectives, so I reached out to several for background and explanation.  See, while I am no expert at Blockchain (BKCN), crypto, distributed ledgers, etc., I do understand the basics, and have yet to find a ‘tipping point’ application of the principle for insurance.  One might figure if there was, a 5 trillion USD industry would have integrated the idea already.  Instead, there are rumblings of the benefits of BCKCN but few projects at scale.

Consider some projects with traction (thanks, Walid al Saqqaf, Insureblocks founder; readers can find these ideas and many others at his podcast, https://www.insureblocks.com/):

  • Addenda, an insurance subrogation solution founded by CEO Walid Daniel Dib, and located in the U.A.E. Addenda has developed a BKCN alternative to what has always been a manual process fraught with delays and errors, subrogation of claim payments.  The decentralized, trusted nature of BKCN lifts much of the existing barriers to efficient subrogation settlement through placement of immutable records of the loss that the parties can mutually access.  With sufficient subscription by companies, is it possible the volume of liability arbitration would be reduced in other markets?
  • B3i– a Property Catastrophe Excess of Loss Reinsurance application, with John Carolin at the helm as CEO. B3i is a vanguard of what might be commonplace for the insurance BKCN future- a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) that is owned by 18 insurance market participants, with active involvement by 40 insurance companies, shareholders, etc.  As such the question of who supports the ledger financially is answered, who has participation rights, and how is the common ‘language’ or protocol of data insertion determined.  As John states, placing reinsurance has traditionally been a very analog process, with the height of innovations being email communication of terms and bids.  BKCN through B3i ‘democratizes’ the data, and access to the players, and encourages use of smart contracts with their basis being the set terms within the ledger.  Can this democratization and sharing of costs be expanded to include other types of insurance, and a far broader community of permitted companies?
  • Blockclaim, a BKCN innovator founded by Niels Thonéthat has an aim of clarifying what is now fifty shades of gray (not that one!) that are generated by the many participants involved with insurance claims, and the volume of data that claims generate. Changing a cumbersome multi-lateral, manual/digital approach of claim handling to a permissioned ledger allows concurrent access to immutable claim facts for all involved parties, leading to less cumbersome (read as more prompt) claim handling.  Can this principle also be broadened to include underwriting characteristics for insured property?  One might think so with sufficient mutual ledger support across a spectrum of companies.
  • Ryskex, a “blockchain based ecosystem for alternative risk transfers”, championed by CEO and co-founder, Dr. Marcus Schmalbach. Ryskex stands for ‘risk exchange’, focusing on new forms of identified risk, and/or previously non-insurable risk in a B2B environment.  The firm’s principle- if these unique risks are typically outside an indemnity risk prediction form, applying parametric principles to these risks, in conjunction with AI methods for determining indices and with trigger forms/indices stored within a ledger for transparency and ease of payment, BKCN can facilitate risk vehicles in less insurance traditional forms that capital markets are more apt to adopt.  Can insurance evolve into a capital risk model and less of a peril/indemnity model?  Dr. Marcus makes a case for it.  In parallel with the risk model changes Marcus is supporting a soon to be released book with John Donald, “Heartbeat in the fog – Parametric Insurance for Intangible Assets”.  While this second book of John’s has a focus on newer risks, e.g., cyber, its principles lend well to parametric and BKCN.  And who am I to question its utility, as Dr. Marcus cites John as the “master mind” and “one of the smartest guys I ever met.”   We won’t let Dr. Marcus kid us about being a smart person in the room; his upcoming journal publication that focuses on insurance of 2030 has a fascinating excerpt speaking of an insurer of the future:

if you have sufficient capital at your disposal, you can be an insurer.  Capitalism meets Anarchism- an ecosystem based on transparency and security of blockchain technology…because of a risk trading ecosystem instead of industrial insurance.”

An additional recent insurance blockchain success deserves mention- insurance startup Etherisc’s quasi-parametric project conducted with partner firms Aon and Oxfam- micro-policies for crop failures for Sri Lankan farmers.  Not a direct parametric solution but a transparent form where the policy data and payment expectations resided within a blockchain ledger, and automatically triggered.  Progress.

And are there firms working in the background to facilitate organizations’ migration to blockchain environments?  Yes, of course.  Global consulting firms are actively pursuing blockchain programs as are startups and independents.  A US-based firm, Fluree, is actively developing data platforms for what they refer to as the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution.’  In discussion with Kevin Doubleday, Marketing Communications Lead at the firm, Fluree (as do many companies) recognizes the traditional database structure of data, middleware, and now APIs is being overwhelmed by the volume and form of data and business processes driven by same.  Many suggest that blockchain is not the ideal option for use in insurance claims processes due to the varied forms of and demands on data (thanks, Mica Cooper and Chris Frankland for that discussion), but as Kevin and I discussed perhaps considering eating the elephant one bite at a time by choosing insurance processes that would have narrow but meaningful applications, e.g., subrogation (as noted above), transparency and immutability that would facilitate anti-fraud efforts, or deed and title data repositories.  Fluree is also focused on having a universal access format that will accommodate all users.  Current users of Fluree’s services includes life insurance solution startup, Benekiva, whose co-founder and all-around smart tech person, Bobbie Shrivastav  introduced me to Fluree.  Quite a bilateral endorsement.

So, Blockchain and insurance, dating but not yet in a committed relationship.  Seems we might be wise to plan a formal ceremony a few years from now when the relationship ‘learnings’ have been resolved.

And, perhaps now I can have a seat at the big blockchain table at DF.  😀

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When a traditional risk fix isn’t the fix, and sometimes a fix needs to be found for a risk

solution_impact

It’s an increasingly connected world- digitally and physically- and that means occurrences there increasingly have effects on business existence here.  ‘Effects’ means risk, risk means exposure, and exposure means need for insurance.  Climate/environmental occurrences, urban congestion, or virus outbreaks have far reaching consequences.  It used to be that businesses simply dealt with consequences over which they had no control in mitigating, and who was dealing with the issues were local to the effect or involved in the business or its collaterals. Is that true in today’s insurance world?

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners in his day job. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

Daily Fintech– a top financial blog per Feedspot for Financial Technology Pros for 2020.

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Few risks are more terror-inducing than an unmanageable viral outbreak with unconfirmed causation such as is the coronavirus outbreak focused on the Wuhan region of China.  What to do other than quarantine the outbreak area, and limit individuals’ movement into other areas.  Prudent.  So, what do businesses do that are reliant on the movement of and visitation by persons?  Airlines, hotels, transport, tourism, and commercial businesses will have significant direct and indirect effects of the virus due to reduced attendance from travel, tourism and just regular business.  Compounding the effects for business is as reported by Insurance Journal, “companies are set to face billions of dollars (US) in losses linked to events and travel cancellations and closures of businesses.”  Most standard commercial insurance policies have had exclusions placed for communicable diseases in the wake of the SARS, Ebola and Zika viruses, leaving the insureds to self-insure for these occurrences.

But what of parametric options?  If you are a cruise ship operator whose business is reduced by 1/3 due to customer fear of an outbreak that happened across the globe, is there not a trigger/index that can be factored for in a parametric policy?  Even more common for that business is passenger count reduction for a single cruise due to norovirus outbreak- or fear thereof.   Same principle can apply to larger firms that may be affected in other industries- beaches, theme parks, tour providers, hoteliers, airlines, etc.  The Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald reports that the country’s economy may be affected to the tune of $2.3 Bn (Aus) due to the coronavirus’ effects as students and tourists remain home.

The Wall Street Journal reminds the business world of the far-reaching effects of outbreaks in densely populated areas- the need to repatriate employees from outbreak areas, and mass closures of businesses, e.g., Starbucks, McDonald’s, IMAX, and other widely distributed businesses.  China does mandate that employers reimburse employees for lost wages, but on a practical basis the effectiveness of those regulations is low.  Risk exposure with little sharing of the cost of risk.  But is there an opportunity for a micro-insurance product to protect individuals?

Are there other risks to which property owners or business operators are exposed without easy access to risk sharing?  Sure.  Regional perils, environmental perils, and/or climactic risks such as earthquake, flood, temperature extremes are a few of these.  Flood insurance has been available for some decades but is not an easy match to insurance limits needed, and most often that cover is government subsidized and regulated, and is expensive if a subject property is in a flood frequency area.  But what of those persons who own property in less sophisticated emerging markets?  Well, more and more governments are looking to collaboration with other countries in establishing risk response pools, catastrophe bonds, or leveraging insurance linked securities (ILS) in smoothing the cost of disaster response.  These are products that may not have existed as little as ten years ago, and even when present in a country’s emergency portfolio may not provide the expected benefits.

Take for example the risk vehicle Mexico placed prior to Hurricane Odile (2014), providing reinsurance for the country’s Fund for Natural Disasters (FONDEN).  The bond was established as a hedge for when a hurricane met a certain central pressure trigger within a ‘box’ regional area.  Good idea, unless the index values are not clearly defined in how the values are confirmed.  The index was not met at that time but might have, except there was only one index measure point managed by one observer.  Even if triggered the basis risk the country was exposed to would not have been met by the full release of the bond’s principal, supporting natural disasters as being global basis risk issues.

Considering the disaster ‘protection gap’ being most notable in emerging markets (on average only 5% of disaster losses having cover in poorer countries), there are organizations such as Global Parametrics(GP) that are working to improve access to cover by means of parametrics products.  GP’s CEO, Hector Ibarra reports that a recent placement of parametric product produced advance payment to Oxfam and Plan International in anticipation of Typhoon Ursula in December 2019.  The use of forecast-based indices (payments triggered on forecast of certain conditions) provided communities in the Philippines payment before the actual typhoon landfall, allowing evacuation funding for residents.  Proactive risk sharing, with immediate payment upon reaching an index value.  Not a perfect answer to all similar events, but certainly a start from which to build.

Are the principles behind parametric products adaptable to local risk factors that regions or businesses encounter but cannot find effective indemnity products for?   Weather risk parametrics have gained a foothold within emerging ag markets in the form of micro-parametric products, with index factors of ‘on the ground’ conditions being verified by new techniques (sensors, satellite, drones).  Larger scale weather-related ag parametric products are slowly getting traction and are beginning to supplant traditional crop insurance.  In discussion with Norm Trethewey of Weather Index Solutions of Australia there are now more companies willing to underwrite smaller ag weather parametric or derivative products, say a $200K cover that used to be passed on by firms like Swiss Re and Munich Re.  The presence of wider and deeper data sets there can be indexes established that in the underwriters’ estimation will be profitable and responsive.

The exhibit noted below shows some of the relative complexity of cover that is supported by available data and the sophistication of index monitoring:

Para

There is not the same concerns of basis risk for ag parametrics because the value of the crop is known (within a range) so what remains is the farming business to calculate premium cost versus potential loss of yield.  This sounds straight forward enough but changing the ag industry’s thoughts on what to do about Mother Nature becomes the nuance of the product.  One thing is certain- as available data improves even more the underwriting of these parametric options will become more commonplace, for developed and emerging markets.

And for more extreme climate like there typically is in Australia, and where ag production includes upwards of 20 million exportable bushels of broad acre crops, having a spectrum of risk management options to include parametric and derivative covers is a potential stabilizing factor during spikes in conditions.

To wrap up this column is a short discussion of risks that simply may not have indemnity or parametric solutions, e.g., the number of, confusion caused, and accidents experienced through use of okadas (motorbikes) and kekes (three-wheeled vehicles) within the city of Lagos, Nigeria.  One of the most populous urban areas on the African continent Lagos has waged a continuous battle against sprawl and traffic congestion.  Add to that the easier acquisition of motorbikes and trikes compared to autos, and the growth of informal ride sharing using the more informal vehicles and you have traffic mayhem.  The state government has banned the vehicles’ use, presenting survival mode for commercial ride sharing companies like Max.ng, Oride, and gokada.ng.  Traffic risk, government risk, and no easy solution other than tossing the figurative baby out with the bathwater, and exacerbating the very commuting challenge for the city’s residents that prompted the popularity of the bikes and trikes.  Thanks to the East African for the reporting on the ban.

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Can industry changes soften a hard property insurance market in California?

hard-market-to-soft-market-cycle

There are suggestions of hardening markets for US property insurance participants, and there is no better example of this than what is occurring in California.  Non-renewals in wildfire prone areas, premium increases, reductions in coverage and the seeming ultimate reaction- regulatory prohibition of policy non-renewals.

How did the state get to this point, and is there a lesson to be gained for any area that is exposed to regional maximum losses?  Is the hardening multi-trillion dollar California homeowners market a bellwether for others?

 

Patrick Kelahan is a CX, engineering & insurance consultant, working with Insurers, Attorneys & Owners. He also serves the insurance and Fintech world as the ‘Insurance Elephant’.

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Hard Market — in the insurance industry, the upswing in a market cycle, when premiums increase and capacity for most types of insurance decreases. Can be caused by a number of factors, including falling investment returns for insurers, increases in frequency or severity of losses, and regulatory intervention deemed to be against the interests of insurers.[1]

 

An on point definition of a hard market for the California property insurance market prompted in great part by successive years of severe wildfires throughout the state, a circumstance that recently culminated in the state’s insurance commissioner to enact temporary regulations that prohibit non-renewal of homeowners’ policies for one million insured properties located within wildfire-prone areas. The commissioner’s action came as a result of insurance premiums in affected areas rising to seemingly unaffordable levels, in carriers refusing to underwrite properties, and in delayed recovery in wildfire areas due to limited availability of hazard insurance.

[1] https://www.irmi.com/term/insurance-definitions/hard-market

How did a bad fire situation get worse? Two years of homeowners’ lines’ loss ratios averaging in the 190 range, or $1.90 being paid out for every dollar of earned premium.  Who expects carriers to absorb that extent of loss without an according rise in premiums?  Let’s take a look at how the state got there (we’ll set aside the climate risk and fire damage negligence/liability discussion), and how things aren’t as simple as one might think.

Loss History

The state’s homeowners’ carriers were essentially the same in 2017-2018 as they were in the ten years preceding the heavy wildfire years.  Why does that matter?  Consider this chart of data for HO line earned premium, losses, and loss ratios for the ten years prior:[2]

CA Premiums Losses

[2] http://www.insurance.ca.gov/01-consumers/120-company/04-mrktshare/2018/upload/MktShrSummary2018wa_RevisedAug1519.pdf

$37.4 billion surplus of earned premiums over losses incurred during that ten-year span. That is not bad.

 

If one looks at the 2017 and 2018 results, the numbers flip:

Earned premiums–           $15.6 billion

Losses incurred–               $29 billion, or a $13.4 billion deficit. That gets companies’ attention.

A significant compounding concern for carriers for the 2017-18 period is that the losses were compressed into repetitive geographic areas, reflect concentration of maximum losses within same, and the factors behind the peril have not materially changed. So even though there was a $37 billion surplus noted for the ten years prior, carriers (being forward looking for revenues) reacted not only to raise premiums, but to restrict available coverage and restrict the scope of coverage, classic hard market characteristics.

Premiums and pricing

If the discussion continues to market factors regarding historic pricing, more evidence of the roots of a hard market come to the surface. Average homeowners’ policy premiums for the state relative to median property values are significantly skewed in comparison with other states with higher population and exposure to concentrated risk:[3]

States Premium

[3] data from https://www.policygenius.com/homeowners-insurance/how-much-does-homeowners-insurance-cost/#average-homeowners-insurance-cost-by-state

So the case builds for how a hard market builds- premium levels that seemingly fail to consider the potential effects of regional peril occurrences.  California having premium values one quarter of those in Florida?  There is also significant evidence that- on average- properties have been under-insured for value in that post-disaster rebuilding costs are exceeding coverage limits. The market (through pricing history) inadvertently set its own table for hardening.  And it’s not just carriers- homeowners and financing institutions are partners in the issue.

Coverage

Homeowners do have options when persons have are unable to obtain voluntary insurance due to circumstances beyond their control- the state’s default insurer, the FAIR (Fair Access to Insurance Requirements) plan.  The state’s FAIR plan provides limited coverage for primary perils but its use requires property owners to have separate wrap around policies in order to have cover that reasonably matches the benefits of voluntary cover.  The FAIR plan is a syndicate pool supported by the state’s property insurance carriers, so think of it as analogous to auto/motor risk pool insurance.

Increasing the number of persons accessing the insurance of last resort is one thing, but considering a recent order by the state insurance commissioner to require FAIR to provide broadened coverage limits[4] (to $3 million) and broadened peril coverage (to mirror an ISO HO-3 policy form) seems (per FAIR leadership) to exceed the commissioner’s authority.  Right or wrong, the change in the FAIR plan does not alleviate the issues with concentration of risk, actuarially supported rates, or the fundamental fact that risk factors need to be mitigated.

[4] https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/west/2019/11/14/548537.htm

What to do?

Property insurance is a keystone to any economy- borrowing, recovery, risk sharing, and risk management, etc. Absent a thriving insurance industry, a jurisdiction simply will flag in comparison with other areas. A hardening market is a wake-up call that the inherent cycle of insurance is at an attention point- carriers see challenges in the near future and are retracting access to insurance and placing a premium on price, even if company capital levels are currently higher than average.  Soft markets certainly reflect the reverse, but who complains when underwriting is easier and rate taking is de-emphasized? The surpluses in premiums gained during 2007-2016 are long forgotten.

Ideally the market would:

  • Set premiums at a level anticipating significant regional events
  • Price wildfire risk into all policies in the state (everyone gets affected when these events occur)
  • Leverage the available capital surplus and interest from reinsurers
  • Partner with private risk vehicles (ILS, Cat bonds) for broader backstopping of risk
  • Consider wildfire cover that is similar to earthquake or wind covers, with more substantial deductibles for that peril
  • Adopt complementary parametric plans that trigger when wildfires occur, providing immediate recovery funding to affected property owners rather than wait for government programs alone (that may take years to administer)
  • Refrain from using FAIR plan changes to circumvent needed changes in voluntary policies/underwriting/pricing
  • Tread very cautiously before having regulators take anecdotal actions ex post to occurrences
  • Implement immediate subsidies for areas that suffered direct and as yet unrecovered damage- not taking action affects all

With these efforts being in conjunction with all efforts being made to mitigate risk factors, encouraging behavior changes, and encouraging policies more in keeping with risk management- climate, economic, and functional.

Why this?

The state has other, potentially bigger concerns with risk- earthquakes.  Wildfire risk has had terrible effects, multi-billion dollar effects, most often in more remote or less densely populated areas than urban Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oakland, heavily populated and developed high-risk earthquake areas.  EQ insurance penetration (approximately 11% of property owners) suggests uninsured losses will far eclipse wildfire losses if a significant quake occurs, and there is not enough resources (currently) for the state to back-fill an EQ disaster recovery.  The entire country will be affected.

And what of the balance of the world’s economies?  A recent Swiss Re Institute assessment of insurance protection globally denotes an estimated $222 billion natural disaster gap[5], a number that again would be overshadowed by temblor damage in developed regions.  What of the wildfires in Australia, where the affected areas are more than six times greater than the 2018 California wildfires affected?

 

Hardening of insurance markets- that’s a challenge for insurance customers, but for markets like California’s homeowners’ lines it’s a precursor for what may be coming elsewhere.

[5] https://www.spglobal.com/marketintelligence/en/news-insights/latest-news-headlines/56236161

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InsurTech is still looking for traction with customers and companies’ staff

image   TLDR   Are the InsurTech advocates/enthusiasts ‘preaching to the choir’ and considering that to be conversion of the masses?   Within the orb of InsurTech press, social media, and conferences one would think innovation and migration to adoption of the most clever of tech and innovative practices is de rigueur within insurance- if one […]

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