Ernst & Young has released its new 2014 insurance CRO survey, “Increasing authority and higher organizational profiles,” highlighting top trends and challenges reported by chief risk officers and senior risk executives from more than 20 top American insurance companies. Top themes in this year’s results were the expansion of CRO authority, the challenge of managing the “tsunamis” of effects stemming from new domestic and international regulation, and shifts in CRO focus from survival to effectiveness. Those surveyed also reported that they are spending more time with the board and senior business leaders, and that they are becoming involved in more types of business issues. ERM was also a top accomplishment and key priority for risk managers looking ahead to 2014 challenges.

Some particularly interesting responses to the new study include:

What was your most important accomplishment over the past year?

EY Question 1 Graph

To which will you devote significantly more attention in the next 12 months, compared with the last 12?

EY Question 2

How do you know your risk function is creating value?

EY Question 4

Other than the four main risk categories (credit, market, insurance and operational risks), what risk management areas are you responsible for?

EY Question 10

What is your access to the board?

EY Question 11

Click here for the full report.

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What a winter. As the “polar vortex” pushed cold weather from the arctic all the way to the deep south in the United States, severe snow storms and frigid temperature cost the American economy billions. While there have been obvious physical losses, such as roof collapses and endless potholes to repair, three less evident balance sheet exposures have wreaked havoc across a broad swath of industries. People are paying attention to the economic impact of the weather (witness #frozenomics on Twitter, a term coined by CNBC).  Here are some of the weather-related exposures we are watching:

  1. Event cancellations. This season’s major snowstorms and unrelenting freeze forced the cancellation of countless events, from conferences, to sporting events. Event hosts have suffered not only lost revenue from attendees, they forfeited the merchandise sales and “sunken costs” – from signage to non-refundable food and beverage deposits -of their suddenly defunct events. Even those that staged events far from the possibility of snowflakes felt the fallout, as airlines cancelled flights in record numbers. (Some 13,500 flights were cancelled in one week in February alone. ) In many cases, attendees just could not make the trip, as winter weather halted transport to even sunny locales.
  2. Lost income. When customers cannot be out and about due to winter weather, sales suffer, business income drops. One restaurant in Atlanta lost $75,000 in revenue due to the snow on Valentine’s Day alone. This season not only gave us enormous amounts of snow, but prolonged frigid temperatures and precarious ice-filled sidewalks kept customers away from everything from outdoor skating rinks, retail shops, to car dealerships. Event planners and business owners saw income decline accordingly.
  3. Snow removal. Extraordinary snow removal demands tore through the budgets of municipalities and highly-trafficked properties such as hotels and airports. Roadways, parking lots and sidewalks must be safe and passable, so entities had to reallocate to find funds for labor, salt, de-icer and grit. In many cases, these costs were two or three times the amounts anticipated for the season. Last month, the state of Virginia was projecting its snow removal costs could reach $370 million, or twice the usual expenses.  Even places that normally expect minimal, if any, snow suffered costly storms. Property managers and association board members up and down the East Coast have been left scratching their heads over what to predict for next year’s snow removal budget.

The sunshine of spring will make it easy to forget this winter’s wrath, but for many, the hard financial lessons of this winter will leave lasting impressions. Looking ahead to next winter, risk managers can use hindsight to be sure their business is well protected on all (weather) fronts. Versatile insurance solutions can do everything from addressing the multiple facets of event cancellation losses, to bringing certainty to snow removal budgets and stabilizing business income through stormy times.

The following infographic from Beazley offers some interesting statistics on the winter that was:

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If you have ever purchased a hot dog from a street vendor, you have probably wondered (most likely after the first bite), “Is this going to make me sick?” But thanks to a number of new advances, from genome sequencing to data analysis of supply chains, food safety agencies around the world are developing more accurate methods for lowering the risk factors in the foods we eat. Another method that is gaining popularity is the use of Monte Carlo simulation (MCS), a computerized mathematical technique that accounts for risk in quantitative analysis and decision making. By inputting risk factors and running thousands of simulations, a realistic portrait of risk factors and the probabilities that those risks may occur can be developed, decreasing the likelihood of food-borne illnesses.

For example, to combat the seemingly endless risks in the “farm-to-table” pathway, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration launched an interactive web-based tool called iRISK. The tool, which is free to use, utilizes Monte Carlo simulation to analyze potential food contamination risk based on a number of factors:

  • Type of food(s)
  • Hazard(s)
  • Demographic of concern
  • Production/processing system of food
  • Consumption patterns
  • Dose response
  • How health impact is to be calculated

Food industry risk analysts can simulate real-life scenarios by inputting multiple food types and potential hazards in a single assessment. Additionally, hazards can be ranked by level of risk. After providing the appropriate data, iRISK quickly generates reports that offer estimated risks from multiple microbial or chemical food safety hazards and estimates how scenario alterations can increase or lower contamination risk. Since its launch, iRisk has attracted more than 500 registered users.

In China, the Shanghai Food and Drug Administration also relies on Monte Carlo simulation to assess food safety, and one of its most notable uses of the technology occurred in the months prior to Shangai’s hosting of the 41st World Expo in May 2010. Organizers wanted to be certain that food distributed to foreign visitors was safe, so it initiated a quantitative analysis of nitrite contamination in cooked meat. The Shanghai FDA conducted 370 random checks of meat products in the city and found four percent of samples exceeded nitrite standards.

On the basis of this initial data, the organization commissioned a report to determine the probability of consuming nitrites in excess of established standards in normal consumption habits. Then, using MCS, the researchers simulated the sample 10,000 times, multiplying variables to fit possible real-life situations. The findings indicated that the possibility of passing the threshold for acute nitrite poisoning indeed existed, as well as the possibility for exceeding the allowable daily intake of nitrite. Based on the results, the Shanghai FDA proposed that businesses in the food service industry be forbidden from using nitrite, which eliminated the possibility of nitrite poisoning at its root.

It is interesting—if not a little disconcerting—to consider the guesswork previously employed in food safety prior to technological advances such as Monte Carlo simulation. While risk can never be completely eliminated, we can at least dine with less concern when analysts are armed with solutions that dramatically lower risk.

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The first Risk Management Curriculum Development Grant was awarded to St. Francis College in Brooklyn, N.Y. by the Spencer Educational Foundation earlier this week. The $50,000 grant was presented to the college for development of risk management modules for their management courses.

“In the past, all major institutions had training programs for new hires that covered important issues like risk management,” said St. Francis College President Brendan J. Dugan. “But now, students need to come to the recruiters with all of these skills under their belt. This grant will help us prepare them.”

Through the grant, St. Francis College’s School of Business plans to create eight risk management modules. The first four modules, targeted for the school’s entry-level management program, are designed to:

• Introduce the concept of insurance and risk management and its importance to an enterprise

• Deal with sophisticated concepts regarding types of insurance, providers and regulation

• Discuss how the financial performance of insurers is measured and the scope of insurance operations including marketing, underwriting and claims

• Highlight careers in the industry

“Over the summer, we will be developing the first set of modules,” said Allen Burdowski, Ph. D., dean for academic programs and development. “These will be introduced in the fall 2014 semester to our entry-level management majors. The second set of four modules will be offered the following year.”

The latter set will target upper level management and finance courses and focus on insurance contracts and loss exposures, advanced risk management, an introduction to life and personal lines insurance and an introduction to commercial insurance.

Spencer Educational Foundation Chairwoman Peggy Accordino noted, “Today, we take the next step to increase the knowledge and information available about our industry. We look forward to working with St. Francis College and congratulate them on being awarded this grant.”

Pictured above: Angela Sabatino, programs director, Spencer Educational Foundation (left of check) and Foundation Chairwoman Peggy Accordino (right of check).  Representing the college are (L to R) Thomas Flood, vice president of development; Edward Stewart, grants manager; John Dilyard, management professor; Brendan J. Dugan, president; Allen Burdowski, dean for academic programs and development; James Fazio, management professor; and Dennis Anderson, chair of management and IT.

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