The New Reality of Risk

In wondering what the new year has in store for the insurance industry, Marsh hosted “The New Reality of Risk – U.S. Insurance Markets and Risk Trends in 2013,” a webinar produced on the heels of their Insurance Market Report 2013 publication. The webinar touched on firming in the market, Superstorm Sandy, cat models and workers comp, among other things, with insights from:

  • Dean Klisura, U.S. risk practices leader for Marsh
  • Cliff Rich, managing director in Guy Carpenter’s global business intelligence unit
  • Duncan Ellis, Marsh’s U.S. property practice leader
  • Jon Zaffino, Marsh’s U.S. casualty practice leader
  • Chris Lang, U.S. placement leader for Marsh’s FINPRO practice
  • Claude Yoder, head of Marsh global analytics

Catastrophe Market

“One thing we have seen change dramatically in the past two years relates to cat losses,” said Klisura. As he noted, insured losses over the past 10 years have averaged $50 billion, with a spike in 2011. The industry has experienced two straight years of well above average losses — coupled with feeling the effects of low interest rates and a shaky economy. “However, the industry still remains well capitalized,” Klisura remarked.

Klisura doesn’t envision a hardening environment, but claims certain sectors of the market are in transition. “A few things risk managers should keep an eye on in 2013 are cat exposed property risk, including risk with flood zone exposures — it will be a big one,” said Klisura. He also noted that certain sectors of workers comp market will may experience changes along with complex financial institution risk and competition among insurers, which is expected to remain intense in 2013.


The reinsurance market at January 1 was characterized as stable. Superstorm Sandy, crop losses and other severe weather outbreaks resulted in global losses of $60 billion, which was less than 2011 losses, but the sector continues to be challenged by the macroeconomic environment — namely, the economy. “Casualty rates increased modestly in 2012 but at January 1, 2013, renewal rates, casualty pricing stabilized,” said Cliff Rich.

Cat Limits

According to the panelists, carriers are being a little more stingy around cat limits. For cat sub limits, they are seeing carriers limiting the amount of flood coverage. For deductibles, they’re seeing a push for per-location deductibles on flood vs traditional per-occurrence deductibles. For premiums, there is renewed pressure on some cat exposed insureds and on a client by client basis. “For 2013, I think it’s much of the same we’ve seen,” said Ellis. “2012 could be the third year in a row that property insurers have not realized a profit. The big unknown? 2013 losses.” There is a potential for “trading” between retention and premium, he explained.

Cat Models

In terms of catastrophe models, Ellis feels they will change to take into account both Irene, which had insured losses of $4.4 billion, and Sandy, which had insured losses of $18 to $25 billion. This drives home the point that insureds should provide high quality data for models. “What I’ve heard is that losses from Sandy are what was expected from modeling,” Ellis said. “But models will change.”

There are several widely used models for wind and earthquake, Ellis pointed out. But that’s not the case with flood, despite flooding being the loss leading peril over the last few years. “There’s nothing consistent market-wide yet,” he said.

Casualty Market 

Jon Zaffino explained that insurer competition is strong. However, challenges may arise from clients with difficult loss experience and certain individual risks, or line of business characteristics. “It’s a tug of war between the technical and trading environment,” he said. “We may see rates flattening in some lines in 2nd half of 2013.”

  • Technical – macro factors such as loos-cost trend, interest rates, etc.
  • Trading – insurance supply/insurer appetite and market depth and breadth

Workers Comp

This segment continues to operate at historically unprofitable rates for insurers. Marsh illustrates this with a graphic based on their client accounts.

“Medical expenses as a percentage of toal claims continues to rise, along with the escalation of prescribtion drug use and abuse,” said Zaffino.” Active pre- and post-loss programs, medical cost containment measures and a variety of other technigues help clients manage their claims.

“The largest trend we’re really seeing in casualty is the need to create a comprehensive view of total cost of risk, or TCOR,” said Yoder. “For workers comp, there is much available data, advances in the way insurers calibrate their underwriting and pricing, and a wave of claims-based modeling. Plus, predictive analytics use in claims modeling is accelerating.”

Directors and Officers 

According to Chris Lang, rates in the management liability market are trending upward. As 2012 progressed, leading insueres obtained upwards of 10% increases, and average program rate increases of 5%. “Smaller sized market companies are experiencing higher rate increases than are larger companies,” said Lang. “In 2013, expect insurers’ rate discipline to continue.”

Regulatory actions are increasing. According to NERA, in 2012, settlements rose 6.6% compared with 2011, to 714.


U.S. Cities Facing $300 Billion Exposure to Storm Surge

A recent report illustrates the dire nature of storm surge exposure in several major U.S. cities. The Storm Surge Report, developed by CoreLogic, revealed hurricane-driven storm surge flooding could cause billions in damage to residential structures in 2011.

“The local flood zones defined by FEMA in high-risk coastal regions provide a great deal of exposure data for homes in the path of flood waters, but understanding the additional layer of risk posed by a storm surge is critical for homeowners, emergency response teams, insurance companies and many others to plan and prepare for natural catastrophes,” said Dr. Howard Botts, executive vice president and director of database development for CoreLogic Spatial Solutions. “As the report shows, in many cases, homes exposed to potential storm-surge inundation are located outside of designated flood zones, and those homeowners need to be aware of their vulnerability to severe damage and property losses.”

Of the various areas studied in the report, Long Island, New York, was found to have the highest exposure to risk of storm surge. The top 10 breaks down as follows:

  1. Long Island, NY – $99 billion
  2. Miami-Dade, FL – $44.9 billion
  3. Virginia Beach, VA – $44.6 billion
  4. New Orleans, LA – $39 billion
  5. Tampa, FL – $27 billion
  6. Houston, TX – $20 billion
  7. Jacksonville, FL – $19.6 billion
  8. Charleston, SC – $17.7 billion
  9. Corpus Christi, TX – $4.7 billion
  10. Mobile, AL – $3 billion

Considering that this year’s hurricane forecast calls for 16 named storms and five major hurricanes for the 2011 season, it could be a costly storm season for the 10 cities listed above. As more and more coastal areas succumb to residential building, the cost of such natural disasters increases exponentially. When will we learn?

Groundbreaking Flood Models for Latin America

Willis Re has introduced long-awaited flood models for Latin America through their research arm Willis Research Network (WRN). The models focused on large event scenarios for key cities such as Sao Paulo, Santiago and Bogota.

“The flood models provide South American insurance and reinsurance firms, as well as local governmental organizations, with new information that helps to identify and manage their exposure to flash floods caused by heavy rains and riverine overflow. Related results will be available for individual companies as well as the market as a whole and will have implications on planning, reinsurance and risk mitigation.”

The news was presented during the Geneva Association‘s 2nd Climate Change and Insurance meeting held in Sao Paulo last month by Dr. Juan Enlgand of Willis Re, who stated that these models might be used to consider the potential impact of climate change.

These models are greatly needed to say the least. Last year, floods and mudslides in Brazil caused 44 deaths and an estimated $1 billion in damages. In April, more than 250 died in Rio de Janeiro after torrential rains caused massive flooding and landslides. In June, more flooding in Brazil killed at least 41 and left more than 120,000 homeless. As Margo Black, CEO of Willis Re Brazil commented:

“Urban flood risk is an acute concern for Latin American re/insurers who have been challenged by growing losses and the lack of models to guide risk management.”

With Willis Re’s new models, it is hoped that future losses from almost-certain floods will be lessened in the ever-growing, major cities of South America.

Aon Unveils Five Earthquake Hotspots

Aon has listed five earthquake hotspots around the world, following the launch of its report, “When the Earth Moves: Mega-Earthquakes to Come?” Aon lists the five hotspots as:

Caribbean (Lesser Antilles) – The 2cm a year rate of plate convergence is enough to produce a mega-earthquake of Mw 9.0 once every 3000 years. A major loss in the Caribbean would quickly use up available reinsurance capacity.

Chile – As the only segment of the Chile-Peru Subduction Zone not to have ruptured within the last 100 years, the north Chile segment is now considered to be a region at high risk from an earthquake similar in size to the 2010 event. Following this year’s earthquake in Maule, reinsurance programs are now renewing with increases of 75% or more.

Indonesia (Sumatra) – Padang is now regarded as being at high risk from a mega-earthquake comparable to that which occurred in 1797, with a magnitude of 8.5 or more. A mega-earthquake would undoubtedly increase the price of reinsurance following a sizeable insured loss.

Japan – The South Japan Subduction Zone (Nankai Trough) has a complex pattern of three segments. The largest earthquakes rupturing along the whole subduction zone may have magnitudes up to 8.6. A mega-earthquake in this region would most likely be a market-moving event.

North America (Cascadia) – The last mega-earthquake on this subduction zone occurred 300 years ago. While the short to medium term probability of a mega-earthquake may be low, insurers should not disregard the associated risks to the cities along the coast.

After the devastation in Chile and Haiti this year, predictions like these are a valuable resource. As John Moore, head of international analytics at Aon Benfield said:

“Predicting the location of the next mega-earthquake is an inexact science but by examining the fault lines and historical precedence of earthquake activity in five of the world’s most vulnerable regions, this report sets out to assess the current risk and improve our understanding of where and when the next mega-earthquake could hit.”

Understanding when and where the next catastrophe could take place is the ultimate form of risk management.