Navigating Risk Management Around the Globe

Over the past few years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to travel the world and visit factories, distribution centers, ports, warehouses, and several offices for the company where I work. Apart from being a great way to see the world, it has also been an opportunity to learn from the ways different cultures see and manage risk.

Coming from Latin America, it was clear to me that the concept of risk management was something not highly promoted or recognized in the region. Companies that operated locally took the approach of using intermediaries to transfer their risks to insurance companies. Occasionally I would find buyers focused on managing their own risks efficiently. But that was more than a decade ago. During my most recent trips to South America, I had the opportunity to see the implementation of a regional affinity program—a collaboration between a well-known broker and our company’s financial operations. In this case, those involved were highly educated in insurance concepts and their understanding of risk acceptance was completely in line with more developed markets.

Another interesting aspect of dealing with this program was the strong relationship between the broker and our office. It was a very cordial and open communication that transcended the usually formal interaction between these parties—and included text messages flying back and forth to get the deal done. In a way, the warm personality of South Americans permeated the business environment. So when it comes to this colorful part of the world, business is, in fact, personal.

European markets have had the opportunity to evolve over centuries and this is clearly represented in the broadness of coverages available. The highly tailored wordings, both inside and outside of Lloyds, give a global insurance program more complexity when it includes exposures in Europe.

In a way, Europe continues to be an innovation hub but with difficulties in exporting those advancements. There are still great products and coverages in the insurance market that have not found their way to the Americas—and only on a limited basis to Asia. There are reasons behind this, however. While the nature of exposures in Europe continue to be unique in multiple ways, one reason these solutions have not fully taken off is that other markets do not yet fully recognize the need for them.

Asia marked, for me, a huge difference in how I saw the business relationship around insurance and the implementation of risk management. Those markets are inherently independent from the broker relationship and thus are inclined to build direct dealings with insurers. This proves to be difficult when a foreign multinational attempts to combine Asian exposures with a global program. There is reluctance to work with intermediaries and it can take time to transform the carrier-insured liaison, which can only happen after a trusting relationship is built.

Have you recognized patterns in some regions? Do you think that analyzing and exploring this kind of multicultural risk management would be of benefit to organizations?

It’s a Great Time to Be a Risk Manager

2017 has so far been a wild ride of change. Companies are navigating through a new U.S. administration, Brexit and cyber risks that are more daunting each day. We are bombarded with uncertainty and unchartered waters. Nevertheless, it’s a great time to be a risk manager.

This kind of disruption is the reason many of us got into the risk and insurance industry.  Addressing disruption is what we do best. According to a recent CNN report, in fact, Risk Management Director is the number-two Best Job in America for 2017. Recognizing the meaningful contributions and rewarding work of a risk manager, the report highlighted the role in “identifying, preventing, and planning for all the risks a company might face, from cybersecurity breaches to a stock market collapse.”

In the midst of a riskier environment, the insurance industry that serves risk managers faces highly competitive market conditions. The result is more choices and better services for the risk management community. Now is the time for the risk manager to take the lead.

As thousands of risk professionals soon head to the RIMS Annual Conference in Philadelphia, it’s a good time to consider the opportunities in this growing profession.

Why the time is right for risk managers:

  1. 2017 brings a new risk profile. Every company, regardless of industry or size, needs to evaluate the new risks from the shift to nationalist policies in the U.S. and abroad. Our new administration’s efforts to increase America’s manufacturing raises a host of new insurance needs—more U.S. production means more U.S. liability. We are also seeing a shift in global supply chain and an increase in the political risks of operating outside our borders. These changes require board-level and C-suite attention. We expect to see risk managers play a more significant role with management in building risk mitigation into their company’s strategic direction.
  2. Rise in specialists. This is your time to be selective about specialists that understand your business and the specific challenges you face. Insurers are differentiating through specialization. Work with an underwriter that knows the risks, regulations, complexities and nuances of your industry. Many industries, such as construction and health care, will experience rapid change this year. Find partners that have been in the same trenches and can help you navigate changes.
  3. Tailored products and solutions. The highly competitive insurance market is also driving product innovation for clients with more tailored solutions. Take the time to learn about less-understood products, such as accounts receivable insurance, which protects companies from non-payment risks and gives them the ability to borrow, receive loans, and as a result, improve their credit quality. In Europe, 70% of companies purchase this coverage, compared to only 8% of U.S. companies. Understand the risks across your supply chain and work with your broker to customize insurance programs and bring innovative solutions.
  4. At the center of technology and innovation. The insurance industry is on the front lines of the cutting-edge technologies: internet of things (IoT), robots and drones. These advances will only grow and thrive with the right risk and insurance programs. For example, the technology surrounding drones or unmanned aerial systems is rapidly evolving. The ability to collect and analyze aerial data has improved efficiencies, enhanced safety and lowered costs within the construction, agriculture, telecommunications, oil & gas and real estate industries. As usage  grows, risk managers will be central to the successful operation of drones by understanding and managing the risks and compliance needs.
  5. Ability to leverage the best in data analytics. Risk managers have the data, tools and skills to anticipate the risks from this tumultuous environment. The insurance industry views these challenges with a different lens, drawing on past catastrophes and predictive analytics to plan for the challenges ahead. Risk professionals who know how to leverage this information can bring a sense of preparedness and control at a time of heightened uncertainty. There is also a role for risk managers to advise senior management on the use of data. But because models are continually amended and updated after losses occur, it is important to avoid an over-dependence on data and false sense of security.
  6. Opportunity to participate in growing your business. Risk managers do not just protect a business, they grow a business. Companies are reevaluating strategies based on new policies. Will they build manufacturing plants? Will they buy a strategic target? Risk professionals have an important role in mergers and acquisitions deals as insurance can be used to help quantify contingent liabilities and allow for accurate pricing models. The most common is representation and warranties insurance, which can help strengthen and facilitate a transaction.
  7. Better risk management services. Insurers realize it is not enough to write a check for a claim. Take advantage of risk mitigation services that are built into your insurance policies. They include education, training, tabletop exercises and risk assessments.
  8. A thriving profession. With more and more universities offering undergraduate risk management majors, we will see a dedicated, high-caliber talent pool focused on careers in risk and insurance. The Spencer Foundation, for example, has completed an eight-month competition between students of 29 universities from around the country, analyzing, developing and presenting the most comprehensive risk management solutions for a case study. The top eight teams will be in Philadelphia to present at RIMS.

The risk and insurance industry is made up of some of the most agile and level-headed professionals. Risk managers have always moved with the changing environment and crisis situations, developing programs to address their entity’s risk profile. Hopefully, we will see more companies include risk management in their strategic planning and leverage the experience and skills of their risk managers.

2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

With the official opening of 2017 Atlantic hurricane season fast approaching, researchers appear cautiously optimistic the relatively quiet streak will continue.

Today, Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project released the extended range forecast of 2017 Atlantic seasonal hurricane activity, predicting slightly below-average activity in the Atlantic basin, with a forecast of 11 named storms, four hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.

Philip Klotzbach, CSU

The probability of at least one major (Category 3+) hurricane making landfall on the entire U.S. coastline is 42%, compared to an average of 52% over the past century. The probability of such a storm hitting the East Coast, including peninsula Florida is 24%, compared to an average of 31%. Thus, CSU noted, the estimated probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. this season is approximately 80% of the long-period average.

Hurricane activity may not be as critical a determinant for how insurers and property-owners will fare, however. Aon Benfield’s Global Catastrophe Recap reports have consistently noted the rising toll of economic and insured losses due to severe weather events including severe thunderstorms, hailstorms, and flash flooding. In Texas alone, for example, Aon Benfield reports the state incurred record thunderstorm-related losses for the year, with insurers citing costs exceeding $8.0 billion.

Other recent studies support this trend. In the Willis Re and Columbia University report Managing Severe Thunderstorm Risk, researchers found the risk to U.S. property from thunderstorms is just as high as from hurricanes. Their review of Verisk Analytics loss statistics for 2003 to 2015 found the average annual loss from severe convective storms including tornadoes and hailstorms was $11.23 billion, compared to $11.28 billion from hurricanes. Considering the past decade alone, severe convective storms posed the largest annual aggregated risk peril to the insurance industry.

willis re severe convective storms

First Quarter 2017 Sees Upward Rate Movement

U.S. insurance buyers may see higher rates this year, as the composite rate index for commercial accounts increased plus 1% for the first time in 20 months, MarketScout reported today.

Rates for business interruption, inland marine, workers compensation, crime, and surety coverages held steady in the first quarter, while rates for all other coverages either moderated or increased.

“The plus 1% composite rate index was driven by larger rate increases in commercial auto, transportation, professional and D&O rates,” Richard Kerr, CEO of MarketScout said in a statement. “We also recorded small rate increases in the majority of coverage and industry classifications. So, 2017 begins with insurers moving away from the rate cuts of 2016.”

Small accounts (up to $25,000) were assessed a 1% rate increase in the first quarter of 2017. Medium accounts ($25,001 to $250,000) were flat, while both large ($250,001 to $1 million) and jumbo accounts (more than $1 million) saw rate decreases of minus 1% and minus 2% respectively, MarketScout said.

By industry class, every industry experienced a move toward higher rates in the first quarter, with transportation seeing the largest rate increase at plus 5%.