Harvey Losses Could Reach $90 Billion

With weeks to go before floodwaters recede in some parts of Texas, Hurricane Harvey—which delivered more than three feet of rain in areas of Houston—has so far caused at least 38 deaths and numerous injuries. Harvey was downgraded to a storm Wednesday night, but tens of thousands of people are still in shelters, some of which are also flooded, fearful of what they will find when they return to their homes.

“Hurricane Harvey has already broken all U.S. records for tropical cyclone-driven extreme rainfall, with observed cumulative amounts of 51 inches,” Michael Young, RMS head of Americas climate risk modeling said in a statement.

Joel N. Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather declared Hurricane Harvey to be, “The costliest and worst natural disaster in American history. AccuWeather has raised its estimate of the impact to the nation’s gross national product to $190 billion or a full one percent, which exceeds totals of economic impact of Katrina and Sandy combined.”

Damage assessments are climbing, with modeling and analytics firm RMS now estimating that losses incurred by wind, storm surge and inland flooding could be as high as $70 billion-$90 billion. The majority of losses are coming from inland flooding in the Houston metropolitan area, where more than seven million properties top $1.5 trillion in value. RMS said the estimate includes damage to all residential, commercial, industrial and automotive risks in the area, as well as possible inflation from an area-wide demand surge.

According to RMS:

Most losses will be uninsured, given that private flood insurance is limited. However, although the insured losses will remain uncertain for some time they will be significant, as private coverage is not consistent: there are significant variations in how coverage is provided by individual insurers.

Coverage for some of the residential losses has been provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). There are approximately 500,000 NFIP policies that will be affected by Harvey, and the losses to the program will be very significant – potentially the largest event to date. However, NFIP penetration rates are as low as 20% in the Houston area, and thus most of the losses will be uninsured. This will rekindle the public policy debate around this issue.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott estimated that more than $125 billion in federal funding will be required to help the state recover from Hurricane Harvey, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Adding to the area’s woes were two explosions at the Arkema Inc. chemical plant in Crosby, Texas, 20 miles northeast of Houston early on Thursday.

The plant, which produces organic peroxides used in products like kitchen counter tops, polystyrene cups and plates, industrial paints and PVC pipes., was without electric service since Sunday and lost refrigeration when backup generators were flooded. Because the products need to be kept cold to prevent a chemical reaction, workers had moved them from warehouses into diesel-powered refrigerated containers, but those were also flooded.

A sheriff’s deputy was taken to a hospital after inhaling fumes, according to Reuters.

Residents in a 1.5-mile radius of the Arkema plant were evacuated on Tuesday, and water levels there make it too dangerous for workers to assess the situation from the ground, officials added.

Arkema urged people to stay away as the fire burns out. Black smoke was billowing from the site, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said at a televised news briefing.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it had temporarily barred flights from the area because of the risk of fire or explosion.

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.

Lloyd’s Finds Extreme Weather Can Be Accurately Modeled Independently

In a new report based on research from UK national weather service the Met Office, Lloyd’s has found that extreme weather events may be modeled independently. While extreme weather can be related to events within a region, these perils are not significant correlated with perils in other regions of the world.

The study’s key findings include:

  • Met Office research found that the majority of perils are not significantly correlated, but identified nine noteworthy peril-to-peril teleconnections, most of which are negatively correlated
  • Lloyds’ modeling finds that these correlations were not substantial enough to warrant changes to the amount of capital it holds to cover extreme weather claims
  • Even when there is some correlation between weather patterns, it does not necessarily follow that there will be large insurance losses. Extreme weather events may still occur simultaneously even if there is no link between them
  • An assumption of independence for capital-holding purposes is therefore appropriate for the key risks the Lloyd’s market currently insures
  • The methodology released in the report enables scenario modeling across global portfolios for appropriate region-perils

“This important finding supports the broader argument that the global reinsurance industry’s practice of pooling risks in multiple regions is capital efficient and that modeling appropriate region perils as independent is reasonable,” the report concluded.

According to Trevor Maynard, head of exposure management and reinsurance at Lloyd’s, “This challenges the increasingly held view among some regulators around the world that capital for local risks should be held in their own jurisdictions. Lloyd’s believes this approach reduces the capital efficiency of the (re)insurance market by ignoring the diversification benefits provided by writing different risks in different locations and, in so doing, needlessly increases costs, to the ultimate detriment of policyholders. Insisting on the fragmentation of capital is not in the best interests of policyholders.”

Check out the map below for further insight from the Met Office about large-scale weather perils that do demonstrate statistically significant correlation:

lloyd's extreme weather perils

Small Villages Hit Hardest by Italian Earthquake

A strong 6.2 magnitude earthquake that stuck Central Italy in the early morning hours of Aug. 24 has caused about 250 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The temblor stuck 10km (6.2 miles) southeast of Norcia and 100km (62.13 miles) northeast of Rome. Areas with the most damage are smaller, older towns consisting of unreinforced masonry buildings. One such town was Amatrice, which the town’s mayor has said “no longer exists.”

Dozens of aftershocks have since occurred in the area—the strongest a magnitude 5.5. Because it was a shallow quake, occurring about six miles below the surface, it was more destructive, the New York Times reported.
Italy map

Map: USGS.gov

The vicinity of Wednesday’s temblor has also experienced significant earthquakes in the past, including one with a magnitude of 6.3 near the town of L’Aquila in 2009. According to the Times. That quake killed at least 295 people, injured more than 1,000 and left 55,000 homeless. Bloomberg reported that only about 2% of the economic loss from the 2009 quake was insured.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide said that Italy’s nonlife insurance market is the eighth-largest in the world and the fifth largest in Europe, and its property insurance market is the second-largest nonlife market in the country after automobile. Earthquake coverage, however, is often not included in standard homeowners’ policies and is typically issued as an extension of fire policies. Earthquake coverage for industrial and commercial structures may be offered for an additional premium, which varies by region.

Fitch Ratings said on Aug. 26 that it expects to see limited impact on Italian insurers. According to Fitch:

We estimate insured losses of EUR100 million-EUR200 million, arising mainly from property lines. Our estimate reflects the low density of population and businesses and limited insurance coverage in the region. Claims of this magnitude would not have a material impact on Italian insurers’ underwriting results or credit profiles. Italian non-life insurers wrote EUR2.3 billion of gross written premiums of property insurance in 2015.

Italy has declared a state of emergency in the region hit by the earthquake and the government has pledged EUR50 million for first aid. The declaration of a state of emergency means that certain losses will be covered by a state fund for emergencies, limiting losses for insurers.

We expect the insured losses to be EUR40 million-EUR80 million for primary insurers and EUR60 million-EUR120 million for reinsurers. A similar event that struck a nearby area in 2009, where the insurance exposure was higher, caused insured losses of around EUR250 million.