How free are insurers to provide the insurance products consumers want?

That’s a key question that the R Street Institute’s Insurance Regulation Report Card seeks to answer.

And it’s a very good question.

In the fourth and latest edition of the report R Street observes that regulation, in some cases, may hinder the speed with which new products are brought to market:

We believe innovative new products could be more widespread if more states were to free their insurance markets by embracing regulatory modernization.”

R Street says the most recent illustration of this challenge is seen in the different approaches individual states have taken to enable the timely introduction of commercial and personal insurance policies to cover ridesharing.

A compromise model bill to govern insurance requirements for ridesharing was announced by major representatives of the insurance industry and the burgeoning transportation network companies in March 2015.

The legislation alleviated what had been a major source of interindustry friction, R Street notes.

The model requires that:

— liability insurance with limits of $1 million be in-force any time a driver either is actively transporting a customer or en route to pick up a fare.

— any other time the driver is logged in to the TNC service, he or she must have coverage with minimum liability limits of $50,000 per passenger, $100,000 per incident and $25,000 for physical damage liability.

R Street writes:

The model would permit coverage to be procured either by the driver or the TNC,  expressly stipulates that it may be provided by the surplus lines market, preserves insurers’ right to exclude coverage and encourages states to approve new products to cover this emerging risk.”

Signatories to the compromise include Allstate, the American Insurance Association, Farmers Insurance, Lyft, the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, State Farm, Uber Technologies and USAA.

The report notes that in April 2015, Georgia became the first state to pass the compromise model ridesharing bill. The measure, H.B. 190, took effect January 1, 2016.

Have more questions? Check out the Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) Q&A on Ridesharing and Insurance.

An I.I.I. issues update on regulation modernization is available here.

Earthquake resilience was in the spotlight as the Obama administration gave its support for an earthquake-alert system on the West Coast at a White House summit Tuesday.

President Obama also signed an executive order establishing a federal earthquake risk management standard which will improve the capability of federal buildings to function after a quake.

The order requires federal agencies to ensure that federal buildings are constructed or altered using earthquake-resistant design provisions in the most current building codes.

A 2015 scientific assessment from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that more than 143 million Americans could experience potentially damaging earthquakes, nearly double the prior 2006 estimate.

The ShakeAlert early warning system being developed and tested in the West would warn residents and businesses from at least a few seconds to a few minutes before the shaking starts.

This would be enough time to slow and stop trains and taxiing planes, and to prevent cars from entering bridges and tunnels, for example.

A common misperception among Americans is that earthquake coverage is provided in a homeowners or business insurance policy.

However, standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover earthquake damage. Coverage is available either in the form of an endorsement or as a separate policy.

Residential earthquake insurance in California is sold through the California Earthquake Authority, a privately funded, publicly managed organization.

Some 85 percent of U.S. homeowners said they do not have coverage for earthquake damage in response to the Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) annual Pulse Survey.

The I.I.I. Pulse results showed significant variations in the number of consumers that have earthquake insurance across the U.S.

That number was greatest in the earthquake- prone West, where 18 percent of homeowners said they had purchased separate earthquake insurance coverage.

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Information on reducing earthquake damage to homes and businesses is available on the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) website.

The I.I.I. also offers facts and statistics on earthquakes and tsunamis here.

The Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) gets questions all the time. Here is one answered by chief actuary James Lynch:

Q: On your web page, you report an ORC International poll for the I.I.I. found that 95 percent of homeowners had homeowners insurance. How many homes does that represent?

A: The short answer is about 70 million. And as is so often the case, I took a long route to it.

The 95 percent is the percentage of people who said they own a home and then answered “yes” to the question of whether they have homeowners insurance. We regularly survey about 1,000 people on this topic, and around 94 percent to 96 percent generally answer yes.

In the poll, we do not define what a home is, so it could be single-family home, a condo, a co-op, a duplex or anything else. In addition, there are several different types of homeowner policies, but the survey doesn’t ask which type they have. The I.I.I. designed the survey, and we doubt the typical consumer knows off the top of his head whether they bought, say, a dwelling fire policy or an HO-3, so we don’t ask. The answers would not be meaningful.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) collects information on all types of homeowners policies. To muddle things a bit, one of those “homeowners” policies is really renters insurance.  In 2012, the most recent year available, there were 68.6 million policies for the various types of homeowners policies or their barebones brethren, dwelling fire (not counting the renters insurance I just mentioned).

As a reasonableness check (and because I felt like it), I created a separate estimate by using U.S. Census data from the American Community Survey (factfinder.census.gov). The table is C-01-AH, if you want to look it up yourself.

According to that source, there were 75.65 million owner-occupied year-round housing units in 2013, both single- and multi-family. (There are another 4.07 million seasonally occupied homes.).

Multiplying the 75.65 by the 95 percent with insurance leaves us with an estimate of about 72 million homeowners policies covering primary residences.

Comparing the estimates: they measure two different years, 2012 and 2013 but that discrepancy isn’t critical. The number of households doesn’t vary too much from year to year. More significant: the latter estimate is indirect; it smashes together numbers from two sources (Census Bureau and I.I.I. poll). So it is probably less accurate than using the NAIC data, even though the NAIC data is older. However I find it reassuring they came to approximately the same number. That’s why 70 million seems a reasonable estimate.

Q: Thank you for your quick response. I appreciate the background/explanation. I was actually trying to determine the number of homes that are uninsured (the 5 percent). Based on your calculations below, 5 percent of the 75.65 would be 3.78 million, correct?

A: Your math is correct if you want to estimate primary residences, including condos, etc. Secondary residences would add another 200,000 approximately, being 5 percent of 4.07 million (give or take). Because it is an estimate and a rough one on a (relatively) small number, I’d round it in general terms, such as saying “between 3½ and 4 million homes are uninsured.”

Lots of homeowners facts and statistics at the I.I.I. website.

The 2016 U.S. presidential election is one of the rising political risks facing businesses and investors in the year ahead, according to Marsh’s Political Risk Map 2016.

Terrorism and struggling emerging economies, such as China and Russia, are also among the growing political risks businesses face.

Marsh notes that the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California have intensified political rhetoric and brought foreign relations and defense policy topics to the forefront.

With polls showing national security to be a major concern for voters, foreign policy will remain a key theme on the campaign trail in 2016 — and will be top of mind for the next presidential administration.”

Marsh observes that in the last decade multinational organizations have undertaken unprecedented international expansion, leaving them exposed to global credit and political risks like never before.

And those risks—including terrorism and political violence, armed conflicts, increasingly powerful anti-establishment political movements, and persistently low commodity prices—continue to grow.

Against this backdrop, it’s critical for businesses to be prepared for the possibility that political violence, unrest, or other large- scale crises will quickly develop in virtually any part of the world — including those countries that were historically seen as safe or stable, Marsh says.

Companies can prepare for these risks by managing their credit risk, building resilient supply chains, protecting their people and by protecting their assets through insurance.

Marsh notes:

Credit and political risk insurance can protect against a variety of risks, including expropriation, political violence, currency inconvertibility, non-payment, and contract frustration.”

Marsh’s Political Risk Map 2016, with data and insight from BMI Research, presents country risk scores for more than 200 countries and territories, helping businesses and investors make smarter decisions about where and how to deploy financial resources—including risk capital—globally in 2016 and beyond.

As if we needed another reminder of the rising threat of cyber attacks, the estimated EUR 50 million ($55 million) loss arising from a cyber fraud incident targeting Austrian air parts supplier FACC AG made us sit up and take notice.

As Bloomberg reports here, if the damages do indeed amount to $55 million this would be one of the biggest hacking losses by size.

Bloomberg also points out that the incident is made more intriguing because FACC is 55 percent owned by China-based AVIC.

It will take time for the details of this attack to emerge, but in a January 20 press release, FACC acknowledged that the target of the cyber fraud was the financial accounting department of FACC Operations GmbH.

The company also noted that its IT infrastructure, data security, IP rights and the group’s operational business are not affected by the criminal activities.

Further, FACC said the $55 million in damage was an outflow of “liquid funds”.

“The management board has taken immediate structural measures and is evaluating damages and insurance claims,” FACC added in its third quarter report.

According to this report by ComputerWeekly.com, the fact that FACC’s financial accounting department was targeted in the fraud is prompting speculation that the company was likely the victim of a so-called whaling attack, also known as business email compromise (BEC) and CEO fraud.

These sophisticated phishing attacks are when cyber criminals send fake email messages from company CEOs, often when a CEO is known to be out of the office, asking company accountants to transfer funds to a supplier. In fact the funds go to a criminal account.

Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) described BEC fraud as an emerging global threat.

Since the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began tracking BEC scams in late 2013, more than 7,000 U.S. companies have been targeted by such attacks with total dollar losses exceeding $740 million. If you consider non-U.S. victims and unreported losses, that figure is likely much higher.

The rising incidence of BEC and CEO fraud and its intersection with cyber insurance will form the topic of a future blog post.

Both the WEF Global Risks Report 2016 and the Allianz Risk Barometer 2016 have identified cyber attacks and incidents among the top risks facing business.

Find out more about cyber risks and insurance in the I.I.I. white paper Cyber Risk: Threat and Opportunity.

Five of the seven individual billion-dollar insured loss natural disaster events in 2015 were recorded in the United States, according to Aon Benfield’s Annual Global Climate and Catastrophe Report.

The other two billion dollar events were recorded in Europe.

All of the events were weather-related and below the average of eight. The five events in the U.S. were equal to the 2000-2014 average.

Italy’s May 2012 earthquake was the last non-weather billion-dollar insured loss event.

The all-time record of 17 billion-dollar weather events was set in 2011.

The costliest individual insured loss event of the year was a prolonged stretch of heavy snow, freezing rain, ice, and frigid cold that impacted much of the eastern United States in February 2015. That event prompted an estimated $2.1 billion insured loss.

Other billion-dollar insured loss events in the U.S. included a severe thunderstorm outbreak in the U.S. in May and severe thunderstorms and flooding in December. Each of these events cost an estimated $1.4 billion in insured losses.

Another thunderstorm event in the U.S. in April cost $1.2 billion, while the yearlong drought in the West was another $1 billion insured loss event.

The two non-U.S. billion dollar insured loss events of 2015 consisted of the catastrophic December flooding in the UK that cost an estimated $1.3 billion, and European windstorms Mike and Niklas in March and April which resulted in an estimated insured loss of $1 billion.

CostliestInsuredCatLosses2015

Aon Benfield noted that on a global scale disasters caused insured losses of $35 billion in 2015, below the 15-year mean of $51 billion and 14 percent lower than the median ($40 billion).

This was the fourth consecutive year with declining catastrophe losses since the record-setting year in 2011.

The U.S. accounted for 60 percent of global insured disaster losses in 2015, reflecting the high rate of insurance penetration in the country, according to the report.

I.I.I. facts and statistics on U.S. catastrophes are available here.

Cyberattacks are now the greatest risk to doing business in North America, according to the just-released World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Risks Report 2016.

In North America, which includes the United States and Canada, cyberattacks and asset bubbles were considered among the top risks of doing business in the region.

The WEF noted that in the United States, the top risk is cyberattack, followed by data fraud or theft (the latter ranks 7th in Canada, which is why it scores 50 percent in the table below).

The risks related to the internet and cyber dependency are considered to be of highest concern for doing business in the wake of recent important attacks on companies, the WEF observed.

WEF2016NorthAmericaTopRisks

On a global scale, cyberattack is perceived as the risk of highest concern in eight economies: Estonia, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, and the United States.

Public sector bodies in at least two of these countries have recently been disrupted by cyberattacks: the US Office of Personnel Management and the Japanese Pension service, the WEF noted.

Attempts to detect and address attacks are made harder by their constantly evolving nature, as perpetrators quickly find new ways of executing them. Businesses trying to match this speed in their development of prevention and response methods are sometimes constrained by a poor understanding of the risk, a lack of technical talent, and inadequate security capabilities.”

Defining clear roles and responsibilities for cyber risk within corporations is crucial, the WEF noted.

Who in the corporation is the actual owner of the risk? While there are many “C” level owners (CISO, CFO, CEO, CRO, Risk Management), each of these owners has differing but related interests and unfortunately often does not integrate risk or effectively collaborate on its management.”

Outdated laws and regulations also inhibit the ability of governments to capture criminals, but also to expedite the often lengthy procedure of implementing legal and regulatory frameworks to reflect evolving realities.

Check out the Insurance Information Institute’s latest report on cyber risks here.

Environmental pollution stories seem to be dominating the headlines and with this comes renewed awareness of potential environmental liabilities among companies, municipalities and their (re)insurers.

An ongoing gas leak at the Southern California Gas Co Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility near the Porter Ranch suburb of Los Angeles, has forced thousands of residents to evacuate, many of whom have been experiencing health problems.

The Los Angeles Times reports that so far, the gas company has spent more than $50 million to combat the methane leak that began October 23, and more than 25 lawsuits have been filed against the utility.

A securities filing last week stated that the cost of defending the lawsuits, and any damages, if awarded, could be significant.

As the LA Times reports:

The utility has told the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had “at least four types of insurance policies that it believes will cover many of the current and expected claims, losses and litigation…associated with the natural gas leak at Aliso Canyon.”

Those insurance policies are understood to have a combined available limit in excess of $1 billion, though legal experts suggest the ultimate costs could run much higher.

Meanwhile, officials in Flint, Michigan, made a cost-saving decision to switch the source of their drinking water to the Flint River from Lake Huron in April 2014, a move that has exposed thousands of children to dangerous levels of lead.

While the city has since switched back to Lake Huron water, and started distributing water filters and bottled water to the city’s residents, The New York Times reports that many have called for state money to replace Flint’s aging pipe infrastructure (at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion) and a fund to address any developmental impact on children.

Last week Michigan governor Rick Snyder declared the city to be in a state of emergency just as federal officials opened an investigation into the water contamination.

Other environmental pollution stories in the news include one lawyer’s fight against DuPont’s decades-long history of chemical pollution and further away the recent Samarco dam burst in Brazil—described as the worst environmental disaster in the country’s history.

In a recent note AIG Environmental Insurance said that environmental pollution continues to be a major source of concern for the (re)insurance market.

AIG noted that the potential environmental liability impact of the Samarco dam burst remains the unknown factor, with market sources putting the overall insured coverage at in excess of $600 million.

Taken together with the property and business interruption elements of the cover, the (re)insurance market is facing a potential overall loss that could be in excess of $1 billion.”

Online insurance exchange MarketScout just reported that the composite rate for U.S. commercial property/casualty insurance declined by 4 percent in December 2015.

No line of business tracked by MarketScout saw a rate increase compared to the same month the previous year.

Its analysis was accompanied by some interesting commentary on the market by Richard Kerr, MarketScout CEO.

It may seem like the insurance industry has already been in a prolonged soft market cycle, but we are actually only four months in, Kerr noted.

The market certainly feels like it has been soft for much longer, because rates bumped along at flat or plus 1 to 1.5 percent from July 2014 to September 2015. The technical trigger of a soft market occurs when the composite rate drops below par for three consecutive months.”

AverageP:CRate2001-2015

MarketScout has been tracking the U.S. p/c market since July 2001 and Kerr also made the point that the length and veracity of the market cycles seems to have become less volatile in the last five or six years.

As a result, the impact of hard or soft market in today’s environment may be 5 or 6 percent up or down, he said.

Can you imagine how we would act today in a market such as that of July 2002 when the composite rate was up 32 percent? Or in December 2007 when the composite rate was down 16 percent?”

Kerr observed that underwriters today have better tools to price their products and forecast losses. Further, the chances of a rogue underwriter or company are greatly reduced by the industries’ checks and balances, Kerr said.

In his words:

There may be less excitement but there are probably far fewer CEO heart attacks.”

MarketScout’s historical barometer shows a mean average rate increase of 30 percent in calendar year 2002 and a mean average decrease of 13 percent in calendar year 2007.

The current environment is relatively benign in relation to these volatile years, MarketScout observed.

I.I.I. provides commentary on the p/c insurance industry financial results here.

 

“Alexa, what is insurance?”

This is just one of many questions that can be asked of an Amazon Echo, our smart home companion that arrived over the holidays.

And as I’m finding out, the part-Siri part-bluetooth speaker that can stream music, tell me the weather or what the traffic’s like, can also be integrated with our smart home devices and hubs.

Turning on the lights, locking the doors and changing the temperature at home are all possible once Alexa is introduced to compatible products and hubs.

As Internet of Things (IoT) devices proliferate and debut at CES 2016, the world’s largest technology trade show happening in Las Vegas this week, insurers will be taking note.

A new International Data Corporation (IDC) report estimates worldwide spending on the IoT will grow from $699 billion in 2015 to nearly $1.3 trillion in 2019—at a 17 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR).

While manufacturing and transportation (at $165.6 billion and $78.7 billion respectively) led the world in IoT spending in 2015, IDC says the insurance, health care and consumer industries are expected to see the fastest growth over the next five years:

Over the next five years, the industries forecast to have the fastest IoT spending growth will be insurance (31.8 percent CAGR), healthcare, and consumer.”

While insurers have already explored the benefits of connectivity in the auto insurance sector, the connected home represents a major opportunity for property/casualty insurers, according to a report by Accenture.

Insurers can leverage data from connected home devices to assess and mitigate risk, increase pricing sophistication, and offer new products, all of which help drive operational efficiency and top-line growth.”

Key areas of opportunity for insurers identified by Accenture include:

—Better risk management and risk mitigation, through claims avoidance and better claims handling;

—Better underwriting, based on increased data flows and a keener understanding of risk factors and behavioral elements;

—New product offerings, including value-added services delivered in a partnership

Security, energy management, lighting, water, thermostats, weather, appliances, and smoke and fire are the major areas within the connected home where insurers have the potential for improving underwritten precision and limiting losses while strengthening customer relationships, Accenture says.

However, insurers will also need to tackle challenges presented by large inflows of new data such as customer indifference or lack of understanding of new offerings, as well as privacy and regulatory concerns, to convert that opportunity into profitable growth, Accenture notes.

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