Insurance Industry Advances Gender Equality

Insurance may have a reputation for being a male-dominated industry, but progress is being made toward gender equality according to a survey of female executives.

Some 86 percent of women attending the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation’s (IICF) 2016 Women In Insurance Conference agreed that strides were being made to achieve gender equality, up from just 72 percent last year.

The shift in numbers is underpinned by several key trends that have had the most profound impact on the improvement of gender equality in the industry in the past five years.

Active recruitment of a gender-diverse workforce was identified as the most important trend by 44 percent of respondents to the IICF survey.

Another 22 percent cited the establishment of mentorship programs for women, while a further 20 percent said the sponsorship of executive networking opportunities carried the most weight.

Interestingly, 87 percent of respondents said their company in particular is actively working to promote gender diversity, up from 68 percent last year.

Limited opportunities to move up the corporate ladder are also no longer seen as the biggest obstacle to women ascending into leadership roles. Instead, women not promoting themselves enough or effectively was identified as the biggest challenge by 35 percent of respondents.

And when it comes to the advancement of women to senior leadership roles, some 32 percent of respondents rank insurance as the most supportive industry in financial services. Last year, insurance ranked last at just 12 percent.

Erin Calvey, executive vice president at Ironshore Insurance Co. and IICF Conference Series speaker, commented:

“While barriers still exist for women who seek to advance within their careers, we have seen a shift in thought among women in the industry – where lack of opportunities for upward mobility is no longer the primary obstacle.

“We see now more than ever the importance of women uplifting and supporting each other in order to collectively inspire progress.”

For more information on women in insurance check out these facts and statistics from the Insurance Information Institute.

Billion-Dollar Insured Disaster Events Add Up

The first half of 2016 saw at least six individual billion-dollar insured disaster events globally, three of which occurred in the United States, according to Aon Benfield’s Global Catastrophe Recap: First Half of 2016.

Four of these events crossed the multi-billion dollar threshold ($2 billion and greater).

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As seen in the chart above the most costly event was a series of earthquakes that struck Japan’s Kumamoto prefecture in April with total insured losses—including losses due to physical damage and business interruption—expected to total in excess of $5 billion.

Other major loss events in the first half included:

—the late May and early June flooding and severe weather (Storm Elvira) in Europe ($3.4 billion insured losses);

—the Fort McMurray wildfire ($3.2 billion insured losses);

—the April 10-15 severe convective storm outbreak in the central United States ($3.2 billion insured losses).

Aon Benfield notes that all of the estimates from both public and private insurers are subject to revision as losses are further developed.

A deeper dive into the data reveals that there were at least 14 events that minimally cost insurers $500 million in the first half of 2016, eight of which were recorded in the U.S. and were all severe convective storm or flood-related.

Globally, public and private insurers endured an elevated level of disaster losses—$30 billion—during the first half of 2016, some 60 percent higher than the $19 billion sustained in 2015. The U.S. sustained the highest level of insurable losses at $14 billion.

The aggregated $30 billion was only the third time on record that first and second quarter losses reached that threshold—even after adjusting for inflation to today’s dollars, Aon Benfield said.

Check out Insurance Information Institute facts and statistics on global catastrophes here.

Catching All The Customers

If you plan on trying to catch a Pikachu this weekend, chances are you might be lured into a local pizzeria or bookstore, as savvy businessowners tap into the huge popularity of Pokémon Go and target the pocket monster crowd to boost business.

Now reports say Niantic Labs, the developer of Pokémon Go, will soon accept sponsorship deals with global brands to make certain locations appear more prominently, or to sponsor specific products within the game.

Insurers looking to evolve their business are sure to be among those companies looking at potential Pokémon Go tie-ins to reach and expand their digital audience.

After all, AXA Insurance was among those to partner with Niantic Labs when Pokémon’s predecessor augmented reality adventure game, Ingress was launched in 2013.

The partnership saw AXA retail agencies in the real world turned into Ingress “Portals”, sites that players visit and battle to control for their in-game faction.

In just five months the success of the partnership saw over 600,000 Ingress players visit real world AXA Insurance locations to find, collect and deploy more than 5 million AXA-branded virtual shields in Ingress. AXA representatives also interacted with over 55,000 Ingress players during live player events called “Anomalies” opportunities.

Insurers are also not new to using augmented reality technology in their actual business operations.

For example, Zurich Insurance last year turned to augmented reality smartphone apps to train 10,000 employees in 170 countries in the key skills needed by its next generation of managers.

Insurers are also using augmented or virtual reality (think Google Glasses) to train claim adjusters and streamline the claims process.

So while the insurance risks of disruptive technology like Pokémon Go are clear (and yes, insurers have you covered), it appears there are many ways for insurers to embrace the power of augmented reality to benefit their business and market reach.

As the Celent insurance blog noted:

“For those insurers with investments in the real world like agencies, offices, billboards – and for those that are agile enough – this surprise trend could serve as a great marketing route to catching all the customers, as well as all the Pokémon.”

Thunderstorms Most Costly U.S. Nat Cat in H1 2016

Severe thunderstorms accounted for the lion’s share of U.S. natural disaster losses in the first half of 2016, according to Munich Re.

Of the $17 billion in U.S. economic losses ($11 billion insured) caused by natural catastrophes in the first half of 2016, some $12.3 billion ($8.8 billion insured) were due to a series of storms in Texas and neighboring states, including destructive hailstorms in Dallas and San Antonio, and severe flooding in the Houston metro area.

Winter storms and cold waves were the next most costly U.S. peril in the first half causing insured losses of $1.5 billion, followed by flood and flash flood events with $1 billion in insured losses.

Wildfire, heatwaves and drought resulted in minor insured losses, and there were no losses due to earthquake or tropical cyclones in the first half, according to Munich Re’s Nat Cat Update.

USNatCatLosses2016H1MunichRe

Weather extremes in Texas and other southern states are symptomatic of an El Niño phase, which intensifies the subtropical jet stream, which can cause an increase in severe storms in the region, Munich Re said.

Further north, El Niño conditions also caused warm and dry conditions in Alaska and western Canada, helping to trigger the worst wildfire in Canadian history. Direct losses from these fires totaled $3.6 billion, of which $2.7 billion were insured.

The Fort McMurray fire has been declared the costliest natural catastrophe event in Canada’s history.

One beneficial aspect of El Niño conditions is that it tends to reduce springtime tornado activity over the southern Great Plains. While the year’s thunderstorm season got off to an early start, the states of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas have all seen about 50 percent fewer tornadoes this year than in the first half of 2015, Munich Re observed.

Nationally, the number of observed tornadoes was about 700 by the end of June, significantly below the average of 1,021 for the last 10 years.

Tony Kuczinski, president and CEO of Munich Re America, Inc, noted that homes and businesses incur the brunt of thunderstorm losses.

“Property damage from this spring’s thunderstorm season remind us that a roof is a building’s first line of defense against hail and wind events. Proper roof maintenance, roofing materials and installation are all critical to helping reduce these types of losses.”

To help homeowners build safer, stronger structures in the face of increasing severe weather events, Munich Re and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) recently launchd an app that walks homeowners, contractors and architects through the home strengthening process.

FORTIFIED HomeTM On the Go can be downloaded free from the iTunes Store.

U.S. natural catastrophes accounted for almost one quarter of worldwide economic losses in the first half of 2016, and about 58 percent of global insured losses.

June Flood Losses Highlight Insurance Protection Gap

The economic cost of flood losses worldwide in June will exceed $5 billion, though the insured loss portion will be significantly less, according to Aon Benfield’s latest Global Catastrophe Recap.

Impact Forecasting, the cat modeling center of Aon Benfield, reports that major June floods highlighted by China and U.S. events, saw the global economic toll mount.

Seasonal “Mei-Yu” monsoon rains led to multiple rounds of significant flooding across central and southern parts of China throughout June, resulting in more than 130 fatalities.

The most damaging floods occurred in the Yangtze River basin as rivers and tributaries overflowed their banks and minimally inundated 200,000 homes. Beyond property damage, there were substantial impacts to the agricultural sector.

Impact Forecasting said:

“Total aggregated economic losses were estimated by the Ministry of Civil Affairs at upwards of CNY29 billion (USD4.4 billion). Given low penetration levels, the insured loss portion was only a small fraction of the overall damage cost.”

Exceptional rainfall in the U.S. state of West Virginia also led to catastrophic flooding in several counties. The federal government declared a disaster after major damage occurred in Clay, Fayette, Greenbrier, Kanawha, Monroe, Nicholas, Roane, and Summers counties, As many as 5,500 homes and 125 businesses were damaged or destroyed.

“Total economic losses were anticipated to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The insured loss portion of the loss was expected to be less given rather low up-take in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).”

Additional major flood events in the month of June occurred in India, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Ghana, according to the report.

The gap between economic and insured losses for both major flood events in China and the U.S. illustrates the need for greater insurance penetration around the globe.

A 2015 Swiss Re report estimated the current annual disaster protection gap between insured and total losses at around $153 billion, assuming an average catastrophe loss year.

In absolute terms, the U.S., Japan and China account for more than half that amount, with a combined annual shortfall of $81 billion, Swiss Re said.

A 2015 poll by the Insurance Information Institute found that 14 percent of American homeowners had a flood insurance policy. This percentage has been at about the same level every year since 2009.

Self-Driving Cars Still Evolving

A fatal car accident involving a Tesla Model S in autonomous driving mode is drawing widespread scrutiny both in the United States and overseas.

Joshua Brown was killed in May this year when a tractor trailer made a left turn in front of his Tesla and the self-driving car failed to apply the brakes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it is investigating the incident and will examine the design and performance of the automated driving systems in use at the time of the crash.

Its preliminary evaluation of the incident doesn’t indicate any conclusion about whether the Tesla vehicle was defective, the NHTSA said.

In a blog post, Tesla noted that this is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where autopilot was activated:

“Among all vehicles in the U.S., there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.”

Tesla further noted that neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied:

“The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield of the Model S.”

As companies continue to innovate and invest in self-driving technology, the crash indicates that fully automated cars are still a thing of the future.

The crash also raises important concerns over regulation.

According to this New York Times article:

“Even as companies conduct many tests on autonomous vehicles at both private facilities and on public highways, there is skepticism that the technology has progressed far enough for the government to approve cars that totally drive themselves.”

And the Wall Street Journal reports:

“Tesla now risks being the test case that could prompt new safety regulations or laws limiting the deployment of self-driving technology.”

The crash also highlights liability concerns regarding this emerging technology. Most car crashes are caused by human error, but presumably the NHTSA investigation will also evaluate potential product liability on the part of the manufacturer.

The crux of the issue is weighing up the risk of crashes versus crashes avoided via the use of self-driving technology.

As the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) notes:

“As crash avoidance technology gradually becomes standard equipment, insurers will be able to better determine the extent to which these various components reduce the frequency and cost of accidents. They will also be able to determine whether the accidents that do occur lead to a higher percentage of product liability claims, as claimants blame the manufacturer or suppliers for what went wrong rather than their own behavior.”

Liability laws might evolve to ensure autonomous vehicle technology advances are not brought to a halt, the I.I.I. adds.

Pride Round-Up

June is Pride month and our annual round-up of the latest insurance news around the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community must first acknowledge the June 12 tragedy at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Some of the insurance implications of the attack are discussed in this Insurance Business Magazine article.

LGBT Financials: In the year since the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating states must permit same-sex marriages, LGBT households are changing and marriage equality has simplified finances for many, according to the 2016/2017 LGBT Financial Experience survey by Prudential. Commentary from survey respondents suggests this is due to simplified taxes, insurance coverage and estate planning. Despite agreement on the importance of saving for the future, in comparison to the general population, fewer LGBT respondents have retirement accounts, life insurance or a will or estate plan.

Transgender Rights: As discussed in our earlier blog post Where Insurance Meets Transgender Rights, recent federal and state rulings pertaining to the rights of transgender individuals (including laws restricting restroom access) raise a number of issues, and there are potential insurance implications to consider. While this is an evolving area of law and liability for businesses and municipalities everywhere, insurers—and the policies they write—will no doubt be implicated. Businesses need to know what their state or municipality has enacted on this issue and establish a coherent nondiscriminatory policy to minimize their liabilities.

Corporate Equality: A record 407 businesses, including 27 insurers scored 100 percent in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2016 Corporate Equality Index (CEI) based on their workplace policies, benefits and practices pertinent to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer employees. The number of insurers achieving the top ranking has seen a steady increase over the last decade. A total of 851 businesses were rated in the 2016 CEI. Some 165 of the Fortune 500-ranked businesses achieved a 100 percent rating.

Have a safe and Happy Pride!

Lightning Strikes, Insurance Responds

Next time you’re home when a heavy thunderstorm rolls in, take a moment to think about how damaging lightning losses can be and how insurance helps.

In fact, insurers paid out $790 million in lightning claims last year to nearly 100,000 policyholders, according to a new analysis by the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm.

Damage caused by lightning, such as fire, is covered by standard homeowners policies and some policies provide coverage for power surges that are the direct result of a lightning strike.

As James Lynch, vice president of information services and chief actuary of the I.I.I. says:

“Not only does lightning result in deadly home fires, it can cause severe damage to appliances, electronics, computers and equipment, phone systems, electrical fixtures and the electrical foundation of a home.”

It’s due partly to the enormous increase in the number and value of consumer electronics that the average cost per claim has continued to rise, Lynch explains.

There were 99,423 insurer-paid lightning claims in 2015, down 0.4 percent from 2014, but the average lightning claim paid was 7.4 percent more than a year ago: $7,497 in 2015 vs. $7,400 a year earlier.

The average cost per claim rose 64 percent from 2010 to 2015. By comparison, the Consumer Price Index (an inflationary indicator that measures the change in the cost of a fixed basket of products and services, including housing, electricity, food, and transportation) rose by 9 percent in the same period.

In recognition of Lightning Safety Awareness Week (June 19-25), the I.I.I. and the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI) encourage homeowners to install a lightning protection system in their homes. These systems are designed to protect the structure of your home and provide a specified path to harness and safely ground the super-charged current of the lightning bolt.

The growing market for smart home technology makes installing a lightning protection system even more important, noted the I.I.I. It is also an opportunity for designers, builders and code officials to include lightning protection systems in their plans.

Kimberly Loehr, director of communications for the LPI adds:

“Just as smart homes provide the ultimate in safety and comfort, lightning protection systems ensure that state-of-the-art home automation systems aren’t damaged by direct or nearby lightning strikes.”

U.S. Exposure to Brexit Referendum

London, for decades the financial center of Europe, finds itself on the brink of a monumental vote. On Thursday, British voters will decide whether to leave the European Union in what’s known as the Brexit referendum.

While there is uncertainty over what a Brexit could mean for the UK economy and for London, there is also uncertainty over what it would mean for the United States and for U.S. companies.

The Los Angeles Times reports that while the U.S. economy is better insulated than most from the risk of market turmoil, the Brexit referendum has added to uncertainties in a presidential election year and to lingering concerns about China’s economic slowdown.

A lot of U.S. companies have something to lose if the UK decides to leave the EU, with the banking and insurance sectors among those most likely to be affected, according to this CNBC report.

Some U.S. companies have moved not just parts of their operations but whole headquarters from the U.S. to the UK, CNBC says.

For example, the world’s largest insurance broker Aon, relocated its corporate headquarters to London from Chicago in 2012, in a move designed to give the company greater access to emerging markets through London.

Aon told CNBC in a statement:

“If Britain votes to leave the European Union, the innovative center of excellence that has set London apart in the insurance space will be deeply challenged.

“Talent is a true differentiator for the city of London, and to create a barrier between the industry that addresses the world’s most complex risks and the global talent needed to do this will have real implications.”

If companies lose the ability to passport their services into Europe, they may decide to move their European hubs and staff out of London and the UK, which would lead to significantly higher operational costs.

The London insurance market has been very vocal on why remaining in the EU is the best outcome for insurers.

As Lloyd’s chief risk officer Sean McGovern said earlier this year, the London market is currently the largest global hub for commercial and specialty risk—controlling more than £60 billion ($88 billion) of gross written premium.

And the UK’s membership of the EU gives it access to the world’s largest insurance market with a world market share of nearly 33 percent and total insurance premiums of nearly Euros 1.4 trillion ($1.6 trillion).

In a recent paper, Lloyd’s, the International Underwriting Association and Fidelis warned that Brexit poses a significant threat to London insurance jobs and business.

Read more about the insurance sector impact of a Brexit in this analysis by London law firm Clifford Chance.

Aon’s full statement on the EU referendum is available here.

What Does A Cyberattack Really Cost?

The current market value put on the business impact of a cyberattack is grossly underestimated, according to a new report from Deloitte Advisory.

It finds that the direct costs commonly associated with data breaches, such as regulatory fines, breach notification and protection costs, and public relations costs account for less than 5 percent of the total business impact.

But the effects of a cyberattack can be even more far-reaching and last for years, resulting in a wide range of hidden or intangible costs related to loss of intellectual property, operational disruption, increase in insurance premiums, and devaluation of trade name.

In fact more than 95 percent of the financial impact of a cyberattack is likely to accrue in these areas and businesses can be caught especially unprepared for these intangible costs.

In a press release, Don Fancher, principal, Deloitte Advisory, and global leader for Deloitte forensic, says:

“Rarely brought into executive and board conversations around cyber risk are the costs and consequences of IP theft, cyber espionage, data destruction, or business disruption, which are much harder to quantify and can have a significant impact on an organization.

“Our intent is not to scare executives into thinking that all cyber incidents will be more costly than they think. It’s to give them a better understanding of their specific risks so they can make more educated decisions that are aligned with their business strategies.”

Find out more about cyber risks and insurance in this Insurance Information Institute paper.

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