At RIMS, Industry Execs Talk Pricing, Business Interruption & Cyber Risk

NU Online News Service, April 23, 12:00 p.m. EDT

PHILADELPHIA—Three subjects appeared to be most prominent in discussions between executives and risk managers in Philadelphia at this year’s Risk and Insurance Management Society meeting: price, business interruption and cyber risk.

Last week, National Underwriter sat down with insurance-company and brokerage-firm executives attending the conference inPhiladelphia to discuss these topics.

Regarding pricing, Mario Vitale, chief executive officer of Aspen Insurance, says there is clear evidence the market is firming, but he says no one is using the term “hard market” in their conversations about rate.

Last year’s catastrophe losses and low-investment yields have taken their toll, he says, and the market is in a position where a major event now could shift the market from firming to hardening. But putting an exact number on what that loss event would be is difficult, he notes.

Capacity remains strong, Vitale says, but reserves are seriously depleted, adding to the pressure to raise rates.

One sign the marketplace is changing is that more business is flowing back into the excess and surplus lines market, says Vitale, with submissions in that marketplace up by 25 percent in some markets.

Jonathan W. Hall, executive vice president for the insurer FM Global says there is a “sense the market is changing” and is firming. The question right now is how long that firming will last given the recent history in the marketplace of pricing reaching a peak before sliding down into soft-market conditions again.

Hall notes that on some wind-property exposures, especially along theTexascoast, there are some capacity issues developing.

“Insurers would like to see more rate increases,” says Marc Kunney, president of Integro USA, a unit of the insurance brokerage firm Integro in New York. However, clients are still under pressure from the economic downturn and there are limits to how much they are willing to spend on insurance.

“If you can bring different solutions to the table and blend the need of the client and the underwriter with a creative approach to the product you have met the market challenge,” says Kunney. “That creates an opportunity for us.”

Another issue of major concern is contingent business interruption. The executives say that the series of natural-catastrophe events overseas—flooding in Thailand, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan—have exposed the risk to companies’ supply chains and the need to address that exposure.

Hall says risk managers have done a good job of understanding their contingent-business-interruption risk (a shutdown of a supplier that can affect their operation), but “now they have to do a great job and need to know the threats to their supply chain.”

That means quantifying that risk and defining the loss of a particular facility in their supply chain to their operation.

Kunney says that risk managers need to go beyond their primary suppliers and look at how the loss of “suppliers to the suppliers” can affect operations.

Risk managers, he says, need to “reach more than anyone ever anticipated.”

Turning to cyber risk, Christopher Keegan, Willis senior vice president, executive risks—E&O and eRisk, says insurers are seeing more claims from the broad coverage they issued in the past and are tweaking terms and conditions.

Here too, because of losses, there is a push for rate on some coverage, but excess continues to be soft, he says.

Where once the concern was over credit-card theft, risk managers are finding other areas—such as a computer bug or programing error—that could shut down an operation and set in motion supply chain disruption.

Other corners of concern are rising from exposure to social media that raises the issues of defamation, copyright infringement, and disclosure of private data.

Hall says FM Global has always provided coverage for these cyber exposures in its policies, but with the growing concern over exposure, the company is paying closer attention to underwriting the risk. He says the company does not plan to remove the coverage from its policies, but it will be asking for a lot more information than in the past.

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