Hurricane disasters can occur whether the season is active or relatively quiet. It only takes one hurricane (or tropical storm) to cause a disaster and virtually unimaginable destruction. Therefore, it is imperative for insurers and risk managers to adequately prepare for every hurricane season regardless of seasonal outlook. 

The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season produced 20 tropical cyclones, 19 tropical storms, seven hurricanes, and four major hurricanes. It featured a record sequence of weak tropical storms, and Hurricane Irene, a powerful Category 3 storm, was the first hurricane of the season. The season tied 2010, 1995, and 1887 for the third highest number of tropical storms.

On the precipice of the official start of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which runs from June 1 until November 30, we spoke with Karen Clark, president and CEO of Karen Clark & Company. Clark explains that while catastrophe models and software applications continue to evolve and improve over time, the bigger challenge for insurers is realizing the full value of such tools. She discusses new considerations in the risk-assessment and management processes and how to fully utilize new methodologies. For the purposes of this article, CE denotes a “characteristic event.”

Q. In terms of what insurers need to be doing, what are the fundamental requirements for effective catastrophe risk management?A. After consulting with dozens of insurance and reinsurance companies over the past few years, we’ve found that insurers would very much like to have risk-management metrics with three fundamental qualities: consistency, transparency, and operational ability. In order to effectively manage catastrophe risk, insurers need to fully understand the risk and how it’s being measured for their specific books of business. Insurers would also like a tool that enables them to monitor the effectiveness of their risk-management strategies over time.

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