9. Vaccinations | The World Health Organization lists "vaccine hesitancy" among the "ten threats to global health in 2019." Caused by a number of reasons, such attitudes risk the resurgence of otherwise avoidable dangerous diseases. One potential impact will be a drop in productivity. Trade, travel and tourism will be subdued, and economic output will be reduced. This affects financial markets and is therefore directly relevant for insurers' and reinsurers' balance sheets on both the asset and liability side. (Credit: Shutterstock)
8. Technology regulation affecting the insurance industry | We are now seeing a wave of non-insurance tech regulation spilling into the insurance industry. Much of this is about access to and use of customer data. Swiss Re says excessive data protection requirements like limitations on cross-border data sharing can hinder the ability of insurers to utilize data in meaningful ways. In addition, global fragmentation of cybersecurity laws could increase operational costs and compliance risks. And the lack of global harmonization means the risk of conflicting laws. (Credit: Shutterstock)
7. Concussions | The discovery of the long-term risks of head trauma has sparked high-profile litigations in the U.S., filed by athletes against professional sports organizations such as the National Football League. Hundreds of other suits remain pending against collegiate sports governing bodies, helmet manufacturers, youth sports organizations and dozens of individual colleges and universities. Broader awareness of the issue will increase concussion diagnoses, as more people will seek medical attention. This will trigger liability insurance, but also impact on life and health books. (Credit: Shutterstock)
6. Accidents waiting to happen | In all sectors, from manufacturing to engineering to financial services, many people will be retiring in the coming years, taking with them critical know-how and experience that technology can only in part replace. What does this mean for insurance? Swiss Re says an uptick in property & casualty, professional indemnity, medical malpractice as well as healthcare-related claims might be among the consequences. (Credit: Shutterstock)
5. Insurance demand in an age of shifting markets | In all OECD countries — except Switzerland, Ireland and Spain — the income portion of the middle class is diminishing. Shrinking disposable incomes may put a willingness to pay for insurance coverage to the test. This was witnessed in the U.S. after the global financial crisis of 2008-09; today, the warning signs of another recession are blinking brighter. Insurance potential continues to move East. Swiss Re says the thriving middle classes are to be found in Asia rather in the West. However, there is risk in the longer run that the middle classes do not grow as expected, which could also lead to rising income inequality. (Credit: Kittisak JirasittichaiShutterstock)
4. 5G mobile networks | 5G – short for fifth generation – is the latest standard for cellular mobile communications. It will improve everything from smartphones and the Internet of Things to the likely rise in autonomous cars. But 5G doesn't address the issue of cyber exposures, which Swiss Re says will increase as attacks become faster and higher in volume. Additionally, information security and national sovereignty concerns might delay implementation of 5G further, increasing uncertainty for planning authorities, investors, tech companies and insurers. (Credit: TPROduction/Shutterstock)
3. Chemicals in our bodies and environment | The chemicals behind Teflon and many other materials used in cookware, food packaging, carpeting and more belong to a family of substances known as PFAS, and they achieved notoriety by showing up in the blood samples of 98% of all Americans. The EU, China and the U.S. have all issued different forms of legislation related to the chemical's regulation, but all hope to increase transparency with respect to ensuring the safety of human life and the environment. Such transparency will make the world a safer place, but will also generate the potential for new lawsuits related to product liability, recall claims, employers' liability, workers' compensation claims and more. (Credit: Kaentian Street/Shutterstock)
2. Forests' vital functions are under threat | By storing carbon and water and helping to regulate our climate, forests are of enormous value to life. Despite all this, the survival of these natural resorts of resilience is coming under ever-increasing pressure. One main concern with deforestation is that it is a major contributor to climate change. One potential impact Swiss Re notes is that the agriculture sector and associated insurance lines are impacted by water scarcity in deforested areas and by loss of protection from floods, landslides and avalanches. (Credit: Rich Carey/Shutterstock)
1. Digital tech meets legacy hardware | A common goal across the industry is to improve the operational efficiency of old assets with software enhancements. But while much of the technological improvements on software are made on an ongoing basis, the hardware is often outdated. Swiss Re sees an increasing dovetailing of old and new structures, often in areas of critical infrastructure. Some of this new technology is already in use, such as artificial intelligence, 3D printing and the Internet of Things, but while it reduces some old exposures, it also gives rise to new risks. (Credit: Shutterstock)
Insurance is all about risk, which is why the industry spends a great deal of time trying to understand risk. Whether it’s parsing through data or investing in promising new technology, mitigating risk is what the industry strives to achieve on a daily basis.
But the nature of risk means that it constantly evolves into something new. What worked yesterday might not work tomorrow, next week or next year. Professionals in the industry whose job it is to curtail risk know this firsthand, which is why the importance of risk management has gained significant traction in recent years. It also explains why reports that outline new emerging risks are pumped out and disseminated throughout the industry in regular spurts.
Consider the Swiss Re Institute’s bi-annual SONAR report. It states that it was created to “inform and inspire conversations about emerging risks, so we can continue to build resilience together, in these uncertain times.” While the industry is well aware of certain risks outlined in the report — such as the demand for insurance in an age of shifting markets — the full picture of others — such as 5G mobile networks — is still being formed.
With this in mind, explore our slideshow for an analysis of the Swiss Re Institute’s nine emerging risks shaping the insurance industry.
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