Alex Wright

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]


Risks in Three Dimensions

The risks of 3D printing include product liability, intellectual property, and safety and security issues.
By: | October 1, 2015 • 8 min read

Companies are leaving themselves exposed to a host of costly and unexpected risks if they fail to come to grips with the new challenges presented by 3D printing technology.


Industry experts said that businesses need a fundamental review of their risk management processes and controls to deal with the potential problems caused by this new technology or they could find themselves being sued for copyright infringement or, worse still, having to pay out millions in product liability claims.

3D printing or additive printing, as it is commonly known in the industry, is the process of producing solid three-dimensional objects using a digital blueprint. It works by using a computer to send the design to a printer that then builds the product.

10012015_06_3Dprinting_chartTake-up of the new technology has been phenomenal over the last 10 years because of the potential for substantial time and cost savings.

PwC estimates that 67 percent of manufacturers already use 3D printing, while NASA has been testing the technology in its space station for years. It is widely used for creating prototypes in the aviation, automotive and medical industries, and applications range from plane engines and car spare parts to surgical implants and prosthetic limbs.

With the industry expected to grow in value by 25 percent to $17.2 billion by 2020, according to consultancy firm A.T. Kearney, the scope for the technology is almost limitless — as are the potential risks, including counterfeiting and the manufacture of illegal drugs.

“The biggest risk of 3D printing is that you can make anything, anywhere in the world and that presents a host of potential problems,” said Mark Schonfeld, a partner at Burns & Levinson LLP.

“Those problems in the main include product liability, intellectual property, and safety and security issues.”

Supply Chain Risks

Schonfeld said that the biggest difference between 3D printing and traditional manufacturing is the complexity of the supply chain and the number of different parties involved.

Mark Schonfeld, partner, Burns & Levinson LLP

Mark Schonfeld, partner, Burns & Levinson LLP

“With 3D printing, you have more players than you would have in the traditional manufacturing process, where most of the participants work for the same company,” he said.

“So if something goes wrong with the product, who is liable – is it the designer, the supplier, the manufacturer or even the end user?

“Currently there is no legislation governing 3D printing, so it is often very hard to tell who is responsible.”

Rob Gaus, global product risk group leader at Marsh, said there are three key factors affecting any manufacturing process: “It’s about having a clearer focus on the materials that are being used, the financial strength of your supply chain partners, and the quality assurance program and processes that you have in place,” he said.

“Overarching all of those risks is the product risk management process, which revolves around risk assessment and how they apply in foreseeable use and misuse scenarios.”

Robert Weireter, vice president and senior underwriter at Swiss Re, said that increasing the scale of 3D print manufacturing also creates the problem of ensuring the quality and durability of the end product.

“When you print out something in a small-scale environment, you have a lot of control over the process, and therefore over the quality of the finished product,” he said.


“However, with 3D printing, questions arise when you increase the scale to a commercial level. Can you still ensure the quality of the finished product?”

Counterfeiting Problems

Another key issue with 3D printing is counterfeiting or the illegal copying of products.

Provided you have the right design or blueprint and a 3D printer, it’s easy to quickly produce, for example, your own iPhone at home.

“It’s very easy if you have your own 3D printer at home to scan a design into your printer, print it out and sell it,” said Cindy Slubowski, vice president and head of manufacturing at Zurich North America.

 Cindy Slubowski, vice president and head of manufacturing, Zurich North America

Cindy Slubowski, vice president and head of manufacturing, Zurich North America

“We have seen some claims, and the real issue is that the original manufacturer who has the rights to that product now has a counterfeit product out there that it knows nothing about and that can cause serious issues in terms of liability, patent and trademark infringement.”

No one is immune from the intellectual property risks associated with 3D printing, said Tom Srail, technology, media and telecommunications industry group leader at Willis North America.

“Intellectual property is a significant risk not only for the organization making the product but also for the supply chain as a whole and for other companies’ copyrights, trademarks and patents in similar types of products and areas,” he said.

“Even if you’re not producing anything using 3D printing, you can still be exposed to risks in the supply chain with other entities using the technology to counterfeit or copy what you are doing.”

Michael Bruch, head of emerging trends/ESG business services and chief underwriting officer, risk consulting, at Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty SE (AGCS), said that the convergence of manufacturing and digital technology also make unauthorized copying of product designs easier to do in the future.

“Because it will be much harder to track these products, traceability will become an even bigger issue than it was before,” he said.

“It will also bring a whole suite of issues such as piracy and copyright infringement to the fore.”

Therefore, it’s important for companies to do due diligence before manufacturing new products, said Shawn Ram, executive managing director and western regional manager at Crystal & Company.

“When manufacturing or technology companies develop a certain product, they have to do due diligence on patents and discovery on trademarks and copyrights, which is often overlooked because of the time and cost involved,” he said.

Security and Privacy Fears

The shadow of cyber risk also lurks around 3D printing. It’s no stretch to imagine someone hacking into a computer system and fundamentally changing the design of a product.

“You have this whole file sharing component in 3D printing that you don’t have in traditional manufacturing and so that automatically becomes a huge potential security and privacy issue,” said Zurich’s Slubowski.

“We are seeing a lot of 3D printing going into hospitals these days and if someone were to hack into their computer system and modify the design of a key component they produce, such as a heart valve for a patient, then the consequences would be unthinkable.”

Shawn Ram, executive managing director and western regional manager, Crystal & Company

Shawn Ram, executive managing director and western regional manager, Crystal & Company

Ram said that the lack of a strong regulatory environment in 3D printing also makes it much easier to manufacture a product such as a weapon that can cause harm or damage.

“There are still a lot of gray areas because there are so many different parties involved in the process, so it can be hard to create any meaningful regulations,” he said.

AGCS’s Bruch said that like any new technology, 3D printing will have its teething problems at first, but provided it is closely monitored, risks can be eliminated early in the manufacturing process.

“In terms of cyber risks, risk managers will need to review all of their IT risks in both their office computer systems and production lines and throughout the whole digitalized manufacturing chain from the first idea to the final 3D printed end-product,” he said.

3D printing also opens up the possibility of criminals exploiting the technology for their own gain, said Emily Cummins, managing director of tax and risk management at the National Rifle Association.

“Quite simply, any company that uses credit cards to run its business, which is most, carries a potential threat of being exposed to cyber risk,” she said. She cited a recent case where a criminal gang used a 3D printer to produce an ATM skimmer that was used to steal customers’ details.

“The kind of fraud that can be perpetrated from extracting the information on credit cards includes identity theft and financial theft.”

Risk Management Procedures Lag Behind

All of these risks have opened up companies to a host of potential claims running to millions of dollars, particularly on the product liability side.

Slubowski said the biggest danger to companies is failing to understand their exposures.

“If you don’t understand all of the nuances around 3D printing, then you will probably find yourself with claims that you didn’t anticipate you were going to have,” she said.

“We have seen it in the industry before where small companies get hit with large claims and they go out of business because they can’t come back from the reputational and monetary damage they have suffered.”

Despite companies’ best intentions, many are still lagging behind in terms of their risk management procedures for dealing with the risks of 3D printing, experts said.

Tom Srail, technology, media and telecommunications industry group leader, Willis North America

Tom Srail, technology, media and telecommunications industry group leader, Willis North America

Willis’ Srail said that the evolving technology of 3D printing means that companies have to continually adapt their risk management models.

“Some companies are well along the way with that,” he said. “However it’s safe to say that most companies are not ready for everything that is coming.

“It’s something that organizations will need to look at internally, externally and throughout their supply chain, and to undergo an ongoing improvement process by reviewing all of these risks on a continual basis.”

Ram went even further to say that 3D printing is still not even on some risk managers’ radar.


“Our general awareness of the value and opportunity of 3D printing is relatively nascent and so many risk managers aren’t prepared for it,” he said.

However, despite all the risks and possible downsides of 3D printing, Cummins is upbeat about the future.

“As an innovation, 3D printing can be managed either as a sustaining innovation that you can use to improve your business or as a disruptive innovation that overtakes an existing market and puts companies out of business,” she said.

“So those companies that get on board early on with the new technology can use it in a sustaining way to enhance their product and become industry leaders.”

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]
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A Challenging Environment

E&S insurers and brokers are scrambling for market share, but remain confident of future growth.
By: | August 31, 2015 • 7 min read

The excess and surplus (E&S) lines market is at a critical point in its development, according to industry experts.

The industry has reversed a five-year decline in direct written premiums between 2007 and 2011, with premiums up 7.6 percent during 2014, according to the latest figures from SNL Financial.


The sector has also more than doubled its share of direct written premiums for the property/casualty (P&C) market, from 3.3 percent in 1993 to 6.9 percent in 2013, as well as its share of total commercial lines premiums (13.7 percent), said A.M. Best.

However, with increasing competition from new entrants and more capital than ever flowing into the market, rates — particularly in P&C — are starting to slow. Subsequently, profit margins have been hit.

A.M. Best currently views the surplus lines market as “stable,” but warned that profit margins may shrink in the near term as average rate increases diminish on various lines of coverage.

“Accident year reserve development for surplus lines companies has been slightly more favorable than the overall P&C industry, but the gap has been shrinking as the markets wrestle with excess capacity, low interest rates and capital outlays to enhance operational efficiencies,” said the ratings agency in a recent report. Added to that, the industry faces a constant battle to attract and retain new talent and to keep up with emerging risks and regulations, or risk getting left behind.

All of these issues will be at the top of the agenda when the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices (NAPSLO) meets at its annual convention in San Diego this month, where 4,000 E&S brokers and wholesalers are expected.

“For NAPSLO members and the market in general, it is an extremely challenging environment right now, particularly in property and casualty,” said Scott Culler, regional president at Markel.

“The biggest question on people’s minds is whether the amount of capacity currently available in the market is sustainable.

“Everybody is scrambling just to maintain market share and to stay one step ahead of the competition. So we are constantly having to come up with new and innovative ways to write business in order to remain viable.”

Increased Competition

The recent clamor for market share has seen several big players enter the space, most notably Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (BHSI), and Tokio Marine Holdings, following its acquisition of HCC Insurance Holdings for $7.5 billion.

Other companies such as XL and Catlin have also merged for greater scale and efficiency, and ultimately to increase market share.

BHSI’s Executive Vice President David Bresnahan said that the trend of consolidation would continue as long as there was excess capital available.

“We see evidence that customers are trying to get in front of those trends, and they are beginning to award larger participations to those carriers with a long-term focus and strong balance sheets who can control their own destiny,” he said.

An adverse effect of increased competition, added Culler, has been to squeeze prices further. For rates in a line such as property, he said, “it’s 10 percent off just to start the conversation.”

“Last year, I thought we were at a point where the prices couldn’t go much lower, but every deal is under pressure now — there’s no such thing as a normal renewal.”


Henry Witmer, assistant vice president, A.M. Best

Henry Witmer, assistant vice president at A.M. Best, said that competition from the primary market for risks typically covered by E&S has also accentuated market cycles. As a result, insurers need to be prepared to scale up or down their operations and to adjust their prices accordingly.

“As products offered by the E&S insurers gain recognition and are imitated by others, the true innovators within the market need to study, evaluate and develop replacement products in order to stay on the forefront of the market,” he said.

Despite these challenges, Culler said, insurers are increasingly finding ways to differentiate themselves in a competitive market, while brokers are developing specialist niches.

“As the economy starts to recover, more entrepreneurs are entering the market and new cutting-edge ideas and products are being developed all the time, as well as opportunities being created in lines that the traditional market doesn’t want to write,” he said.

James Drinkwater, president of AmWINS brokerage and one of NAPSLO’s wholesale broker directors, is also bullish about the prospects for companies willing to take on such risks.

“As products offered by the E&S insurers gain recognition and are imitated by others, the true innovators within the market need to study, evaluate and develop replacement products in order to stay on the forefront of the market.” — Henry Witmer, assistant vice president, A.M. Best

“Prices are, on average, declining steadily, due to the amount of capital coming into the market and at the same time the market has become very competitive,” he said.

“However, there are still some hard pockets if you are willing to look, such as the New York City construction and transportation sectors.”

Investment in Technology

Going forward, Drinkwater said, companies need to focus more on improving their technology, and the training and development of their staff.


“Everybody will naturally be focused on the rate environment, but I think there are more important factors at play — for example, keeping an eye on what’s happening with regulation and improving the delivery of our product through greater investment in technology and personnel.”

The greater use of technology and analytics has enabled companies to price more accurately, identify new lines of business and, ultimately, to deliver better cost efficiencies to the customer.

It has also spawned a host of new industries such as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones.

“Everything is revolving around technology right now,” said Wyeth Coburn, associate broker at CRC Insurance Services.

“A lot of companies are sitting and waiting to see what happens, particularly with the drone industry, but as soon as the new regulations come in I would expect there to be a big take-up from carriers.”

Culler added that cyber liability has now overtaken energy as the No. 1 risk for the E&S industry following the rise in cyber attacks.

“I think we are just scratching the surface with cyber, trying to understand the exposures companies face because they change almost on a daily basis,” he said.

Drinkwater added: “The cyber marketplace is one that is evolving quickly and with the recent spate of high profile breaches, insureds are steadily realizing that this is an exposure that they must protect themselves against.”

Value Proposition

Amid all these new developments, Bryan Salvatore, president of Zurich North America Commercial’s specialty products business unit, warned that it is important for companies not to lose sight of their core value of customer service.

“I prefer to focus on how we can differentiate ourselves in terms of the value proposition that we offer,” he said.

“In that respect, the whole market needs to think about what it can bring to the table.”

That involves a heavier investment in technology to help both the company and the customer better understand their pricing and exposures, he said.

“At the end of the day, we have to remind ourselves that we’re providing an important end solution to the customer for complex and hard to place risks rather than thinking of ourselves simply as a commodity,” he said.

There are also a host of key regulatory hurdles that the market has to overcome in the short- and long-term if it is to maintain its recent growth.

“I think we are just scratching the surface with cyber, trying to understand the exposures companies face because they change almost on a daily basis.” — Scott Culler, regional president, Markel

Brady Kelley, executive director at NAPSLO, said that the main piece of legislation currently impacting the industry is the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act 2015 (TRIA), enacted at the start of this year.

TRIA, which was first enacted in 2002 to provide a federal backstop for terrorism claims, was reauthorized at the start of this year and remains in effect until 2020 to cover new policies that run beyond 2014.


Kelley said that the most important part of the bill is the enactment of the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act 2015 (NARAB II), providing a one-stop licensing system for agents and brokers operating in multiple states.

“That will be a tremendous opportunity for us because it will put in place a national set of standards and a new national electronic system for the processing of insurance licenses, meaning that everything is much more consistent and efficient going forward,” said Kelley.

Fight for Talent

Kelley added that one of the biggest challenges remaining is bringing new talent 09012015_05_NAPSLO_sidebarinto the industry; with many CEOs and business owners selling up or not having a succession plan.

“Many of the veterans in our business are starting to retire now and need to put in place a succession plan for the next generation,” he said.

“That means equipping themselves with the best standards and professional talent available and to prepare them so that they are ready to take on those top leadership roles.”

Despite all the challenges it faces, the industry is well placed to capitalize on the new opportunities and risks, such as cyber liability, that the traditional market doesn’t typically extend to.

Markel’s Culler concluded: “I’m bullish about the E&S market — it’s true, there are a lot of new competitors out there, but there’s also a lot of room for growth.”

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]
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Business Travel Risk

Terrifying Experiences

Reported ransom demands are running at around $1 billion per year globally.
By: | June 1, 2015 • 7 min read
Police officers rescue Elmer Reynieri MotiÒo Pavon, right, who according to the police had been held captive by kidnappers for at least 24 days in a shack on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Friday March 20, 2009. According to police the man detained at left was responsible for feeding the hostage during his captivity. Relatives of the victim said the family had already paid the ransom earlier in the day. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)

Kidnap and ransom has grown into a thriving criminal practice over the past 10 years, with the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East, not to mention the recent spike in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa.

The scale of the kidnap and ransom (K&R) problem is massive, with combined media reports putting ransom demand figures at more than $1 billion per year globally.


A series of independent studies by the crisis response firm Olive Group estimates that there are about 100,000 kidnappings every year, of which about 40 percent involve a ransom demand.

Among the highest profile cases in recent years was the kidnap and murder of American journalist James Foley by ISIS in northern Syria last year. ISIS demanded $132 million for Foley’s release.

“K&R is a very lucrative criminal endeavor with a high return on investment,” said Michael Sharp, lead underwriter for kidnap and ransom at Ironshore International.

“The rise of Islamic State and their use of kidnapping Westerners as a political tool has increased the number of kidnappings in the Middle East and Africa, in particular.”

Experts say that the bulk of these crimes go unreported because victims and their relatives fear retribution or have been warned not to do so by the authorities or the company that secured their release.

“It’s hard to say the true extent of the problem,” said Bert Van Wagenen, senior vice president of specialty underwriting at HCC Specialty.

“There’s a tremendous amount of publicity about kidnappings in the news right now, but there have been similar incidents in the past that didn’t receive the same attention, so it’s difficult to gauge if it’s getting any worse.”

Chuck Regini, director of global response at crisis response company Unity Resources Group, said that only an estimated one in 10 kidnappings actually gets reported.

Steve Balmer  Kidnap and ransom product manager at Travelers

Steve Balmer
Kidnap and ransom product manager at Travelers

However, despite this, he warned that there has been a clear rise in the number of incidents over the last 10 years. In particular, he has seen a spike in kidnappings of foreigners working overseas this year. The spike has occurred across all business sectors and socioeconomic groups, he said.

“As long as international commerce continues to grow in the developing world, and as long as security conditions remain the same and crime goes unchecked, kidnapping numbers will likely grow,” he said.

Insurers have responded to the upsurge in kidnaps and ransoms by increasing their capacity. Most recently, Ironshore’s professional and management liability subsidiary, IronPro, announced that it had extended its coverage capacity for U.S.-based businesses by $5 million, to $25 million, and HCC now offers a limit of $50 million.

Premiums written in this area have also risen as a result of the heightened threat of kidnappings. At least 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies now hold K&R policies, according to industry estimates.

Christopher Arehart, global product manager for crime insurance at Chubb, said that at a rough estimate, global kidnap and ransom operations by terrorists and other criminals brings in hundreds of millions of dollars every year.


Among those most at risk, he said, are exploration firms, non-governmental medical and humanitarian aid organizations, and journalists operating in the world’s harshest and most dangerous environments. Colleges and universities with faculty and students overseas are also at high risk.

“The biggest areas of risk are in countries where there is political instability and poverty,” he said.

Kidnap and ransom was traditionally more widely known in Latin America, in Mexico, for example, but has now spread to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia-Pacific.

In terms of underwriting, HCC’s Van Wagenen said that Mexico remained the No. 1 hotspot for kidnap and ransom, followed by Nigeria, Libya, Syria and Pakistan.

Arehart said that while recent media coverage highlights the increase in the use of K&R as a business by terrorists, kidnap and ransom has been used by criminals and thugs throughout history.

“The business aspect of kidnap and ransom remains tried and true,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s about one thing — money.”

He said that kidnappers will always target low-risk, high-reward situations — the risks are that they get caught, prosecuted, jailed or even killed; the rewards, however, are much greater, with the chance to extort millions of dollars out of victims’ families, and their companies, he said.

“When a plant has been infiltrated by a gang or terrorist cell, often the only option is for the company to shut down its operation completely, resulting in a significant loss of business income.” —  Christopher Arehart, global product manager for crime insurance, Chubb

“In the Western Hemisphere, the risk is greatest to the local manager,” he said.

“The reverse is true of the Eastern Hemisphere, where the locals have less exposure and the expatriate is the one most at threat.

“The perception among kidnappers in this region of the world is that Westerners are wealthy beyond their dreams, and that they will be able to extort large sums of money out of them.”

Jim Kardaras, senior vice president at Marsh’s FINPRO practice, said that the biggest motivating factors behind kidnap and ransom after political instability and poverty are corruption and the presence of organized criminal gangs.

“The key driver for kidnap and ransom is mass civil uprising or civil war, producing a favorable environment for armed gangs and criminal groups to operate in,” he said.

“Organized criminal activity is predominantly financially motivated and where that is the case, hostages are treated as a commodity for financial gain.”

Another key driver has been the global credit crunch, said Tom Dunlap, kidnap, ransom and extortion underwriter at Liberty Mutual.

“This has led to an increase in criminal activity in many parts of the world,” he said.

“It has been exacerbated by the fact you can get all kinds of information online about who’s being targeted and the ransom sums being demanded, and this in turn has resulted in many copycat type crimes.”

Van Wagenen said that a typical K&R policy would cover kidnap and ransom, extortion and detention. That includes the value of any ransom to be paid as well as any expenses incurred along the way, he said.

The policy also covers the fee for using a qualified crisis response firm retained by the insurer that is on call 24/7 to help find an individual and secure his or her safe release, he said.

“Being able to respond immediately in a kidnap and ransom situation is the most important part of any policy,” he said.

Arehart added that a standard policy will cover companies for any litigation costs that don’t come under the sphere of general liability or workers’ compensation.

“They are designed to protect you against any lawsuits brought by an employee and any indemnity that you may need to pay as part of a settlement with the individual,” he said.

One of the biggest factors that is overlooked, he said, however, is business interruption — which is often not included in a standard policy.

“When a plant has been infiltrated by a gang or terrorist cell, often the only option is for the company to shut down its operation completely, resulting in a significant loss of business income,” Arehart said.

“Being able to respond immediately in a kidnap and ransom situation is the most important part of any policy.” — Bert Van Wagenen, senior vice president of specialty underwriting, HCC Specialty

In terms of the market, capacity is plentiful, he said, although it’s limited to around five or six key players.

Kardaras said that despite the surge in interest and new entrants to the market, brokers have long resisted the insurers’ urge to increase the price of their premiums and that rates still remain low, compared to many other lines.

“On the occasions where premiums have gone up, we have still managed to get enhanced coverage for our clients,” he said.

There are, of course, a number of preventative steps that companies can take to protect themselves and their employees against kidnap and ransom, said Arehart.

Among the most important is to evaluate and understand the environment in which employees are working and to come up with an appropriate contingency plan, he said.

“Essentially you need to know the risks associated with the country you operate in and who is going to be most at risk,” he said.


He recommended that company employees keep a low profile, dressing down and removing any expensive jewelry they may have, and to make any travel arrangements well in advance using their own private transport.

Steve Balmer, kidnap and ransom product manager at Travelers, said: “It should be noted that while kidnapping is a low frequency crime, its impact is substantial.

“The effects are not just felt by the hostages, who are usually left psychologically, if not physically, scarred,” he said.

“It also affects the hostage’s family and friends, who often have to make difficult decisions that could impact the outcome of a case, and their employers, whose reputation and profile could be affected as a result of the event.”

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]
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