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NAPSLO Report

E&S Going Strong

Optimism about the opportunities in excess and surplus lines was strong during the NAPSLO conference.
By: | September 24, 2014 • 5 min read
NAPSLO

The state of the excess and surplus lines market is strong, as evidenced by the nearly 4,000 attendees, who networked their way through the annual convention of the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices in Atlanta, from Sept. 15 to17.

“There’s a lot of optimism about the market and [the number of attendees] is a testament to the strength and vitality of surplus lines,” said Brady Kelley, executive director of the national organization, which focuses on networking and education for the surplus lines industry.

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In fact, A.M. Best reported that surplus lines companies “have been extremely successful when compared with the overall property/casualty (P/C) industry.”

Surplus lines now account for about 13.7 percent of all commercial lines direct premiums written, up from 6.1 percent in 1993, according to a 20-year retrospective on U.S. surplus lines released by A.M. Best in September.

“In 2013, 22 of the top 25 surplus lines groups produced year-over-year growth in premium (as measured by direct premiums written) — a testament to what is likely a contraction in the standard market’s appetite for risk and a broad flow of business back into surplus lines,” according to the report.

“A lot of people are optimistic because the economy is still growing and when the economy is growing, it can make up for a lot of foolish decisions.” — Alan Jay Kaufman, chairman, president and CEO of Burns & Wilcox

But the sector is not without its challenges, specifically overcapacity in the market, according to Alan Jay Kaufman, chairman, president and CEO of Burns & Wilcox, international insurance brokers and underwriting managers.

“The market here is soft,” he said. “I think it’s soft in more areas than people want to talk about. … I would not say ‘doom and gloom.’ A lot of people are optimistic because the economy is still growing and when the economy is growing, it can make up for a lot of foolish decisions.”

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E&S underwriting, said Stanley Galanski, president and CEO of The Navigators Group Inc., is “the essence of underwriting. There are no rules. There are no rates. There are no mandatory forms. In E&S, it’s all about your expertise and your judgment.”

To be successful, companies must have underwriters who can bring a “high level of expertise to the risk” and deep relationships with wholesale brokers, he said.

It also requires constant innovation, said Mario Vitale, CEO, Aspen Insurance. “Specialty E&S is tailored for high risk situations. It allows underwriters skilled in these special niches to apply their tools of the trade to help the insured, to help the brokers, with creative risk-based solutions.”

He said Aspen would be releasing some new products in 2015, and noted that there were numerous emerging risks to occupy carriers, including the impact of climate change, nanotechnology, fracking, drones, bitcoin and wearables.

“I believe all of these trends and all of these emerging technologies will bring risks and will bring demands for solutions and underwriter innovations to find them,” he said.

“It’s unbelievable how that [cyber] market is developing so quickly.” — James Drinkwater, president of AmWINS Brokerage

Jeremy Johnson, president and CEO of Lexington Insurance Co., the E&S division of AIG, said in a recent A.M. Best webinar that his organization is designing products to deal with risks from drones, celebrity risk and cyber bullying, and also has “in the pipeline” products to address risks related to Uber and Airbnb.

“If we are not staying ahead of where our customers are going as an industry, we won’t be relevant,” he said.

Bruce Kessler, division president, ACE Westchester, which focuses on the wholesale distribution of excess and surplus lines products, said, “You have to be strategic as an E&S company as to where to grow and where to shrink.”

But, he also noted, the “ease of entry” into the space, which he sees as “healthy and robust.”

“It’s easy for new capacity to come in,” he said, and that has put some pressure on property/catastrophe rates. That softening is “probably the biggest talk of the conference.”

Overcapacity offers one of the industry’s biggest challenges, Kaufman said. “Standard lines companies are aggressively looking to write the gray areas that may at one time have been E&S and now it’s back to standard lines. … You will see companies taking greater risks than they normally have in the past — risks that they don’t understand.”

Jeff Saunders, president of Navigators Specialty, said, “The capital in the industry is looking for a better return than from a Treasury note.”

While the influx of capital has reduced rates — significantly on property and less significantly elsewhere — the company has to compete “no matter what the rate environment is,” he said. That requires E&S insurers to be “agile while rotating in and out of sectors.”

E&S strategies are also increasingly being influenced by predictive modeling, ACE Westchester’s Kessler said. He also noted that he is seeing greater interest in product recall and cyber coverage.

Other experts at the NAPSLO conference agreed that cyber policies were finally taking off.

“It’s unbelievable how that market is developing so quickly,” said James Drinkwater, president of AmWINS Brokerage and one of NAPSLO’s Wholesale Broker directors, during a panel discussion at the conference.

“Companies are getting hit [with cyber attacks] constantly,” Vitale said. “As long as there are more hackers, they will get more sophisticated and we will have to do a better job of staying on top of emerging trends.”

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The opportunities in E&S outweigh the challenges, said Peter Clauson, senior vice president, excess casualty, Liberty International Underwriters.

When LIU excess casualty was established in 1999, he said, the E&S business was about a $10 billion market. “Fifteen years later, we are at $37 billion, and there’s a lot of talk that in five years, we could be a $50 billion market.

“That’s a lot of growth and opportunity,” he said.

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at afreedman@lrp.com.
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Claims Trends

Examining Claims Losses

Marine, aviation and energy sector losses accounted for much of the losses. Employee training would help.
By: | September 24, 2014 • 7 min read
090113RiskReport_CostaConcordia

Marine-related claims — skewed by the expensive Costa Concordia loss — resulted in the highest insurance claim losses, by dollar amount, according to a recent report by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty.

The top causes of claims losses between 2009 and 2013 were, in order: ship and boat grounding, fire, aviation crash, earthquake, storm, bodily injury (including fatalities), flood, professional indemnity, product defects and machinery breakdown, according to AGCS’ Global Claims Review 2014.

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The report listed the top causes of loss and emerging trends, based on more than 11,000 major business claims in 148 countries, each costing more than €100,000 ($136,455).

“This report is the first of its kind, and it demonstrated the kind of technical understanding we have and the fact that we continue to invest in our claims departments and technical training,” said Terry Campbell, AGCS vice president, regional claims head, in New York City.

“While the losses analyzed are not representative of the industry as a whole, they give a strong indication of the major risks which dominate industrial insurance,” according to the report, which noted that the claims involve other carriers as well.

Within the marine industry, rising claims inflation along with the growing problem of crew negligence and the high cost of wreck removal have all contributed to a worrying rise in the cost of claims, according to the report.

However, frequency of claims, especially from cargo losses, appears to be declining.

Repair costs resulting from a grounding have increased in recent years due to improved technology of underwater machinery, said Rob Winn, area vice president, marine claims, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (AJG)

Items such as drop-down thrusters and multi-pitch props are often damaged in a grounding and are very expensive to repair, he said.

Video: This CNN segment shows some of the salvage operation involving the Costa Concordia.

While the grounding numbers in 2012 were skewed by the Costa Concordia loss in 2012, groundings were relatively infrequent (8 percent) in the insurer’s report. Crew negligence was more often a main driver of claims, with it being listed as a potential contributing factor in more than six in 10 claims over $1.4 million.

“Those companies that invest in training and education can see a significant reduction in the number of ship groundings and related incidents,” Campbell said.

Bumpy Triche, regional executive vice president at Arthur J. Gallagher Risk Management Services Inc. in New Orleans, said shipping companies involved in global trade rely heavily upon foreign crews, and so it’s “imperative” that training and operational manuals are done in the preferred languages of their multinational crews.

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Crew training also should be done on the particular navigational electronic system used on the vessel where the crew will be assigned, he said.

“Boats working in our local waters here in Louisiana need to be aware of the impacts of diminishing wetlands and coastal erosion and the effect on bayous and other inland waterways,” Triche said. “They may not realize they are now in much shallower water than what the navigational charts might depict, and can get stuck.”

Not only are the vessels operating in shallower water as a result of coastal erosion, but they are also encountering pipelines that were originally on land, Winn said. Those pipelines are not properly buried and are hazards to navigation.

As “blue water” vessels age and offshore vessels become larger and more sophisticated, companies should proactively address maintenance problems and “not use their hull policy as a maintenance program,” Triche said.

Aviation Claims Rising

Improvements in airline safety have led to far fewer catastrophic losses overall, despite 2014’s extraordinary loss activity, according to the AGCS report.

However, the cost of aviation claims is rising, driven by the widespread use of new materials and rising aircraft complexity, as well as more demanding regulation and the continuing growth of liability-based litigation.

Video: The Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reports on the shooting down of MH 17 over Ukraine, which may result in insurers’ insisting that airlines avoid “hot spots.”

While aviation crashes were the top causes of loss in terms of number of claims (23 percent) and value (37 percent), on-the-ground incidents accounted for 18 percent claims in number, and 15 percent in value, according to the report.

Bird strikes were a notable cause of loss, averaging $22.8 million every year from 2009 to 2013, with a total of 34 incidents.

Bradley Meinhardt, AJG area president and managing director, aviation, in Las Vegas, said that aviation safety innovations over the past several decades include enhanced ground proximity warning systems, terrain awareness and warning systems,and traffic collision avoidance systems.

Such systems offer pilots increased situational awareness in a semi-autonomous environment, reacting to synthetic voice instructions, he said.

“Even in a potentially disastrous situation contemplating an airspace controller’s error, the aircraft may be saved by these on-board systems,” Meinhardt said. “These innovations have literally changed the landscape of aviation safety.”

While all of these systems reduce workload, pilots still need to be prepared to fly the aircraft themselves if the systems go awry, he said.

“Pilots should manually fly their aircraft every so often – one airline pilot tells me he routinely flies one of the five flights he has on a given day,” Meinhardt said.

Aircraft manufacturers are using alternative, lightweight materials to make aircraft lighter and more capable to fly longer distances, said Peter Schmitz, chief executive officer of Aon Risk Solutions’ national aviation practice in New York City.

However, manufacturers need to continue to improve newer generation aircraft and perhaps consider making them more capable to withstand issues like severe turbulence and outside interferences, he said.

“Airlines also have to seriously consider whether they should fly over hot spots where there is conflict, after what happened to Malaysian Airlines over Ukraine this summer,” Schmitz said.

“But the commercial issue becomes, how far does the plane have to go around such hot spots. Is the public willing to spend longer periods onboard the plane and potentially pay more to satisfy those safety requirements?”

Energy Sector

For the energy sector, the cost of claims is increasing due to higher asset values combined with increasingly complex and interrelated risks, according to AGCS. The rising cost of business interruption and emerging risks such as cyber threats and new technologies will also make for a more challenging future environment.

Fire is the No. 1 cause of energy losses, according to the report, both by number (45 percent) and value (65 percent), followed by blow-out (18 percent and19 percent, respectively).

Machinery breakdown, explosion, natural hazards such as storms and contingent business interruption, were the other main causes of loss, according to the report.

Bruce Jefferis, chief executive officer of Aon’s energy practice in Houston, said that because the energy sector has very high-valued assets, losses are typical more costly than losses in many other industries.

“Even if it’s a relatively minor incident at a refinery or a petrochemical plant, it doesn’t take much to lose a lot of dollars,” Jefferis said.

“Even with the best safety and loss control procedures, natural disasters and other incidents can still cause damage which results in significant loss of property and business interruption.”

Stuart Wallace, AJG area executive vice president, energy practice, in Houston, said the energy sector is growing “incredibly,” both in traditional markets like Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, and new areas of the country like the Bakken Formation in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Canada.

“But with the growth comes a higher demand for people, and at times, the hiring pool becomes a big challenge, and energy companies are likely not hiring the most experienced, trained, people to work on crews or drive vehicles — and that tends to lead to accidents,” Wallace said.

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Moreover, energy companies are now in areas that historically haven’t had infrastructure such as pipelines and roads, he said.

With the lack of infrastructure, trucking accidents have seen an increase due to road conditions, less qualified drivers and start-up transportation companies with less experience in transporting oil or gas.

“To lessen accidents, it starts at the beginning with better hiring practices, then ongoing training, continuing education, and monitoring of employees’ performance and accident rates, particularly for workers’ compensation and automobile liability,” Wallace said.

Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a freelance writer based in California. She has more than two decades of journalism experience and expertise in financial writing. She can be reached at riskletters@lrp.com.
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Sponsored: Liberty International Underwriters

A New Dawn in Civil Construction Underwriting

Civil construction projects provide utility and also help define who we are. So when it comes to managing project risk, it's critical to get it right.
By: | September 15, 2014 • 5 min read
SponsoredContent_LIU

Pennsylvania school children know the tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike by name — Blue Mountain, Kittatinny, Tuscarora, and Allegheny.

San Francisco owes much of its allure to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Delaware Memorial Bridge commemorates our fallen soldiers.

Our public sector infrastructure is much more than its function as a path for trucks and automobiles. It is part of our national and regional identity.

Yet it’s widely known that much of our infrastructure is inadequate. Given the number of structures designated as substandard, the task ahead is substantial.

The Civil Construction projects that can meet these challenges, however, carry a unique set of risks compared to other forms of construction.

SponsoredContent_LIU“The bottom line is that there is always risk in a Civil Construction project. If the parties involved don’t understand what risk they carry, then the chances are there are going to be some problems, and the insurers would ideally like to understand the potential for these problems in advance.”
– Paul Hampshire, Vice President – Civil Construction, LIU

The good news is that recent developments in construction standards and risk management techniques provide a solid foundation for the type and risk allocation of Civil Construction projects they are underwriting. Carriers need to be able to adequately assess the client and design and construction teams that are involved.

For Builder’s Risk Programs, a successful approach prioritizes a focus on four key factors. These factors are looked at not only during the underwriting phase of the project but also in the all-important site construction phase, under the umbrella of a Risk Management Program, or RMP.

Four key factors

Four key factors that LIU focuses on in underwriting and providing risk management services on a Civil Construction project include:

1. Resource knowledge and experience: When creating a coverage plan, carriers work to understand who is delivering the project and how well suited key staff members are to addressing the project’s technical and management challenges. Research has shown that the knowledge and experience of those key players, combined with their ability to communicate effectively, is a big factor in the project’s success.

“We look to understand who is delivering a project, their expertise and experience in delivering projects of similar technical complexity in similar working conditions, even down to looking at the resumés of people in key positions,” said Paul Hampshire, Houston-based Vice President with Liberty International Underwriters.

2. Ground conditions and water: Soil and rock composition, the influence of ground and surface water, and foundation stability are key additional considerations in the construction of bridges, tunnels, and transit systems. If a suitable level of relevant ground (geotechnical) investigation and study has not been undertaken, or the results of such work not clearly interpreted, then it’s a red flag to underwriters, who would then question whether the project risk profile has been adequately evaluated and risks clearly and transparently allocated via suitable contract conditions.

SponsoredContent_LIU“As we all know, ground is very rarely a homogenous element within Civil Construction projects,” LIU’s Hampshire said.

“It tends to vary from any proposed geotechnical baseline specification with the consequential potential for changes in behavior during construction. We need to understand who has assessed the condition of the ground, its behavior and design parameters when compared with a particular method of construction, and all importantly, who has been allocated the ground risk in a project and the upfront mechanisms for contractual ground risk sharing, if applicable,” he said.

Knowing how much water is associated with the in-situ ground conditions as well as the intensity, distribution and adequate accommodation (both in the temporary as well as in the permanent project configurations) of rainfall for a site location and topography are also key. Tunneling projects, for example, can be hampered by the presence of too much or unforeseen quantities of groundwater.

“In major tunneling infrastructure projects, the influence of in-situ groundwater pressures and /or water inflows is a major factor when considering the choice of excavation method and sequence as well as tunnel lining design requirements,” LIU’s Hampshire said.

According to a recent article in Risk & Insurance, tunneling under a body of water is one of the most challenging risk engineering feats. Adequate drainage layouts and their installation sequence for highway projects and, in particular, the protection of sub-grade works are also important. “But under all circumstances, we need to understand how the water conditions have been evaluated,” Hampshire said.

3. Technical Challenges: This risk factor encompasses the assessment of the technical novelty or prototypical nature of the project (or more often, specific elements of it) and how well the previously demonstrated experience of both the design and construction teams aligns with the project’s technical requirements and the form of contract determined for the project. The client can choose the team, but savvy underwriters will conduct their own assessment to see how well-suited the team is to technical demands of the project.

4. Evaluation of Time and Cost: With limited information generally provided, we need to be able to verify as best as possible the adequacy of both the time and cost elements of the project. Our belief is simply that projects that are insufficient in either one or both of these elements potentially pose an increased risk, as the construction consortium tries to compensate for these deficiencies during construction.

SponsoredContent_LIU
Small diameter Tunnel Boring Machine designed for mixed ground conditions and water pressures in excess of 2.5 bar.

New standards

In the 1990s and early years of this millennium, a series of high-profile tunnel failures across the globe resulted in major losses for Civil Construction underwriters and their insureds.

In the early 2000s, both the tunnel and insurance industries worked together to create new standards for high-risk tunneling projects.

A Code of Practice for the Risk Management of Tunnel Works (TCoP) is increasingly relied on by project managers and underwriters to define the best practices in tunnel construction projects. This process ideally starts at project inception (conceptual design stage or equivalent) and continues to the hand-over of the completed project.

LIU’s Hampshire said alongside TCoP, the project-specific Geotechnical Baseline Report and its interpretation and reference within the project contract conditions gives the underwriter greater clarity as to who recognizes and carries the ground risk and how it’s allocated.

“The bottom line is that there is always risk in a Civil Construction project,” Hampshire said. “Is the risk transparently allocated or is it buried? If the parties involved don’t understand what risk they carry, then the chances are there are going to be some problems, and the insurers would ideally like to understand the potential for these problems in advance,” Hampshire said.

Paul Hampshire can be reached at Paul.Hampshire@libertyiu.com.

To learn more about how Liberty International Underwriters can help you conduct a Civil Construction risk assessment before your next project, contact your broker.

This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty International Underwriters. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.

LIU is part of the Global Specialty Division of Liberty Mutual Insurance.
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