Congress Must Act in 2015
I am disappointed by Congress’ decision to adjourn last week without taking action on legislation to reauthorize of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) and enact the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers (NARAB) — and I speak for the entire NAPSLO organization and membership.
As a result of that inaction, insurers and insureds are astounded and scrambling to address the increased exposure of the expiring federal backstop.
Carriers, brokers and insureds are now faced with potential terrorism exclusions and/or acceptance of the exposure between Dec. 31 and the time by which Congress takes needed action — exposure that was assessed and priced assuming Congress would reauthorize TRIA before adjourning in 2014.
NAPSLO believes TRIA has been an important tool for insurers to better manage the risk of terrorism events and provides certainty to the industry in offering private capital and solutions to policyholders.
Surplus lines insurers provided certain terrorism coverage pursuant to the mandatory provisions and subject to the deductibles and triggers of the existing federal program.
In general, we believe private market solutions should be exhausted before government-sponsored programs or residual markets are considered, and governments should not provide coverage options the private or open market is able to address.
However, we also believe a role exists for the federal government in the management of terrorism risk. Insurers can model the severity of a hypothetical terrorist attack, but it is impossible to model the likelihood or frequency of those attacks.
As a result, we have long supported a thoughtful and thorough review of TRIA with a goal of maintaining or increasing opportunities for capacity and solutions delivered by the private market.
NAPSLO has also strongly supported the enactment of NARAB. This critical legislation will streamline agent and broker licensing for those operating on a multi-state basis.
It would create a nonprofit board to be governed by state insurance regulators and industry representatives to create rigorous standards and ethical requirements with a goal of applying licensing, continuing education and nonresident insurance producer standards on a multi-state basis.
We were very pleased when the House of Representatives passed TRIA legislation on Dec. 10 that appeared to be a middle-ground compromise between the House and Senate proposals that had passed through their respective committees last June. That legislation would have extended TRIA for six years and enacted NARAB.
Unfortunately, when the TRIA and NARAB legislation moved to the Senate, leaders were unable to overcome the objections of one Senator in order to pass the bill. When a Member refused to support NARAB absent provisions allowing for states to opt-out of participation in the national licensing system, it marked the end of compromise for this year, and the end of TRIA until further action is taken.
This was a disappointing outcome for our industry and our nation’s insureds.
We at NAPSLO urge Congress to act on this issue as soon as members return on Jan. 6, 2015, as we believe this is an important issue for our nation’s economic security. We look forward to working with our industry partners and the new Congress to see legislation passed that will reauthorize TRIA and enact NARAB in early 2015.
On the Funky Side
Funky, that is unusual, risks usually require specialty excess and surplus, nonadmitted insurance coverage.
These narrow, often emerging niche markets also depend upon brokers with a thorough understanding of their client’s industry, the insurance markets, the complexities of the risks they face and the ability to adjust and develop new coverage as the risks mature and grow.
Many, if not most, of the brokers that specialize in this kind of coverage are wholesalers and program administrators.
Susan Preston, president of Professional Program Insurance Brokers in Novato, Calif., sometimes called the queen of the funky insurance business, got her start when her first boss told her, “You need to think of something different to do” and he didn’t mean another line of work. “Anyone can insure the usual like an apartment building, or a retail store or a Main Street business,” he told her. “But not anybody can insure the unusual.”
Preston took that advice to heart and began by investigating the market and discovering that the massage business could be broken into two segments: “There is one massage business that commonly gets sued and then there is the other kind that never ends up in court.”
Preston jump-started her new firm by developing her own expertise in the massage business.
Realizing the value of unusual risks, she expanded to cosmetic tattooing — an attractive medically based business that’s less risky than the litigation-prone segment of the massage and tattoo business.
Cosmetic tattooing then led to insuring body piercing and she later expanded into the more traditional tattoo market.
Each business, typical of an unusual risk, has segments that are uninsurable usually because of increased frequency and severity of losses. For example, Preston said, certain body parts — for both piercing and tattooing — are not easily insured.
Today Preston’s Professional Program Insurance Brokers operates 34 programs. Most of them are unusual, and require excellent underwriting, carefully worded policy language and endorsements, aggressive risk management and strong safety and loss control programs focused on employee training.
Almost all of these markets for Preston are placed through London using more than a dozen Lloyd’s syndicates.
“We are constantly looking for new opportunities,” Preston said.
Her focus is on general liability, professional liability and product liability, but she also offers other complementary coverage for the businesses where needed, such as property.
Underwriting: Broker Expertise
It’s not coincidental that when former President Bill Clinton spoke at last fall’s meeting of the Target Markets Program Administrators Association, he began his remarks by noting that the TMPAA website boasted an impressive array of hard to place risks from “crane riggers to roofers to tattoo shops.”
The former president specifically cited the tattoo program wondering aloud “how you price coverage for a tattoo shop.”
And that’s among the key issues that program administrators — brokers that specialize in narrowly defined niche risks — need to consider. Unlike the more traditional independent brokers, program administrators must have extensive underwriting skills because they typically “hold the pen” or the ability to bind a carrier to coverage.
It’s also a program administrators’ knowledge of a relatively small industry that enables them to underwrite the risk and also market it to the entrepreneurs and small businesses that often make up the client base. For many carriers, these smaller industries can be overlooked markets.
Wholesalers and program administrators that are skilled in underwriting for these risks can bring a profitable book of business to the carrier.
Although wholesalers and program administrators generally don’t hold risk, they can effectively become the outsourcing arm for underwriting, policy development and administration, risk management and claims for their insurance carrier partners.
Take the fireworks market, or as Jeremy Bryant calls it, the pyrotechnics market. Bryant is executive vice president of Britton Gallagher, a program administrator based in Cleveland.
He worked with his team of specialists to arrange the coverage of the New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Dubai this year, obtaining coverage for the 163-floor Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest skyscraper.
During the show, fireworks were periodically ignited, floor by floor, throughout the celebration.
To date, the half-hour show is the largest fireworks display ever presented.
This 2014 New Year’s fireworks display in Dubai was of such magnitude that it earned Guinness World Record status.
Bryant’s firm also brokered the pyrotechnics displays based at two of the chains of islands just offshore.
His clients generally are the firms that design, produce, promote and operate these huge displays. Typically, most of these displays are presented by municipalities ranging from small towns to the largest cities. Almost always, the displays are regulated by local government.
The risk today isn’t that a worker will get hurt igniting the display because almost all of the events are high tech and controlled by computers. In the Dubai fireworks at the Burj Khalifa, the fireworks were ignited using a sophisticated program.
“You have to watch out for all the safety issues, especially from the spectator standpoint,” he said.
Coverage included marine and hull insurance for barges where many of the displays were based. (There was one claim for a damaged barge where a portion of the fireworks were ignited.)
Bryant’s group placed all nonadmitted surplus lines coverage and “worked with a local Dubai broker to help them arrange admitted coverage from some local Dubai carriers.”
Pyrotechnic risks can be significant and potentially severe, Bryant said.
“But the business is really safe and getting safer. Remember, you’re dealing with gun powder at these displays. It’s very technical. The operators must look at all kinds of factors from wind speeds to related weather issues. We work with people we trust — trust is key to success in this market.”
Bryant estimated that he and his team (Eric Treend, Tami Bridgeman, and Hal Rindels) write as much as two-thirds of the professional pyrotechnics market in the United States — with the coverage focused on the two big fireworks events of the year — July 4th and New Year’s Eve.
“We work with people we trust — trust is key to success in this market.” — Jeremy Bryant executive vice president, Britton Gallagher
With their carrier partners they can insure all lines of coverage including property, general and professional liability, inland marine and commercial auto.
Cannabis Heats Up
No discussion of the funky risk management business could be complete without citing the fast-growing cannabis business — a risk that is more complex than might be expected.
The business began with the medical marijuana business but now has quickly expanded to Colorado and Washington State, which now allow recreational use and retail sales.
Michael Aberle, senior vice president of Next Wave Insurance and MMD Insurance in San Diego, said the range of risks in the business is varied.
Because many of the businesses are entrepreneurial in nature, trust between the client and broker is essential.
“We work with two cannabis trade associations to develop and market policies and we are active in those associations. That helps us market and build the trust needed to succeed.”
There are the storefront, retail outlets for both recreational and medial dispensing of cannabis (and something called dispensing insurance). But Next Wave Insurance Services’ market also includes the cannabis growers (including a version of crop insurance), the distributors and the manufacturers, security firms and a group of emerging business.
For example, there are firms that specialize in the design and manufacturing of marijuana paraphernalia and there is a newly forming chain of bed and breakfasts that offer cannabis to their guests.
To many of the businesses, property insurance is especially important. If there is a fire, the potential loss in terms of the value of the inventory can be significant.
Also, it’s mostly a cash business so protection against theft is very important.
One common risk that is usually uninsurable is protection against prosecution by a government entity for an illegal act — an issue at the heart of many cannabis-related businesses and usually excluded from standard general liability policies.
New Wave has developed coverage for this risk. The coverage is for legal defense against government actions against the business. If the insured is found innocent or not guilty of a state or local law, the policy will reimburse up to $5,000 in legal costs.
“Our coverage, however, doesn’t include actions by the federal government,” Aberle said.
It’s this kind of ability to create new kinds of coverage that is at the heart of insuring many unusual businesses.
He offers a version of a BOP policy for the smaller retail operation and also offers product liability coverage to the developers of new products (such as “edibles”).
One emerging risk, he pointed out, is that as more and more states relax the local laws, “we are insuring a lot of tenants that will need liability coverage in anticipation of legalization.”
Like other unusual risks, the “industry is not your standard market. We’re in the surplus lines market with no admitted carriers. That market offers flexibility and the ability to expand quickly because the surplus lines carriers don’t need to get state by state approval of every new policy change.”
Are We Having Fun?
If Susan Preston is the queen of funky insurance, then Larry Cossio, president of Cossio Insurance Agency in Simpsonville, S.C., is probably the king.
Cossio has been in the business of insuring the amusement industry for more than 30 years. He’s insured almost every kind of amusement risk there is — from inflatables (those bounce houses for kids and family events) to mechanical bulls at bars, to paintball parks.
Recently he began coverage of “Mudders,” the incredibly challenging and often dangerous obstacle-course races in the mud that can attract thousands of entrants to a single event.
Insurance coverage is essential, he said, because the risks can be huge. Take inflatables. Stories about accidents appear regularly and dramatically in the news. Cossio noted that one outdoor inflatable was caught by the wind and went 40 feet aloft over four lanes of traffic.
Not only is there the chance of catastrophic injuries to young children — children have died from falls and been permanently disabled — but a floating moon bounce can cause severe auto accidents.
The dangers are only limited by your imagination. Worse, this risk can be both frequent and severe — a formula for failure of both the operator owner and potentially an insurer.
Much of the largest risk comes from lawsuits filed by the injured parties or their parents.
Risk management, and safety and loss prevention then are at the heart of any insurance program, he said. Outdoor inflatables, subject to the weather and thus the wind, require that the bounce house be secured at all four corners with stakes and be able to withstand high winds. Training and supervision, properly documented, remains the essential cornerstone of an effective risk management program.
As far as insurance coverage, the requirements are wide ranging, including general liability, professional liability, commercial auto and, for employees of amusement/inflatable businesses there is EPLI, workers’ comp, health and life insurance.
Some of the risks are unexpected. For example, since many of these businesses serve a market of children, abuse and molestation coverage is clearly needed.
As far as those mechanical bulls, beyond the obvious injuries that can occur (and the need for a proper, signed release form), most of them are in bars. And that’s where the risks from alcohol can make a bad situation worse. Talk about funky.
Passion for the Prize
In his 1990 book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel Yergin documented the passion that drove oil exploration from the first oil well sunk in Titusville, Penn. by Col. Edwin Drake in 1859, to the multinational crusades that enriched Saudi Arabia 100 years later.
Even with the recent decline in crude oil prices, the quest for oil and its sister substance, natural gas, is as fevered now as it was in 1859.
While lower product prices are causing some upstream oil and gas companies to cut back on exploration and production, they create opportunities for others. In fact, for many midstream oil and gas companies, lower prices create an opportunity to buy low, store product, and then sell high when the crude and gas markets rebound.
The current record supply of domestic crude oil and gas largely results from horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing methods, which make it practical to extract product in formerly played-out or untapped formations, from the Panhandle to the Bakken.
But these technologies — and the current market they helped create — require underwriters that are as passionate, committed and knowledgeable about energy risk as the oil and gas explorers they insure.
Liability fears and incessant press coverage — from the Denton fracking ban to the Heckmann verdict — may cause some underwriters to regard fracking and horizontal drilling with a suppressed appetite. Other carriers, keen to generate premium revenue despite their limited industry knowledge, may try to buy their way into this high-stakes game with soft pricing.
For Matt Waters, the chief underwriting officer of Liberty Mutual Commercial Insurance Specialty – Energy, this is the time to employ a deep underwriting expertise to embrace the current energy market and extraction methods responsibly and profitably.
“In the oil and gas business right now, you have to have risk solutions for the new market, fracking and horizontal drilling, and it can’t be avoidance,” Waters said.
Matt Waters, chief underwriting officer of Liberty Mutual Commercial Insurance Specialty – Energy, reviews some risk management best practices for fracking and horizontal drilling.
Waters’ group underwrites upstream energy risks — those involved in all phases of onshore exploration and production of crude oil and natural gas from wells sunk into the earth — and midstream energy risks, those that involve the distribution or transportation of oil and gas to processing plants, refineries and consumers.
Risk in Motion
Seven to eight years ago, the technologies to horizontally drill and use fluids to fracture shale formations were barely in play. Now they are well established and have changed the domestic energy market, and consequently risk management for energy companies.
One of those changes is in the area of commercial auto and related coverages.
Fracking and horizontal drilling have dramatically altered oil and gas production, significantly increasing the number of vehicle trips to production and exploration sites. The new technologies require vehicles move water for drilling fluids and fracking, remove these fluids once they are used, bring hundreds of tons of chemicals and proppants, and transport all the specialty equipment required for these extraction methods.
The increase in vehicle use comes at a time when professional drivers, especially those with energy skills, are in short supply. The unfortunate result is more accidents.
“In the oil and gas business right now, you have to have risk solutions for the new market, fracking and horizontal drilling, and it can’t be avoidance.”
— Matt Waters, chief underwriting officer, Liberty Mutual Commercial Insurance Specialty – Energy
For example, in Pennsylvania, home to the gas-rich Marcellus Shale formation, overall traffic fatalities across the state are down 19 percent, according to a recent analysis by the Associated Press. But in those Pennsylvania counties where natural gas and oil is being sought, the frequency of traffic fatalities is up 4 percent.
Increasing traffic volume and accidents is also driving frequency trends in workers compensation and general liability.
In the assessment and transfer of upstream and midstream energy risks, however, there simply isn’t enough claims history in the Marcellus formation in Pennsylvania or the Bakken formation in North Dakota for underwriters to rely on data to price environmental, general and third-party liability risks.
That’s where Liberty Mutual’s commitment, experience and ability to innovate come in. Liberty Mutual was the first carrier to put together a hydraulic fracking risk assessment that gives companies using this extraction method a blueprint to help protect against litigation down the road.
Liberty Mutual insures both lease operators and the contractors essential to extracting hydrocarbons. As in many underwriting areas, the name of the game is clarity around what the risk is, and who owns it.
When considering fracking contractors, Waters and his team work to make sure that any “down hole” risks, be that potential seismic activity, or the migration of methane into water tables, is born by the lease holder.
For the lease holders, Waters and his team of specialty underwriters recommend their clients hold both “sudden and accidental” pollution coverage — to protect against quick and clear accidental spills — and a stand-alone pollution policy, which covers more gradual exposure that unfolds over a much longer period of time, such as methane leaking into drinking water supplies.
Those are two different distinct coverages, both of which a lease holder needs.
Matt Waters discusses the need for stand-alone environmental coverage.
The Energy Cycle
Domestic oil and gas production has expanded so drastically in the past five years that the United States could now become a significant energy exporter. Billions of dollars are being invested to build pipelines, liquid natural gas processing plants and export terminals along our coasts.
While managing risk for energy companies requires deep expertise, developing insurance programs for pipeline and other energy-related construction projects demands even more experience. Such programs must manage and mitigate both construction and operation risks.
Matt Waters discusses future growth for midstream oil and gas companies.
In the short-term, domestic gas and oil production is being curtailed some as fuel prices have recently plummeted due to oversupply. In the long-term, those domestic prices are likely to go back up again, particularly if legislation allows the fuel harvested in the United States to be exported to energy deficient Europe.
Waters and his underwriting team are in this energy game for the long haul — with some customers being with the operation for more than 25 years — and have industry-leading tools to play in it.
Beyond Liberty Mutual’s hydraulic fracturing risk assessment sheet, Waters’ area created a commercial driver scorecard to help its midstream and upstream clients select and manage drivers, which are in such great demand in the industry. The safety and skill of those drivers play a big part in preventing commercial auto claims, Waters said.
Liberty Mutual’s commitment to the energy market is also seen in Waters sending every member of his underwriting team to the petroleum engineering program at the University of Texas and hiring underwriters that are passionate about this industry.
Matt Waters explains how his area can add value to oil and gas companies and their insurance brokers and agents.
For Waters, politics and the trends of the moment have little place in his long-term thinking.
“We’re committed to this business and to deeply understanding how to best manage its risks, and we have been for a long time,” Waters said.
And that holds true for the latest extraction technologies.
“We’ve had success writing fracking contractors and horizontal drillers, helping them better manage the total cost of risk,” Waters said.
To learn more about how Liberty Mutual Insurance can meet your upstream and midstream energy coverage needs, contact your broker, or Matt Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Liberty Mutual Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.