Maximize the Advantage of Finite Risk
The concept of finite risk is not new. Finite risk, in this context, is intended to maximize your tax deductibility for known losses. Currently, the practice is to deduct losses as they are incurred, typical GAAP policy. An insurer, on the other hand, has the benefit of statutory accounting rules which allow for the deductibility when the loss is incurred, allowing for accelerated deductions early in the project term.
The principle of determining the optimal method of risk financing for known losses has various tax implications often influencing the cost effectiveness of the project. Based on specific criteria, the IRS has allowed deductions for the entire finite risk payment when in conjunction with certain insurance related policies.
Consider the advantages of finite risk transactions and remediation cost containment – the latter being an insurance policy.
The basic application for finite risk coupled with remediation cost containment is designed for entities that have acknowledged environmental liabilities that will require funding for a period of time extending into the future (usually 4-plus years).
The finite risk portion of the product is structured similar to an annuity generating payments for remediation expenses on a scheduled basis. Remediation cost containment coverage will provide financial security for the entity in the event the cost of the remediation project exceeds a previously determined level.
The remediation project is calculated on the basis of total cost, annual cost and projects duration. The total project is calculated at net present value factoring the time and frequency value of money. A lump sum payment is paid to a third-party fiduciary (the insurance company), and a commutation account is established in an off-shore or on-shore facility.
When remediation costs are incurred in conjunction with the previously determined payment schedule, payments are made from the commutation account on the behalf of the entity. If the cost of the cleanup exceeds the original estimates, even if for a change in law during the project period, the remediation cost containment insurance will pay the difference.
Depending on the fiduciary selected, the interest generated in the commutation account can be tax exempt. The lump sum payment or installments paid to the commutation account can be tax deductible in the year the payments are made. The insurance premium payments for the remediation cost containment coverage can also be tax deductible. In the event the project cost less than the original estimation and subsequent funding, any balance remaining in the account is returned to the entity.
In addition, risk-financing techniques such as this can result in substantial balance sheet adjustments, added financial security, increased credit ratings, and modifications in the accounting footnotes. Once the remediation phase is completed, any ongoing operation and maintenance that may be associated with the long-term monitoring may also be transferred to the third-party fiduciary.
To maximize the cost benefits of your risk management program, the underwriter must understand the specifics of the remediation project and the additional protection that can be extended under the Brownfields legislation.
Alternative Vision Saves Millions
Steve Stoeger-Moore saved Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges $10 million in premium over the past 10 years.
He did it by helping to create an alternative insurance system whereby the schools obtain nine varieties of coverage — including general liability, auto liability, workers’ compensation, property, violent acts, and most recently, cyber risk — via a mutual municipal insurance company.
That company is Districts Mutual Insurance (DMI). The mutual taps reinsurance markets including Gen Re and Fireman’s Fund, to obtain coverages above retention layers held by the individual colleges.
Most of the time, DMI also holds a retention layer.
The alternative insurance structure was devised in the midst of the hard markets of 2001-2003, when a few of the schools’ finance professionals wondered whether there might be a better way to go, said Stoeger-Moore.
At the time, he said, the Wisconsin Technical Colleges — which had been purchasing their needed insurance products as a consortium — were reeling from annual rate increases year after year.
“The schools had been seeing double-digit increases in premium for three straight years as of 2003, with compounded increases of 20 percent each year during ’01, ’02, and ’03 — all driven by market conditions, not losses,” Stoeger-Moore said.
In fact, he said, the schools’ loss ratio over the three-year period was just 27 percent.
“The coverages appropriate to higher education had become more and more restricted. Carriers were selectively writing various businesses, and M&A activity among insurers was taking a lot of options off the table,” he said.
“No college pays for a loss suffered by another college. And no college pays a premium based on a loss at another college.” — Steven Stoeger-Moore, president, Districts Mutual Insurance
Meanwhile rates were going up and up and up every year, Stoeger-Moore said.
The solution: DMI.
Before the mutual was formed, Stoeger-Moore served as risk manager for the Milwaukee Area Technical College, one of only a few state technical schools that had a risk manager in place.
As the market hardened, school finance officials approached Stoeger-Moore, who developed the blueprint for DMI and agreed to take on the insurer’s day-to-day operations.
“It’s an insurance carrier that has no employees,” he said.
On the other hand, via independent vendors, DMI has experts working as third-party claims administrators, accountants, and auditors, besides commercial insurance carriers like London-based Beazley, which is now partnering with DMI in underwriting a cyber breach response program.
Stoeger-Moore said that it is illegal for insurers to pool their exposures, payments, or reserve funds under Wisconsin state law.
“No college pays for a loss suffered by another college,” he said.
“And no college pays a premium based on a loss at another college.”
Stoeger-Moore has his share of fans. “Steve is really the most knowledgeable insurance technical person I’ve ever met. He created this whole thing,” said Joe DesPlaines, DMI’s business continuity and crisis response consultant.
DesPlaines said Stoeger-Moore envisioned that the mutual would offer insurance coverage as well as risk management consulting including crisis response planning, employee health and safety, and security assessments.
DMI’s budget is derived from college premium payments, said Stoeger-Moore.
Linda Joski, area vice president for Arthur J. Gallagher and Co. in Wisconsin, which brokers all reinsurance coverages for DMI, said that Stoeger-Moore is one of a kind.
“He is innovative and creative and works so well with these colleges,” she said.
Steven is also being recognized as a 2014 Responsibility Leader.
Creating His Own Solution
When the 16 institutions comprising Wisconsin Technical Colleges faced persistent problems obtaining insurance coverage suited to their unique needs, Steven Stoeger-Moore didn’t just find the solution — he created it.
Stoeger-Moore helped to establish Districts Mutual Insurance (DMI) in 2004 to represent the colleges and provide better insurance and risk management services.
Under his self-implemented “Rule of 16,” he ensures that if any school has a problem, all 16 colleges benefit from DMI’s solution. That dedication led to the development of comprehensive risk management programs — provided to each school at no cost — for electrical and fire safety inspections, emergency response planning, legal consultations, and employee health and safety consultations, among many others.
And when those programs were tested, Stoeger-Moore sprang into action. In the past 10 years, the Wisconsin Technical College System has weathered both a tornado and a major fire. Both times, he was at the scene within 24 hours of the event, providing claims and insurance guidance as well as comfort for shaken colleagues.
Stoeger-Moore has also worked to bolster the industry’s future by encouraging young people to consider a career in risk management. Through DMI, he creates opportunities for young people to learn about the colleges’ unique challenges and the programs created to meet them.
Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.
Responsibility Leaders overcome obstacles by doing the right thing over the easy thing to find practical solutions that benefit their co-workers and community.
A Modern Claims Philosophy: Proactive and Integrated
According to some experts, “The best claim is the one that never happens.”
But is that even remotely realistic?
Experienced risk professionals know that in the real world, claims and losses are inevitable. After all, it’s called Risk Management, not Risk Avoidance.
And while no one likes losses, there are rich lessons to be gleaned from the claims management process. Through careful tracking and analysis of losses, risk professionals spot gaps in their risk control programs and identify new or emerging risks.
Aspen Insurance embraces this philosophy by viewing the data and expertise of their claims operation as a valuable asset. Unlike more traditional carriers, Aspen Insurance integrates their claims professionals into all of their client work – from the initial risk assessment and underwriting process through ongoing risk management consulting and loss control.
This proactive and integrated approach results in meaningful reductions to the frequency and severity of client losses. But when the inevitable does happen, Aspen Insurance claims professionals utilize their established understanding of client risks and operations to produce some truly amazing solutions.
“I worked at several of the most well known and respected insurance companies in my many years as a claims executive. But few of them utilize an approach that is as innovative as Aspen Insurance,” said Stephen Perrella, senior vice president, casualty claims, at Aspen Insurance.
“We do a lot of trending and data analysis to provide as much information as possible to our clients. Our analytics can help clients improve upon their own risk management procedures.”
— Stephen Perrella, Senior Vice President, Casualty Claims, Aspen Insurance
Utilizing claims expertise to improve underwriting
Acting as adviser and advocate, Aspen integrates the entire process under a coverage coordinator who ensures that the underwriters, claims and insureds agree on consistent, clear definitions and protocols. With claims professionals involved in the initial account review and the development of form language, Aspen’s underwriters have a full sense of risks so they can provide more specific and meaningful coverage, and identify risks and exclusions that the underwriter might not consider during a routine underwriting process.
“Most insurers don’t ever want to talk about claims and underwriting in the same sentence,” said Perrella. “That archaic view can potentially hurt the insurance company as well as their business partners.”
Aspen Insurance considered a company working on a large bridge refurbishment project on the West Coast as a potential insured, posing the array of generally anticipated construction-related risks. During underwriting, its claims managers discovered there was a large oil storage facility underneath the bridge. If a worker didn’t properly tether his or her tools, or a piece of steel fell onto a tank and fractured it, the consequences would be severe. Shutting down a widely used waterway channel for an oil cleanup would be devastating. The business interruption claims alone would be astronomical.
“We narrowed the opportunity for possible claims that the underwriter was unaware existed at the outset,” said Perrella.
Risk management improved
Claims professionals help Aspen Insurance’s clients with their risk management programs. When data analysis reveals high numbers of claims in a particular area, Aspen readily shares that information with the client. The Aspen team then works with the client to determine if there are better ways to handle certain processes.
“We do a lot of trending and data analysis to provide as much information as possible to our clients,” said Perrella. “Our analytics can help clients improve upon their own risk management procedures.”
For a large restaurant-and-entertainment group with locations in New York and Las Vegas, Aspen’s consultative approach has been critical. After meeting with risk managers and using analytics to study trends in the client’s portfolio, Aspen learned that the sheer size and volume of customers at each location led to disparate profiles of patron injuries.
Specifically, the organization had a high number of glass-related incidents across its multiple venues. So Aspen’s claims and underwriting professionals helped the organization implement new reporting protocols and risk-prevention strategies that led to a significant drop in glass-related claims over the following two years. Where one location would experience a disproportionate level of security assault or slip & fall claims, the possible genesis for those claims was discussed with the insured and corrective steps explored in response. Aspen’s proactive management of the account and working relationship with its principals led the organization to make changes that not only lowered the company’s exposures, but also kept patrons safer.
World-class claims management
Despite expert planning and careful prevention, losses and claims are inevitable. With Aspen’s claims department involved from the earliest stages of risk assessment, the department has developed world-class claims-processing capability.
“When a claim does arrive, everyone knows exactly how to operate,” said Perrella. “By understanding the perspectives of both the underwriters and the actuaries, our claims folks have grown to be better business people.
“We have dramatically reduced the potential for any problematic communication breakdown between our claims team, broker and the client,” said Perrella.
A fire ripped through an office building rendering it unusable by its seven tenants. An investigation revealed that an employee of the client intentionally set the fire. The client had not purchased business interruption insurance, and instead only had coverage for the physical damage to the building.
The Aspen claims team researched a way to assist the client in filing a third-party claim through secondary insurance that covered the business interruption portion of the loss. The attention, knowledge and creativity of the claims team saved the client from possible insurmountable losses.
Modernize your carrier relationship
Aspen Insurance’s claims philosophy is a great example of how this carrier’s innovative perspective is redefining the underwriter-client relationship. Learn more about how Aspen Insurance can benefit your risk management program at http://www.aspen.co/insurance/.
Stephen Perrella, Senior Vice President, Casualty, can be reached at Stephen.email@example.com.
This article is provided for news and information purposes only and does not necessarily represent Aspen’s views and does constitute legal advice. This article reflects the opinion of the author at the time it was written taking into account market, regulatory and other conditions at the time of writing which may change over time. Aspen does not undertake a duty to update the article.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Aspen Insurance. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.