Risk Insider: Joe Tocco

Ocean Warming Risk: Why Does it Matter to Insurance?

By: | October 4, 2016 • 2 min read
Currently Chief Executive of the Americas for XL Catlin’s insurance operation, Joe Tocco has enjoyed three decades in the insurance industry at various organizations. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Navy, where he served as a nuclear field service engineer. He can be reached at [email protected]

One of the things I’ve seen firsthand in my insurance career is the interrelated nature of risks; they rarely occur in isolation. A loss in one area often triggers or exacerbates others. Such is also the nature of our environment, where we are observing disturbing changes.

I was fortunate to have served in the U.S. Navy and have been awed ever since by the oceans’ vastness, power and complexity. Understanding the oceans is difficult. Astonishingly, humans have spent 100 times more hours on the moon than in the deepest part of Earth’s oceans.

A new report on ocean warming by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), titled Explaining ocean warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences describes the phenomenon as ‘one of the greatest hidden challenges of our generation.’ The analysis report has been compiled by 80 scientists from 12 countries.

Even though our planet has enough land area to accommodate more than 7 billion people, 71 percent of its surface is covered by water. Oceans have a critical influence on life as we know it – heating and cooling the planet, providing food and supporting global commerce, yet we have only recently started to understand them.

If science and nations are to mitigate climate change, we must clearly grasp how the decline in coral reef health, loss of polar ice, ocean warming, sea level rise and ocean acidification are affecting the people and property that the insurance industry helps to protect.

The report, which is sponsored by XL Catlin’s Deep Ocean Survey initiative, is the third in a series of scientific research programs to better understand the key indicators of climate change. One of the missions of the Survey is to pilot a systematic method for scientists around the world to assess ocean health. What we are learning so far has been startling:

  • Sea levels have risen about 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) since pre-industrial times. If carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current pace, sea levels will rise a further 99 cm (39 inches) by 2100.
  • Many of the world’s largest cities, including New York and London, are exposed to flooding from sea level rise.
  • Hundreds of millions of people will be forced to relocate if sea levels rise at the current rate.
  • In the United States alone, $500 billion of coastal property could be below sea level by the end of this century.
  • The ocean absorbs excess heat and carbon dioxide, and far more of that heat is now buried in the deep ocean, below 700 meters, than was found 20 years ago.
  • CO2 dissolves in seawater to form carbonic acid, increasing acidity. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution around 1750, the acidification of the ocean has increased 30 percent. That change has led to the destruction of coral reefs and many marine species.

Why should the insurance industry care about ocean warming? For one thing, we are in the risk business, and ocean warming represents enormous risks. To manage any risk, we first have to understand it.

If science and nations are to mitigate climate change, we must clearly grasp how the decline in coral reef health, loss of polar ice, ocean warming, sea level rise and ocean acidification are affecting the people and property that the insurance industry helps to protect.

As an industry built on managing risk, we must continue to study the risks facing our planet from climate change and work together to mitigate their effects. Let’s use our expertise in analyzing risk and helping rebuild lives and livelihoods to preserve opportunities for future generations.

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Betting on the Weather

Parametric weather products offer event organizers improved protection of revenues in an increasingly unpredictable climate.
By: | September 14, 2016 • 5 min read

Apart from an attendee dying, rain is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a festival,” said Christian Phillips, contingency underwriter at Beazley. “An angry few hours from Mother Nature can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, dampening profits even for sold-out festivals and negatively affecting on-the-ground consumer spending.”


Christian Phillips, contingency underwriter, Beazley

Yet according the insurance industry, many event and hospitality companies continue to find themselves inadequately covered against losses that could arise from adverse weather, or are unaware of the insurance coverage options available to them.

“A protection gap exists on weather coverage for events companies,” said Tanguy Touffut, global head of parametric solutions at AXA, who believes those buying coverage are in the minority.

“However, increasing weather anomalies as a consequence of climate change, as well as the emergence of innovative insurance solutions such as parametric insurance, are fueling increased demand for such covers from events companies.”

Typically, event organizers must choose between event cancellation coverage — a broad policy that compensates the insured if their event is cancelled for a multitude of reasons beyond their control — or a parametric weather policy that pays an agreed sum if a certain weather trigger is hit, for example, half an inch of rain over four hours.

While the weather policy won’t cover against the wide range of perils the cancellation policy would (such as fire, terrorism or road blockages), it does cover against the lost income from attendees leaving a weather-affected event early. But that kind of loss wouldn’t be covered under a cancellation policy because the event must be cancelled to trigger a payout.


“This presents companies with a tough choice. They usually don’t have the budget for both policies, and weather can be a little more expensive as it is a stated value policy.

“If the client picks the wrong coverage and loses money, they will be upset,” said Marlene Benoit, promotions and events leader for broker Lockton.

Beazley has gone some way to bridge the gap with a new product that is a hybrid of both types of coverage. As well as offering broad cancellation cover, the product also establishes a weather trigger on which it will pay a fixed sum to compensate for lost revenue.

Benoit said she believed other insurers may soon introduce similar products.

“When the industry comes up with something unique in the marketplace, others will follow, particularly when it is well-received and there is demand.”

Number Crunching

Weather observation techniques and data gathering has improved markedly in recent decades, and insurers now have a data bank of at least 30 years of high-quality data as a base for their underwriting.

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Tanguy Touffut, global head of parametric solutions, AXA

“Additionally, the capacity to process these data has improved tremendously, which gives us very sophisticated indexes that better reflect the clients’ risk,” said Touffut.

However, gaps in coverage remain.

“We allow the insured to choose a threshold amount of rain at the front end of the policy. However, we can’t cover every eventuality,” said Phillips.

“If they insure against half an inch of rain but it rains 0.49 inches and people still leave their event, there will be a gap in cover.”

“Due to budgeting, companies may choose a threshold that is too high, and when they have a weather claim, it doesn’t hit the trigger mark, so they end up paying for a policy that doesn’t pay out,” said Benoit.

Consumer Data

Indeed, while improved climate data makes weather parametrics relatively reliable, attendee spending behavior is harder to predict.

“We try to bring our knowledge of what we’ve seen in the past to give guidance, but it is still subjective,” admitted Phillips.

If more than one-third of an inch of rain falls, some attendees will normally leave an event, Phillips said, particularly if the rain falls persistently over several hours rather than in a short, sharp downpour. Clients typically stand to lose around 20 percent of their projected revenues from weather-related departures, though this figure could vary depending on the nature of the crowd, he added.

Combining weather data with Big Data on consumer spending habits to model the effect weather has on behavior at events seems an obvious next step to enhance the insurance offering.

Insureds can improve their chances of securing appropriate coverage by delving deep into their own revenue histories. “We ask the client for historical cancellation and revenue data over the longest period possible,” said Touffut.

Combining weather data with Big Data on consumer spending habits to model the effect weather has on behavior at events seems an obvious next step to enhance the insurance offering. However, James Ingham, head of renewables at risk analytics specialist Sciemus, said that in an age when “data is king,” it may be hard to get data providers to collaborate.


“It can be done, but you would need a large provider like Google Public, for example, to host data covering multiple events across multiple demographics and geographies over a number of years in order to give event organizers full confidence in the inferences. You would also need a secure neutral environment to encourage Big Data providers from other areas such as credit card providers to also collaborate,” he said.

Touffut added that as the quality and amount of data and Big Data processing methods continue to improve, “indexes will become more precise and the models used to design parametric insurance products will even more accurately reflect the clients’ risk.”

“Furthermore, as parametric insurance fixes most of the ‘pain points’ of traditional insurance, both from the claims view and from the purchasing view, we expect this type of insurance to greatly propagate and eventually cannibalize some forms of traditional insurance,” he said.

But as Phillips pointed out, it is often only after an events company suffers a damaging loss that they will consider seeking cover. “Someone may have run an event for 30 years and never had a problem, but weather is changing. Companies can’t afford to rest on past weather patterns.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]
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Sponsored: Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance

Why Marine Underwriters Should Master Modeling

Marine underwriters need better data, science and engineering to overcome modeling challenges.
By: | October 3, 2016 • 5 min read

Better understanding risk requires better exposure data and rigorous application of science and engineering. In addition, catastrophe models have grown in sophistication and become widely utilized by property insurers to assess the potential losses after a major event. Location level modeling also plays a role in helping both underwriters and buyers gain a better understanding of their exposure and sense of preparedness for the worst-case scenario. Yet, many underwriters in the marine sector don’t employ effective models.

“To improve underwriting and better serve customers, we have to ask ourselves if the knowledge around location level modeling is where it needs to be in the marine market space. We as an industry have progress to make,” said John Evans, Head of U.S. Marine, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

CAT Modeling Limitations

The primary reason marine underwriters forgo location level models is because marine risk often fluctuates, making it difficult to develop models that most accurately reflect a project or a location’s true exposure.

Take for example builder’s risk, an inland marine static risk whose value changes throughout the life of the project. The value of a building will increase as it nears completion, so its risk profile will evolve as work progresses. In property underwriting, sophisticated models are developed more easily because the values are fixed.

“If you know your building is worth $10 million today, you have a firm baseline to work with,” Evans said. The best way to effectively model builder’s risk, on the other hand, may be to take the worst-case scenario — or when the project is about 99 percent complete and at peak value (although this can overstate the catastrophe exposure early in the project’s lifecycle).

Warehouse storage also poses modeling challenges for similar reasons. For example, the value of stored goods can fluctuate substantially depending on the time of year. Toys and electronics shipped into the U.S. during August and September in preparation for the holiday season, for example, will decrease drastically in value come February and March. So do you model based on the average value or peak value?

“In order to produce useful models of these risks, underwriters need to ask additional questions and gather as much detail about the insured’s location and operations as possible,” Evans said. “That is necessary to determine when exposure is greatest and how large the impact of a catastrophe could be. Improved exposure data is critical.”

To assess warehouse legal liability exposure, this means finding out not only the fluctuations in the values, but what type of goods are being stored, how they’re being stored, whether the warehouse is built to local standards for wind, earthquake and flood, and whether or not the warehouse owner has implemented any other risk mitigation measures, such as alarm or sprinkler systems.

“Since most models treat all warehouses equally, even if a location doesn’t model well initially, specific measures taken to protect stored goods from damage could yield a substantially different expected loss, which then translates into a very different premium,” Evans said.

Market Impact

That extra information gathering requires additional time but the effort is worth it in the long run.

“Better understanding of an exposure is key to strong underwriting — and strong underwriting is key to longevity and stability in the marketplace,” Evans said.

“If a risk is not properly understood and priced, a customer can find themselves non-renewed after a catastrophe results in major losses — or be paying two or three times their original premium,” he said. Brokers have the job of educating clients about the long-term viability of their relationship with their carrier, and the value of thorough underwriting assessment.


The Model to Follow

So the question becomes: How can insurers begin to elevate location level modeling in the marine space? By taking a cue from their property counterparts and better understanding the exposure using better data, science and engineering.

For stored goods coverage, the process starts with an overview of each site’s risk based on location, the construction of the warehouse, and the type of contents stored. After analyzing a location, underwriters ascertain its average values and maximum values, which can be used to create a preliminary model. That model’s output may indicate where additional location specific information could fill in the blanks and produce a more site-specific model.

“We look at factors like the existence of a catastrophe plan, and the damage-ability of both the warehouse and the contents stored inside it,” Evans said. “This is where the expertise of our engineering team comes into play. They can get a much clearer idea of how certain structures and products will stand up to different forces.”

From there, engineers may develop a proprietary model that fits those specific details. The results may determine the exposure to be lower than originally believed — or buyers could potentially end up with higher pricing if the new model shows their risk to be greater. On the other hand, it may also alert the insured that higher limits may be required to better suit their true exposure to catastrophe losses.

Then when the worst does happen, insureds can rest assured that their carrier not only has the capacity to cover the loss, but the ability to both manage the volatility caused by the event and be in a position to offer reasonable terms when renewal rolls around.

For more information about Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance’s Marine services, visit https://bhspecialty.com/us-products/us-marine/.

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (www.bhspecialty.com) provides commercial property, casualty, healthcare professional liability, executive and professional lines, surety, travel, programs, medical stop loss and homeowners insurance. The actual and final terms of coverage for all product lines may vary. It underwrites on the paper of Berkshire Hathaway’s National Indemnity group of insurance companies, which hold financial strength ratings of A++ from AM Best and AA+ from Standard & Poor’s. Based in Boston, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance has offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, San Ramon, Stevens Point, Auckland, Brisbane, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Singapore, Sydney and Toronto. For more information, contact [email protected].

The information contained herein is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy any product or service. Any description set forth herein does not include all policy terms, conditions and exclusions. Please refer to the actual policy for complete details of coverage and exclusions.



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

Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance (www.bhspecialty.com) provides commercial property, casualty, healthcare professional liability, executive and professional lines, surety, travel, programs, medical stop loss and homeowners insurance.
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