Despite the rising tide of political and economic turmoil in the world, the cost of buying political risk coverage and trade credit insurance is declining even as demand is sharply increasing.
“The pricing has become much more competitive,” said New York-based Lila Rymer, head of U.S. underwriting for political risks and trade credit at Beazley. “A lot of new entrants and more capacity in the market has driven this competition.
“So it’s a very good time for clients to consider buying political risk and trade credit insurance because the terms are quite favorable,” Rymer said.
New York-based Stuart Barrowcliff, senior underwriter, political risk for XL Catlin, added that capacity is growing because it is a way for insurers to diversify and expand offerings beyond P&C “where there’s obviously lots and lots and lots of capacity and tremendous pressure on premium.”
A report by Marsh noted that political risk insurance capacity has steadily increased over the past decade, particularly since the financial crisis. In some cases, market capacity for a single policy now exceeds $2 billion, nearly double the available capacity just six years ago, the report said.
Likewise, the increase in trade credit insurance in that period has grown considerably, driven by — among other things — E&S insurers entering the market, as well as banks, other financial institutions and Lloyd’s syndicates making major inroads in this market.
“You also see some of the private equity companies, hedge funds and others who are looking at putting together funding vehicles to invest in trade finance assets and they can come to the trade credit insurance markets to sit behind them,” said Jeff Abrahamson, Baltimore-based global head of supplier trade credit for XL Catlin.
In years past, companies and financial institutions might typically buy stand-alone political risk coverage, said Owings, Md.-based James Daly, president and CEO of Euler Hermes Americas.
“But the trend today is to purchase comprehensive coverage, which includes protection against both trade credit losses and political risks,” Daly said.
“Traditional trade credit insurance adds another layer of comfort, protecting against bad debt losses when a customer simply does not pay its bills.”
Political risk insurance protects foreign assets held by multinational corporations, financial institutions, investors and project contractors against the risks of confiscation, expropriation, contract frustration and nationalization, Daly said.
“In addition to providing protection for trade transactions, it may also cover production facilities, equipment, offices, refineries and other fixed assets and equity investments,” Daly said.
Political risk circumstances usually include war, terrorism, riots and actions by local governments, such as changes in export or import regulations that affect the outcome of a transaction.
“Traditional trade credit insurance adds another layer of comfort, protecting against bad debt losses when a customer simply does not pay its bills.” — James Daly, president and CEO, Euler Hermes Americas
Fredrik Murer, New York-based head of Americas, political and credit, for Chubb, noted that political risk and trade credit insurance offer balance sheet protection in an uncertain world.
“Tremendous volatility entered world markets when the commodity super cycle burst,” said Murer.
“The rapid drop in oil prices created upheaval in country and corporate balance sheets alike, creating both political and credit risks in the process.
“Foreign exchange fluctuations add to the stress on U.S. dollar payment obligations. What started as an economic risk may quickly become a political or credit risk as countries act to protect their local interests.”
Corporations and banks are the major buyers of trade credit insurance.
“Banks might buy an annual trade credit policy that we have the option of renewing,” said Beazley’s Rymer.
“When a company is selling goods to a buyer, for example a Brazilian buyer, a bank might purchase the receivables from the supplier. If the supplier is due to get paid in 60 days, the supplier might say, ‘I want to be paid tomorrow.’
“By selling the receivables to a bank, the bank can cash out the supplier up-front and then the buyer owes the money to the bank.”
Rymer added that when banks invest in bigger projects in emerging markets, say a mine or an oil field, they are likely to seek political risk coverage or more comprehensive credit insurance on the investment they’re making.
XL Catlin’s Abrahamson said that other clients are non-bank financial institutions that are providing working capital for corporate clients.
“Banks are using trade credit insurance as a real driver on the trade risk receivables side,” he said.
“A lot of banks will finance receivables for their customers and procure insurance on that financing. This can help them more efficiently utilize their capital.”
For corporations, maintaining trade credit insurance and often political risk coverage along with it has become an increasingly important way to expand their business.
“It’s not just about mitigating risk, but very often trade credit insurance helps companies grow their business, so they can increase their lines of credit and expand the business they are already doing,” said Rymer.
“It might help a company access financing through their lending bank. By having trade credit insurance on their buyers they’ll be able to get bigger lines of credit from their lending partners.”
Or if a company is internally very comfortable with a certain limit to a buyer where they see an opportunity to grow, they can credit insure those receivables, which may enable them to extend a bigger line of credit to that buyer and grow overall sales, she said.
Chubb’s Murer noted that political risk coverage and trade credit insurance provide a company with more certainty.
“With this insurance, if the unexpected happens you know there’s a level of protection against an outcome that can be catastrophic to your continued operations,” he said.
“A company can invest and grow its sales base with more certainty and lenders can benefit as they support the continued expansion of their corporate customers.”
Added Gregg Badger, COO for international food merchant Ronald A. Chisholm Limited, “If we did not have trade credit insurance and political risk coverage we would be hard-pressed to do any borrowing against our non-North American receivables.”
Badger said that 60 percent to 80 percent of Chisholm’s business is outside of North America and the company needs that working capital to keep it operating and growing. Chisholm actively does business with hundreds of companies in 50 to 60 countries, he said.
When the company’s salespeople are out looking for new customers and trying to open up new markets, one of the first steps they take is to see whether the customer they’re calling on is creditworthy, i.e., insurable or whether it’s on open credit or on secured terms, Badger said.
Managing the risk of accounts receivable, customers and processes allows the company to assure its banking syndicate that the receivables are insured, he said.
Beyond Brussels: Employee Crisis Communications
John Persons (not his real name) was in the Brussels airport around 8 am on March 26, 2016 when two bombs detonated, killing 31 and wounding around 300.
Fortunately for Persons, his family and his employer, a large U.S. insurance brokerage, he was not among the dead or injured.
His employer knew he was safe almost immediately. Expert Care, a service of American Express Global Business Travel, saw from his itinerary that he was scheduled to be in the Brussels airport.
Risk managers confirmed it by geolocating Persons through an app on his smartphone, then sent him a Short Message Service (SMS) message.
He texted back “1,” code for “I’m OK.” Expert Care immediately forwarded the good news to Persons’ employer.
A response other than “I’m OK” — say, “2” for “I need help,” “3” for “I’m not sure” or, more ominously, no response at all — would have triggered a much different scenario, said Evan Konwiser, vice president, digital traveler, American Express Global Business Travel.
“Travelers in the red column of the dashboard may need help,” he said.
Their companies’ crisis and travel managers would next decide how to proceed: phone call, follow-up texts and/or alerts to local authorities. As responses trickle in from travelers who had no or spotty mobile broadband connection, and those who were separated from their devices or were nowhere near the trouble spots, the travel manager would focus on the smaller group who really did need help.
Emergency Notification System “Handshake”
This kind of SMS “handshake” is high among companies’ preferred methods of communicating with its employees who get caught in crisis areas, said Matt Bradley, regional security director for the Americas, International SOS, because it’s fast, requires few keystrokes and transmits more reliably in low-signal situations than more data-hungry methods such as email and social media, although they also have their place in crisis communications.
Travel risk programs and emergency notification systems should deploy on smartphones, the technology every business traveler carries, said Hart Brown, senior vice president, practice leader, organizational resilience, HUB International.
“Local employees know the crisis response plan, but travelers are often left out of the briefing.” — Matt Bradley, regional security director for the Americas, International SOS
“Travelers leave other devices in their bags or forget to charge them.”
Smartphones can contain numerous mechanisms for locating and alerting travelers: GPS, apps, a programmed or installed panic button, email, social media and voice communications, Brown said.
“Every tool has strengths and weaknesses, so we pull in as much data as we can from every source,” Konwiser said. For example, “if a traveler missed his flight to Brussels, the itinerary data might not be updated, but we’d know he’s safe if he swiped his Amex corporate card at a concession stand in Heathrow 10 minutes before the explosions.”
Although social media, including Facebook and Twitter, can help break news — the suspicious package in the Atlanta airport that led to an evacuation on March 23, 2016, for example — it can also broadcast unverified information, such as the tweet about shots fired in the Atlanta airport during the same incident from someone claiming to be there, said Bradley.
International SOS, which provides medical and travel security risk services to many Fortune 500 clients, monitors Twitter for incidents, seeks verification and then takes action if appropriate.
Action may include sending information to clients’ travel managers or directly to travelers about an incident, always accompanied by advice.
During the terrorist shootings in Paris in November 2015, for example, “we told people, ‘Seek shelter. Don’t go back to your house or hotel. Get off the street.’ ” Information without advice, Bradley said, creates counterproductive anxiety and panic.
For those times when smartphone communications fail, companies should have a backup plan that includes instructions to go to a pre-determined rally point, such as a hotel or supermarket that provides shelter against rain, is usually open for business and that cab drivers can find easily. Rally points are never monuments, train stations or office buildings, which may themselves be targets, Bradley said.
Best Practices in Mature Global Travel
Companies whose employees travel extensively should have “overarching” crisis management plans, either housed at corporate headquarters or regionalized to branches, Hart said, and travel risk management plans that include a travel portal that aggregates flights, hotels, meeting times and locations, and arrival/departure dates.
“We want to see that aggregated data bundled and visualized on a map so risk managers can see where their people are.”
Of course, preparing employees before they leave should be part of the plan, said Bradley.
“Local employees know the crisis response plan, but travelers are often left out of the briefing. Before they leave, employees should know where hospitals are. Where the rally point is. Where the backup rally point is.”
Companies should be aware of risks — political unrest, infectious diseases, cultural flashpoints, weather — before they send employees, and those with major operations in a region should also invest in a journey risk plan that probes a region’s details: Is it safe to hail a taxi on the street? Does the employee need a driver? Where does she go and who does she call if there’s an issue?
Most insurance policies that involve foreign and business travel have response capabilities embedded in them, such as who to call and how to get help abroad, Hart said, but clients aren’t always aware of the information. Brokerage houses, he said, should educate clients on what duty of care looks like and how to implement crisis and travel risk plans.
“The broker’s role is to make sure policies connect carriers with response partners so the crisis plan works efficiently from beginning to end,” he said.
Compounding: Is it Coming of Age?
The WC managed care market has generally viewed the treatment method of Rx compounding through the lens of its negative impact to cost for treating chronic pain without examining fully the opportunity to utilize “best practice” prescription compounds to help combat the opioid epidemic this nation faces. IPS stands on the front lines of this opioid battle every day making a difference for its clients.
After a shaky start cost-wise, prescription drug compounding is turning the corner in managing chronic pain without the risk of opioid addiction. A push from forward-thinking states and workers’ compensation PBMs who have the networks and resources to manage it is helping, too.
Prescription drug compounding has been around for more than a decade, but after a rocky start (primarily in terms of cost), compounding is finally coming into its own as an effective chronic pain management strategy – and a worthy alternative for costly and dangerous opioids – in workers’ compensation.
According to Greg Todd, CEO and founder of Integrated Prescription Solutions Inc. (IPS), a Costa Mesa, Calif.-based pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) for the workers’ compensation and disability market, one reason compounding is beginning to hit its stride is because some states have enacted laws to manage it more effectively. Another is PBMs like IPS have stepped up and are now managing compound drugs in a much more proactive manner from an oversight perspective.
By definition, compounding is a practice through which a licensed pharmacist or physician (or, in the case of an outsourcing facility, a person under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist) combines, mixes, or alters ingredients of a drug to create a medication tailored to the needs of an individual patient.
During that decade, Todd explains, opioids have filled the chronic pain management needs gap, bringing with them an enormous amount of problems as the ensuing addiction epidemic sweeping the nation resulted in the proliferation and over-consumption of opioids – at a staggering cost to both the bottom line and society at large.
As an alternative, compounded topical cream formulations also offer strong chronic pain management but have limited side effects and require much reduced dosage amounts to achieve effective tissue level penetration. In fact, they have a very low systemic absorption rate.
Bottom line, compounding provides prescribers with an excellent alternative treatment modality for chronic pain patients, both early and late stage, Todd says.
Time for Compounding Consideration
That scenario sets up the perfect argument for compounding, because for one thing, doctors are seeking a new solution, with all the pressure and scrutiny they’re receiving when trying to solve people’s chronic pain problems using opioids.
Todd explains the best news about neuropathic pain treatment using compounded topical analgesic creams is the results are outstanding, both in terms of patient satisfaction in VAS pain reduction but also in reduction potentially dangerous side effects of opioids.
The main issue with some of the early topical creams created via compounding was their high costs. In the early years, compounding, which does not require FDA approval, had little oversight or controls in place. But in the past few years, the workers compensation industry began to take notice of the solid science. At the same time, medical providers also were seeing the same science and began writing more prescriptions for compounding – which also offers them a revenue stream.
This is where oversight and rigor on the part of a PBM can make a difference, Todd says.
“You don’t let that compounded drug get dispensed when you’re going to pay for it without having a chance to approve it,” Todd says.
Education is Critical
At the same time, there is the growing, and genuine, need to start educating the doctors, helping them understand how they can really deliver quality pain management to a patient without gouging the system. A good compounding specialty pharmacy network offering tight, strict rules is fundamental, Todd says. And that means one that really reaches out to work with the doctors that are writing the prescriptions. The idea is to ensure that the active ingredients being chosen aren’t the most expensive sub-components because that unnecessarily will drive the cost of overall compound “through the ceiling.”
IPS has been able to mitigate costs in the last couple years just by having good common sense approach and a lot of physician outreach. Working with DermaTran Health Solutions and its national network of compounding pharmacies, IPS has been successfully impacting the cost while not reducing the effectiveness of a compounded prescription.
In Colorado, which has cracked down on compounding profiteering, Legislative change demanded no compound could be more than $350.00 period. What is notable, in an 18-month window for one client in Colorado, IPS had 38 compound prescriptions come through the door and each had between 4 and 7 active ingredients. Through its physician education efforts, IPS brought all 38 prescriptions down 3 active ingredients or less. IPS also helped patients achieve therapeutic success (and with medical community acceptance). In that case, the cost of compound prescriptions was down to an average of $350, versus the industry average of $788. Nationwide IPS has reduced the average cost of a compound prescription to $478.00.
Todd says. “We’ve still got a way to go, but we’ve made amazing progress in just the past couple of years on the cost and effective use of compound prescriptions.”
For more information on how you can better manage your costs for compound prescriptions, please call IPS at 866-846-9279.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with IPS. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.