The Missing ERM Puzzle Piece
The risk management community has talked about the benefits of enterprise risk management (ERM) for years. But an honest assessment of most ERM efforts concludes that execution remains exceedingly difficult.
Finally, the latest breed of risk management information systems (RMIS) such as Willis DataWize, powered by Riskonnect, makes these much-talked-about benefits possible. DataWize empowers risk managers to support enterprise-wide needs, such as risk identification and assessment, crisis response and asset tracking in addition to traditional claim and policy information management.
The new capabilities increase a risk manager’s strategic value to their company and are even earning them board-level exposure through new reporting and dashboard capabilities. George Haitsch of Willis understands the importance of this, both as a former risk manager and through watching the efforts of past colleagues and current clients.
“I’ve seen the new RMIS systems have a significant impact on their deliverables and frankly on their careers,” Haitsch said. “A risk manager can facilitate a high-level conversation with insightful data and analysis, instead of walking into a meeting with a four inch thick TPA report and a spreadsheet on the cover.”
“It takes work off your desk. It frees up your time to do more strategic things. It’s hard to convey just how much the system alleviates many pain-points experienced by risk managers.”
— George Haitsch, Executive Vice President, North American Practice Leader, Willis Global Solutions
Not all RMIS technologies are created equal, nor can they have the same impact upon a risk manager’s success. Haitsch, now serving as practice leader, Willis Global Solutions North America, illustrated the point with a recent client meeting.
“I went into a meeting with a client who was a longtime user of another RMIS system, and when the client started to see the capabilities of Willis DataWize, an ‘ice-cold courtesy’ meeting turned into an ‘I gotta get that’ meeting in 30 minutes,” he said.
What won that risk manager over? Ultimately, it was the unique capabilities inherent in Willis DataWize–capabilities that would enable this client to transcend traditional policy tracking.
Some of the most important benefits Haitsch sees Willis DataWize, powered by Riskonnect providing his clients include:
Data Collection and Tracking: Any system is only as good as the data that it collects. Willis DataWize enables risk managers to easily configure fields and create custom web-based forms that can be completed by users in the field. Automated tracking, reminders and data controls help to ensure accurate, clean data. Information for renewals can now be collected in weeks, not months, and injury reports can easily be submitted in real time.
“It takes work off your desk. It’s almost as if the system is functioning as a member of your team,” Haitsch said. “It frees up your time to do more strategic things. It’s hard to convey just how much the system alleviates many pain-points experienced by risk managers.”
Underwriting Differentiation: One of the most important responsibilities of a Willis broker is to represent their clients to the underwriting community. “Willis is always working hard on our clients’ behalf to differentiate their risks to the underwriting community,” said Haitsch. Willis brokers leverage the quality data provided by DataWize to support those efforts.
“When a company can present detailed, timely information about their risk profile, it certainly helps build credibility and trust in the eyes of an underwriter,” Haitsch added.
Global Integration: DataWize unifies global organizations with one fully integrated system. Most RMIS tools cannot be integrated on a global risk platform. Previously, Fortune 50 users had to buy separate systems from different providers in Europe and patch them together. A risk manager must have a RMIS solution that matches their global footprint.
Board Level Reporting: Risk managers are utilizing DataWize’s easily configured dashboards and reports to produce highly valued information for executive management and directors.
“Board reporting components are simply spectacular!” asserted Haitsch. “The system is truly transformative to a risk manager because it enables them to provide the information that senior executives and directors crave. I’ve seen multiple clients become valued facilitators of board level strategic discussions.”
The Willis Approach
Willis’ primary goal is to empower its clients to be successful when it comes to risk, and it accomplishes this goal by remaining focused and partnering with leading companies to provide best-in-class complimentary service to their clients. The Riskonnect partnership, launched in 2010, demonstrates how providing enterprise-class risk technology helps Willis stand out from their competition.
“Board reporting components are simply spectacular!” exclaimed Haitsch. “The system is truly transformative to a risk manager because it enables them to provide the information that senior executives and directors crave. I’ve seen multiple clients become valued facilitators of board level strategic discussions.”
Ultimately, Haitsch appreciates Riskonnect’s positive response when his clients have asked for custom solutions and RMIS innovations. He said,
“They always want to get to YES.”
Haitsch knows that risk managers appreciate the value of people saying “YES,” from underwriters and TPAs to property managers – all the way up to executive leadership.
This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Riskonnect. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.
Coping with Cancellations
Airlines typically can offset revenue losses for cancellations due to bad weather either by saving on fuel and salary costs or rerouting passengers on other flights, but this year’s revenue losses from the worst winter storm season in years might be too much for traditional measures.
At least one broker said the time may be right for airlines to consider crafting custom insurance programs to account for such devastating seasons.
For a good part of the country, including many parts of the Southeast, snow and ice storms have wreaked havoc on flight cancellations, with a mid-February storm being the worst of all. On Feb. 13, a snowstorm from Virginia to Maine caused airlines to scrub 7,561 U.S. flights, more than the 7,400 cancelled flights due to Hurricane Sandy, according to MasFlight, industry data tracker based in Bethesda, Md.
Roughly 100,000 flights have been canceled since Dec. 1, MasFlight said.
Just United, alone, the world’s second-largest airline, reported that it had cancelled 22,500 flights in January and February, 2014, according to Bloomberg. The airline’s completed regional flights was 87.1 percent, which was “an extraordinarily low level,” and almost 9 percentage points below its mainline operations, it reported.
And another potentially heavy snowfall was forecast for last weekend, from California to New England.
The sheer amount of cancellations this winter are likely straining airlines’ bottom lines, said Katie Connell, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, a trade group for major U.S. airline companies.
“The airline industry’s fixed costs are high, therefore the majority of operating costs will still be incurred by airlines, even for canceled flights,” Connell wrote in an email. “If a flight is canceled due to weather, the only significant cost that the airline avoids is fuel; otherwise, it must still pay ownership costs for aircraft and ground equipment, maintenance costs and overhead and most crew costs. Extended storms and other sources of irregular operations are clear reminders of the industry’s operational and financial vulnerability to factors outside its control.”
Bob Mann, an independent airline analyst and consultant who is principal of R.W. Mann & Co. Inc. in Port Washington, N.Y., said that two-thirds of costs — fuel and labor — are short-term variable costs, but that fixed charges are “unfortunately incurred.” Airlines just typically absorb those costs.
“I am not aware of any airline that has considered taking out business interruption insurance for weather-related disruptions; it is simply a part of the business,” Mann said.
Chuck Cederroth, managing director at Aon Risk Solutions’ aviation practice, said carriers would probably not want to insure airlines against cancellations because airlines have control over whether a flight will be canceled, particularly if they don’t want to risk being fined up to $27,500 for each passenger by the Federal Aviation Administration when passengers are stuck on a tarmac for hours.
“How could an insurance product work when the insured is the one who controls the trigger?” Cederroth asked. “I think it would be a product that insurance companies would probably have a hard time providing.”
But Brad Meinhardt, U.S. aviation practice leader, for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., said now may be the best time for airlines — and insurance carriers — to think about crafting a specialized insurance program to cover fluke years like this one.
“I would be stunned if this subject hasn’t made its way up into the C-suites of major and mid-sized airlines,” Meinhardt said. “When these events happen, people tend to look over their shoulder and ask if there is a solution for such events.”
Airlines often hedge losses from unknown variables such as varying fuel costs or interest rate fluctuations using derivatives, but those tools may not be enough for severe winters such as this year’s, he said. While products like business interruption insurance may not be used for airlines, they could look at weather-related insurance products that have very specific triggers.
For example, airlines could designate a period of time for such a “tough winter policy,” say from the period of November to March, in which they can manage cancellations due to 10 days of heavy snowfall, Meinhardt said. That amount could be designated their retention in such a policy, and anything in excess of the designated snowfall days could be a defined benefit that a carrier could pay if the policy is triggered. Possibly, the trigger would be inches of snowfall. “Custom solutions are the idea,” he said.
“Airlines are not likely buying any of these types of products now, but I think there’s probably some thinking along those lines right now as many might have to take losses as write-downs on their quarterly earnings and hope this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “There probably needs to be one airline making a trailblazing action on an insurance or derivative product — something that gets people talking about how to hedge against those losses in the future.”
Why Marine Underwriters Should Master Modeling
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.
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.