Tag Archives: global reinsurance

How to Seize the Opportunities in 2016

This keynote address was delivered to the EY/Insurance Insider’s Global Re/Insurance Outlook conference at the Hamilton Princess Hotel in Bermuda.

It’s a pleasure to be here this morning. I appreciate being invited to offer some thoughts on the state of our industry and where we seem to be headed.

If you’ll indulge me for a few minutes, I’m going to look back at 2015 before I look forward to 2016. It feels like the right thing to do, given the year we’ve had.

I don’t know about all of you, but for me 2015 has come and gone in the blink of an eye.

And what a year it’s been.

You could invoke Dickens and say: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

This was the year that a youthful head of state swept into office in Canada on a promise of “sunny ways” – and it was the year that terror ripped through a nightclub in Paris, and a Christmas party in San Bernardino, CA, shattering our personal sense of security.

It was the year that the pope declared a Holy Year of Mercy, and it was the year that more than a million refugees streamed out of the Middle East and into Europe, in a desperate attempt to escape a jihadist war.

It was the year that almost 200 nations signed a landmark agreement to address climate change, and it was the year that another once-in-100-year flood lashed northern England for the second time in less than 10 years.

It was the year that the concept of “the singularity” – when human computing is overtaken by machines – became a distinct possibility.

It was also a year when driverless cars, packages delivered by drone and 3D printing became tangible realities.

Here in Bermuda, 2015 was the year that signaled the demise of a brand name close to my heart – that would be ACE – as M&A fever reshaped the island’s market landscape. It was also the year that the Bermuda Monetary Authority pulled off a coup – seven years in the making – by getting the European Commission to grant us Solvency II equivalence.

2015 was the year when Millennials – the generation born between the late ’80s and the turn of this century – became the largest demographic ever. Think about it. More than half the world is now under the age of 30.

And it was the year when we truly began to exit a world driven by an analog mindset and woke up to the fact that we’re living in a digital age. Labels like digital immigrants and digital natives were used to describe two of the four generations now making up our labor force.

I was invited to speak at a number of different venues this year, and, at each, I tried to describe this sense of being between two worlds.

I’d like to share some of the highlights with you, as I think these issues are going to be key to transforming our industry.

The first speech I gave this year was called “Risk in 140 Characters.”

I was speaking to a group of Millennials in London, and I used Twitter as an example of stripping out inefficiencies to get to the core of a business model. I challenged them to figure out how we can leverage technology to make our industry more efficient.

I also challenged them to spread the word about the industry to their peers. Millennials don’t think much of insurance as a career. With 400,000 positions opening up in five years in the U.S., this lack of interest is creating a talent crisis.

The next speech was “Can We Disrupt Ourselves?”

I spoke to the International Insurance Society in New York a few weeks after I spoke to the Millennials in London, and described some of the game-changing forces our industry is facing – driven by disruptive technology.

I challenged this group – who represent executive management – to figure out how to attract a new generation to our industry, AND to figure out how to work with them. The solution to our disruption will come from the digital natives among us.

Then there was “Where Are the Women? One Year Later.”

In 2014, I gave a speech called “Where Are the Women?” I asked why there aren’t more women in the C-suites and boardrooms of the insurance industry.

This year, I looked at whether much has changed in a year – the answer is no – and what might be done.

The short answer is that people like me – the white males who dominate our industry – need to make gender parity and diversity a priority, and mean it.

A speech I gave to St. John’s University’s School of Risk Management was called “The Canary in the Coal Mine.”

St. John’s organized a day-long conference on issues facing the industry. I talked about M&A, alternative capital and the changing roles of brokers, cedants and reinsurers.

I also addressed the talent crisis, making the point that Millennials are the canaries in the coal mine.

If we don’t pay attention to what they’re telling us about our workplaces and work policies – and this includes our attitude toward diversity and inclusion – they’re going to continue to snub our industry. And we can’t afford to let that happen. Not only are they our future workforce, they’re our current and future customers.

An address to 400 top producers of a brokerage firm was called “Do You Know How to Think Like a Unicorn?”

In Silicon Valley, companies backed by a $1 billion or more in capital are called unicorns, and those backed by more than $10 billion are called “decacorns.” There are more companies with this level of capitalization now than at any other time.

And remember, most of these are tech start-ups, many of which are behind the disruption that’s transforming our world.

I told the brokers that, in the digital world, they need to know their clients’ business, and their clients’ risks, better than the CEO does.

There’s currency in knowing how to interpret data, and brokers have a great opportunity to develop specialized skills that they can monetize.

That’s where the real value-add is.

According to a recent study by IBM, C-suite executives around the world are kept awake at night worrying about being ambushed by so-called digital invaders.

More than 5,000 executives participated in the IBM study. More than half of them told researchers that, above all else, they fear being “Uberized” – blindsided by a competitor outside their industry wielding disruptive technology.

While loss activity, interest rates and pressure on terms and conditions will always affect underwriting and financial performance, it’s now a given that technology and talent will determine who will succeed and who will fail.

So, I asked the brokers: do you know how to think like a unicorn?

I was told later that this firm is now describing itself as a technology company whose product is insurance – so I guess they took my suggestions to heart.

So this year, I focused on five main themes:

  • We still have rampant inefficiency in the way much of our business is conducted.
  • We’re threatened by technological disruption.
  • We have unprecedented risks for which there are no actuarial data.
  • The roles we play are being reinvented in real time.
  • And we have a looming talent crisis.

Not a pretty picture, and not for the faint of heart.

But what scope for innovation!

I really do believe this is one of the most exciting times to be working in this industry in the 40 years since I joined it.

We enter 2016 with the hope that terms and conditions will improve, and the expectation that industry consolidation will continue.

[The recent increase] in interest rates could mean that our capital may take a hit, but we’re likely to earn greater investment income over time, leading to increased revenue.

But these are the traditional hallmarks of a market cycle. This is the easy stuff.

There’s nothing easy or traditional about what’s facing our industry right now. Those of us who cling to the old way of doing business aren’t going to make it.

It’s the manner in which we navigate from the analog to the digital – how we move between two worlds – that will set our future course. This is going to take bold, courageous moves, some leaps of faith and a willingness to fail as often as we succeed.

I think it’s telling that [in November] about 200 industry representatives and entrepreneurs gathered in Silicon Valley to figure out how to change the traditional insurance model.

They felt we need to flip the value proposition from protection to prevention, using data analytics to define the characteristics of a risk and identify how to avoid it.

A report on this conference described it this way:

“One of the biggest challenges for successful executive teams is to reframe a company’s purpose away from its past greatness, and toward a different future.”

We’ve been an industry where past is prologue. But for many of the risks we’re facing, there is no past.

It really shouldn’t matter. We’re awash in data, but data pure and simple isn’t the point.

We need to harness data to predict the future – in other words, adopt the prevention mindset.

The issue isn’t simply gathering massive quantities of data. We need to take the data we have and know how to ask the right questions, and refine the right algorithms, to get the analysis we need to provide our products quickly and efficiently to a world doing business on smart phones.

To create the best risk solutions, we need to redefine the relationships we have with each other and build new organizational ecosystems. This is no time for staying in our traditional comfort zone.

And as an industry whose purpose is to secure the future, we have a collective obligation to address the massive protection gap between the developed and emerging economies.

In 2014, there were an estimated $1.7 trillion in losses. $1.3 trillion of that number was uninsured.

With collaborative undertakings like Blue Marble, the microinsurance consortium that was launched this year, we can begin to close this gap. This not only helps prevent disaster for the underserved, it helps build a sustainable planet.

I know we can figure out how to re-create our workplaces, finding ways to meld the experience and traditional perspective of Baby Boomers like me with the open, diverse, purpose-driven focus of Millennials.

This might be one of our greatest challenges, because it aims straight at the heart of our industry’s old-school DNA.

By the way, I like that Millennials are purpose-driven – because what industry can more rightfully lay claim to purpose than insurance?

As I said in one of my earlier speeches, insurance should be catnip to a Millennial.

Several of us are banking on that being true by supporting an awareness program to let the younger generation know that this is a great career choice.

I’ve been joined by Marsh’s Dan Glaser and Lloyd’s Inga Beale in signing a letter urging our fellow CEOs to put their companies’ weight behind this initiative.

The first phase of this plan is an Insurance Careers Month that will be launched in February 2016. This is primarily a U.S.-based project because that’s where the urgent need is, but other markets will be participating, too. We were aiming to enlist the support of at least 200 carriers, brokers, agents and industry partners – and at last count we had almost 260 signed up. The response has been great.

So, in closing:

It HAS been quite a year.

The way we live and work is changing faster than I think any of us thought possible. We have some amazing challenges and opportunities ahead of us – here in Bermuda, and in the countries where many of us do business.

I’m excited about where we’re going and how we’ll get there, and I hope you are, too.

I believe it’s the best of times.

In the meantime, I hope you all have a great morning of provocative thought and discussion, and I wish you a safe, happy and healthy holiday season.

Insurance at a Tipping Point (Part 2)

This is the second in a series of three articles. The first is here.

With the entire insurance industry at a tipping point, where many of the winners and losers will be determined in the next five to 10 years, it’s important to think through all the key strategic factors that will determine those outcomes. Those factors are what we call STEEP: social, technological, environmental, economic and political.

In this article, we’ll take a look at all five.

Social: The Power of Connections

The shifts in customer expectations present challenges for life insurers, many of which are caught in a product trap in which excessive complexity reduces transparency and increases the need for advisers. This creates higher distribution costs.

A possible solution lies in models that shift the emphasis from life benefits to promoting health, well-being and quality of life. In a foretaste of developments ahead, a large Asian life insurer has shifted its primary mission from insurance to helping people lead healthier lives. This is transforming the way the company engages with its customers. Crucially, it’s also giving a renewed sense of purpose and value to the group’s employees and distributors.

Further developments that could benefit both insurers and customers include knowledge sharing among policyholders. One insurer enables customers to share their health data online to help bring people with similar conditions together and help the company build services for their needs. Similarly, a DNA analysis company provides insights on individual conditions and creates online communities to pool the personal data of consenting contributors to support genetic studies.

A comparable shift in business models can be seen in the development of pay-as-you-drive coverage within the P&C sector. In South Africa, where this model is well advanced, insurers are realizing higher policyholder retention and lower claims costs.

This kind of monitoring is now expanding to home and commercial equipment. These developments are paving the 
way for a move beyond warranty or property insurance to an all-’round
 care, repair and protection service. These offerings move the client engagement from an annual transaction to something that’s embedded in their everyday lives. Agents could play
 an important role in helping to design aggregate protection and servicing.

In banking, we’ve seen rapid growth in peer-to-peer lending; the equivalent in insurance are the affinity groups that are looking to exercise their buying power, pool resources and even self-insure. While most of the schemes cover property, the growth in carpooling could see them play an increasing role within auto insurance.

Technological: Shaping the Organization Around Information Advantage

More than 70% of insurance participants in our 2014 Data and Analytics Survey say that big data or analytics have changed the way they make decisions. But many insurers still lack the vision and organizational integration to make the most of these capabilities. Nearly 40% of the participants in the survey see “limited direct benefit to my kind of role” from this analysis, and more than 30% believe that senior management lacks the necessary skills to make full use of the information.

The latest generation of models is 
able to analyze personal, social and behavioral data to gauge immediate demands, risk preferences, the impact of life changes and longer-term aspirations. If we look at pension planning, these capabilities can be part of an interactive offering for customers that would enable them to better understand and balance the financial trade-offs between how much they want to live off now and their desired standard of living when they retire. In turn, the capabilities could eliminate product boundaries as digital insights, along with possible agent input, provide the basis for customized solutions that draw together mortgages, life coverage, investment management, pensions, equity release, tax and inheritance planning. Once the plan is up and running, there could be automatic adjustments to changes in income, etc.

Reactive to preventative

The increasing use of sensors and connected devices as part of the Internet of Things offers ever more real-time and predictive data, which has the potential to move underwriting from “what has happened” to “what could happen” and hence more effective preemption of risks and losses. This in turn could open up opportunities for insurers to gravitate from reactive claims payer to preventative risk adviser.

As in many other industries, the next frontier for insurers is to move from predictive to prescriptive analytics (see Figure 2). Prescriptive analysis would help insurers to anticipate not only what will happen, but also when and why, so they are in a better position to prevent or mitigate adverse events. Insurers could also use prescriptive analytics to improve the sales conversion ratio in automated insurance underwriting by continually adjusting price and coverage based on predicted take-up and actual deviations from it. Extensions of these techniques can be used to model the interaction between different risks to better understand why adverse events can occur, and hence how to develop more effective safeguards.

figure-2

Environmental: Reshaping Catastrophe Risks and Insured Values

Catastrophe losses have soared since the 1970s. While 2014 had the largest number of events over the course of the past 30 years, losses and fatalities were actually below average. Globally, the use of technology, availability of data and ability to locate and respond to disaster in near real-time is helping to manage losses and save lives, though there are predictions that potential economic losses will be 160% higher in 2030 than they were in 1980.

Shifts in global production and supply are leading to a sharp rise in value at risk (VaR) in under-insured territories; the $12 billion of losses from the Thai floods of 2011 exemplify this. A 2013 report by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and PwC concluded that multinationals’ dependencies on unstable international supply chains now pose a systemic risk to “business as usual.”

Environmental measures to mitigate risk

Moves to mitigate catastrophe risks
 and control losses are increasing. Organizations, governments and UN bodies are working more closely to share information on the impact of disaster risk. Examples include R!SE, a joint UN-PwC initiative, which looks at how to embed disaster risk management into corporate strategy and investment decisions.

Governments also are starting to develop plans and policies for addressing climatic instability, though for the most part policy actions remain unpredictable, inconsistent and reactive.

Developments in risk modeling

A new generation of catastrophe models is ushering in a transformational expansion in both geographical 
breadth and underwriting applications. Until recently, cat models primarily concentrated on developed market peak zones (such as Florida windstorm). As the unexpectedly high insurance losses from the 2010 Chilean earthquake and the 2011 Thai floods highlight, this narrow focus has failed to take account of the surge in production and asset values in fast-growth SAAAME markets (South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East). The new models cover many of these previously non-modeled zones.

The other big difference for insurers is their newfound ability to plug different analytics into a single platform. This offers the advantages of being able to understand where there may be pockets of untapped capacity or, conversely, hazardous concentrations. The result is much more closely targeted risk selection and pricing.

The challenge is how to build these models into the running of the business. Cat modeling has traditionally been the preserve of a small, specialized team. The new capabilities are supposed to be easier to use and hence open to a much wider array of business, IT and analytical teams. It’s important to determine the kind of talent needed
 to make best use of these systems, as well as how they will change the way underwriting decisions are made.

Emerging developments include new monitoring and detection systems, which draw
 on multiple fixed and drone sensors.

Challenges for evaluating and pricing risk

Beyond catastrophe risks are disruptions to asset/insured values resulting from constraints on water, land and other previously under-evaluated risk factors. There are already examples of industrial plants that have had to close because of limited access to water.

Economic: Adapting to a Multipolar World

Struggling to sustain margins

The challenging economic climate has 
held back discretionary spending on life, annuities and pensions, with the impact being compounded by low interest rates and the resulting difficulties in sustaining competitive returns for policyholders. The keys to sustaining margins are likely to be simple, low-cost, digitally distributed products for the mass market and use of the latest risk analytics to help offer guarantees at competitive prices.

The challenges facing P&C insurers center on low investment returns and a softening market. Opportunities to seek out new customers and boost revenues include strategic alliances. Examples could include affinity groups, manufacturers or major retailers. A further possibility is that one of the telecoms or Internet giants will want a tie-up with an insurer to help it move into the market.

More than 30% of insurance CEOs
 now see alliances as an opportunity to strengthen innovation. Examples include the partnership between a leading global reinsurer and software group, which aims to provide more advanced cyber risk protection for corporations.

Surprisingly, only 10% of insurance CEOs are looking to partner with start- ups, even though such alliances could provide valuable access to the new ideas and technologies they need.

SAAAME growth

Growth in SAAAME insurance markets will continue to vary. Slowing growth 
in some major markets, notably Brazil, could hold back expansion. In others, notably India, we are actually seeing a decline in life, annuity and pension take-up as a result of the curbs on commissions for unit-linked insurance plans (ULIP). Further development in capital markets will be necessary to encourage savers to switch their deposits to insurance products.

As the reliance on agency channels adds to costs, there are valuable opportunities to offer cost- effective digital distribution. Successful models of inclusion include an Indian national health insurance program, which is aimed at poorer households and operates through a public/private partnership. More than 30 million households have taken up the smart cards that provide them with access to hospital treatment.

The already strong growth (10% a year) in micro-insurance is also set to increase, drawing on models developed within micro-credit. The challenge for insurers is the need to make products that are sufficiently affordable and comprehensible to consumers who have little or no familiarity with the concept of insurance.

Rather than waiting for a market-wide alignment of data and pricing, some insurers have moved people onto the ground to build up the necessary data sets, often working in partnership with governments, regional and local development authorities and banks and local business groups.

Urbanization

The urban/rural divide may actually be more relevant to growth opportunities ahead than the emerging/developed market divide. In 1800, barely one in 50 people lived in cities. By 2009, urban dwellers had become a majority of the global population for the first time. Now, every week, 1.5 million people are added to the urban population, the bulk of them in SAAAME markets.

Cities are the main engines of the global economy, with 50% of global GDP generated in the world’s 300 largest metropolitan areas. The result is more wealth to protect. Infrastructure development alone will generate an estimated $68 billion in premium income between now and 2030. Urban citizens will be more likely to be exposed to insurance products and have access to them. Urbanization is also likely to increase purchases of life, annuities and pensions’ products, as people migrating into cities have to make individual provision for the future rather than relying on extended family support.

Yet as the size and number of mega-metropolises grow, so does the concentration of risk. Key areas of exposure go beyond property and catastrophe coverage to include the impact of air pollution and poor water quality and sanitation on health.

Tackling under-insurance

A Lloyd’s report comparing the level 
of insurance penetration and natural catastrophe losses in countries around the world found that 17 fast-growth markets had an annualized insurance deficit of $168 billion, creating threats to sustained economic growth and the ability to recover from disasters.

Political: Harmonization, Standardization and Globalization of the Insurance Market

Government in the tent

At a time when all financial services businesses face considerable scrutiny, strengthening the social mandate through closer alignment with government goals could give insurers greater freedom. Insurers also could be in a stronger position to attract quality talent at a time when many of the brightest candidates are looking for more meaning from their chosen careers.

Government and insurers can join forces in the development of effective retirement and healthcare solutions (although there are risks). Further opportunities include a risk partnership approach to managing exposures that neither insurers nor governments have either the depth of data or financial resources to cover on their own, notably cyber, terrorism and catastrophe risks.

Impact of regulation

Insurers have never had to deal with an all-encompassing set of global prudential regulations comparable to the Basel Accords governing banks. But this is what the Financial Stability Board (FSB) and its sponsors in the G20 now want to see as the baseline requirements for not just the global insurers designated as systemically risky, but also a tier of internationally active insurance groups.

The G20’s focus on insurance regulation highlights the heightened politicization of financial services. Governments want to make sure that taxpayers no longer have to bail out failing financial institutions. The result 
is an overhaul of capital requirements 
in many parts of the world and a new basic capital requirement for G-SIIs. The other game-changing development is the emergence of a new breed of cross-state/cross-border regulator, which has been set up to strengthen co-ordination of supervision, crisis management and other key topics. These include the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) and the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) in the U.S.

Dealing with these developments requires a mechanism capable of looking beyond basic operational compliance at how new regulation will affect the strategy and structure of the organization and using this assessment to develop a clear and coherent company-wide response.

Technology will allow risk to be analyzed in real time, and predictive models would enable supervisors to identify and home in on areas in need
 of intervention. Regulators would also be able to tap into the surge in data and analysis within supervised organizations, creating the foundations for machine-to-machine regulation.

A more unstable world

From the crisis in Ukraine to the rise of ISIS, instability is a fact of life. Pressure on land and water, as well as oil and minerals, is intensifying competition for strategic resources and potentially bringing states into conflict. The ways these disputes are playing out is also impinging on corporations to an ever-greater extent, be this trade sanctions or state-directed cyber-attacks.

Businesses, governments and individuals also need to understand the potential causes of conflict and their ramifications and develop appropriate contingency planning and response. At the very least, insurers should seek to model these threats and bring them into their overall risk evaluations. For some, this will be an important element of their growing role as risk advisers and mitigators. Investment firms are beginning to hire ex-intelligence and military figures as advisers or calling in dedicated political consultancies as part of their strategic planning. More insurers are likely to follow suit.

The final article in this series will look at scenarios that could play out for insurers and will lay out a way to formulate an effective strategy. If you want a copy of the report from which these articles are excerpted, click here.