Tag Archives: underwriters

The Future of Work: Collaborative Robots

Recent developments in robotics and artificial intelligence have changed the playing field for automated technologies. (Here is an earlier blog on the topic.) Historically, automation was beyond the reach of small and medium-sized companies. Robotics were costly, required highly sophisticated programming expertise, took months to integrate and could only perform single, discrete tasks.

In 2012, the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) was a game changer. AI brought collaborative robots to the market — robots that see and feel like humans, learn (including integrating new data sets and information) and perform multiple tasks. These collaborative robots are also more cost-effective and easier to integrate, making them available and attractive to small and medium-sized businesses.

AI and robotics are now transforming many traditional labor-intensive industries, such as farming, construction, factories and fast food. While Amazon continues to be a global leader in leveraging AI and smart robots, there are plenty of examples of smaller businesses across the country embracing these new automated technologies.

Agricultural farms are using automated tractors and drones to help with growing their crops. Construction firms are purchasing automated brick-laying machines (to lay 3,500 bricks per day). Restaurant owners are investing in new automated machines that can store, prep and cook fast food in a highly controlled environment without any human intervention.

If the adoption of these new automated machines continues, there will be fewer jobs and payrolls in these industries. Over time, the job and payroll loss will affect insurance carriers that specialize in writing workers compensation insurance for these industries.

Historically, technology’s disruption was limited to blue-collar workers; however, AI technology now has its sights set on white-collar workers, including insurance underwriters, claims executives and legal professionals. The insurance industry, which has not been easy to disrupt, is primed for transformations due to developments in AI and automation.

Two years ago, Cambridge University predicted that insurance underwriters were vulnerable to automation. Since that time, we have seen a greater demand among U.S. carriers to invest in new AI technologies that allow them to automate the underwriting and settlement of claims for small commercial insureds. Given the shortage of new talent available to fill expected insurance and claims executives retirements, coupled with new AI technologies, we expect this trend to accelerate.

See also: Measuring Success in Workers’ Comp  

Developments in AI and automation are already changing the U.S. legal profession, one of the most regulated and specialized professions in the U.S. — McKinsey estimates that 22% of lawyers’ and 35% of paralegal tasks can be automated today. A recent HBO documentary, “The Future of Work,” supports this prediction. It highlighted how LawGeex, a new AI-driven computer software, performed against skilled corporate lawyers on a common task — analyzing complex legal documents. LawGeex proved its ability to review and interpret the documents, identify potential legal issues and provide substantive advice to a client in half the time — and with much greater accuracy — than the corporate lawyer.

While LawGeex and other AI technologies will not displace lawyers in the short term, it will exert pressure on lawyers to shift their time to more highly skilled work – such as negotiating and deal structuring – and away from research, writing and reviewing documents. The result could significantly change law firm practices and economics.

Have you considered how robots, AI and automation will change the workplaces of your insureds – and your own company? Stay tuned for my next blog, “Navigating the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” for ideas on how to navigate AI and developing technologies.

Employee Concentration Impacting Workers' Compensation Renewals

Workers' compensation continues to be a challenged line, with historically poor results, a benign interest rate environment, and diminished prior year reserve redundancy. Another issue worth noting is the uncertainty around the potential 2014 extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA), which has heightened the focus on aggregation of workers' compensation risk.

Employee Concentration
For years, carriers have monitored workers' compensation exposure aggregations (their cumulative exposures in a geographic area) as a way of assessing the potential impact that an earthquake would have on their book of business. Such analysis has been commonplace in earthquake prone areas, such as California, for many years. However, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, workers' compensation carriers and reinsurers immediately began to focus on employee concentration in large cities which were deemed high risk targets for terrorist events.

Insurance carriers continue to view risks from a concentration perspective — both on an individual accounts basis as well as the aggregate across their portfolio and correlated lines of business. Some carriers will decline a risk outright simply because they are “overlined” in a particular zip code or city. Or, the carrier might impose a surcharge on the premium for the use of their limited capacity for a particularly large workers' compensation risk.

Reinsurers similarly set a maximum amount of capacity they can offer in a particular geographic area and for catastrophic loss scenarios. Insurers purchase this capacity as one way to reduce their potential to incur an outsized catastrophic loss and manage their modeled worst case scenario within their financial risk tolerance.

To that end, catastrophic models have been developed. Catastrophic models allow carriers to gauge their potential exposures in a geographic area under a variety of different event scenarios that are either probabilistic or deterministic in nature. During the last 10 years, carriers have made adjustments to their books of business according to the output of these models to limit their potential exposure to terrorist events — sometimes across multiple product lines.

A unique consideration with workers' compensation over other insurance contracts is workers' compensation policies have statutory coverage (in this case being synonymous with unlimited) rather than a stated limit which could cap a carrier's liability for a certain loss. Given the statutory nature of the coverage, it is difficult for carriers to estimate their maximum exposure to workers' compensation.

The issue of employee aggregation affects any employer with a large number of employees in a single location, but is highlighted in industries such as financial institutions, hospitals, defense contractors, higher education, hotels, professional services, and nuclear.

Impact Of Pending TRIPRA Expiration
Because of the significant financial impact of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Congress created the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) to provide a financial backstop to the insurance industry that would cap losses in the event of another large-scale terrorist event. The Act was initially set to expire at the end of 2005, but because of the ongoing risk of terrorism, and the reliance on it by insurance carriers, it has been extended several times. It is now set to expire on December 31, 2014.

When most people think of TRIA/TRIPRA, they think of the property insurance marketplace. Without this backstop in place, many high-profile properties would not be insurable in the commercial marketplace. However, workers' compensation is also deeply impacted, as there are large amounts of people working in highly concentrated areas.

Although the expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act is almost two years away, the impact of this is already being seen in the marketplace. Employers in certain industries, employers with large employee concentrations, or in certain cities can expect less available capacity with some carriers scaling because of the increased exposure to their balance sheet created by losing some or all of the protections provided under the Federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. This trend has the potential to escalate and broaden as we get closer to the TRIPRA expiration date.

In addition, more employers may face increased rates for their workers' compensation coverage because of the combination of less competition and capacity, as well as an increased potential exposure for the carriers. If a policy is being issued that provides coverage beyond the TRIPRA expiration date, and the future of the legislation is not known, carriers will likely price this under the assumption those protections will be allowed to sunset or may be significantly modified.

What To Expect At Renewal
When faced with a potentially challenging renewal and one that may be impacted by this issue, what can you do? We recommend starting the renewal process early, at least 120 days (or more) prior to the policy or program effective date. In the case of Marsh, we will work with you to develop a communications strategy and presentation tactic around all key risk exposures, including modeling and risk analytics in support of your renewal objectives.

For carrier presentations and Q-and-A, insureds must be thoroughly conversant with details of exposures and operations; mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures; loss trends, safety programs, and risk management practices; and future plans, to the extent that they can be shared publicly.

We will help you be familiar with respective insurers' cost of capital and pricing strategy — understanding how carriers evaluate your firm's experience and risk profile, and how they initially develop rates and premiums.

High quality data differentiates employers in the eyes of insurance carriers. In today's environment, it is imperative that organizations provide underwriters with complete, accurate, and thorough data and analysis in order to differentiate their risk profile.

There has already been a significant increase in questions that carriers are asking at renewal that focus on the risks associated with a potential terrorist event. Employers with a large concentration of workers, especially those in major metropolitan areas, should be prepared to provide the following details to carriers:

  • Information on employee marital/dependency status.
  • Employee telecommuting/hospitality practices and impact on concentration.
  • Physical security of the building including information about guards, surveillance cameras, parking areas, HVAC protections.
  • How access to the building is controlled.
  • Construction of the building and location of the offices.
  • Management policies around workplace violence, weapons, and employment screening.
  • Employee security procedures.
  • Emergency response/crisis management plan.
  • Fire/life safety program.
  • Security staff.
  • Crisis management procedures.

In addition, carriers may wish to send their loss control engineers for a physical inspection of larger facilities and to interview building/facility management.

The Increasing Demand For Better Data
Because both insurance carriers and reinsurers focus on catastrophic models, it is extremely important that employers provide the highest quality of employee accumulation data, as this will ensure they are favorably differentiated by insurance carriers.

If your company has multiple shifts or operates in a campus setting, make sure you report both the total number of employees and the number working during peak shifts — as well as the actual buildings where the employees are located.

The number of employees working during peak shifts is the actual exposure to a terrorist event, not the total number of employees. Also, some businesses have a large percentage of their workforce in the field or telecommuting, rather than the office where their payroll is assigned. Providing this information to carriers significantly reduces the potential exposures associated with employee concentration. In addition, identifying the actual building where employees work on a campus — rather than a single building — helps overcome pitfalls of the catastrophic model. This also better reflects an employer's exposure to catastrophic losses.

As options about future real estate plans are considered (i.e. in terms of consolidation of employees from multiple locations in a city to a single location, or the impact of closing or consolidating satellite locations and relocating employees in major metropolitan areas), it is wise to review and consider the potential impact on workers' compensation pricing and capacity.

Because of the current political and economic climate in the US, renewal of the TRIPRA by Congress is far from certain. Marsh is continuing to monitor this issue closely, and we are working with employers and insurance industry representatives to raise awareness of the important role that TRIPRA plays in the insurance marketplace.

5-Year Analysis Of Pharmacy Burglary And Robbery Experience

Background
Burglaries and robberies represent a significant expense to pharmacies in the United States. Beyond direct insurance costs, which are driven by loss experience, pharmacists experience financial, business interruption and psychological costs. Pharmacists are concerned about armed robberies, and even finding that a store has been burglarized overnight can be upsetting and cause the expenditure of thousands of dollars in an effort to prevent reoccurrence. Beyond what is covered by insurance, customers pay deductibles that can easily be exceeded as a result of criminal efforts to gain entrance. Pharmacists that are victimized face hours of dealing with police, the Drug Enforcement Administration, board of pharmacy, contractors and their insurance company. As state and national efforts increase to address the underlying problem of prescription drug diversion, pharmacists face increasing administrative and regulatory compliance costs.

When we seek methods to effectively combat the problem, it is important to understand the larger problem of prescription drug diversion and how it fuels pharmacy burglaries and robberies. Described by the Centers for Disease Control as having reached epidemic proportions in the United States, demand for prescription narcotics, coupled with a widely available supply, create an environment that is ripe for criminal activity.

  • While the U.S. represents only 4.6% of the world's population, we consume 80% of the global opioid supply.
  • Five million Americans use opioid painkillers for non-medical use.
  • We experience almost 17,000 deaths from prescription narcotic overdoses annually. In a 4 year period, that is more deaths than we experienced during the Vietnam War.
  • Morphine production was at 96 milligrams per person in 1997. By 2009, that number increased eight-fold.

The origins of the problem are complex, but are based on a cycle of over-prescribing that has occurred over the past two decades. While well intentioned, liberal prescribing coupled with aggressive marketing, incentives and even encouragement to physicians to relieve pain at all costs sparked the fire. Unchecked by adequate physician education on drug diversion and dependency, and a lack of appropriate chronic pain management protocols, demand and dependency increased. As demand increased, so did production levels, opportunities for profit and creative methods of diversion.

Pharmacy crime involves every part of the distribution chain from manufacture through wholesale, retail, and ultimately to the end user. Pharmacists have been victims of deceptive practices, prescription fraud, employee diversion, burglaries and robberies. According to the Centers for Disease Control, prescription drug diversion, measured by drug overdose deaths and pharmacy crime, is at epidemic proportions.

National And State Actions Taken To Address The Problem
Significant efforts continue to be taken at the national and state levels to combat the problem, with various degrees of success. Each of these has a direct impact on how customers conduct business. Unfortunately, most will have no short term impact on reducing the probability of pharmacy burglaries, robberies or employee diversion.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs — Inputting data on prescriptions written and prescriptions filled, particularly for opioid based narcotics is an effective measure for identifying doctor shoppers, abusers and other drug seekers. While the programs are in place in 49 states, most do not connect with each other. This allows a drug seeker to get a prescription in one state and have it filled in another. Use of the program varies significantly by state between being mandatory, voluntary or somewhere in between. In addition, many of the programs are set up on a “free trial” basis for 5 years. As the trial periods are expiring, funding is becoming difficult to continue the programs, notably in California and Florida. Most pharmacists support these programs; however, there has been some resistance by major chains and various state medical associations — in large part objections are based on the time it takes to enter data.

Drug Courts — Intended to allow persons committing crimes to recover, many of these courts eliminate or significantly reduce sentencing for burglars and, in some cases, robbers. This results in a significant level of resentment by pharmacists who are victims of crime.

Drug Enforcement Administration Strike Forces — In the past several years, the Drug Enforcement Administration has shifted a major portion of resources from illicit drug enforcement activity to prescription narcotics. One of the focal areas has been on monitoring the flow of narcotics to pharmacies. These efforts have resulted in sanctions and subpoenas against distributors such as Cardinal Health and Amerisource Bergen, as well as arrests of physicians and pharmacists. In some areas of the country, there are complaints of narcotic shortages as distributors restrict shipments. This pushes drug seekers to other states and areas where enforcement is not as aggressive.

Changing Prescription Patterns — Where states have increased penalties against prescribing physicians and pharmacists for filling prescriptions when they “should have known better,” some physicians have decreased or stopped writing scripts for certain narcotics and some pharmacists have pulled them from the shelves. As chronic pain treatment guidelines are implemented and physician education on drug diversion and addiction increases, we can expect tighter controls on the management of prescription narcotics.

Treatment For Abuse And Addiction — A reality in the war against prescription narcotic diversion is that the demand exists and that the long term solution requires treatment programs that take time, cost money and are much more difficult to manage than writing and filling prescriptions. Until these programs become more available and acceptable, drug seekers will continue to find ways to obtain narcotics, including committing crimes against pharmacies.

Key Findings Presented In This Report
This report covers a 5-year analysis of burglaries and robberies occurring to Pharmacists Mutual customers.

These claims impact our bottom line. Data collected comes from claims department data as well as interviews with each customer victim by our claims department over the past two years. In many cases (where requested by the customer or due to the nature of the loss), follow-up investigation is also conducted by risk management. Information obtained has been used to educate customers, underwriters and field representatives about how the crimes are committed and preventive measures that can be employed to minimize the extent of loss.

What we've learned:

  • Frequency of pharmacy crimes (81% of PMC crimes are break-ins vs. armed robberies) has been relatively flat over the past 5 years compared to policy count. While we've seen an 18% increase in crimes over the past 5 years, policy count has grown by 21%. RxPatrol, the only other national pharmacy crime database, has seen a slight decrease over the past 2 years, however, 60% of RxPatrol reports are for armed robberies, primarily to national chains, and much of this decrease may have been as a result in aggressive measures to address the robbery problem in chain stores such as Walgreens and CVS.
  • Total incurred and average costs have increased steadily over the past 5 years.
  • Almost 70% of the crimes we see are under $5,000. 50% of costs come from the 9% of claims that are in excess of $25,000.
  • In 52% of cases, criminals enter through the front door or front window. One indication is that video surveillance, while at times helpful in identifying perpetrators, does not deter crime. Some of the most expensive burglaries have been those where criminals entered through the roof. Examination of these and side wall entries indicates the approach targets areas of the pharmacy that may not be adequately protected by alarm systems, or to circumvent motion detectors.
  • In 1/3 of cases, police respond within 5 minutes. When they do, arrests result in 21% of cases. Unfortunately, most crimes take less than 2 minutes. Bottom line, if they can get in, chances are they will be successful and will get away. In areas of the country where police response times exceed 30 minutes (rural and municipalities with budget constraints), pharmacies are effectively unprotected.
  • Most state boards of pharmacy require alarms, but situations remain where alarms are not present, are not functional or are ineffective. In many cases, maintenance and testing are non-existent, and there are suspicions that alarm codes may have been compromised.
  • If a criminal wants to try and burglarize or rob a pharmacy, the pharmacy will likely incur property damage. However, the size of the loss can vary from a few hundred dollars to tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars depending on control measures that are in place.

    What really makes a difference in keeping loss costs low?

    • A well-designed, tested and reliable alarm system. Alarm codes need to be protected and police response needs to be adequate.
    • Protecting doors and windows to slow down or eliminate the possibility of entry. If the crooks cannot gain entrance within a few minutes, they will usually leave.
    • Installing a safe. The overwhelming majority of criminals are in and out in less than 2 minutes. Locking target drugs in a sound, well-secured safe can make a significant difference in the size of the loss.
    • Having a plan and training employees on what to do if a robbery occurs. This can mean the difference between life and death.

What We've Done At Pharmacists Mutual And What We Will Be Doing In 2013

  • Over the past two years, we have met with over 15 pharmacy associations and buying groups, have published numerous white papers and articles in our semi-annual publication “Pharmacists Mutual Risk Management” and have spoken with hundreds of customers who have experienced pharmacy crime first hand.
  • We have identified vendors of security products based on our loss experience. Where possible, we have arranged discounts for PMC customers who use these services.
  • In the fourth quarter of 2012, we provided training to underwriters about pharmacy trends and tools to assist them in evaluating protection levels at pharmacies and to address specific deficiencies.
  • For 2013, we will be implementing a pharmacy security evaluation matrix. The matrix, based on probability and loss severity data, will be used to assist pharmacies in assessing risk and in underwriting evaluation.
  • We plan to continue publication and education efforts.

Pharmacy Crime Frequency

Number of Pharmacy Commercial Policies

National Data

Pharmacy Crime Total Incurred Claims Cost

Pharmacy Crime Average Incurred Claim Cost

Frequency by Size of Incurred Loss

Robbery vs. Burglary

Method of Entry

Average Cost by Method of Entry

Video Surveillance

Arrest Rates and Video Surveillance

Police Response Times

Arrest Rate by Time of Response

Alarm Notification

Alarm Response Average Cost

Alarms and Sales

Tackling Underwriting Profitability Head On

For many years, insurance companies built their reserves by focusing on investment strategies. The recent financial crisis changed that: insurers became incentivized to shift their focus as yields became more unpredictable than ever. As insurance carriers looked to the future, they know that running a profitable underwriting operation is critical to their long term stability.

Profitable underwriting is easier said than done. Insurers already have highly competent teams of underwriters, so the big question becomes, “How do I make my underwriting operation as efficient and profitable as possible without creating massive disruptions with my current processes?”

There are three core challenges that are standing in the way:

  • Lack of Visibility: First, the approach most companies take to data makes it hard to see what's really going on in the market and within your own portfolio. Although you may be familiar with a specific segment of the market, do you really know how well your portfolio is performing against the industry, or how volume and profit tradeoffs are impacting your overall performance? Without the combination of the right data, risk models, and tools, you can’t monitor your portfolio or the market at large, and can't see pockets of pricing inadequacy and redundancy.
  • Current Pricing Approach: You know the agents that underwriters engage with every day want you to give them the right price for the right risk, and it's not easy. In fact, it's nearly impossible. Underwriters are often asked to make decisions based on limited industry data and a limited set of risk characteristics that may or may not be properly weighted. As an underwriter reviews submission after submission, you need to make decisions such as, “How much weight do I assign to each of these risk characteristics (severity, frequency, historical loss ratio, governing class, premium size, etc.)?” Imagine how hard it is to do the mental math on each policy and fully understand how the importance of the class code relates to the importance of the historical loss ratio or any other of the most important variables.
  • Inertia: When executives talk about how to solve these challenges around visibility and pricing, most admit they're concerned about how to overcome corporate inertia and institutional bias. The last thing you want to do is lead a large change initiative and end up alienating your agents, your analysts, and your underwriters. What if you could discover pockets of pricing inadequacy and redundancy currently unknown to you? What if you could free your underwriters to do what they do best? And what if you could start in the way that makes the most sense for your organization?

There's a strong and growing desire to take advantage of new sources of information and modern tools to help underwriters make risk selection and pricing decisions. The implementation of predictive analytics, in particular, is becoming a necessity for carriers to succeed in today's marketplace. According to a recent study by analyst firm Strategy Meets Action, over one-third of insurers are currently investing in predictive analytics and models to mitigate against the problems in the market and equip their underwriters with the necessary predictive tools to ensure accuracy and consistency in pricing and risk selection. Dowling & Partners recently published an in-depth study on predictive analytics and said, “Use of predictive modeling is still in many cases a competitive advantage for insurers that use it, but it is beginning to be a disadvantage for those that don't.” Predictive analytics uses statistical and analytical techniques to develop models that enable accurate predictions about future event outcomes. With the use of predictive analytics, underwriters gain visibility into their portfolio and a deeper understanding of their portfolio's risk quality. Plus, underwriters will get valuable context so they understand what is driving an individual predictive score.

Another crucial capability of predictive modeling is the mining of an abundance of data to identify trends, patterns and relationships. By allowing this technology to synthesize massive amounts of data into actionable information, underwriters can focus on what they do best: they can look at the management or safety program of an insured, anything they think is valuable. This is the artisan piece of underwriting. This is that critical human element that computers will never replace. As soon as executives see how seamless it can be for predictive analytics to be integrated into the underwriting process, the issue of overcoming corporate inertia is oftentimes solved.

Just as insurance leaders are exploring new methods to ensure profitability, underwriters are eager to adopt the analytical advancements that will solve the tough problems carriers are facing today. Expecting underwriters to take on today's challenges using yesterday's tools and yesterday's approach to pricing is no longer sustainable. Predictive analytics offers a better and faster method for underwriters to control their portfolio's performance, effectively managing risk and producing better results for an entire organization.

Outlook For The Private Directors & Officers Marketplace

Private Directors and Officers Liability (D&O) policies are generally combined policies including D&O and Employment Practices Liability (EPL). Although they are typically marketed as Directors & Officers policies, and there are definitely D&O claims, claims frequently come from the Employment Practices Liability side of the form. Private Directors & Officers carriers find it challenging to cope with the high frequency of Employment Practices Liability claims that come with this line of business.

The premiums associated with these policies have been creeping up over the past few years, and now is an appropriate time to investigate and report on the causes. Rather than give you generalities that claims are frequent, here is some of the data that supports what the insurers are telling us.

2012 EEOC Complaints
Top Five States Total Complaints Percent Change Since 2010 2010 Total Complaints Total Population 2010*
Texas 8,929 -4.1% 9,310 25.1 million
Florida 7,940 2.1% 7,779 18.8 million
California 7,399 3.3% 7,161 37.3 million
Georgia 5,903 2.3% 5,771 9.7 million
Illinois 5,490 3.8% 5,288 12.8 million
Year Total Total Complaints – All 50 States
2012 99,412
2011 99,947
2010 99,992
2009 93,277
2008 95,402

* The population totals are included to show that the highest volume of claims generally come from the largest states.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) isn't the only regulatory body bringing employment actions against employers — state agencies like the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) are filing cases as well. In its 2010 annual report, the California DFEH notes that they filed between 17,500 and 20,000 cases each year between 2007 and 2010 (2011 and 2012 numbers are not yet available). The department also estimates that the average post-accusation case settled for more than $40,000.

Let's put this into perspective. The Betterley Report: Employment Practices Liability Insurance Market Survey 2012 (December 2012) estimates the total Employment Practices Liability market at around $1.6 billion in premium. Just for discussion purposes, let's assume that the Department of Fair Employment and Housing estimate is applied to all claims. At $1.6 billion in total premiums collected, the insurance marketplace could handle 40,000 claims and break even (40,000 claims X $40,000 average settlements = $1.6 billion). Considering we know there are more than two times that many EEOC complaints, plus tens of thousands of other state agency claims, we know that the volume of insured claims exceeds 40,000 per year.

Since we know that there are more than 40,000 claims a year, the second half of the debate is what these claims cost. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing has their estimate for out of court settlements at over $40,000. Jury Verdict Research, a publication that puts out jury trial settlement trend data, indicated in its 2011 report titled, “Employment Practices Liability: Jury Award Trends and Statistics,” that the average awards range from $600,000 for discrimination claims to as much as $790,000 for wrongful termination claims. Their median award range is from $200,000 to $260,000 based upon their research. This data implies that the average claims are going to be far greater than $40,000 to settle on a nationwide basis. These reports only show us awards, which do not include the defense costs paid to get to the award stage.

If we take this one step further and assume that the average claim will cost approximately $120,000 — though the Jury Verdict data tells us it's higher — then the amount of claims the insurers could handle in a year, and possibly break even, is more like 13,333 claims per year ($1.6 billion total annual premium divided by $120,000). If we factor in underwriting expenses and other transactional costs, then even less money is available for defense costs and settlements.

So, what's the bottom line? The insurers have been struggling to make a profit on this line of business for many years. While competition for market share has continually lowered the premiums they could charge and still write business, we've gotten to a crossroads and blown right through the stop sign. The pricing has been creeping up over the past three to four years, and we are still far from a corrected market. The dilemma for insurers has been how to adjust their pricing and terms in a way that still provides a valuable policy for insureds. The responses have varied from insurers pulling out of a specific region (like southern California), gradual elevation of retentions, increasing premiums, reducing limits available and declining risks with specific employee count ranges.

Bertrand Spunberg, Senior Vice President, Hiscox USA: “We have strived to maintain 'sustainable underwriting' since we opened up in 2009, even when the market was still very soft. That discipline is now starting to pay off as other insurers are adjusting their rates and retentions up to a point that's more comparable to what we have been all along. We are seeing some insurers revising their appetites or pulling out of jurisdictions and segments altogether. Other carriers are taking a portfolio view of the business, making them more prone to declining rather than underwriting around account-specific exposures. This creates an environment that is increasingly difficult to navigate for both insureds and brokers. EPL claims have been leading the way, but we are also seeing D&O claims arising from financial issues, such as bankruptcy. In response to that, we have seen insurers indicate that they would be looking to limit or even remove entity coverage.”

Mr. Spunberg's comments should serve as a warning to all brokers. While pricing and retention changes are typically obvious changes to renewal terms, you need to pay extra attention to any other changes in coverage terms. On some policy forms, the inclusion of entity coverage may only be signified by an “X” in a box on a declarations page or quote letter. It could be easy to miss the removal of this subtle notation. Also watch out for changes in endorsement numbers and titles. You may find an insurer substituting an endorsement with the same title as previous years but adding a new clause that removes or restricts coverage from what you've come to expect.

Steven Dyson, Executive Vice President, ERisk Services, LLC: “We track a lot of data on our insureds and claim performance. Rather than penalize all insureds in every state, we have evaluated where our claims are coming from and adjusted our rates in a targeted fashion. Difficult venues like southern California, Illinois, southern Florida and metro New York, are getting more rate adjustments than less litigious parts of the country. We drill down to the county level when evaluating the performance of our book and adjust accordingly.”

As brokers, we appreciate ERisk's targeted approach. As insurance professionals, it can be a difficult message to give to insureds that an underwriter is penalizing them for the poor performance of another risk, or that the underwriters may have misunderstood the risks of the businesses they underwrite.

No insured likes to see their premiums rising. It helps when underwriters are doing their best to stabilize the marketplace and articulate the logic behind rate changes.

Joseph Casey, President, ACE Westchester: “At Westchester, we have seen a significant increase in the number of Private Company D&O submissions, apparently based in part by some markets reacting to an increase in Employment Practice Liability claims. The increase in EPL litigation and the corresponding rise in defense costs require, more than ever, greater underwriting discipline. However, the right carrier, with an expertise in EPL and a flexible approach, has the ability to look at the type of company, the jurisdictions in play and other factors unique to the insured, and provide suitable coverage.”

Our wholesale-dedicated markets like ACE Westchester and ERisk are less prone to some of the broad brush underwriting approaches taken by many of the standard markets. The wholesale markets are always looking for a way to differentiate and uncover risks that are neglected or underserved by the standard markets. When the retail-focused markets head out the door, our markets are usually running in; that appears to be what we are currently experiencing. We've had a sustained period of underpricing in the private D&O/EPL area as insurers compete for market share. With the loss frequency where it is and expenses rising, it is indeed time to reevaluate. While the wholesale markets are noticeably more competitive in a challenging market, they also do a great job when things are going smoothly.