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May 14, 2019

Where Were the Risk Managers for King’s Landing?

Summary:

As Daenerys Targaryen unleashed her dragon on the defenseless King’s Landing in the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones” on Sunday, millions of viewers wondered: Why didn’t the writers prepare us more for her turn to the dark side? How did the city’s artillery go from hitting everything a week earlier to hitting nothing this week? And, if there was budget for such extensive special effects showing the destruction of the city, then why couldn’t Jon Snow have hugged his CGI-generated direwolf goodbye the week before? (Maybe that was just my question.)

Those of us in the insurance industry had even tougher questions: Why didn’t the risk managers prepare the city better for an attack? Couldn’t dragon-resistant building codes have been imposed? Are there enough adjusters in all of Westeros to handle all the claims?

Right?

Let’s imagine two scenarios, one traditional and one cutting-edge, that consider how King’s Landing might recover. (If either gets picked up as one of the inevitable prequels or sequels to GoT, I hereby lay claim to a share of the royalties. I can see it now: “A Song of Fire and Fire Insurance.”)

We all know the traditional scenario, which we see after hurricanes and wildfires. An army of adjusters descends on the city. They start handing out partial checks and plowing through debris and the details of the policies. An insurer or two is undercapitalized—Lannister Re surely didn’t survive this attack, despite its slogan: “Lannister always pays its debts.” Loads of people are underinsured, and that’s even before the massive competition begins for the materials and skilled workers needed to rebuild. The lawyers get involved, and people learn that being covered for fire doesn’t mean they’re covered for ALL fire—dragon fire is a special case, after all—or for the damage caused when fire makes someone else’s building collapse on them or their homes. Pretty soon, billboards go up advertising for personal injury lawyers: “If You Suffered Emotional Distress in the Dragon Attack, Call Qyburn & Qyburn at 123-456-7890.”

The city eventually recovers, but it takes forever; there is a ton of wasted effort and money; and many customers feel ill-used.

Now let’s imagine a more, well, magical scenario. George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished the books yet, so I’ll claim literary license. 

In this scenario, King’s Landing insurers saw themselves as in the services business, not in the payment-for-damages business. They helped businesses and citizens prepare for the dragon attack, whose possibility had been building for years. So, many buildings had been hardened and survived reasonably intact. (The episode just didn’t show those.) Insurers drew on the new possibilities from insurtechs, especially Bran Stark Analytics (the predecessor of Stark Industries and Tony Stark, aka Iron Man). Based on its Three-Eyed Raven platform, Stark Analytics used AI (aerial intelligence) to warn clients right before the attack and get them to safe areas. (Again, the episode somehow missed these people.) After the attack, the insurtech dispatched flocks of crows (controlled via warging) to survey the damage, quickly started paying claims and helped clients soon get back on their feet. 

There was still plenty of dislocation—dragon attacks will do that—but the focus on prevention and the use of cutting-edge technology meant that the city quickly recovered and thrived under the long reign of….

Cheers,

Paul Carroll

Editor-in-Chief

P.S. Spare a thought for the 3,500-plus girls who over the course of the show have been named some version of Daenerys or Khaleesi. Named after a symbol of female strength, the girls and their parents are now finding that Daenerys has become an unhinged mass murderer.

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About the Author

Paul Carroll is the editor-in-chief of Insurance Thought Leadership. He is also co-author of Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn From the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years and the author of a best-seller on IBM, published in 1993. Carroll spent 17 years at the Wall Street Journal as an editor and reporter; he was nominated twice for the Pulitzer Prize. He later was a finalist for a National Magazine Award.

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