2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

We focus on the risk mitigation and coverage challenges of climate change, economic nationalism, cyber business interruption and artificial intelligence.
By: | April 7, 2017 • 4 min read

Every year since 2011, Risk & Insurance® editors and writers have set about determining the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks for a package that runs in our April issue. As we’ve monitored which risks have the potential to cause the most damage, one thing is becoming apparent: Most Dangerous Emerging Risks seem to be emerging at a faster and faster rate.

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Just last year, we wrote about the risk that a populace that self-selects information sources, relying mostly on unsubstantiated sources on the internet, could come to erroneous conclusions, with dangerous consequences.

We called that story “Fragmented Voice of Authority.”

Fearful proof of that premise came to life in December when a gunman shot up a pizza parlor in Washington, D.C., after reading bogus information on the internet that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was running a child sex ring there.  Fortunately, no one was injured in that incident.

Now it looks like fake news stories emanating from Russia could have played an interfering role in our Presidential election.

Another focus of last year’s issue was our crumbling infrastructure. That topic received terrifying confirmation when heavy rainfalls pushed California’s aged Oroville Dam to the bursting point. Should the dam break, billions in real estate losses as well as potential loss of life would result.

That April 2016 story, titled “Crumbling Infrastructure: Day of Reckoning,” warned that we now face the consequences for too long foregoing spending on important infrastructure upgrades.

We’ve seen that Most Dangerous Emerging Risks can take years to develop and emerge. But in both of these cases, they emerged in a matter of months.

The process of determining the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks begins in January, when we start placing calls to insurance carriers, risk modelers and brokers.

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We ask executives with those companies to engage us in an off-the-record conversation about which risks concern them the most. A defining characteristic of a Most Dangerous Emerging Risk is that it has the potential to cause widespread losses, but might not be on the radar of many risk managers.

Once we pick the brains of industry executives, we compile a list of the risks that look like they could qualify as Most Dangerous Emerging Risks. The editors then meet to determine which of those risks we should focus on for the April issue. It’s at that stage that we go back to our original sources, and if we picked one of their stories, ask them for an on-the-record interview on the topic.

This year, after distilling our conversations with our sources, we came up with five emerging risks that could cause massive losses for commercial insureds and carriers.

The risk that sea rise could wreck coastal real estate values is one. Economic nationalism, both domestically and globally, are two and three.

The layered risk presented by the use of artificial intelligence in manufacturing and other processes is our fourth most dangerous emerging risk this year, and the threat that hackers could take down the internet and cause massive cyber business interruption is number five.

Experts say that trillions in property values could literally be underwater due to sea rise in the next mortgage cycle, or the next 30 years, according to a story by editor-in-chief Dan Reynolds.

Hopes are that public and private sector stakeholders can pull together to devote the thought and the resources necessary to create the infrastructure necessary to protect our ports, our office buildings and our homes from sea rise.

China is doing it and we should too.

The risk that many find most concerning is the fear that a hack could take down the internet.  Business interruption for that kind of event would be so widespread that insurers just can’t cover it.

Check out managing editor Anne Freedman’s story on that risk.

Protectionism is on the rise in this country. Politicians that want to firm up our borders represent a threat to supply chains and the free flow of commerce.

The U.S. tech industry, in particular, fears a talent shortage should the new administration’s efforts to limit immigration become law. Associate editor Katie Siegel’s piece details that risk and others that stem from domestic protectionism.

The fear for multinational companies, according to a story by staff writer Juliann Walsh, is that global business uncertainty will increase unduly; prompted by events such as Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and Venezuela’s decision to close its borders with Brazil.

Associate editor Michelle Kerr’s piece looks at the tangle of liability questions created by artificial intelligence.

Our award-winning Most Dangerous Emerging Risks coverage is, of course, intended not to scare people but to advance the thought leadership and dialogue we need to mitigate risk and ensure a more resilient, sustainable economy.

On that point, we can all agree. &

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2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Artificial Intelligence Ties Liability in Knots

The same technologies that drive business forward are upending the nature of loss exposures and presenting new coverage challenges.

 

 

Cyber Business Interruption

Attacks on internet infrastructure begin, leaving unknown risks for insureds and insurers alike.

 

 

U.S. Economic Nationalism

Nationalistic policies aim to boost American wealth and prosperity, but they may do long-term economic damage.

 

 

Foreign Economic Nationalism

Economic nationalism is upsetting the risk management landscape by presenting challenges in once stable environments.

 

 

Coastal Mortgage Value Collapse

As climate change drives rising seas, so arises the risk that buyers will become leery of taking on mortgages along our coasts.  Trillions in mortgage values are at stake unless the public and the private sector move quickly.

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

R&I Profile

Achieving Balance

XL Catlin’s Denise Balan stays calm and focused when faced with crisis.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 6 min read

In the high-stress scenario of kidnap or ransom, the first image that comes to mind isn’t necessarily a yoga mat — at least, not for most.

But Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin, who practices yoga every day, would swear by it.

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“I looked at these opposing aspects of my life,” she said. “Yoga is about focus, balance, clarity of intent. In a moment of stress, how do you respond? The more clarity and calmness you maintain, the better positioned you are to provide assistance in moments of crisis.

“Nobody wants to be speaking to a frenetic person when either dealing with a dangerous situation or planning for prevention of a situation,” she added.

“There’s a poem by [Rudyard] Kipling on that,” added Balan’s colleague Ben Tucker. “What it boils down to is: If you can remain calm, you can manage through a crisis a lot better.”

Tucker, who works side by side with Balan as head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, XL Catlin, has seen how yoga influences his colleague.

“The way Denise interacts with stakeholders in this process — she is very professional and calm in the approach she takes.”

Yin and Yang

Sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected. In Balan’s life, yoga and K&R have become her yin and yang.

She entered the insurance world after earning a juris doctor degree and practicing law for a few years. The switch came, she said, when Balan realized she wasn’t enjoying her time as a commercial litigator.

Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

In her new role, she was able to use her legal background to manage litigation at AIG, where her transition from law to insurance took place. She started her insurance career in the environmental sector.

In a chance meeting in 2007, Balan met with crisis management underwriters who told her about kidnap and ransom products.

She was hooked.

Because of her background in yoga, Balan liked the crisis management side of the job. Being able to bring the calmness and clearness of intent she practiced during yoga into assisting clients in planning for crisis management piqued her interest.

She then joined XL Catlin in July 2013, where she built the K&R team.

As she became more immersed in her field, Balan began to notice something: The principles she learned in yoga were the same principles ex-military and ex-law enforcement practiced when called to a K&R-related crisis.

She said, “They have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.”

“K&R responders have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Many understand yoga to be, in itself, one type of meditation, but yoga actually encompasses a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Each is a discipline. Some forms of yoga focus on movement and breathing, others focus on posture and technique. Some yoga is meant to relax the mind and create a sense of calmness; other yoga types make participants sweat.

After having her second child and working full-time, Balan wanted to find something physical and relaxing for herself; a friend suggested yoga. During her first lesson, Balan said she was enamored with it.

“I felt like I’d done it all my life.”

She dove into the philosophy of yoga, adopting the practice into her daily routine. Every morning, whether Balan is in her Long Island home or on a business trip, she pulls out her yoga mat to practice.

“I always travel with my mat,” she said. “Daily practice is the simplest form of connection to routine to maintain my balance — physically and mentally.”

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She said the strangest place she has ever practiced was in Lisbon. She was on a very narrow balcony with a bird feeder swarming with sparrows overhead.

After years of studying and practicing, Balan is considered a yogi — someone who is highly proficient in yoga. She attends annual retreats with her yoga group, where she is able to rejuvenate, ready to tackle any K&R event when she returns.

In 2016, Balan visited Tuscany, Italy, where she learned the practice of yoga nidra, a very deep form of meditation. It’s described as the “going-to-sleep stage” — a type of yoga that brings participants to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.

“It awakens a different part of your brain,” Balan commented. “Orally describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. One has to practice Nidra to fully understand the effect it has on your being.”

Keeping a level head during a crisis is key in their line of business, Tucker said. He can attest to the benefit of having a yogi on board.

“I’ve seen her run table-top exercises where there is this group of people in a room and they run an exercise, a simulation of a kidnap incident. Denise is very committed to what we’re doing,” said Tucker.

“She brings that energy. She doesn’t get flustered by much.”

Building a K&R Program

When Balan joined XL Catlin, she was tasked with creating the K&R team.

Balan during a retreat in Sicily, Italy, 2017

She spent time researching and analyzing what clients would want in their K&R coverage. What stuck out most to Balan was the fact that, in these situations, the decision to purchase kidnap and ransom cover is rarely made because of desire for reimbursement of money.

“I asked why people buy this type of coverage. The answer was for the security responders,” she said.

“These are the people who sit with the family. They’re similar to psychologists or priests,” Balan further explained. “Corporations can afford to pay ransom. They buy [K&R] because it gives them access to these trained and dedicated professionals who not only provide negotiation advice, but actually sit with a victim’s family, engaging deep levels of emotional investment.”

“I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Balan described these responders as people having total clarity of purpose, setting their intentions to resolve a crisis — a practice at the very heart of yoga. She knew XL Catlin’s new kidnap program would put stock in their responders.

“I’ve worked closely with the responders to better understand what they can do for our clientele. These are the people who run into danger — warrior hearts married to dedication to our clients’ best interests.”

But K&R is more than fast-paced crisis and quick thinking; Balan also spent a good deal of time writing the K&R form and getting the company’s resources in order. This was a huge task to tackle when creating the program from the ground up.

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“A lot of my day-to-day is speaking with brokers and finding ways to enhance our product,” she said.

After a few months, she was able to hire the company’s first K&R underwriter. From there, the program has grown. It’s left her feeling professionally rewarded.

“People don’t often get that opportunity to build something up from scratch,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience — rewarding and fun.”

“She brings groups of people together,” said Tucker. “She’s created a positive environment.”

Balan’s yogi nature extends beyond the office walls, too. Her pride and joy, she said, are her kids. And while it may seem like two large parts of her life are opposite in nature, Balan’s achieved balance through her passions.

“[Yoga] has given me the ability to see beyond only one aspect of any situation” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” &

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]