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 may be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Liability

Fresh Worries for Boards of Directors

New cyber security regulations increase exposure for directors and officers at financial institutions.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 6 min read

Boards of directors could face a fresh wave of directors and officers (D&O) claims following the introduction of tough new cybersecurity rules for financial institutions by The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).

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Prompted by recent high profile cyber attacks on JPMorgan Chase, Sony, Target, and others, the state regulations are the first of their kind and went into effect on March 1.

The new rules require banks, insurers and other financial institutions to establish an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program and adopt a written policy that must be reviewed by the board and approved by a senior officer annually.

The regulation also requires the more than 3,000 financial services firms operating in the state to appoint a chief information security officer to oversee the program, to report possible breaches within 72 hours, and to ensure that third-party vendors meet the new standards.

Companies will have until September 1 to comply with most of the new requirements, and beginning February 15, 2018, they will have to submit an annual certification of compliance.

The responsibility for cybersecurity will now fall squarely on the board and senior management actively overseeing the entity’s overall program. Some experts fear that the D&O insurance market is far from prepared to absorb this risk.

“The new rules could raise compliance risks for financial institutions and, in turn, premiums and loss potential for D&O insurance underwriters,” warned Fitch Ratings in a statement. “If management and directors of financial institutions that experience future cyber incidents are subsequently found to be noncompliant with the New York regulations, then they will be more exposed to litigation that would be covered under professional liability policies.”

D&O Challenge

Judy Selby, managing director in BDO Consulting’s technology advisory services practice, said that while many directors and officers rely on a CISO to deal with cybersecurity, under the new rules the buck stops with the board.

“The common refrain I hear from directors and officers is ‘we have a great IT guy or CIO,’ and while it’s important to have them in place, as the board, they are ultimately responsible for cybersecurity oversight,” she said.

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting at Argo Pro, said that unknown cyber threats, untested policy language and developing case laws would all make it more difficult for the D&O market to respond accurately to any such new claims.

“Insurers will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure,” he said.

Going forward, said Larry Hamilton, partner at Mayer Brown, D&O underwriters also need to scrutinize a company’s compliance with the regulations.

“To the extent that this risk was not adequately taken into account in the first place in the underwriting of in-force D&O policies, there could be unanticipated additional exposure for the D&O insurers,” he said.

Michelle Lopilato, Hub International’s director of cyber and technology solutions, added that some carriers may offer more coverage, while others may pull back.

“How the markets react will evolve as we see how involved the department becomes in investigating and fining financial institutions for noncompliance and its result on the balance sheet and dividends,” she said.

Christopher Keegan, senior managing director at Beecher Carlson, said that by setting a benchmark, the new rules would make it easier for claimants to make a case that the company had been negligent.

“If stock prices drop, then this makes it easier for class action lawyers to make their cases in D&O situations,” he said. “As a result, D&O carriers may see an uptick in cases against their insureds and an easier path for plaintiffs to show that the company did not meet its duty of care.”

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One area that regulators and plaintiffs might seize upon is the certification compliance requirement, according to Rob Yellen, executive vice president, D&O and fiduciary liability product leader, FINEX at Willis Towers Watson.

“A mere inaccuracy in a certification could result in criminal enforcement, in which case it would then become a boardroom issue,” he said.

A big grey area, however, said Shiraz Saeed, national practice leader for cyber risk at Starr Companies, is determining if a violation is a cyber or management liability issue in the first place.

“The complication arises when a company only has D&O coverage, but it doesn’t have a cyber policy and then they have to try and push all the claims down the D&O route, irrespective of their nature,” he said.

“Insurers, on their part, will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure.” — William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

Jim McCue, managing director at Aon’s financial services group, said many small and mid-size businesses may struggle to comply with the new rules in time.

“It’s going to be a steep learning curve and a lot of work in terms of preparedness and the implementation of a highly detailed cyber security program, risk assessment and response plan, all by September 2017,” he said.

The new regulation also has the potential to impact third parties including accounting, law, IT and even maintenance and repair firms who have access to a company’s information systems and personal data, said Keegan.

“That can include everyone from IT vendors to the people who maintain the building’s air conditioning,” he said.

New Models

Others have followed New York’s lead, with similar regulations being considered across federal, state and non-governmental regulators.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Cyber-security Taskforce has proposed an insurance data security model law that establishes exclusive standards for data security and investigation, and notification of a breach of data security for insurance providers.

Once enacted, each state would be free to adopt the new law, however, “our main concern is if regulators in different states start to adopt different standards from each other,” said Alex Hageli, director, personal lines policy at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

“It would only serve to make compliance harder, increase the cost of burden on companies, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really help anybody.”

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Richard Morris, partner at law firm Herrick, Feinstein LLP, said companies need to review their current cybersecurity program with their chief technology officer or IT provider.

“Companies should assess whether their current technology budget is adequate and consider what investments will be required in 2017 to keep up with regulatory and market expectations,” he said. “They should also review and assess the adequacy of insurance policies with respect to coverages, deductibles and other limitations.”

Adam Hamm, former NAIC chair and MD of Protiviti’s risk and compliance practice, added: “With New York’s new cyber regulation, this is a sea change from where we were a couple of years ago and it’s soon going to become the new norm for regulating cyber security.” &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]