2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Artificial Intelligence Ties Liability in Knots

The same technologies that are driving business forward are upending the nature of loss exposures and presenting new coverage challenges.
By: | April 7, 2017 • 7 min read

Despite dire predictions of an “Automation Apocalypse,” it turns out that automation has only obliterated one job in the last 60 years. (Sorry, elevator operators.) However, the steady encroachment into the workplace of automation, robotics and cutting edge technologies is all too real. Robots aren’t just making cars and widgets and filling warehouse orders. They’re harvesting crops, flipping burgers, making pizza and folding laundry — just for starters.

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For businesses, the potential boons are obvious: reduced labor and operational costs, reduced turnover and fewer injuries from repetitive tasks, increased overall safety, production speed and quality. Some economists project that current trends will eventually lead to lower prices and increased demand.

Unfortunately all of that silver lining isn’t without its dark clouds. The potential risks are evolving just as fast as the technology itself, and both insurers and insureds will be hard-pressed to keep up. Questions of liability and coverage and product response are becoming increasingly murky.

Yesterday’s loss scenarios were more or less straightforward. If a truck fails to brake and the resulting crash causes a loss, where does the liability lie? The operator? The truck manufacturer? The brake manufacturer? There might be disputes over fault, but at least the possibilities were limited.

Now you have the same crash in an autonomous truck and the questions can make your head spin.  Was the circuitry at fault? A chip? Was there a fault in the programming? Was there a connectivity issue? Was it hacked? Did the machine choose not to apply the brakes because of a specific set of circumstances presented?

Having a confluence of factors contributing to losses is not anything new in the insurance industry said Gail McGiffin, principal in the EY insurance practice and leader of underwriting, product, policy and billing solutions. What is new “is the breadth of everything that technology touches these days,” she said. The result being that you’re no longer talking about the combination of one or two technologies, it may be more like five technologies or more contributing to the complexity of an exposure.

John Lucker, principal and global advanced analytics market leader, Deloitte & Touche

“You have to think about some of these emerging technologies — that combination of artificial intelligence with machine learning, with semantic web, with predictive models — all being in operation,” she said.

“Dissecting the exposures introduced by individual technologies is challenging enough but understanding the compounded effect of this multitude of technologies and how it’s contributing to exposure and product response — that is the next major challenge area that we’re facing in the industry.”

If a piece of equipment has embedded intelligence, “whether it’s analytics, whether it’s robotic process automation, whatever the case may be — there’s a shift of liability that’s tacit and implicit inside of the underlying product or service,” agreed John Lucker, principal and global advanced analytics market leader with Deloitte & Touche.

What’s unclear at the moment said Greg Hendrick, president of property & casualty insurance and reinsurance at XL Catlin, “is how it’s all going to come together when you actually have something unfortunate happen — who’s going to pay what? That’s the interesting thing about this emerging risk: What normally was perceived as a usual course of action for liability could shift as you see more and more technology, more and more autonomy, enter your vehicles and your manufacturing process.”

Divvying Up Liability

For all parties connected to a loss, the challenge will be not only trying to sleuth out the root cause, but then teasing out an answer to the question of whose policy, and which line will respond to the loss.

“From the insurance side of this, I think the biggest risk is that they just don’t know what the risks are.”   — John Lucker, principal, global advanced analytics market leader, Deloitte & Touche

Let’s say a programming error created a serious security flaw in one piece of software operating a fleet of autonomous industrial vehicles or machines. A hacker exploited the flaw and caused the entire fleet to unexpectedly halt, rendering every unit permanently inoperable.

Multiple crashes arose from the unexpected stalls as well as significant business interruption losses. The manufacturer took a stiff reputational hit for its inability to make good on contracts for days or weeks while trying to get back up and running. How can the company expect their program to respond?

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The company’s property policy might not exclude coverage for physical damage and business interruption caused by a cyber attack. But then again, it just might.

On the other hand, its cyber policy might only cover the loss of data in the event of an attack, but not property damage. Would the equipment manufacturer’s product liability policy respond? The software developer’s errors and omissions policy might respond, but maybe not, if the damage was caused by the attacker rather than by the programming error directly.

With each loss scenario composed of its own unique set of variables, questions about where liability rests are likely to result in a lot of finger-pointing between stakeholders.

“If there’s a part that goes bad and it’s just a one-off, then maybe we have a product liability issue,” said Lucker.

“If there are a couple hundred [pieces of equipment affected], maybe it’s a product recall liability issue. It could be errors and omissions — the engineer could have made a mistake, the programmer could have made an error. It could be directors and officers liability — this could have been an issue that was discussed in the boardroom and the board didn’t react appropriately so these other liabilities could flow upwards to the boardroom.

“We’ve shifted something that used to be fairly simple — who’s at fault and who’s going to pay for it — to a complex suite of problems and products that makes either personal or commercial risk management much more complicated,” he added.

In one sense, it’s not that different from a simple failure of a mechanical part, said John Denton, managing director at Marsh USA. The manufacturer of a defective part or the manufacturer of equipment incorporating that defective part have historically been assigned liability for any accidents arising out of that defect.

“In the same way, the developer of the software or the manufacturer of the part that incorporates that software has that same liability from the software defect that the manufacturer of the part previously had,” he said.

The key difference in many cases, he said, may be that the software company or the manufacturer of the part using the software may not have experience with any significant third-party liability, and may not have a program that is designed to respond to that liability.

Claim Development Needed

“From the insurance side of this, I think the biggest risk is that they just don’t know what the risks are,” said Lucker.

Insurers are definitely asking questions, said Denton. But “time will tell whether they’re asking the right questions.”

The brunt of the challenge will necessarily fall to underwriters, who are going to have to become even more technologically savvy than ever before, said McGiffin.

Greg Hendrick, president of property & casualty insurance and reinsurance, XL Catlin

“This is about understanding technology in the world at large, and understanding it as a function of each of the industry segments you might be writing, and each one of the accounts, to be able to identify the proportion of risk introduced by these different elements — to be able to assess the risk, evaluate the mitigation that’s in place, and then make decisions and price the exposure … it’s just taking it to a whole new level of sophistication.”

Claim development is another key piece of the puzzle, she said.

“As we have more and more claim activity, claim adjudication, claim litigation, and we understand how the confluence of technologies and the modern work environment play out through claims, we learn how those losses are settled and the contribution of each technology — as well as the combination of technologies — to the root cause of loss.

“You can’t substitute the years of claim history that still have to happen.”

Even though underwriters will try to manage the exposures with existing policy forms and language, that claim development will be necessary to guide new products, said Hendrick.

“Quite often your best intentions of what you meant to spell out and what you did spell out end up being interpreted differently by a court of law,” he said.

Insurers, said Lucker, will have to “redraft and recraft” policies to create more clarity about the risks they’re taking on.

“Challenge yourself to constantly keep in tune with how your company’s risk profile is changing based on this technology revolution.”    — Greg Hendrick, president of property & casualty insurance and reinsurance, XL Catlin.

As that claims history develops, paths to subrogation may become less clear for insurers, said experts. Difficulties tracing through the supply chain to understand the role of each player will make it more challenging first to sort out which policy is the primary, but then to understand the litigation path to recover from other parties who share blame for the loss.

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“In the end, the primary insurance policy, whatever it is … regulators are going to hold that insurer responsible for doing the right thing for the insured — getting a check cut or getting something fixed or making sure that somebody’s medical bills are paid,” said Lucker.

“The consumer has to be made whole in a fair way. How that gets sorted out behind the scenes among all of the various parties — that becomes the insurance companies’ problem or the insurance ecosystem’s problem.”

For their part, regulators, at some point, “are going to have to start thinking more about this tangled web of potential liability and all of this contractual finger-pointing and subrogation, and how the industry is going to sort this all out,” said Lucker.

“It’s going to produce a whole lot of litigation so this is a kind of permanent employment plan for the legal profession and it’s not going to be simple to sort out.”

Risk Managers Must Keep Pace

It’s unclear whether everyone along the chain of those who make and produce autonomous, robotic or intelligent equipment is up to speed on the shifting exposures, said Hendrick. But risk managers employing these technologies are definitely thinking about how this risk is evolving and how it could impact their organizations, he said.

“Whether it’s their commercial fleet of cars or commercial fleet of trucks, their warehouse equipment, their manufacturing equipment, their retail or office buildings … with more and more interconnectivity, they’re definitely starting to think about,  ‘OK where does liability sit, how does it arise, and who’s going to be responsible?’ ”

“There really isn’t an industry out there that’s not exposed to additional risks already as a result of this technology,” said Marsh’s Denton.

“So everybody — whether industrial users, drivers, auto or refrigerator manufacturers — everybody’s got to grapple with this new technology and that potential increase in exposures and risks and how their insurance program will respond to that.”

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That’s why no business can afford to simply renew their insurance program without due diligence, he added. “You can’t just renew your program with the same limits and the same type of coverage. As technology changes … the nature of the risk may increase or decrease or the size of the risk will change. You need to constantly evaluate your program to see if it responds to the potential magnitude of the exposure.”

Risk managers must be continually asking, “Are the products that I’ve historically bought the right ones to buy to protect the risks that I have now?” said Hendrick.

Companies will need to keep assessing their own programs as well as their suppliers’ programs to ensure they have the right amount of coverage in the new technology enabled world, he said.

The goal is to stay ahead of each wave of change and keep adapting, he added.

“Challenge yourself to constantly keep in tune with how your company’s risk profile is changing based on this technology revolution,” he said. &

________________________________________________________________

2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

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.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She 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]