Analytics

Betting on the Weather

Parametric weather products offer event organizers improved protection of revenues in an increasingly unpredictable climate.
By: | September 14, 2016 • 5 min read

Apart from an attendee dying, rain is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to a festival,” said Christian Phillips, contingency underwriter at Beazley. “An angry few hours from Mother Nature can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, dampening profits even for sold-out festivals and negatively affecting on-the-ground consumer spending.”

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Christian Phillips, contingency underwriter, Beazley

Yet according the insurance industry, many event and hospitality companies continue to find themselves inadequately covered against losses that could arise from adverse weather, or are unaware of the insurance coverage options available to them.

“A protection gap exists on weather coverage for events companies,” said Tanguy Touffut, global head of parametric solutions at AXA, who believes those buying coverage are in the minority.

“However, increasing weather anomalies as a consequence of climate change, as well as the emergence of innovative insurance solutions such as parametric insurance, are fueling increased demand for such covers from events companies.”

Typically, event organizers must choose between event cancellation coverage — a broad policy that compensates the insured if their event is cancelled for a multitude of reasons beyond their control — or a parametric weather policy that pays an agreed sum if a certain weather trigger is hit, for example, half an inch of rain over four hours.

While the weather policy won’t cover against the wide range of perils the cancellation policy would (such as fire, terrorism or road blockages), it does cover against the lost income from attendees leaving a weather-affected event early. But that kind of loss wouldn’t be covered under a cancellation policy because the event must be cancelled to trigger a payout.

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“This presents companies with a tough choice. They usually don’t have the budget for both policies, and weather can be a little more expensive as it is a stated value policy.

“If the client picks the wrong coverage and loses money, they will be upset,” said Marlene Benoit, promotions and events leader for broker Lockton.

Beazley has gone some way to bridge the gap with a new product that is a hybrid of both types of coverage. As well as offering broad cancellation cover, the product also establishes a weather trigger on which it will pay a fixed sum to compensate for lost revenue.

Benoit said she believed other insurers may soon introduce similar products.

“When the industry comes up with something unique in the marketplace, others will follow, particularly when it is well-received and there is demand.”

Number Crunching

Weather observation techniques and data gathering has improved markedly in recent decades, and insurers now have a data bank of at least 30 years of high-quality data as a base for their underwriting.

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Tanguy Touffut, global head of parametric solutions, AXA

“Additionally, the capacity to process these data has improved tremendously, which gives us very sophisticated indexes that better reflect the clients’ risk,” said Touffut.

However, gaps in coverage remain.

“We allow the insured to choose a threshold amount of rain at the front end of the policy. However, we can’t cover every eventuality,” said Phillips.

“If they insure against half an inch of rain but it rains 0.49 inches and people still leave their event, there will be a gap in cover.”

“Due to budgeting, companies may choose a threshold that is too high, and when they have a weather claim, it doesn’t hit the trigger mark, so they end up paying for a policy that doesn’t pay out,” said Benoit.

Consumer Data

Indeed, while improved climate data makes weather parametrics relatively reliable, attendee spending behavior is harder to predict.

“We try to bring our knowledge of what we’ve seen in the past to give guidance, but it is still subjective,” admitted Phillips.

If more than one-third of an inch of rain falls, some attendees will normally leave an event, Phillips said, particularly if the rain falls persistently over several hours rather than in a short, sharp downpour. Clients typically stand to lose around 20 percent of their projected revenues from weather-related departures, though this figure could vary depending on the nature of the crowd, he added.

Combining weather data with Big Data on consumer spending habits to model the effect weather has on behavior at events seems an obvious next step to enhance the insurance offering.

Insureds can improve their chances of securing appropriate coverage by delving deep into their own revenue histories. “We ask the client for historical cancellation and revenue data over the longest period possible,” said Touffut.

Combining weather data with Big Data on consumer spending habits to model the effect weather has on behavior at events seems an obvious next step to enhance the insurance offering. However, James Ingham, head of renewables at risk analytics specialist Sciemus, said that in an age when “data is king,” it may be hard to get data providers to collaborate.

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“It can be done, but you would need a large provider like Google Public, for example, to host data covering multiple events across multiple demographics and geographies over a number of years in order to give event organizers full confidence in the inferences. You would also need a secure neutral environment to encourage Big Data providers from other areas such as credit card providers to also collaborate,” he said.

Touffut added that as the quality and amount of data and Big Data processing methods continue to improve, “indexes will become more precise and the models used to design parametric insurance products will even more accurately reflect the clients’ risk.”

“Furthermore, as parametric insurance fixes most of the ‘pain points’ of traditional insurance, both from the claims view and from the purchasing view, we expect this type of insurance to greatly propagate and eventually cannibalize some forms of traditional insurance,” he said.

But as Phillips pointed out, it is often only after an events company suffers a damaging loss that they will consider seeking cover. “Someone may have run an event for 30 years and never had a problem, but weather is changing. Companies can’t afford to rest on past weather patterns.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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