Market Forecast

Broker Forecasts Mixed Pricing Bag

Environmental, property and primary auto liability are some lines expected to see hikes.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

Brokerage USI Insurance Services, which made headlines in December by merging with Wells Fargo Insurance, released a market forecast for 2018 that predicts a mixed bag in commercial insurance pricing. Out of 29 lines that the broker analyzed, nine of them could be in line for flat to increased pricing, according to the brokerage.


Lines where insureds can expect significantly higher pricing include commercial construction project risk, which USI said could see premium price hikes of between 5 percent and 10 percent. Primary auto liability, which many predict will be an ongoing pain point, could also see increases between 5 percent and 10 percent.

Other lines expected to see increases are environmental (combined general liability), fiduciary liability, employment practices liability and medical malpractice, according to USI.

But the areas with the highest chance of increases are property and CAT property, which USI pegged at flat to 15 percent and 5 percent to 20 percent, respectively.

“Accounts with hurricane-related exposures and losses will almost undoubtedly face renewal situations with increased pricing, potentially less broad terms, and perhaps less available capacity,” according to the report, which was put together with the help of 17 USI executives.

The biggest question the USI report poses is whether the massive hurricane losses in the third quarter of 2017 will lead to a “regional or localized event versus an industry-wide event as it relates to pricing.”

Doug O’Brien, national casualty and alternative risk practice leader, USI Insurance Services

Owners of truck and auto fleets can still achieve favorable pricing, according to USI, if they deploy telematics to guard against the threats of fatigued and distracted driving.

The brokerage also said establishing longer-term relationships with underwriters should help ward off the price increases many industry players are predicting for this line.

One of the bright spots in the market is workers’ compensation, according to USI’s research. That line is being positively impacted, at least from the insurance buyer’s perspective, by ample capacity and in general, stronger risk mitigation measures being taken by clients.

The use of analytics, as in many other lines, not only holds promise but is also achieving results, according to the USI authors.

“Analytics relative to past and future loss data are becoming an absolute necessity to intelligently negotiate optimal pricing, program design and collateral,” USI detailed in the report.

“Predictive modeling has become a key underwriting tool for pricing and post-loss mitigation.”

Anecdotal evidence is that carriers are displaying a keen interest in international coverage, and that was also reflected in the USI findings.

“We have seen some carriers that historically did not participate on controlled master programs or in the international marketplace enhance their product offerings and aggressively price new business,” USI found.

“This has resulted in rates being reduced by as much as 15 percent at renewal,” the USI authors said.

In addition to workers’ compensation and international programs, lines expected to see continued price erosion include environmental (contractors’ pollution) — down up to 10 percent; public company directors’ and officers’ liability — pegged for a 5 percent to 10 percent decrease; reps and warranties — down 5 percent to 10 percent; and cyber, which despite concerns that many underwriters still don’t adequately understand the risk, could see price decreases in the 5 percent to 10 percent range, according to USI.

One area that drew extended commentary from USI was environmental. Describing the market as significantly mature, the USI writers noted that despite AIG’s announced departure from pollution legal liability coverage in 2016, other carriers were willing to assume the more than $1 billion in expiring AIG premiums.

“We have seen some carriers that historically did not participate on controlled master programs or in the international marketplace enhance their product offerings and aggressively price new business. This has resulted in rates being reduced by as much as 15 percent at renewal.” — USI Insurance Services, 2018 Insurance Market Outlook

The USI authors expect the environmental market to significantly outpace the overall commercial property/casualty market going forward.


They estimate the market as being at more than $2 billion in premiums currently and in line for double-digit growth.

But then they add this caveat:

“If, after 30 years of actuarial data, AIG couldn’t be profitable in this space, what carrier might be next and, more importantly, when will the ‘musical chairs’ stop and rates start to rise?”

Adding to the uncertainty for this line, despite the capacity pouring into it, is the massive hurricane damage of 2017 and the possible environmental damage resulting from it.

“Frequency and severity of environmental claims are expected to continue in 2018,” USI said.

“With significant hurricane and flooding in 2017, toxic release and mold claims are still being adjusted, but these don’t seem to have much bearing on future coverage or rates, except that underwriters will examine more closely those risks with exposure to coastlines or flooding.”

The entire USI report is available online. &

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Focus: Cyber

Expanding Cyber BI

Cyber business interruption insurance is a thriving market, but growth carries the threat of a mega-loss. 
By: | March 5, 2018 • 7 min read

Lingering hopes that large-scale cyber attack might be a once-in-a-lifetime event were dashed last year. The four-day WannaCry ransomware strike in May across 150 countries targeted more than 300,000 computers running Microsoft Windows. A month later, NotPetya hit multinationals ranging from Danish shipping firm Maersk to pharmaceutical giant Merck.


Maersk’s chairman, Jim Hagemann Snabe, revealed at this year’s Davos summit that NotPetya shut down most of the group’s network. While it was replacing 45,000 PCs and 4,000 servers, freight transactions had to be completed manually. The combined cost of business interruption and rebuilding the system was up to $300 million.

Merck’s CFO Robert Davis told investors that its NotPetya bill included $135 million in lost sales plus $175 million in additional costs. Fellow victims FedEx and French construction group Saint Gobain reported similar financial hits from lost business and clean-up costs.

The fast-expanding world of cryptocurrencies is also increasingly targeted. Echoes of the 2014 hack that triggered the collapse of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox emerged this January when Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck pledged to repay customers $500 million stolen by hackers in a cyber heist.

The size and scope of last summer’s attacks accelerated discussions on both sides of the Atlantic, between risk managers and brokers seeking more comprehensive cyber business interruption insurance products.

It also recently persuaded Pool Re, the UK’s terrorism reinsurance pool set up 25 years ago after bomb attacks in London’s financial quarter, to announce that from April its cover will extend to include material damage and direct BI resulting from acts of terrorism using a cyber trigger.

“The threat from a cyber attack is evident, and businesses have become increasingly concerned about the extensive repercussions these types of attacks could have on them,” said Pool Re’s chief, Julian Enoizi. “This was a clear gap in our coverage which left businesses potentially exposed.”

Shifting Focus

Development of cyber BI insurance to date reveals something of a transatlantic divide, said Hans Allnutt, head of cyber and data risk at international law firm DAC Beachcroft. The first U.S. mainstream cyber insurance products were a response to California’s data security and breach notification legislation in 2003.

Jimaan Sané, technology underwriter, Beazley

Of more recent vintage, Europe’s first cyber policies’ wordings initially reflected U.S. wordings, with the focus on data breaches. “So underwriters had to innovate and push hard on other areas of cyber cover, particularly BI and cyber crimes such as ransomware demands and distributed denial of service attacks,” said Allnut.

“Europe now has regulation coming up this May in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation across the EU, so the focus has essentially come full circle.”

Cyber insurance policies also provide a degree of cover for BI resulting from one of three main triggers, said Jimaan Sané, technology underwriter for specialist insurer Beazley. “First is the malicious-type trigger, where the system goes down or an outage results directly from a hack.

“Second is any incident involving negligence — the so-called ‘fat finger’ — where human or operational error causes a loss or there has been failure to upgrade or maintain the system. Third is any broader unplanned outage that hits either the company or anyone on which it relies, such as a service provider.”

The importance of cyber BI covering negligent acts in addition to phishing and social engineering attacks was underlined by last May’s IT meltdown suffered by airline BA.

This was triggered by a technician who switched off and then reconnected the power supply to BA’s data center, physically damaging servers and distribution panels.

Compensating delayed passengers cost the company around $80 million, although the bill fell short of the $461 million operational error loss suffered by Knight Capital in 2012, which pushed it close to bankruptcy and decimated its share price.

Mistaken Assumption

Awareness of potentially huge BI losses resulting from cyber attack was heightened by well-publicized hacks suffered by retailers such as Target and Home Depot in late 2013 and 2014, said Matt Kletzli, SVP and head of management liability at Victor O. Schinnerer & Company.


However, the incidents didn’t initially alarm smaller, less high-profile businesses, which assumed they wouldn’t be similarly targeted.

“But perpetrators employing bots and ransomware set out to expose any firms with weaknesses in their system,” he added.

“Suddenly, smaller firms found that even when they weren’t themselves targeted, many of those around them had fallen victim to attacks. Awareness started to lift, as the focus moved from large, headline-grabbing attacks to more everyday incidents.”

Publications such as the Director’s Handbook of Cyber-Risk Oversight, issued by the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Internet Security Alliance fixed the issue firmly on boardroom agendas.

“What’s possibly of greater concern is the sheer number of different businesses that can be affected by a single cyber attack and the cost of getting them up and running again quickly.” — Jimaan Sané, technology underwriter, Beazley

Reformed ex-hackers were recruited to offer board members their insights into the most vulnerable points across the company’s systems — in much the same way as forger-turned-security-expert Frank Abagnale Jr., subject of the Spielberg biopic “Catch Me If You Can.”

There also has been an increasing focus on systemic risk related to cyber attacks. Allnutt cites “Business Blackout,” a July 2015 study by Lloyd’s of London and the Cambridge University’s Centre for Risk Studies.

This detailed analysis of what could result from a major cyber attack on America’s power grid predicted a cost to the U.S. economy of hundreds of billions and claims to the insurance industry totalling upwards of $21.4 billion.

Lloyd’s described the scenario as both “technologically possible” and “improbable.” Three years on, however, it appears less fanciful.

In January, the head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, said the UK had been fortunate in so far averting a ‘category one’ attack. A C1 would shut down the financial services sector on which the country relies heavily and other vital infrastructure. It was a case of “when, not if” such an assault would be launched, he warned.

AI: Friend or Foe?

Despite daunting potential financial losses, pioneers of cyber BI insurance such as Beazley, Zurich, AIG and Chubb now see new competitors in the market. Capacity is growing steadily, said Allnutt.

“Not only is cyber insurance a new product, it also offers a new source of premium revenue so there is considerable appetite for taking it on,” he added. “However, whilst most insurers are comfortable with the liability aspects of cyber risk; not all insurers are covering loss of income.”

Matt Kletzli, SVP and head of management liability, Victor O. Schinnerer & Company

Kletzli added that available products include several well-written, broad cyber coverages that take into account all types of potential cyber attack and don’t attempt to limit cover by applying a narrow definition of BI loss.

“It’s a rapidly-evolving coverage — and needs to be — in order to keep up with changing circumstances,” he said.

The good news, according to a Fitch report, is that the cyber loss ratio has been reduced to 45 percent as more companies buy cover and the market continues to expand, bringing down the size of the average loss.

“The bad news is that at cyber events, talk is regularly turning to ‘what will be the Hurricane Katrina-type event’ for the cyber market?” said Kletzli.

“What’s worse is that with hurricane losses, underwriters know which regions are most at risk, whereas cyber is a global risk and insurers potentially face huge aggregation.”


Nor is the advent of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) necessarily cause for optimism. As Allnutt noted, while AI can potentially be used to decode malware, by the same token sophisticated criminals can employ it to develop new malware and escalate the ‘computer versus computer’ battle.

“The trend towards greater automation of business means that we can expect more incidents involving loss of income,” said Sané. “What’s possibly of greater concern is the sheer number of different businesses that can be affected by a single cyber attack and the cost of getting them up and running again quickly.

“We’re likely to see a growing number of attacks where the aim is to cause disruption, rather than demand a ransom.

“The paradox of cyber BI is that the more sophisticated your organization and the more it embraces automation, the bigger the potential impact when an outage does occur. Those old-fashioned businesses still reliant on traditional processes generally aren’t affected as much and incur smaller losses.” &

Graham Buck is editor of He can be reached at