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Brokers Beware: Cyber Risk 2.0

As businesses grow more dependent on technology to carry out all of their core functions, cyber risk becomes an operational risk.
By: | May 10, 2017 • 6 min read

Two traditional aspects of cyber risk are privacy risk and network security.

In essence, privacy risk is as follows: Companies responsible for storing customers’ personally identifiable information may be held liable if the information is stolen or exposed. Insurers and risk management vendors have solutions to deal with privacy risk, and many risk managers understand the value of having incident response plans in the event of a breach.

But the consequences of a network security failure stretch beyond data privacy, with sometimes severe impact on operations.

“This is what makes cyber risk so dynamic. People always associate cyber with data, but new risks are emerging presented by the Internet of Things and the interconnectedness of multiple technology systems,” said Shiraz Saeed, National Practice Leader, Cyber Risk, Starr Companies. “These present unforeseen consequences in terms of the type of damage done, and raise questions over which insurance coverages apply.”

Brokers have to be knowledgeable about the full scope of cyber risk – including these emerging exposures – and be able to explain it holistically to educate insureds.

“Mature” Cyber Risks

Shiraz Saeed, National Practice Leader, Cyber Risk

Most carriers committed to cyber risk are familiar with non-physical cyber exposures, like protection of sensitive data. In fact, privacy and data security can now be considered “mature” cyber risks because the industry has experience dealing with the aftermath of a breach or hack, including notification procedures, forensic investigation, credit monitoring, legal advice and public relations damage control.

Expenses related to these reactive measures are normally covered under traditional cyber policies.

“The reputable and committed carriers in this space can respond to a network security failure, whether it’s proven or reasonably suspected, depending on the type of coverage an insured has purchased. The failure could be a malicious hack, or an accidental breach,” said Saeed.

So regardless of whether a company fell victim to a malicious denial-of-service attack, or if an employee simply misplaced their corporate cellphone, a cyber policy will likely cover the non-physical damages related to the data loss. The coverage may also include determining how systems were compromised and even any business income loss that results.

But there are consequences to compromised security beyond the loss of data or private information.

“The common reaction when you hear ‘cyber risk’ is to automatically associate it with privacy and network security. But what happens when there is no privacy issue and only network security? What other risks are introduced by a failure of your system security?” Saeed said.

Cyber 2.0: Physical Threats

As businesses grow more dependent on technology to carry out all of their core functions – and as these systems grow more interconnected through the ever-expanding Internet of Things – cyber risk becomes an operational risk.

“Technology is integrated into everything,” Saeed said. “Manufacturers, energy providers, transportation companies – you would be hard-pressed to find an industry that does not rely on computer systems to do business.”

Physical damage from cyber events is a growing concern that the insurance industry is trying to wrap its arms around because it can trigger multiple property/casualty policies, and the root cause of the event may not be easily discernable.

Consider the following hypothetical scenario: There is a high rise building with a computer-operated elevator system. What would happen if there is a network security failure, and the elevator free-falls several stories, killing two people? As a result of this hypothetical occurrence, there is $5 million in property damage to the building plus another $5 million in wrongful death lawsuits.

It may take weeks of investigation to determine that a network security failure was the triggering event. In the meantime, the property owner and elevator manufacturer may turn to property, general liability, and product liability policies to recoup their losses.

“An ‘accident’ or ‘occurrence’ is normally the trigger for a general liability or property policy. In the elevator example, the elevator collapse is the accident or occurrence, but the cause was a network security failure. How then will an insurance program respond? The insurance industry needs to move in the direction of determining if a network security failure should qualify as the cause of the accident or occurrence, in mainstream property and casualty insurance programs.” Saeed said.

Autonomous vehicles offer another example. If a self-driving car gets involved in an accident, it should be determined whether the crash was caused by a malfunction or hack of the car’s software.

“Will a commercial auto policy cover it, or cyber? How would a product liability policy respond to a malfunction versus an intentional hack? What if there is bodily injury in addition to property damage?” Saeed said.

“The question is – who do you represent, the car manufacturer or the insurance company or the software developer? What are you trying to protect or recoup in terms of losses and what is the primary cause of those losses physical or non-physical damage? These are questions that the insurance industry needs to gain clarity around.”

Coverage Challenges

Determining where cyber policies intersect with other property and casualty coverages is an important challenge for the insurance industry, including both for brokers and carriers.

“Brokers have to go back to the basics and analyze the root causes of incidents to determine what coverage applies. Delete cyber from your mind and think about the event in a different context. What was the accident or occurrence? What caused it? And what are we trying to recover?” he said.

Allocating coverage will come down to the exclusions and specific language of cyber and other property and casualty policies. Cyber policies may specifically exclude physical damage resulting from a hack or malfunction; but a property policy may not exclude a network failure as a triggering event.

Examining policy language can help brokers and insureds identify the gaps and overlaps.

“One challenge is that network security failures – and especially physical damages from network security failures – have a limited loss history, so they can’t be modeled or predicted effectively,” Saeed said. “That makes it harder for the property and casualty world to gain a firm understanding of the breadth of cyber risk.”

As loss history develops, the industry will get better at defining when a loss – whether physical or non-physical – is considered a cyber event, which policies respond, and how those coverages interact and overlap with each other. In the near future, more property and casualty policies will likely evolve to cover physical damages from cyber incidents.

“In the meantime, Starr is working on cyber solutions to address the intersection of different risks from a holistic perspective. We anticipate providing a broad based solution in the near future,” Saeed said.

Starr recently developed a new primary cyber program called Cyber Risk Response. This coverage addresses the various non-physical damages from network security failures and privacy incidents. Further, under certain circumstances, the coverage can also extend to the physical damage exposure on a contingent basis.

This should provide organizations a temporary solution for now, while the industry works to streamline cyber risk transfer across property and casualty going forward.

For more information on Starr Companies’ cyber products and services, visit http://www.starrcompanies.com/insurance/cyberoverview.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Starr Companies. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Starr Companies is a global commercial insurance and financial services organization that provides innovative risk management solutions.

Lead Story

Improving the Claims Experience

Insureds and carriers agree that more communication can address common claims complaints.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 7 min read

Carriers today often argue that buying their insurance product is about much more than financial indemnity and peace of mind.

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Many insurers include a variety of risk management services and resources in their packages to position themselves as true risk partners who help clients build resiliency and prevent losses in the first place.

That’s all well and good. No company wants to experience a loss, after all. But even with the added value of all those services, the core purpose of insurance is to reimburse loss, and policyholders pay premiums because they expect delivery on that promise.

At the end of the day, nothing else matters if your insurer can’t or won’t pay your claim, and the quality of the claims experience is ultimately the barometer by which insureds will judge their insurer.

Why, then, is the process not smoother? Insureds want more transparency and faster claims payment, but claims examiners are often overburdened and disconnected from the original policy. Where does the disconnect come from, and how can it be bridged?

Both sides of the insurer-insured equation may be responsible.

Susan Hiteshew, senior manager of global insurance and risk management, Under Armor Inc.

“One of the difficult things in our industry is that oftentimes insureds don’t call their insurer until they have a claim,” said Susan Hiteshew, senior manager of global insurance and risk management for Under Armour Inc.

“It’s important to leverage all of the other value that insurers offer through mid-term touchpoints and open communication. This can help build the insurer-insured partnership so that when a claim materializes, the relationships are already established and the claim can be resolved quickly and fairly.”

“My experience has been that claims executives are often in the background until there is an issue that needs addressing with the policyholder,” said Dan Holden, manager of corporate risk and insurance for Daimler Trucks North America.

“This is unfortunate because the claims department essentially writes the checks and they should certainly be involved in the day to day operations of the policyholders in designing polices that mitigate claims.

“By being in the shadows they often miss the opportunity to strengthen the relationship with policyholders.”

Communication Breakdown

Communication barriers may stem from internal separation between claims and underwriting teams. Prior to signing a contract and throughout a policy cycle, underwriters are often in contact with insureds to keep tabs on any changes in their risk profile and to help connect clients with risk engineering resources. Claims professionals are often left out of the loop, as if they have no proactive role to play in the insured-insurer relationship.

“Claims operates on their side of the house, ready to jump in, assist and manage when the loss occurs, and underwriting operates in their silo assessing the risk story,” Hiteshew said.
“Claims and underwriting need to be in lock-step to collectively provide maximum value to insureds, whether or not losses occur.”

Both insureds and claims professionals agree that most disputes could be solved faster or avoided completely if claims decision-makers interacted with policyholders early and often — not just when a loss occurs.

“Claims and underwriting need to be in lock-step to collectively provide maximum value to insureds, whether or not losses occur.” – Susan Hiteshew, senior manager of global insurance and risk management for Under Armour Inc.

“Communication is critically important and in my opinion, should take place prior to binding business and well before a claim comes in the door,” said David Crowe, senior vice president, claims, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“In my experience, the vast majority of disputes boil down to lack of communication and most disputes ultimately are resolved when the claim decision-maker gets involved directly.”

Talent and Resource Shortage

Another contributing factor to fractured communication could be claims adjuster workload and turnover. Claims adjusting is stressful work to begin with.

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Adjusters normally deal with a high volume of cases, and each case can be emotionally draining. The customer on the other side is, after all, dealing with a loss and struggling to return to business as usual. At some TPAs, adjuster turnover can exceed 25 percent.

“This is a difficult time for claims organizations to find talent who want to be in this business long-term, and claims organizations need to invest in their employees if they’re going to have any success in retaining them,” said Patrick Walsh, executive vice president of York Risk Services Group.

The claims field — like the insurance industry as a whole — is also strained by a talent crunch. There may not be enough qualified candidates to take the place of examiners looking to retire in the next ten years.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the claims industry is a growing shortage of talent,” said Scott Rogers, president, National Accounts, Sedgwick. “This shortage is due to a combination of the number of claims professionals expected to retire in the coming years and an underdeveloped pipeline of talent in our marketplace.

“The lack of investment in ensuring a positive work environment, training, and technology for claims professionals is finally catching up to the industry.”

The pool of adjusters gets stretched even thinner in the aftermath of catastrophes — especially when a string of catastrophes occurs, as they did in the U.S in the third quarter of 2017.

“From an industry perspective, Harvey, Irma and Maria reminded us of the limitations on resources available when multiple catastrophes occur in close succession,” said Crowe.

“From independent and/or CAT adjusters to building consultants, restoration companies and contractors, resources became thin once Irma made landfall.”

Is Tech the Solution?

This is where Insurtech may help things. Automation of some processes could free up time for claims professionals, resulting in faster deployment of adjusters where they’re needed most and, ultimately, speedier claims payment.

“There is some really exciting work being done with artificial intelligence and blockchain technologies that could yield a meaningful ROI to both insureds and insurers,” Hiteshew said.

“The claim set-up process and coverage validation on some claims could be automated, which could allow adjusters to focus their work on more complex losses, expedite claim resolution and payment as well.”

Dan Holden, manager, Corporate Risk & Insurance, Daimler Trucks North America

Predictive modeling and analytics can also help claims examiners prioritize tasks and maximize productivity by flagging high-risk claims.

“We use our data to identify claims with the possibility of exceeding a specified high dollar amount in total incurred costs,” Rogers said. “If the model predicts that a claim will become a large loss, the claim is redirected to our complex claims unit. This allows us to focus appropriate resources that impact key areas like return to work.”

“York has implemented a number of models that are focused on helping the claims professional take action when it’s really required and that will have a positive impact on the claim experience,” Walsh said.

“We’ve implemented centers of excellence where our experts provide additional support and direction so claim professionals aren’t getting deluged with a bunch of predictive model alerts that they don’t understand.”

“Technology can certainly expedite the claims process, but that could also lead to even more cases being heaped on examiners.” — Dan Holden, manager, Corporate Risk & Insurance, Daimler Trucks North America

Many technology platforms focused on claims management include client portals meant to improve the customer experience by facilitating claim submission and communication with examiners.

“With convenient, easy-to-use applications, claimants can send important documents and photos to their claims professionals, thereby accelerating the claims process. They can designate their communication preferences, whether it’s email, text message, etc.,” Sedgwick’s Rogers said. “Additionally, rules can be established that direct workflow and send real time notifications when triggered by specific claim events.”

However, many in the industry don’t expect technology to revolutionize claims management any time soon, and are quick to point out its downsides. Those include even less personal interaction and deteriorating customer service.

While they acknowledge that Insurtech has the potential to simplify and speed up the claims workflow, they emphasize that insurance is a “people business” and the key to improving the claims process lies in better, more proactive communication and strengthening of the insurer-insured relationship.

Additionally, automation is often a double-edged sword in terms of making work easier for the claims examiner.

“Technology can certainly expedite the claims process, but that could also lead to even more cases being heaped on examiners,” Holden said.

“So while the intent is to make things more streamlined for claims staff, the byproduct is that management assumes that examiners can now handle more files. If management carries that assumption too far, you risk diminishing returns and examiner burnout.”

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By further taking real people out of the equation and reducing personal interaction, Holden says technology also contributes to deteriorating customer service.

“When I started more than 30 years ago as a claims examiner, I asked a few of the seasoned examiners what they felt had changed since they began their own careers 30 year earlier. Their answer was unanimous: a decline in customer service,” Holden said.

“It fell to the wayside to be replaced by faster, more impersonal methodologies.”

Insurtech may improve customer satisfaction for simpler claims, allowing policyholders to upload images with the click of a button, automating claim valuation and fast-tracking payment. But for complex claims, where the value of an insurance policy really comes into play, tech may do more harm than good.

“Technology is an important tool and allows for more timely payment and processing of claims, but it is not THE answer,” BHSI’s Crowe said. “Behind all of the technology is people.” &

Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]