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Risk Insider: Jonathan Hall

Building Resilience From Top to Bottom  

By: | November 25, 2014 • 3 min read
Jonathan W. Hall is chief operating officer at FM Global. He oversees FM Global’s insurance operations and insurance staff functions, as well as the FM Global Resilience Index, a data driven resource that ranks the business resilience of 130 countries and regions. He can be reached at [email protected]

Access to accurate and timely information is essential to crafting a world-class supply chain risk management program, where tightly integrated networks are dependent on a myriad of factors for their smooth operation. And while a supplier’s ability to withstand natural hazards and fire is vital, it is equally important to understand the economic climate in each supplier’s country of origin.

Many supply chains are far-flung enterprises often involving dozens of countries and sometimes hundreds of organizations, each producing different components that come together in a finished product.

If a second-tier supplier is responsible for a significant proportion of a particular manufactured item and is exposed to a country’s looming political upheaval, the risk cannot be ignored. Likewise, when a company’s supply chain is scattered across the world, it may confront other perils including currency fluctuations, inconvertibility and credit availability — to name a few. Vital capital investment and resource allocation decisions may need to be made, including shifting production to a supplier somewhere else in the world.

And while many companies understand the risk factors that can cause disruptions at their top tier suppliers, they may be less cognizant of economic factors within a country that can affect suppliers’ suppliers. As the first tier outsources production to organizations in China, Thailand, India, Hungary, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and other developing economies, they may unknowingly create risk for themselves and their own customers, unaware of brewing economic threats.

It’s not surprising that many supply chains unravel in the aftermath of economic and political upheaval — somehow a third-tier supplier’s vulnerability was overlooked, causing production to decrease if not come to a halt. Bottom line: True supply chain resilience depends on the risk quality of each supplier in the network, each of them potentially exposed to a hornet’s nest of risk inherent to the countries where they are based.

Unfortunately, many organizations fail to scrutinize through an economic lens how resilient countries are to supply chain disruption. Without the ability to make more informed decisions, these organizations are flying somewhat blindly, their supply chains a network of weak links.

As the first tier outsources production to organizations in China, Thailand, India, Hungary, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and other developing economies, they may unknowingly create risk for themselves and their own customers, unaware of brewing economic threats.

Smart supply chain risk management considers more than just the possibility of threats like floods and earthquakes or a factory fire. Taking the pulse of risk such as vulnerability to government instability, a whipsawing economy, unexpected regulatory impediments, energy supplies, or the availability of credit requires the monitoring and mapping of such conditions in each supplier’s country of origin. This is not a one and done affair, as the world of business is fast-paced and in constant flux.

How can organizations ferret out key economic information and apply it to their supply chains? The answers lie in microeconomic and macroeconomic data sets which, when properly leveraged, can be considered from the top to the bottom tiers of a supply chain. The result when thoughtfully applied? Resilience. A supply chain strengthened by statistical insights and informed risk management decisions is a dynamic one that is able to adapt and take advantage of a changing world.

Black Swans

Black Swans: Yes, It Can Happen Here

In this year's Black Swan coverage, we focus on two events: An Atlantic mega-tsunami which would wipe out the East Coast and a killer global pandemic.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 2 min read

One of the most difficult phrases to digest without becoming frustrated or judgmental is the oft-repeated, “I never thought that could happen here.”

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Most painfully, we hear it time and time again in the aftermath of the mass school shootings that terrorize this country. Shocked parents and neighbors, viewing the carnage, voice that they can’t believe this happened in their neighborhood.

Not to be mean, but why couldn’t it happen in your neighborhood?

So it is with Black Swans, a phrase describing unforeseen events, made famous by the former trader and acerbic critic of academia Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

We at Risk & Insurance® define these events in insurance terms by saying that they are highly infrequent, yet could cause massive damages. This year, for our annual Black Swan issue, we present two very different scenarios, both of which would leave mass devastation in their wake.

A Mega-Tsunami Is Coming; Can the East Coast Even Prepare?, written by staff writer Autumn Heisler, profiles an Atlantic mega-tsunami, which would wipe out lives and commerce along the East Coast.

On the topic of whether the volcanic island of La Palma, the most northwestern of the Canary Islands, could erupt, split and trigger an Atlantic mega-tsunami, scientists are divided.

Researchers Steven Ward, a geophysicist at UC Santa Cruz, and Simon Day of University College London, say such a thing could happen. Other scientists say Day and Ward are dead wrong; it’s an impossibility.

One of the counter-arguments is backed up by the statement that there has never been an Atlantic mega-tsunami. It’s never happened before and thus, could never happen here. See exhibit “A” above, re: mass school shootings.

Viral Fear: How a Global Pandemic Kills an Economy, written by associate editor Katie Dwyer, depicts a killer global pandemic the likes of which hasn’t been seen in a century.

Tens of millions of people died during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918.

Why it could happen again includes the fact that it’s happened before. The science on influenzas, which are constantly mutating, also supports just how dangerous a threat they pose to millions of people beyond the reach of antibiotics.

Should a mutating avian flu, for example, spread widely, we could see a 10 percent drop in GDP, mostly from non-physical business interruption.

As always here, the purpose is to do exactly what insurance modelers and underwriters do; no matter how massive the event, we create scenarios, quantify possible losses and discuss risk mitigation strategies. &

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