Complicated Claims

Contingency Clouds Business Interruption

As some carriers pull back on business interruption coverage due to compounded exposures, insureds look to minimize risk.
By: | April 28, 2016 • 5 min read

Broadly speaking, capacity across the U.S. for business interruption insurance (BI) is ample, and terms and conditions are far from onerous.

That said, brokers report that the utility sector as well as a few others have experienced unexpected high losses, both in frequency and in value.


A few carriers have reduced their exposure to BI coverage in general, or to specific sectors or sub-segments.

As a result, there have been several situations where insureds were in the uncomfortable position of having to file and pursue a claim or claims, and simultaneously seek new placements after underwriters declined to renew or sought smaller positions in the owners’ programs.

On top of those tactical concerns for owners and their brokers, there are also more strategic shifts taking place in BI and more generally in the property and casualty market, driven by the realization by underwriters that contingent coverage is far less quantified than had long been thought.

Overlooked Supply Chain Risk

The trends of outsourcing, just-in-time delivery, and electronic orders and billing have been highly effective in reducing costs and boosting profitability. But that same evolution leaves even the most stable companies vulnerable to small disruptions in the physical supply chain or the internet.

Michael J. Perron, senior vice president, northeast region and property placement leader, energy and engineered risk group, Willis Towers Watson

Michael J. Perron, senior vice president, northeast region and property placement leader, energy and engineered risk group, Willis Towers Watson

Several of this year’s Power Brokers earned their laurels sorting complex BI claims compounded by short-notice renewals.

Michael J. Perron, senior vice president for the northeast region and property placement leader in the energy and engineered risk group at Willis Towers Watson, has made something of a cottage industry out of slicing through Gordian knots in BI claims.

“In general, BI capacity and coverage are available,” said Perron, a Power Broker® in the Utilities-Alternative category.

“Some carriers have seen losses in the power sector, and a few other places, but generally P&C remains soft. Still, carriers are being especially careful these days on contingent coverage. They are finding they did not realize the full exposures they had. They are finding it difficult to get their arms around all the exposures.”

Part of the problem, Perron suggested, is modeling, especially in the catastrophe market. “For the most part insurers do a good job of monitoring CAT risk. But for the most part those models do not include supply chain.”

Even those that do can cause further complications for insureds. Perron recalled that recently one client wanted to increase its coverage. Based on limits, that should not have been a problem.

“But their carrier, which is one that is particularly good with contingency and with supply chain, also writes for several of their suppliers, so the carrier was concerned about aggregation risk,” he said.

That situation was resolved by going back to the market, but for other clients it hasn’t been that straightforward.

Solving Complicated Claims

In one instance, the owner of a hydropower plant had a failure in one of twin turbines. The second unit continued to operate normally, albeit under more careful watch.

The property insurer decided not to renew because they feared the second unit could suffer the same failure as the first. Only one of the units could be dewatered at any given time, so it was impossible to open the operating unit to inspect until the disabled turbine was back in operation. A real Catch 22.

It is difficult to compile traditional best practices for unique situations.

Several insurers would not write the risk. One offered to write the risk but excluded BI and equipment breakdown (boiler and machinery).

“That approach would render the policy effectively useless against common failures very different than what impacted the disabled turbine,” noted Perron.


Another insurer offered coverage, including BI and equipment breakdown, but with a deductible of $20 million for the turbines until the operating unit was inspected and found to be free of the problems that seemed to have damaged the other.

For a permanent resolution, Perron said he and his group “worked with several insurers to provide coverage that was not perfect, but better than the coverage offered by the first two to bid.

Two carriers offered coverage similar to the client’s expiring coverage with one key exception: They would exclude an event emanating from a failure similar to what had occurred.

Another insurer charged a higher premium, but provided coverage without this limitation.”

In another case, a gas-fired power generator sustained three very different losses: one involving turbine failure, another involving a generator breaker failure, and a third involving a transformer failure.

“In any loss, in any claim, you want to show that you are working to maximize recovery and minimize losses.” — Michael Perron, senior vice president, Willis Towers Watson

“The incumbent carrier recognized that the client had taken appropriate steps to address lessons learned from each of these events, and actually had taken steps to minimize the carrier’s claim payments with savvy negotiations with providers and others,” said Perron.

“Still, the carrier chose to take a reduced line on the renewal.”

It is difficult to compile traditional best practices for unique situations, but Perron does suggest some guidance.

“Together the broker and the client have to convince the underwriters that the owner is managing the situation,” he said.

“Losses happen. That is why you have insurance. It helps for owners to understand that if they have multiple losses, their carrier is going have internal questions from management about the situation and the insurability of this client.”

Risk Mitigation

Just as Perron spoke with underwriters and the carriers’ engineers to understand their take on the loss, he urges owners to do everything they can to help insurers understand that the owner can manage and mitigate the loss.

That may seem counterintuitive; BI by definition is for events out of the owner’s control.

“In any loss, in any claim, you want to show that you are working to maximize recovery and minimize losses,” said Perron.

In one recent situation a client needed a replacement transformer. Rather than order a new one with a longer lead time from the manufacturer of the original equipment, the owner was able to rent a transformer. That enabled them to accelerate the recovery time, and also saved the carrier a million dollars.

That little maneuver also expanded the owner’s supply chain. Ultimately, the insured ordered a new replacement transformer from the rental supplier, rather than from the maker of the initial unit, thus broadening its portfolio of suppliers.


In the end, maximizing recovery and minimizing loss is not just a sound strategy for expediting claims and mitigating for renewal after the claim. It is enlightened self interest.

“Companies often underestimate the tremendous impact that business interruption has,” Perron said. “It is not just the loss of revenue. It can be loss of prestige in the industry. It can be loss of customers.” &

Gregory DL Morris is an independent business journalist based in New York with 25 years’ experience in industry, energy, finance and transportation. 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