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Customization and Flexible Structures Fuel Growth of Parametric Coverages

Your exposure to non-physical damage business interruption may be more significant than you think.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 6 min read

Damages wrought by the natural catastrophes of 2017 were a wake-up call for companies of every industry. No business should assume it is safe.

Of particular concern is the risk of non-physical damage business interruption, where a facility sustains minimal damage itself, but suffers a lapse in normal operations due to devastation to their immediate area. Loss of infrastructure and loss of attraction can keep customers at bay for significant lengths of time.

Traditional business interruption policies, however, only kick in when the insured entity sustains physical damage. No damage means no coverage.

That’s why companies with significant exposure to non-physical damage business interruption have begun to utilize parametric insurance to supplement traditional policies.

Robert Nusslein, Head Innovative Risk Solutions Americas, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions

Parametric policies are index-based solutions that trigger a payout as long as an event meets certain severity thresholds, without necessarily requiring the insured asset to sustain physical damage. Thresholds can refer to wind speed, earthquake magnitude, or hurricane category as measured at predetermined locations. If the parameters are met, pre-determined payouts are issued within 30 days; no need for adjusters or a lengthy claims process.

“Once a parametric policy is triggered, the insured simply has to provide a certification of loss that is equal or greater to the payout amount, usually within 12 to 24 months of the event,” said Robert Nusslein, Head Innovative Risk Solutions Americas, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

Over the last decade, uptake of parametric policies has grown exponentially, and the growth is not limited to any one industry. Hospitality, energy, public entities, utilities, and health care organizations have all been buying parametric coverage.

“The common theme across these disparate buyers is that they all have an unmet need,” Nusslein said.

“Many companies have very high deductibles for hurricane and earthquake coverage, from 2 to 5 percent of their total insurable value. This amounts to a very large self-insured risk. They have a need for supplemental limit to cover uninsured or underinsured exposures or to fill in deductibles.”

Recent iterations of parametric solutions that allow for more flexibility and customization are driving increased uptake of these policies as supplements to traditional business interruption coverage.

The Evolution of Parametric Solutions

First-generation parametric products debuted more than 20 years ago. Along with triggers set around event intensity, these polices also stipulated a defined geographic region in which the event must occur, usually a radius centered around the insured location.

“These are what we call ‘CAT-in-the-circle’ solutions,” Nusslein said. “They define a geographic area with a center on the latitude and longitude coordinates encompassing the insured assets. A policy trigger would require that the epicenter of an earthquake or eye of a hurricane be within that area.”

The downside of these policies is that they introduce basis risk — the risk that a sustained loss will exceed insurance recovery.

“Let’s say a policy has a payout triggered by a 6.5-magnitude earthquake with an epicenter within a 40-mile radius of the insured location. If a quake occurs within that region but is only a 6.2 in magnitude, or if it is 7.0 in magnitude but the epicenter is 41 miles away from the insured facility, there’s no cover,” Nusslein said. “The insured will likely still have damage but will recoup nothing from that policy. That’s basis risk.”

The second generation of parametric policies eliminates this gap by doing away with defined geographic regions as triggers.

“The coverages evolved to designate certain severity thresholds at specific locations, rather than within a radius. So it would not matter where the epicenter of the quake is as long as the shake intensity meets a certain level at your facility,” he said. “This is much more flexible and nimble and reduces basis risk.”

The third generation of parametric structures allows even more flexibility by creating “either/or” triggers — a design driven by the convergence of multiple factors of wind, rain and storm surge that make hurricanes so damaging.

“What made Hurricane Harvey so devastating was that in addition to being a wind event, it also created storm surge that pushed a lot of water up where the eye made landfall, which was then compounded by several feet of rainfall,” Nusslein said.

That drove exploration into the possibility of having custom triggers for each one of those factors, so even if wind speeds didn’t meet the designated threshold, a significant storm surge could still trigger the policy.

“Each evolution of parametric coverages has been driven by companies needing a way to better protect themselves from natural catastrophes. As brokers and buyers have become more sophisticated and aware of their exposure, they’ve asked for more customized solutions to meet their needs,” Nusslein said.

Skills and Strength to Address Unmet Needs

While the most common parametric covers address natural catastrophes like earthquakes and hurricanes, there is considerable interest in adapting the policies to respond to non-cat weather events like flooding, fire, snowfall, hail and temperature fluctuations.

Some solutions go beyond weather to focus on industry-specific triggers, like drops in occupancy rates or revenue per available room for hotels, decreased passenger seat miles flown for airlines, or reduced container traffic through a port resulting in tax revenue loss.

“Swiss Re Corporate Solutions is already developing products in these areas,” Nusslein said. “We listen to our broker partners and our clients to really hear what they need, and we have the intellectual curiosity to keep innovating to meet those needs.”

Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ involvement in parametric structures goes back to their inception roughly 25 years ago, and it has remained dedicated to the space ever since, building a deep bench of atmospheric specialists, seismic specialists, geologists and data scientists.

“Our NAT CAT perils team and our ability to develop our own models around hurricane and seismic activity is second to none,” Nusslein said.

But with speed of payment a primary benefit of parametric insurance, understanding NAT CAT exposure is only half of the equation. Getting funds into the hands of policyholders quickly is where insurers really deliver value. The one-two-three punch of Harvey, Irma and Maria last year would test the mettle of any top-tier carrier.

“It was all-hands-on-deck here to make sure we could deliver on time. We had a number of claims on parametric policies, and we met the 30-day deadline for every one of them. Some payments were delivered in as few as 13 days,” Nusslein said.

“It was a testament not only to the expertise and commitment of our people, but to the strength of Swiss Re’s balance sheet and its reputation for reliability built over our 150 years in the industry.”

To learn more about Swiss Re Corporate Solutions’ parametric solutions, visit https://corporatesolutions.swissre.com/innovative_risk/parametric/.

Insurance products underwritten by Westport Insurance Corporation, Overland Park, Kansas, a member of Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. This article is intended to be used for general informational purposes only and is not to be relied upon or used for any particular purpose.  Swiss Re shall not be held responsible in any way for, and specifically disclaims any liability arising out of or in any way connected to, reliance on or use of any of the information contained or referenced in this article.  The information contained or referenced in this article is not intended to constitute and should not be considered legal, accounting or professional advice, nor shall it serve as a substitute for the recipient obtaining such advice.

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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 Swiss Re Corporate Solutions. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Swiss Re Corporate Solutions offers innovative, high-quality insurance capacity to mid-sized and large multinational corporations and public entities across the globe.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Resilience

No, Seriously. You Need a Comprehensive Cyber Incident Response Plan Before It’s Too Late.

Awareness of cyber risk is increasing, but some companies may be neglecting to prepare adequate response plans that could save them millions. 
By: | June 1, 2018 • 7 min read

To minimize the financial and reputational damage from a cyber attack, it is absolutely critical that businesses have a cyber incident response plan.

“Sadly, not all yet do,” said David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy.

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In the event of a breach, a company must be able to quickly identify and contain the problem, assess the level of impact, communicate internally and externally, recover where possible any lost data or functionality needed to resume business operations and act quickly to manage potential reputational risk.

This can only be achieved with help from the right external experts and the design and practice of a well-honed internal response.

The first step a company must take, said Legassick, is to understand its cyber exposures through asset identification, classification, risk assessment and protection measures, both technological and human.

According to Raf Sanchez, international breach response manager, Beazley, cyber-response plans should be flexible and applicable to a wide range of incidents, “not just a list of consecutive steps.”

They also should bring together key stakeholders and specify end goals.

Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

With bad actors becoming increasingly sophisticated and often acting in groups, attack vectors can hit companies from multiple angles simultaneously, meaning a holistic approach is essential, agreed Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions.

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.”

This means assembling a response team including individuals from IT, legal, operations, risk management, HR, finance and the board — each of whom must be well drilled in their responsibilities in the event of a breach.

“You can’t pick your players on the day of the game,” said Hogg. “Response times are critical, so speed and timing are of the essence. You should also have a very clear communication plan to keep the CEO and board of directors informed of recommended courses of action and timing expectations.”

People on the incident response team must have sufficient technical skills and access to critical third parties to be able to make decisions and move to contain incidents fast. Knowledge of the company’s data and network topology is also key, said Legassick.

“Perhaps most important of all,” he added, “is to capture in detail how, when, where and why an incident occurred so there is a feedback loop that ensures each threat makes the cyber defense stronger.”

Cyber insurance can play a key role by providing a range of experts such as forensic analysts to help manage a cyber breach quickly and effectively (as well as PR and legal help). However, the learning process should begin before a breach occurs.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Any incident response plan is only as strong as the practice that goes into it,” explained Mike Peters, vice president, IT, RIMS — who also conducts stress testing through his firm Sentinel Cyber Defense Advisors.

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Unless companies have an ethical hacker or certified information security officer on board who can conduct sophisticated simulated attacks, Peters recommended they hire third-party experts to test their networks for weaknesses, remediate these issues and retest again for vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched or have newly appeared.

“You need to plan for every type of threat that’s out there,” he added.

Hogg agreed that bringing third parties in to conduct tests brings “fresh thinking, best practice and cross-pollination of learnings from testing plans across a multitude of industries and enterprises.”

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.” — Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

Legassick added that companies should test their plans at least annually, updating procedures whenever there is a significant change in business activity, technology or location.

“As companies expand, cyber security is not always front of mind, but new operations and territories all expose a company to new risks.”

For smaller companies that might not have the resources or the expertise to develop an internal cyber response plan from whole cloth, some carriers offer their own cyber risk resources online.

Evan Fenaroli, an underwriting product manager with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), said his company hosts an eRiskHub, which gives PHLY clients a place to start looking for cyber event response answers.

That includes access to a pool of attorneys who can guide company executives in creating a plan.

“It’s something at the highest level that needs to be a priority,” Fenaroli said. For those just getting started, Fenaroli provided a checklist for consideration:

  • Purchase cyber insurance, read the policy and understand its notice requirements.
  • Work with an attorney to develop a cyber event response plan that you can customize to your business.
  • Identify stakeholders within the company who will own the plan and its execution.
  • Find outside forensics experts that the company can call in an emergency.
  • Identify a public relations expert who can be called in the case of an event that could be leaked to the press or otherwise become newsworthy.

“When all of these things fall into place, the outcome is far better in that there isn’t a panic,” said Fenaroli, who, like others, recommends the plan be tested at least annually.

Cyber’s Physical Threat

With the digital and physical worlds converging due to the rise of the Internet of Things, Hogg reminded companies: “You can’t just test in the virtual world — testing physical end-point security is critical too.”

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How that testing is communicated to underwriters should also be a key focus, said Rich DePiero, head of cyber, North America, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

Don’t just report on what went well; it’s far more believable for an underwriter to hear what didn’t go well, he said.

“If I hear a client say it is perfect and then I look at some of the results of the responses to breaches last year, there is a disconnect. Help us understand what you learned and what you worked out. You want things to fail during these incident response tests, because that is how we learn,” he explained.

“Bringing in these outside firms, detailing what they learned and defining roles and responsibilities in the event of an incident is really the best practice, and we are seeing more and more companies do that.”

Support from the Board

Good cyber protection is built around a combination of process, technology, learning and people. While not every cyber incident needs to be reported to the boardroom, senior management has a key role in creating a culture of planning and risk awareness.

David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy

“Cyber is a boardroom risk. If it is not taken seriously at boardroom level, you are more than likely to suffer a network breach,” Legassick said.

However, getting board buy-in or buy-in from the C-suite is not always easy.

“C-suite executives often put off testing crisis plans as they get in the way of the day job. The irony here is obvious given how disruptive an incident can be,” said Sanchez.

“The C-suite must demonstrate its support for incident response planning and that it expects staff at all levels of the organization to play their part in recovering from serious incidents.”

“What these people need from the board is support,” said Jill Salmon, New York-based vice president, head of cyber/tech/MPL, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“I don’t know that the information security folks are looking for direction from the board as much as they are looking for support from a resources standpoint and a visibility standpoint.

“They’ve got to be aware of what they need and they need to have the money to be able to build it up to that level,” she said.

Without that support, according to Legassick, failure to empower and encourage the IT team to manage cyber threats holistically through integration with the rest of the organization, particularly risk managers, becomes a common mistake.

He also warned that “blame culture” can prevent staff from escalating problems to management in a timely manner.

Collaboration and Communication

Given that cyber incident response truly is a team effort, it is therefore essential that a culture of collaboration, preparation and practice is embedded from the top down.

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One of the biggest tripping points for companies — and an area that has done the most damage from a reputational perspective — is in how quickly and effectively the company communicates to the public in the aftermath of a cyber event.

Salmon said of all the cyber incident response plans she has seen, the companies that have impressed her most are those that have written mock press releases and rehearsed how they are going to respond to the media in the aftermath of an event.

“We have seen so many companies trip up in that regard,” she said. “There have been examples of companies taking too long and then not explaining why it took them so long. It’s like any other crisis — the way that you are communicating it to the public is really important.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]