2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Foreign Economic Nationalism

Economic nationalism is upsetting the risk management landscape by presenting challenges in once stable environments.
By: | April 7, 2017 • 8 min read

Economic nationalism not only has an impact domestically but presents significant risks for the global economy as well.

Political risk research firm The Eurasia Group cites “independent America” as a top risk for global stability and warns that 2017 will see a “geopolitical recession” that marks “the most volatile political environment in the postwar period, at least as important to global markets as the economic recession of 2008.”

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Add to that the way other nations are turning inward and sealing their own borders in response to stalled economies, a surge in refugees or a shift in the way terror attacks are carried out by individuals, often inspired by social media.

In Europe, Britain voted to withdraw from the European Union, a.k.a. “Brexit.” In South America, Venezuela closed its borders with Brazil and Colombia.

All of this inward focus has the potential to create what the Eurasia Group calls a “G-Zero world” — a world with no global leader.

With no clear political leader, there’s also no unifying voice on security, trade or social values. There’s no coordinated response on climate change, capital flows or the internet.

With no superpower setting the agenda and global uncertainty about rising economic nationalism, the world order could fall into disarray.

“The established norms of the past 50 years quickly eroded,” said Dan Riordan, president of political risk, credit and bond insurance at XL Catlin.

“It didn’t start last week. It started over a period of time but we’re definitely reaching a different dynamic and that’s creating a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

Governments adopting nationalistic economic policies may renege on foreigners’ contracts, leaving businesses to foot the bill or renegotiate deals.

Some countries, such as Venezuela, have already seized property from foreign-owned businesses, namely natural resources such as oil, in the name of “the people.”

Global institutions may lose clout or be victimized by political retaliation.

The ripples of economic nationalism are creating worldwide uncertainty. Along with that comes emerging economic and political risks that may defy traditional forecasts and that may happen at a rapid-fire pace never before faced by risk managers.

“So many of the tools the risk manager is using today are mostly useless because of the complexity we have right now,” said Dante A. Disparte, founder and CEO of Risk Cooperative.

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Disparte attributes the global rise in economic nationalism to several factors. There’s greater global income inequality; a growing dependency on individual commodities for government revenues; too many countries hitching their economic fortunes to China; and oil-producing countries that work outside proscribed multilateral agreements, he said.

“Broadly speaking, multinational corporations find it hard to cope with this kind of rise of economic nationalism,” Disparte said.

Multinational systems, such as the World Bank and World Trade Organization, have been sources of stability in the world. If individual nations shun these global systems to work directly with some countries while leaving others out, there may be a rise of tit-for-tat reprisals, Disparte said.

It could lead to increasing political incidents and international investors being harmed as a way of sending a signal to those policymakers, he said.

Dante A. Disparte, founder and CEO, Risk Cooperative

“Don’t be surprised if the consequences become much more severe,” he said.

Trade embargoes, the expropriation of assets, freezing accounts — these tools that the U.S. and Europe keep in their arsenals when trying to send a signal to another country — can be sent back in a return volley. Companies will be the ones that will pay the most direct price, as will consumers and society, Disparte said.

Political Violence

The paradigm shift from globalization to nationalism is creating a lot of uncertainty, as well as growing concern about currency risk and political violence that can lead to targeting assets in certain countries, Riordan said.

A country looking to send a message to the U.S. might be more likely to target an Exxon oil rig than disrupt sales of Proctor & Gamble shampoo products because of the impact it can have back in the home country.

“Companies trade with each other, countries do not.” Disparte said. “It’s McDonalds, BMW, Boeing; these are the companies that are trading with the world.”

The country is merely the platform where the trade is occurring. In an era of protectionism and trade barriers, and potential risk of expropriation and nationalization of assets, businesses face significant risk, Disparte said.

Those companies with an iconic brand attached to a certain country or nationality can be targeted for political reasons, Riordan said.

“I’m a firm believer myself that trade among countries usually leads to peace,” XL Catlin’s Riordan said.

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“Risk-prone industries really need to carefully weigh their posture and the posture of their home country. They become an extension of the United States or an extension of England, which under this new political era is going to effectively anger a lot more people on the planet.

“I recommend companies start thinking about the concept of corporate activism. Not all these risks can be insured or hedged through traditional means.

“They need to prove to the market and to their customers that they can be trustworthy counterparts. The market will be more lenient to these types of firms.”

One insurer, AIG, revised one of its products to address the growing potential global threats corporations face. Late last year, AIG raised its property terrorism insurance limits globally to $1 billion from $250 million in many larger cities, typically those classified as Tier 1 terrorism risks.

The larger capacity is available to clients on a stand-alone basis or as expanded limits within AIG’s large limits property insurance offering, which provides clients with all-risk coverage limits up to $2.5 billion per occurrence.

“Risk managers need to ask the question, ‘What are we going to do if this area that we are counting on is no longer politically stable for one reason or the other?’ ” said Louis Gritzo, vice president and manager of research at FM Global.

“The big thing is just uncertainty,” Gritzo said, “The level of uncertainty is higher than it’s ever been.”

Hypothesizing about what will happen or why will never get an exact answer. But be prepared, so if you have to pull operations out of one country or find an alternative supplier, you are not starting from ground zero, Gritzo said.

Risk managers may need to ask “what if” questions that probably a few years ago they were not asking, even about some developed countries that may not have been a risk in the recent past.

To begin with, companies need to take basic assessments of their international operations and partners, and political risk insurance products.

When Steven Minsky, CEO of LogicManager, was working on a risk assessment with a client operating in 15 different countries, he noticed the company focused mainly on the countries that contributed the most revenue.

Don’t focus on the risk facing any individual country, Minsky said. Instead, look at what the likely risks are across regions and then focus on how big an impact those aggregated risks can have on your business.

“Some small-dollar countries can cause huge scandals,” Minsky said.

Dan Riordan, president of political risk, credit and bond insurance, XL Catlin

“One giant mistake is to say, ‘I’ll write this country off because they aren’t main revenue drivers.’ That is going to bite the company big time because it’s an unmanaged risk.”

XL Catlin’s Riordan recommends clients assess their local partners overseas, whether it’s a supplier, exporter, importer, investor or joint venture partner.

Business must have a good local partner that is politically and commercially adept, he said.

Assess all joint venture arrangements, whether that’s trading, investing or supplier relationships and what laws protect those agreements. Know the provisions for dispute resolutions, such as arbitration in an international setting, rather than going to a local court where you may not be treated fairly.

Stay up to date on the changing political climate. There’s a lot of information available and much of it is free, said Riordan.

For example, most U.S. embassies around the globe have a Foreign Commercial Service and those tend to be good sources of information on local partners and local business practices.

The Commercial Service mission is to promote the export of goods and services of American companies and develop and protect U.S. business interests abroad.

Also connect with international bankers, accounting firms and insurers to obtain in-depth analysis and risk assessment on each country’s political and socioeconomic risks.

Creating Opportunity

Several risk experts agree that the emerging global uncertainty can also create a lot of opportunity for international corporations with a well-prepared risk management team.

During periods of intense uncertainty, when most of the market is paralyzed, it is an enormous once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leap ahead, Disparte of Risk Cooperative said, “as counterintuitive as it might seem.”

“There’s an opportunity in this uncertainty,” he said. “I think there’s a big chance for organizations to spring forward.”

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Minsky of LogicManager sees a general overreaction to the political climate right now, and he cautions that emotion may blindside people to the real issues.

“You can look at this as a really hot issue right now, or take a step back and say that this is part of the landscape of the international arena,” he said. Enterprise risk management helps take that subjectivity and emotion out of the risk scenario.

“You can still be personally concerned about it, there’s nothing wrong with that. But when you are thinking about it from the company standpoint, there’s still positives in this,” he said.

“Risk management enables companies to react to change and uncertainty faster than competitors, which can push a business forward.

“This is an opportunity to gain new sales and market share,” Minsky said. “That is a massive competitive advantage.”

For risk managers, weathering the changes requires “going back to basics,” Riordan said.

“There will be challenges for companies that relied on international norms of trade and investment, and organizations built to protect them like the World Trade Organization and World Bank.”

He said companies should examine the changing environment from an ERM standpoint to examine how it changes their risk appetites.

Ultimately, he said, “if they regularly are assessing their risks, they can still be successful.”

“It’s a fascinating period,” Riordan said. “It’s not Armageddon, but it is changing.” &

________________________________________________________________

2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Artificial Intelligence Ties Liability in Knots

The same technologies that drive business forward are upending the nature of loss exposures and presenting new coverage challenges.

 

 

Cyber Business Interruption

Attacks on internet infrastructure begin, leaving unknown risks for insureds and insurers alike.

 

 

U.S. Economic Nationalism

Nationalistic policies aim to boost American wealth and prosperity, but they may do long-term economic damage.

 

 

Coastal Mortgage Value Collapse

As climate change drives rising seas, so arises the risk that buyers will become leery of taking on mortgages along our coasts.  Trillions in mortgage values are at stake unless the public and the private sector move quickly.

Juliann Walsh is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

R&I Profile

Achieving Balance

XL Catlin’s Denise Balan stays calm and focused when faced with crisis.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 6 min read

In the high-stress scenario of kidnap or ransom, the first image that comes to mind isn’t necessarily a yoga mat — at least, not for most.

But Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin, who practices yoga every day, would swear by it.

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“I looked at these opposing aspects of my life,” she said. “Yoga is about focus, balance, clarity of intent. In a moment of stress, how do you respond? The more clarity and calmness you maintain, the better positioned you are to provide assistance in moments of crisis.

“Nobody wants to be speaking to a frenetic person when either dealing with a dangerous situation or planning for prevention of a situation,” she added.

“There’s a poem by [Rudyard] Kipling on that,” added Balan’s colleague Ben Tucker. “What it boils down to is: If you can remain calm, you can manage through a crisis a lot better.”

Tucker, who works side by side with Balan as head of U.S. terrorism and political violence, XL Catlin, has seen how yoga influences his colleague.

“The way Denise interacts with stakeholders in this process — she is very professional and calm in the approach she takes.”

Yin and Yang

Sometimes seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary and interconnected. In Balan’s life, yoga and K&R have become her yin and yang.

She entered the insurance world after earning a juris doctor degree and practicing law for a few years. The switch came, she said, when Balan realized she wasn’t enjoying her time as a commercial litigator.

Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

In her new role, she was able to use her legal background to manage litigation at AIG, where her transition from law to insurance took place. She started her insurance career in the environmental sector.

In a chance meeting in 2007, Balan met with crisis management underwriters who told her about kidnap and ransom products.

She was hooked.

Because of her background in yoga, Balan liked the crisis management side of the job. Being able to bring the calmness and clearness of intent she practiced during yoga into assisting clients in planning for crisis management piqued her interest.

She then joined XL Catlin in July 2013, where she built the K&R team.

As she became more immersed in her field, Balan began to notice something: The principles she learned in yoga were the same principles ex-military and ex-law enforcement practiced when called to a K&R-related crisis.

She said, “They have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.”

“K&R responders have a warrior mentality — focus, purpose, strength and logic — and I would say yoga is quite similar in discipline.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Many understand yoga to be, in itself, one type of meditation, but yoga actually encompasses a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices. Each is a discipline. Some forms of yoga focus on movement and breathing, others focus on posture and technique. Some yoga is meant to relax the mind and create a sense of calmness; other yoga types make participants sweat.

After having her second child and working full-time, Balan wanted to find something physical and relaxing for herself; a friend suggested yoga. During her first lesson, Balan said she was enamored with it.

“I felt like I’d done it all my life.”

She dove into the philosophy of yoga, adopting the practice into her daily routine. Every morning, whether Balan is in her Long Island home or on a business trip, she pulls out her yoga mat to practice.

“I always travel with my mat,” she said. “Daily practice is the simplest form of connection to routine to maintain my balance — physically and mentally.”

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She said the strangest place she has ever practiced was in Lisbon. She was on a very narrow balcony with a bird feeder swarming with sparrows overhead.

After years of studying and practicing, Balan is considered a yogi — someone who is highly proficient in yoga. She attends annual retreats with her yoga group, where she is able to rejuvenate, ready to tackle any K&R event when she returns.

In 2016, Balan visited Tuscany, Italy, where she learned the practice of yoga nidra, a very deep form of meditation. It’s described as the “going-to-sleep stage” — a type of yoga that brings participants to a state of consciousness between waking and sleeping.

“It awakens a different part of your brain,” Balan commented. “Orally describing it doesn’t quite do it justice. One has to practice Nidra to fully understand the effect it has on your being.”

Keeping a level head during a crisis is key in their line of business, Tucker said. He can attest to the benefit of having a yogi on board.

“I’ve seen her run table-top exercises where there is this group of people in a room and they run an exercise, a simulation of a kidnap incident. Denise is very committed to what we’re doing,” said Tucker.

“She brings that energy. She doesn’t get flustered by much.”

Building a K&R Program

When Balan joined XL Catlin, she was tasked with creating the K&R team.

Balan during a retreat in Sicily, Italy, 2017

She spent time researching and analyzing what clients would want in their K&R coverage. What stuck out most to Balan was the fact that, in these situations, the decision to purchase kidnap and ransom cover is rarely made because of desire for reimbursement of money.

“I asked why people buy this type of coverage. The answer was for the security responders,” she said.

“These are the people who sit with the family. They’re similar to psychologists or priests,” Balan further explained. “Corporations can afford to pay ransom. They buy [K&R] because it gives them access to these trained and dedicated professionals who not only provide negotiation advice, but actually sit with a victim’s family, engaging deep levels of emotional investment.”

“I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” — Denise Balan, senior VP and head of U.S. kidnap & ransom, XL Catlin

Balan described these responders as people having total clarity of purpose, setting their intentions to resolve a crisis — a practice at the very heart of yoga. She knew XL Catlin’s new kidnap program would put stock in their responders.

“I’ve worked closely with the responders to better understand what they can do for our clientele. These are the people who run into danger — warrior hearts married to dedication to our clients’ best interests.”

But K&R is more than fast-paced crisis and quick thinking; Balan also spent a good deal of time writing the K&R form and getting the company’s resources in order. This was a huge task to tackle when creating the program from the ground up.

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“A lot of my day-to-day is speaking with brokers and finding ways to enhance our product,” she said.

After a few months, she was able to hire the company’s first K&R underwriter. From there, the program has grown. It’s left her feeling professionally rewarded.

“People don’t often get that opportunity to build something up from scratch,” she said. “It’s been an amazing experience — rewarding and fun.”

“She brings groups of people together,” said Tucker. “She’s created a positive environment.”

Balan’s yogi nature extends beyond the office walls, too. Her pride and joy, she said, are her kids. And while it may seem like two large parts of her life are opposite in nature, Balan’s achieved balance through her passions.

“[Yoga] has given me the ability to see beyond only one aspect of any situation” she said. “I’ve learned to appreciate all moments in life — one at a time. The ability to think clearly and calmly guides my work, my practice and my personal life.” &

Autumn Heisler is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]