Property Damage

Hailstorms Grow Less Predictable and More Expensive

Hailstorms are happening more often and striking more severely. The insurance industry is trying to find ways to mitigate the damage.
By: | July 18, 2016 • 4 min read

Hailstorms increased in frequency and severity over the last 20 years, largely a result of climate change and more extreme weather conditions. Insurance costs are spiking as a result, too.

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Hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property in the United States every year, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In 2015, NOAA’s Severe Storms database recorded 5,411 major hailstorms. The worst affected area was Texas, with 783 hailstorms.

“The hardest part for some customers has been that there have been successive hailstorms.” — Jill Dalton, managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting

This year, hailstorms in late March and April are expected to result in total losses to vehicles, homes and businesses in north San Antonio and Bexar County of more than $2 billion, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

San Antonio’s first hailstorm on April 12 became the costliest hailstorm in Texas history, the council said.

Between 2000 and 2013, U.S. insurers paid out almost $54 billion in claims from hail losses, and 70 percent of the losses occurred in just the last six years, said a report by Verisk Insurance Solutions.

The average claim severity was also 65 percent higher during that period, than from 2000 to 2007, the report said. Most losses were from broken windows and roof damage.

Added to that, hailstorms are increasingly harder to forecast and are occurring in unlikely places, with reports of hail this year in warmer climates such as South Florida.

Trying to Better Understand How Hail is Produced

Jill Dalton, managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting

Jill Dalton, managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting

Now, insurers and scientists are trying to better understand how hail is produced and take steps to mitigate damage.

“The hardest part for some customers has been that there have been successive hailstorms,” Jill Dalton, managing director at Aon Global Risk Consulting.

“When it happens over such a short period of time, as in the case of the recent Texas hailstorms, it’s hard to deduce what was damage from the first storm versus the third or fourth storm.”

Steve Bowen, director at Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting team, said that the location and intensity of the hailstorm were the most important factors in determining the magnitude of hail damage.

For example, if a hailstorm hits a more densely populated area it is likely to cause more damage.

“It is really important to emphasize that the total number of hail reports does not necessarily correlate to either higher or lower level of losses,” he said.

He said that, overall, insurable damage resulting from severe convective storms in the United States increased by 6.5 percent above the rate of inflation annually since 1980, most of which was attributed to hailstorms.

“The research done will also enable us to characterize the event in order to forecast future storms more effectively.” — Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist, IBHS Research Center

The Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a consortium of insurers, has been working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., to find ways to strengthen homes and businesses against hail damage.

Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist, IBHS Research Center

Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist, IBHS Research Center

“Overall hail losses are going up and a lot of it is to do with that fact that we are simply putting a lot more stuff in the path of storms nowadays,” said Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist at the IBHS Research Center.

“So, moving forward now, risk mitigation strategies are going to become much more important and that can be achieved with improved product and testing to ensure that they are properly hail resistant.

“The research done will also enable us to characterize the event in order to forecast future storms more effectively.”

Take Steps to Reduce Losses

Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute, said that given the difference in quality of roofing materials in terms of impact resistance, it was paramount to invest in the proper type of covering.

Others steps include making sure that the roof is fully secured.

The insurance industry has an Underwriters Laboratory standard for roofing material with four classes of impact level. Class 4 is the most resistant. In some cases, insurers will provide a discount for roofs made with hail resistant materials.

After the event, it is important to assess any damage and protect property against further damage by covering broken windows and plugging holes in the roof.

Most property insurance policies will cover against hail damage, as will comprehensive auto coverage.

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“A hailstorm is a typically covered loss included as a named peril,” said Dalton.

She added that usually there are no policy limits on hail and most coverage is subject to a deductible.

In hail prone areas, such as Texas and South Carolina, the deductible is higher than for other perils. However, both states have a fund to provide hail coverage in areas where it is not available in the private market.

After the event, it is important to assess any damage and protect property against further damage by covering broken windows and plugging holes in the roof.

It is also key to file claims as soon as possible and to keep any receipts for purchases made for immediate repairs and to then submit them to your insurer.

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

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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]