Insurance Industry

Insurers Flying High

Four insurance companies have received approval to use drones for claims and risk management purposes.
By: | April 16, 2015 • 3 min read

Four insurers are among 125-some pioneering companies to receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to test drones for various commercial purposes in the U.S.

The FAA agreed to allow the insurers to test the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to survey everything from damaged roofs and flooded areas to tornadoes, hurricanes and other natural disasters.

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The insurers are American International Group Inc. (AIG), Erie Insurance Group, State Farm Mutual Automotive Insurance Co., and United Services Automobile Association (USAA).

In March, State Farm became the first insurer to receive FAA approval to test drones for commercial use. State Farm plans to explore the use of UAVs in assessing potential roof damage during the claims process and in responding to natural disasters.

“The potential use of unmanned aerial systems provides us one more innovative tool to help State Farm customers recover from the unexpected as quickly and efficiently as possible,” said Wensley Herbert, operations vice president-claims.

At AIG, the company received FAA approval to use UAVs to conduct inspections for risk assessment, risk management, loss control and surety for its customers.

Insurers granted exemptions to use drones are American International Group Inc. (AIG), Erie Insurance Group, State Farm Mutual Automotive Insurance Co., and United Services Automobile Association (USAA).

The exemption also permits AIG to implement a robust research and development program to explore new and innovative ways to employ UAVs.

UAVs can help accelerate surveys of disaster areas with high resolution images for faster claims handling, risk assessment and payments, according to the company. The drones can also quickly and safely reach areas that could be dangerous or inaccessible for manual inspection, and they provide richer information about properties, structures and claims events.

“AIG is committed to continuous improvement and innovation to providing better, faster and safer risk and claims assessments to our customers,” said Eric Martinez, executive vice president, claims and operations. “Leveraging cutting edge technologies like UAVs can enhance our ability to assess and mitigate risks to better help our customers and their communities prepare for and rebuild after a catastrophic event.”

AIG has already established an international UAV research and development center and conducted flights in New Zealand. These flights have provided valuable insights on technology, flight operations, and image collection technology, flight and image collection techniques that will be incorporated into AIG’s global UAV strategy, the company said.

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USAA said drones could help speed review of insurance claims from its members following natural disasters.

In October 2014, USAA filed for an exemption under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 to enable more efficient testing of small drones. Exempt from select FAA regulations, USAA can now fly drones during the day within line-of-sight of a trained pilot and air crew. Prior to the approval, USAA test flights could only take place at FAA-approved sites.

USAA said drones could help speed review of insurance claims from its members following natural disasters.

Currently no aircraft is allowed to exceed an altitude of 400 feet, and all flights must continue to be reported to the FAA.

With FAA approval, USAA will work to efficiently research and develop best practices, safety, and privacy protocols and procedures as it further develops plans for operational use, according to the company.

USAA received a second exemption in early April that will allow the insurer to go operational in a catastrophic situation.

“We’re proud to be among the first insurers approved for this technology,” said Alan Krapf, president, USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group. “It’s our responsibility to explore every option to improve our members’ experience.”

The USAA family of companies provides insurance, banking, investments and retirement products to 10.7 million current and former members of the U.S. military and their families.

A spokesperson for Erie insurance Group said the company believed drones, which they refer to as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), will play a major role in the future of insurance innovation and help the company be safer and more efficient in its claims handling and risk assessment.

“For example,” the spokesperson said, “if we need to assess a roof on a large building or one that has an especially steep pitch, we can now test the viability of using UASs instead of sending someone up on a ladder.

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“We hope to eventually be able to use UASs to assess damage after catastrophic weather events when physical structures can be especially precarious.”

Commercial drone flights are generally banned in the U.S. However, the FAA has awarded some exemptions for commercial drone use under a program created by Congress to allow flights while the agency completes more formal regulations.

Steve Yahn was a freelance writer based in New York. He had more than 40 years of financial reporting and editing experience. Comments can be directed to [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Liability

Fresh Worries for Boards of Directors

New cyber security regulations increase exposure for directors and officers at financial institutions.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 6 min read

Boards of directors could face a fresh wave of directors and officers (D&O) claims following the introduction of tough new cybersecurity rules for financial institutions by The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).

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Prompted by recent high profile cyber attacks on JPMorgan Chase, Sony, Target, and others, the state regulations are the first of their kind and went into effect on March 1.

The new rules require banks, insurers and other financial institutions to establish an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program and adopt a written policy that must be reviewed by the board and approved by a senior officer annually.

The regulation also requires the more than 3,000 financial services firms operating in the state to appoint a chief information security officer to oversee the program, to report possible breaches within 72 hours, and to ensure that third-party vendors meet the new standards.

Companies will have until September 1 to comply with most of the new requirements, and beginning February 15, 2018, they will have to submit an annual certification of compliance.

The responsibility for cybersecurity will now fall squarely on the board and senior management actively overseeing the entity’s overall program. Some experts fear that the D&O insurance market is far from prepared to absorb this risk.

“The new rules could raise compliance risks for financial institutions and, in turn, premiums and loss potential for D&O insurance underwriters,” warned Fitch Ratings in a statement. “If management and directors of financial institutions that experience future cyber incidents are subsequently found to be noncompliant with the New York regulations, then they will be more exposed to litigation that would be covered under professional liability policies.”

D&O Challenge

Judy Selby, managing director in BDO Consulting’s technology advisory services practice, said that while many directors and officers rely on a CISO to deal with cybersecurity, under the new rules the buck stops with the board.

“The common refrain I hear from directors and officers is ‘we have a great IT guy or CIO,’ and while it’s important to have them in place, as the board, they are ultimately responsible for cybersecurity oversight,” she said.

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting at Argo Pro, said that unknown cyber threats, untested policy language and developing case laws would all make it more difficult for the D&O market to respond accurately to any such new claims.

“Insurers will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure,” he said.

Going forward, said Larry Hamilton, partner at Mayer Brown, D&O underwriters also need to scrutinize a company’s compliance with the regulations.

“To the extent that this risk was not adequately taken into account in the first place in the underwriting of in-force D&O policies, there could be unanticipated additional exposure for the D&O insurers,” he said.

Michelle Lopilato, Hub International’s director of cyber and technology solutions, added that some carriers may offer more coverage, while others may pull back.

“How the markets react will evolve as we see how involved the department becomes in investigating and fining financial institutions for noncompliance and its result on the balance sheet and dividends,” she said.

Christopher Keegan, senior managing director at Beecher Carlson, said that by setting a benchmark, the new rules would make it easier for claimants to make a case that the company had been negligent.

“If stock prices drop, then this makes it easier for class action lawyers to make their cases in D&O situations,” he said. “As a result, D&O carriers may see an uptick in cases against their insureds and an easier path for plaintiffs to show that the company did not meet its duty of care.”

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One area that regulators and plaintiffs might seize upon is the certification compliance requirement, according to Rob Yellen, executive vice president, D&O and fiduciary liability product leader, FINEX at Willis Towers Watson.

“A mere inaccuracy in a certification could result in criminal enforcement, in which case it would then become a boardroom issue,” he said.

A big grey area, however, said Shiraz Saeed, national practice leader for cyber risk at Starr Companies, is determining if a violation is a cyber or management liability issue in the first place.

“The complication arises when a company only has D&O coverage, but it doesn’t have a cyber policy and then they have to try and push all the claims down the D&O route, irrespective of their nature,” he said.

“Insurers, on their part, will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure.” — William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

Jim McCue, managing director at Aon’s financial services group, said many small and mid-size businesses may struggle to comply with the new rules in time.

“It’s going to be a steep learning curve and a lot of work in terms of preparedness and the implementation of a highly detailed cyber security program, risk assessment and response plan, all by September 2017,” he said.

The new regulation also has the potential to impact third parties including accounting, law, IT and even maintenance and repair firms who have access to a company’s information systems and personal data, said Keegan.

“That can include everyone from IT vendors to the people who maintain the building’s air conditioning,” he said.

New Models

Others have followed New York’s lead, with similar regulations being considered across federal, state and non-governmental regulators.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Cyber-security Taskforce has proposed an insurance data security model law that establishes exclusive standards for data security and investigation, and notification of a breach of data security for insurance providers.

Once enacted, each state would be free to adopt the new law, however, “our main concern is if regulators in different states start to adopt different standards from each other,” said Alex Hageli, director, personal lines policy at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

“It would only serve to make compliance harder, increase the cost of burden on companies, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really help anybody.”

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Richard Morris, partner at law firm Herrick, Feinstein LLP, said companies need to review their current cybersecurity program with their chief technology officer or IT provider.

“Companies should assess whether their current technology budget is adequate and consider what investments will be required in 2017 to keep up with regulatory and market expectations,” he said. “They should also review and assess the adequacy of insurance policies with respect to coverages, deductibles and other limitations.”

Adam Hamm, former NAIC chair and MD of Protiviti’s risk and compliance practice, added: “With New York’s new cyber regulation, this is a sea change from where we were a couple of years ago and it’s soon going to become the new norm for regulating cyber security.” &

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]