Risk Insider: Matthew Nielsen

Latin America’s Insurance Industry Advances

By: | June 6, 2016 • 2 min read
Matthew Nielsen, a meteorologist and geographer with a great deal of experience in climate hazard models, is Senior Director, Global Governmental and Regulatory Affairs at RMS. He can be reached at [email protected]

Over 600 million people call Latin America “home,” with hundreds of thousands lifting themselves out of poverty and into the middle class each year.

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But how many of those citizens or businesses are prepared for a major catastrophe, such as the earthquake that struck Ecuador on April 16? How many of them are thinking about catastrophic floods, such as those experienced in Paraguay and neighboring countries in 2015?

And if they have insurance, are the insurance markets in each country prepared to handle a financial disaster?

While these questions are difficult to answer with any certainty, it is comforting to know that the region is in the process of understanding the implications of future events. Countries from Costa Rica to Chile are beefing up their review of solvency standards for companies operating in their insurance markets, and companies are stepping up to the challenge.

While economic growth has slowed in Latin America in recent months and political turmoil has begun sprouting up in countries like Brazil, the future prospects for the region are as bright as ever.

Insurance regulators, such as those operating in Mexico, Colombia and Peru, for example, are implementing more comprehensive reviews for insurance companies.

In Mexico, implementation of Solvency II is ongoing, with the first two pillars (corporate governance and reporting) said to be already in place. Colombia recently initiated a process to review and approve earthquake catastrophe models for use by primary insurers. Peru has already put such a process in place.

Models are at the heart of this leap in sophistication. Some countries are setting up review processes for external models, similar to the requirements set forth in the first pillar of Solvency II.

Countries like Colombia and Peru developed interrogatories for reviewing these external models, hiring experts in the fields of seismology, engineering and actuarial science to review submissions.

Other countries, like Costa Rica, are investing in building their own models to help them understand their catastrophe exposure, a lengthy and costly endeavor.

In some cases, the increased insight into insurance industry risk brings to light vulnerabilities in the local markets. Costa Rica, for example, only recently privatized its insurance market.

Another vulnerability is the lack of insurance penetration. In Costa Rica, like much of Latin America, insurance is limited to commercial, industrial and high value residential risks. When it comes to protecting houses of working-class families, however, recent efforts fall short.

While companies are beginning to increase their market share and expand insurance penetration, regulators believe that the market won’t be able to help the country recover from a major natural disaster.

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While economic growth slowed in Latin America in recent months and political turmoil bedevils countries like Brazil, the future prospects for the region are as bright as ever.

Businesses will continue to grow and invest, and home ownership will continue to rise. As the region grows, so too will the need to protect the assets accrued during this economic expansion.

Insurance is crucial to the resilience of Latin America, and a healthy insurance market will ensure that the region will continue to grow and prosper, despite the threat of natural disasters.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

RIMS Conference Opens in Birthplace of Insurance in US

Carriers continue their vital role of helping insureds mitigate risks and promote safety.
By: | April 21, 2017 • 4 min read

As RIMS begins its annual conference in Philadelphia, it’s worth remembering that the City of Brotherly Love is not just the birthplace of liberty, but it is the birthplace of insurance in the United States as well.

In 1751, Benjamin Franklin and members of Philadelphia’s first volunteer fire brigade conceived of an insurance company, eventually named The Philadelphia Contributionship for the Insurance of Houses from Loss by Fire.

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For the first time in America — but certainly not for the last time – insurers became instrumental in protecting businesses by requiring safety inspections before agreeing to issue policies.

“That included fire brigades and the knowledge that a brick house was less susceptible to fire than a wood house,” said Martin Frappolli, director of knowledge resources at The Institutes.

It also included good hygiene habits, such as not placing oily rags next to a furnace and having a trap door to the roof to help the fire brigade fight roof and chimney blazes.

Businesses with high risk of fire, such as apothecary shops and brewers, were either denied policies or insured at significantly higher rates, according to the Independence Hall Association.

Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina

Before that, fire was generally “not considered an insurable risk because it was so common and so destructive,” Frappolli said.

“Over the years, we have developed a lot of really good hygiene habits regarding the risk of fire and a lot of those were prompted by the insurance considerations,” he said. “There are parallels in a lot of other areas.”

Insurance companies were instrumental in the creation of Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which helps create standards for electrical devices, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which works to improve the safety of vehicles and highways, said Robert Hartwig, co-director, Center of Risk and Uncertainty Management at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and former president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Insurers have also been active through the years in strengthening building codes and promoting wiser land use and zoning rules, he said.

When shipping was the predominant mode of commercial transport, insurers were active in ports, making sure vessels were seaworthy, captains were experienced and cargoes were stored safety, particularly since it was the common, but hazardous, practice to transport oil in barrels, Hartwig said.

Some underwriters refused to insure ships that carried oil, he said.

When commercial enterprises engaged in hazardous activities and were charged more for insurance, “insurers were sending a message about risk,” he said.

In the industrial area, the common risk of boiler and machinery explosions led insurers to insist on inspections. “The idea was to prevent an accident from occurring,” Hartwig said. Insurers of the day – and some like FM Global and Hartford Steam Boiler continue to exist today — “took a very active and early role in prevention and risk management.”

Whenever insurance gets involved in business, the emphasis on safety, loss control and risk mitigation takes on a higher priority, Frappolli said.

“It’s a really good example of how consideration for insurance has driven the nature of what needs to be insured and leads to better and safer habits,” he said.

Workers’ compensation insurance prompted the same response, he said. When workers’ compensation laws were passed in the early 1900s, employee injuries were frequent and costly, especially in factories and for other physical types of work.

Because insurers wanted to reduce losses and employers wanted reduced insurance premiums, safety procedures were introduced.

“Employers knew insurance would cost a lot more if they didn’t do the things necessary to reduce employee injury,” Frappolli said.

Martin J. Frappolli, senior director of knowledge resources, The Institutes

Cyber risk, he said, is another example where insurance companies are helping employers reduce their risk of loss by increasing cyber hygiene.

Cyber risk is immature now, Frappolli said, but it’s similar in some ways to boiler and machinery explosions. “That was once horribly damaging, unpredictable and expensive,” he said. “With prompting from risk management and insurance, people were educated about it and learned how to mitigate that risk.

“Insurance is just one tool in the toolbox. A true risk manager appreciates and cares about mitigating the risk and not just securing a lower insurance rate.

“Someone looking at managing risk for the long term will take a longer view, and as a byproduct, that will lead to lower insurance rates.”

Whenever technology has evolved, Hartwig said, insurance has been instrumental in increasing safety, whether it was when railroads eclipsed sailing ships for commerce, or when trucking and aviation took precedence.

The risks of terrorism and cyber attacks have led insurance companies and brokers to partner with outside companies with expertise in prevention and reduction of potential losses, he said. That knowledge is transmitted to insureds, who are provided insurance coverage that results in financial resources even when the risk management methods fail to prevent a cyber attack.

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This year’s RIMS Conference in Philadelphia shares with risk managers much of the knowledge that has been developed on so many critical exposures. Interestingly enough, the opening reception is at The Franklin Institute, which celebrates some of Ben Franklin’s innovations.

But in-depth sessions on a variety of industry sectors as well as presentations on emerging risks, cyber risk management, risk finance, technology and claims management, as well as other issues of concern help risk managers prepare their organizations to face continuing disruption, and take advantage of successful mitigation techniques.

“This is just the next iteration of the insurance world,” Hartwig said. “The insurance industry constantly reinvents itself. It is always on the cutting edge of insuring new and different risks and that will never change.” &

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]