Column: Risk Management

Laughing at Limits

By: | November 1, 2013 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]

Imagine you were set up on a blind date. Your date picks you up in a dirty, banged up car. As soon as you pull away from the curb, this person starts to brag about how little they invest in car maintenance and how they proudly buy only the most basic insurance cover. Your date further boasts about their maverick schemes for getting other people to pay for car damages even though your date actually caused the damage.

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Thoughts as to your blind date so far? Future partner? See a long-term, healthy, trustworthy relationship with this person? How soon you will be fighting and battling over some inequity?

The way I see it, every time we decide to join forces with an outside business partner, we should be as cautious as we would be on a blind date. Listen to what the future partner is saying. Pay attention to all the unnerving signs.

To those who really pay attention, signs are everywhere — like a Da Vinci code — in the contract negotiation process. You can puzzle out your future business partner piece by piece during that time.

Pay attention to what they’re saying in the contract language they propose to you. The negotiation can reveal much about the type of partner you are about to be bound to for what could be a very long time.

A telltale sign is the extent to which your future partner is willing to ensure LOLs in their favor. No, not laugh-out-louds, but limits of liability. Ironically, laughing out loud is often what I do when I first see some examples of proposed liability limits language.

Ask yourself why your future partner is so driven to limit their responsibility for their blunders, poor workmanship or faulty product?  Don’t they have faith in their internal controls and risk management systems to ensure minimal losses for you? If they did, they wouldn’t need to limit their exposure to such a degree.

Is it fair that your new partner plans to protect their assets at the expense of yours? Did the price quoted by your future partner include this limited exposure? It’s easy to give a great price for something if you have capped or little responsibility for it afterward.

What is also instructive is how your future partner suggests to structure limits of liability. My favorite is when a limit of liability equals the value of the proposed contract. If the scope of services costs $30,000, your partner wants to limit their losses to $30,000. Really? What does one have to do with the other?

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The value of a service does not indicate the liability risk of that service. Imagine the cost of hiring an engineering firm to design a theatre roof and imagine again the cost of loss if that same roof collapsed on a crowded audience. One does not compare to the other.

Another laugh-out-loud structure includes liabilities limited to losses covered by your partner’s insurance. Who knows what kind of coverage your partner has. How dependable is their insurer? How many exclusions exist? What is your partner’s loss history for intentional damages? The list goes on.

Limits of liability and how they are structured can speak volumes about the partner you plan to enter into a long-term business relationship with. They speak even louder as to what that potential partner thinks of you.

There’s no need to be blindsided by a new partner. When it comes to limits of liability, make sure you always have the last laugh … freely and out loud.

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Hidden Risks of Violence

The Las Vegas shooting and other tragedies increase demand for non-physical damage BI coverages. The market is growing, but do new products meet companies’ new needs?
By: | December 14, 2017 • 5 min read

Mass shootings in the United States and the emergence of new forms of terrorism in Europe are boosting demand for insurance against losses caused by business interruption when a policyholder suffers no direct property damage, according to insurers.

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But brokers say coverage for non-physical damage BI (NDBI), needs to evolve to better meet the emerging needs of corporate clients.

For years, manufacturing clients sought a more comprehensive range of NDBI coverages, especially due to the indirect effects of natural catastrophes such as the Thai floods that disrupted global supply chains in 2011.

More recently, however, hospitality and entertainment companies are expressing interest as they strive to adapt to realities such as the mass shootings in tourism hotspots Las Vegas and Orlando and terror attacks in such popular destinations as New York, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and London.

In addition to loss of life and property, revenue loss is a real risk. Tragedies that cause a high number of fatalities can cause severe financial losses, especially for companies relying on tourism, as visitors shy away from crime scenes.

Precedents already exist. Paris received 1.5 million fewer visitors than expected in 2016, after the French capital was targeted by a series of deadly terror attacks the year before.

More recently, bookings declined in the immediate aftermath of a shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas that took the lives of 58 people on October 1: Bookings at the hotel have since recovered.

Joey Sylvester, national director of operations & planning, Public Sector, Gallagher

“The recent horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas, Nev., and in Sutherland Springs, Texas, raised awareness and concerns about similar events occurring in areas where the public congregates, such as entertainment venues like sporting events, concerts, restaurants, movie theaters, convention centers and more,” said Bob Nusslein, head of Innovative Risk Solutions Americas, Swiss Re CS.

“The second highest NDBI cover to natural catastrophes is terrorism, including active shooter and mass shootings.”

However, products available in the market do not always provide the protection companies would like. Active shooter coverages, for example, focus mostly on third-party liabilities that policyholders may face after a shooting.

Loss-of-attraction policies often define triggering events with a high degree of detail. These events may need to be characterized as a terrorist attack or act of war by authorities. In some cases, access to the venue needs to be officially cut off by police.

It follows that an attack by a 64-year old ex-accountant who shoots hundreds of people for no apparent reason — as was the case in the Mandalay Bay tragedy — isn’t likely to align with a typical policy trigger.

But insurers say they are trying to adapt to the evolving realities of both mass shootings and terrorism to meet the new needs expressed by clients.

“The active shooting coverage is drawing much interest in the U.S. market right now. In Europe, clients are increasingly inquiring about loss of attraction,” said Chris Parker, head of terrorism and political violence, Beazley.

“What we are doing at the moment is to try and cross these two kinds of products, so that a client can get coverage for the loss of attraction resulting from an active shooting event.”

Loss-of-attraction policies cover revenue loss derived from catastrophic events, and underwriters already offer alternatives that provide coverage, even when no property damage is involved.

To establish the reach of such a policy, buyers can define a trigger radius — a physical area defined in the policy. If a catastrophic event takes place within this radius, coverage will be triggered. This practice is sometimes called “cat in a box.”

Some products specify locations that, if hit by a catastrophic event, will result in lost revenue for the insured. For resorts or large entertainment complexes, for example, attacks on nearby airports could cause significant loss of revenue and could be covered by NDBI insurance.

Measuring losses is a challenge, and underwriters may demand steep retention levels. According to Parker, excess coverage may kick in after a 20 percent to 25 percent revenue drop.

Insurers will also want proof that the drop is related to the catastrophic event rather than economic downturn, seasonal variances or other factors.

“Capacity is very large for direct acts of terrorism but lower for indirect terrorism and violent acts because the exposure is far greater,” said Joey Sylvester, national director of operations & planning, Public Sector, Gallagher.

“Commercial businesses, public entities, religious and nonprofit organizations have various needs for this type of coverage, and the appetite is certainly trending upward.”

It is difficult to foresee which events will cause business disruption. As a result, according to Nusslein, companies generally prefer to purchase all-risk NDBI covers rather than named-perils coverage.

“The main reason is that, if they have coverage for four potential NDBI events and a fifth event occurs, the fifth event is not covered,” he said. “Insurers, new to NDBI covers, still prefer named-perils covers over all-risk cover.”

Current geopolitical tensions are also fueling buyers’ demands.

“Many companies want nuclear, biochemical, chemical and radiological exclusions removed from terrorism NDBI covers. While this is more difficult for insurers, it is not impossible,” Nusslein said.

“War risk NDBI cover is becoming more sought after due to political tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.”

“Many companies want nuclear, biochemical, chemical and radiological exclusions removed from terrorism NDBI covers. While this is more difficult for insurers, it is not impossible.” — Bob Nusslein, head of Innovative Risk Solutions Americas, Swiss Re CS

Natural catastrophes still constitute the largest share of perils underlying NDBI products.  Parametric indexes are increasingly employed to provide uncontroversial triggers to policies, said Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader, Marsh.

These indexes range from rainfall levels and wind speed to the measured intensity of earthquakes. Interest in this kind of NDBI coverage expanded after the recent hurricane season.

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“The benefit of these products is that you do not have to go through the settlement process, which clients hate,” Ellis said.

NDBI policies are often bespoke, which is more common for very large insurance buyers.

“Usually, the market offers bespoke coverages for individual industries or clients, with very significant deductibles,” said Tim Cracknell, partner,  JLT Specialty.

NDBI cover can also help transfer regulatory and product recall risks. The life science sector is expressing interest in this kind of solution for cases where a supplier goes bankrupt or is shut down by a regulator, or a medication needs to be recalled due to perceived flaws in the manufacturing process.

Experts say that concerns still to be addressed are NDBI losses caused by cyber attacks and pandemics.

Capacity is an ongoing concern. According to Swiss Re CS, $50 million to $100 million, or even more, can be achieved through foundation capacity provided by a lead insurer, with syndicated capacity to other insurers and reinsurers, depending on the risk. &

Rodrigo Amaral is a freelance writer specializing in Latin American and European risk management and insurance markets. He can be reached at [email protected]