Risk Insider: Martin Eveleigh

Looking Out For Reputational Risk

By: | March 10, 2017 • 2 min read
Martin Eveleigh is Chairman of Atlas Insurance Management, which he formed in 2002. He specializes in designing alternative risk transfer programs – particularly risk pools – and captive structures. He can be reached at [email protected]

Reputational risk has been rising up the list of strategic risks for years. A 2010 study revealed that, at least once during every five-year period studied, 80 percent of companies lose more than 20 percent of their value due to major reputational events. Reputational damage is like any other source of risk, which can affect the corporate bottom line and growth.

Captives Fill a Market Gap

Reputational risk is one category for which the standard insurance market has offered limited products and coverage. It’s not hard to understand why considering reputational damage is difficult to predict and quantify.

Advertisement




A captive can be a lucrative vehicle for addressing and covering potential damage to corporate reputation and goodwill. It provides flexibility and coverage and can be designed to meet the needs of the owner. By paying for expenses and compensating otherwise irrecoverable losses, a captive liberates owners to make more intelligent responses to events in real time. By facilitating a company’s ability to defend or preserve a reputation, establishing a captive can be seen as the reverse side of building brand awareness in the first place.

 Specific Risks, Specific Coverage

Considered a secondary risk to a larger primary risk, reputational damage can often be more costly than the primary risk. In recognizing and covering the risk of reputational damage within the captive, a captive insurance manager will help the client quantify the risk and the financial impact to the company.

To assist in the formation of a captive, the manager will interview prospective clients to evaluate their business and assess their customers, regulation and public exposure. They can then design an enterprise risk captive to cover actions, exposure and risks that can lead to reputational damage.

Social Media and PR: Living On The Fault Line

Social media acts as an aggregator of information. Even when allegations can be disproven, the damage is costly and time-consuming to repair.

To fully mitigate the reputational risks social media presents, it is important to develop an effective response plan for any situation. The heart of a crisis management strategy is developing an approach to utilize in the first 15 minutes to one hour following an event. If you aren’t prepared and ready with what to say, someone else will respond for you in a way you can’t control. It’s critical to get that first statement right.

Advertisement




Providing companies with proper coverage, a well-structured captive program, fortified with a strong crisis communications strategy will recognize and address the potential magnitude of loss from responding to and repairing reputational damage.

Reputational damage isn’t just for big targets. Today’s standard insurance market provides few attractive products for addressing this important category of risk. A captive is a smart solution to the problem of defraying the risk of reputational damage. Unlike standard market models, which often target vertical industries, a captive can be designed to meet the specific needs of its owner or parent company and transfer the risk through a structured approach.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Robotics Risk

Rise of the Cobots

Collaborative robots, known as cobots, are rapidly expanding in the workforce due to their versatility. But they bring with them liability concerns.
By: | May 2, 2017 • 5 min read

When the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto hired mobile collaborative robots to bolster security patrols, the goal was to improve costs and safety.

Once the autonomous robotic guards took up their beats — bedecked with alarms, motion sensors, live video streaming and forensics capabilities — no one imagined what would happen next.

Advertisement




For some reason,  a cobots’ sensors didn’t pick up the movement of a toddler on the sidewalk who was trying to play with the 5-foot-tall, egg-shaped figure.

The 300-pound robot was programmed to stop for shoppers, but it knocked down the child and then ran over his feet while his parents helplessly watched.

Engaged to help, this cobot instead did harm, yet the use of cobots is growing rapidly.

Cobots are the fastest growing segment of the robotics industry, which is projected to hit $135.4 billion in 2019, according to tech research firm IDC.

“Robots are embedding themselves more and more into our lives every day,” said Morgan Kyte, a senior vice president at Marsh.

“Collaborative robots have taken the robotics industry by storm over the past several years,” said Bob Doyle, director of communications at the Robotic Industries Association (RIA).

When traditional robots joined the U.S. workforce in the 1960s, they were often assigned one specific task and put to work safely away from humans in a fenced area.

Today, they are rapidly being deployed in the automotive, plastics, electronics assembly, machine tooling and health care industries due to their ability to function in tandem with human co-workers.

More than 24,000 robots valued at $1.3 billion were ordered from North American companies last year, according to the RIA.

Cobots Rapidly Gain Popularity

Cobots are cheaper, more versatile and lighter, and often have a faster return on investment compared to traditional robots. Some cobots even employ artificial intelligence (AI) so they can adapt to their environment, learn new tasks and improve on their skills.

Bob Doyle, director of communications, Robotic Industry Association

Their software is simple to program, so companies don’t need a computer programmer, called a robotic integrator, to come on site to tweak duties. Most employees can learn how to program them.

While the introduction of cobots into the workplace can bring great productivity gains, it also introduces risk mitigation challenges.

“Where does the problem lie when accidents happen and which insurance covers it?” asked attorney Garry Mathiason, co-chair of the robotics, AI and automation industry group at the law firm Littler Mendelson PC in San Francisco.

“Cobots are still machines and things can go awry in many ways,” Marsh’s Kyte said.

“The robot can fail. A subcomponent can fail. It can draw the wrong conclusions.”

If something goes amiss, exposure may fall to many different parties:  the manufacturer of the cobot, the software developer and/or the purchaser of the cobot, to name a few.

Is it a product defect? Was it an issue in the base code or in the design? Was something done in the cobot’s training? Was it user error?

“Cobots are still machines and things can go awry in many ways.” — Morgan Kyte, senior vice president, Marsh

Is it a workers’ compensation case or a liability issue?

“If you get injured in the workplace, there’s no debate as to liability,” Mathiason said.

But if the employee attributes the injury to a poorly designed or programmed machine and sues the manufacturer of the equipment, that’s not limited by workers’ comp, he added.

Garry Mathiason, co-chair, robotics, AI and automation industry group, Littler Mendelson PC

In the case of a worker killed by a cobot in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2015, the worker’s spouse filed suit against five of the companies responsible for manufacturing the machine.

“It’s going to be unique each time,” Kyte said.

“The issue that keeps me awake at night is that people are so impressed with what a cobot can do, and so they ask it to do a task that it wasn’t meant to perform,” Mathiason said.

Privacy is another consideration.

If the cobot records what is happening around it, takes pictures of its environment and the people in it, an employee or customer might claim a privacy violation.

A public sign disclosing the cobot’s ability to record video or take pictures may be a simple solution. And yet, it is often overlooked, Mathiason said.

Growing Pains in the Industry

There are going to be growing pains as the industry blossoms in advance of any legal and regulatory systems, Mathiason said.

He suggests companies take several mitigation steps before introducing cobots to the workplace.

First, conduct a safety audit that specifically covers robotics. Make sure to properly investigate the use of the technology and consider all options. Run a pilot program to test it out.

Most importantly, he said, assign someone in the organization to get up to speed on the technology and then continuously follow it for updates and new uses.

The Robotics Industry Association has been working with the government to set up safety standards. One employee can join a cobot member association to receive the latest information on regulations.

“I think there’s a lot of confusion about this technology and people see so many things that could go wrong,” Mathiason said.

Advertisement




“But if you handle it properly with the safety audit, the robotics audit, and pay attention to what the standards are, it’s going to be the opposite; there will be fewer problems.

“And you might even see in your experience rating that you are going to [get] a better price to the policy,” he added.

Without forethought, coverage may slip through the cracks. General liability, E&O, business interruption, personal injury, cyber and privacy claims can all be involved.

AIG’s Lexington Insurance introduced an insurance product in 2015 to address the gray areas cobots and robots create. The coverage brings together general and products liability, robotics errors and omissions, and risk management services, all three of which are tailored for the robotics industry. Minimum premium is $25,000.

Insurers are using lessons learned from the creation of cyber liability policies and are applying it to robotics coverage, Kyte said.

“The robotics industry has been very safe for the last 30 years,” RIA’s Doyle said. “It really does have a good track record and we want that to continue.” &

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