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Risk Insider: Matthew Nielsen

Privatizing Flood Insurance in the U.S.

By: | November 18, 2015 • 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]

Any serious gambler always understands the odds before he makes a bet. He studies the risks, puts up the collateral, and hopes for a win. If the stakes are too great, he holds on to his capital and waits for a more attractive wager.

We, as American homeowners, do the same when it comes to setting down our roots. We do our best to understand risks in our neighborhoods. Is there substantial crime? How are the schools? Are property taxes high? But do we know enough about the risks that threaten to destroy our homes and desecrate our treasured possessions?

When it comes to understanding exposure to flooding in the United States, the answer is ‘no.’

Flood maps put together by FEMA are a good start, but many questions remain. Both homeowners and insurers alike find themselves without the tools they need to fix the gap in flood coverage, leaving the bulk of flood insurance to be paid out by the federal government.

While not much is known about the elusive X-zone, this is probably where the private insurance market should first look for clues on how to get flood policies out of the NFIP.

So what can be done to help unveil the elusive nature of flood risk?

FEMA designates several types of flood zones; the most widely known are the A and V zones used in the 1-in-100 year flood areas.

The X-zones, however, are much less understood. While flood insurance isn’t compulsory in the X-zones, flood risk still exists. It is in these zones that up to 20 percent of governmental National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policies exist. But how much do we really know about X-zone risk? What compels homeowners to buy insurance in these zones when it is not required?

While not much is known about the elusive X-zone, this is probably where the private insurance market should first look for clues on how to get flood policies out of the NFIP.

While we can get information on the number of policies in the X-zone by state, there is more work to be done to understand the types of properties being underwritten. X-zones may be attractive to private insurers because the risk is much lower than in the A and V zones, and the pricing may also be competitive with FEMA.

This will allow the industry to understand how to navigate the process of expanding their flood portfolios, and prepare them for the more daunting task of depopulating the A and V zones.

To start this process, the industry needs a way to understand more about the potential market in the X-zone. Catastrophe modelers have the capability to help with this endeavor, as they have with identifying and categorizing exposure in developing insurance markets across the world.

These modelers will be needed to initiate the process of quantifying risk in these areas, allowing the market to better understand how they can expand into this largely untapped market.

As private insurers search for strategies on where to look to start their flood programs, they may want to heed the age-old saying that “X marks the spot.”

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

As a professor of business, Jack Hampton knows firsthand the positive impact education has on risk managers as they tackle growing risks.
By: | April 9, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Ellen Thrower, president (retired), The College of Insurance, introduced me to the importance of insurance as a component of risk management. Further, she encouraged me to explore strategic and operational risk as foundation topics shaping the role of the modern risk manager.

Chris Mandel, former president of RIMS and Risk Manager of the Year, introduced me to the emerging area of enterprise risk management. He helped me recognize the need to align hazard, strategic, operational and financial risk into a single framework. He gave me the perspective of ERM in a high-tech environment, using USAA as a model program that later won an excellence award for innovation.

Bob Morrell, founder and former CEO of Riskonnect, showed me how technology could be applied to solving serious risk management and governance problems. He created a platform that made some of my ideas practical and extended them into a highly-successful enterprise that served risk and governance management needs of major corporations.

R&I: How did you come to work in this industry?

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From a background in corporate finance and commercial banking, I accepted the position of provost of The College of Insurance. Recognizing my limited prior knowledge in the field, I became a student of insurance and risk management leading to authorship of books on hazard and financial risk. This led to industry consulting, as well as to the development of graduate-level courses and concentrations in MBA programs.

R&I: What was your first job?

The provost position was the first job I had in the industry, after serving as dean of the Seton Hall University School of Business and founding The Princeton Consulting Group. Earlier positions were in business development with Marine Transport Lines, consulting in commercial banking and college professorships.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

Creating a risk management concentration in the MBA program at Saint Peter’s, co-founding the Russian Risk Management Society (RUSRISK), and writing “Fundamentals of Enterprise Risk Management” and the “AMA Handbook of Financial Risk Management.”

A few years ago, I expanded into risk management in higher education. From 2017 into 2018, Rowman and Littlefield published my four books that address risks facing colleges and universities, professors, students and parents.

Jack Hampton, Professor of Business, St. Peter’s University

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

The Godfather. I see it as a story of managing risk, even as the behavior of its leading characters create risk for others.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

Jameson’s Irish whiskey. Mixed with a little ice, it is a serious rival for Johnny Walker Gold scotch and Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

Mount Etna, Taormina, and Agrigento, Sicily. I actually supervised an MBA program in Siracusa and learned about risk from a new perspective.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

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Army Airborne training and jumping out of an airplane. Fortunately, I never had to do it in combat even though I served in Vietnam.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

George C. Marshall, one of the most decorated military leaders in American history, architect of the economic recovery program for Europe after World War II, and recipient of the 1953 Nobel Peace Prize. For Marshall, it was not just about winning the war. It was also about winning the peace.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Sharing lessons with colleagues and students by writing, publishing and teaching. A professor with a knowledge of risk management does not only share lessons. The professor is also a student when MBA candidates talk about the risks they manage every day.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

Sensitizing for-profit, nonprofit and governmental agencies to the exposures and complexities facing their organizations. Sometimes we focus too much on strategies that sound good but do not withstand closer examination. Risk managers help organizations make better decisions.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

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Developing executive training programs to help risk managers assume C-suite positions in organizations. Insurance may be a good place to start but so is an MBA degree. The Risk and Insurance Management Society recognizes the importance of a wide range of risk knowledge. Colleges and universities need to catch up with RIMS.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

Cyber risk and its impact on hazard, operational and financial strategies. A terrorist can take down a building. A cyber-criminal can take down much more.

R&I: What does your family think you do?

My family members think I’m a professor. They do not seem to be too interested in my views on risk management.




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]