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Property Risk Insights Strengthen Resilience After Loss

Risk engineers help customers harden their assets against a variety of perils.
By: | November 2, 2016 • 5 min read

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Commercial property owners need to protect their assets, and a focus on resilience is an important way to mitigate property risks, advises Richard Montminy, head of property for Commercial Insurance, Zurich North America.

In this Perspectives presented by Zurich, he discusses marketplace trends and shares insights on property risk management.

What trends is Zurich seeing in 2016 in the property insurance marketplace?

The market is seeing an abundance of capacity, driven in part by the entry of new and alternative players in commercial insurance. These include non-traditional insurers, start-ups and investors seeking new opportunities. At the same time, we are continuing to see downward pressure on property rates. In the past, we used to describe the market cycles as “soft” or “hard,” but these aren’t really coming into play anymore; it’s just the market. The marked reduction in insured catastrophe losses has also been pressuring both insurance and reinsurance rates downward.

Zurich_SponsoredContent“Our risk engineers are equipped to help customers harden their assets against a variety of perils.”

– Richard Montminy, head of property, Commercial Insurance, Zurich North America

At the same time there has been a continued flow of attritional and large losses hitting the market, including most recently the Fort McMurray wildfires in western Canada. Even though these losses appear to be putting a slight damper on rate declines, the overabundance of capacity continues to drive the market that we have been experiencing in 2015 and into 2016. The challenge that insurers will face as we look forward is that the continued drawn-out downward pressure on rates across the property industry is creating an unhealthy market that is not sustainable over the long run.

How can commercial property insurers deliver value to retain profitable business in an environment of declining rates? How can you truly differentiate?

In a market where rates are declining, it can be tempting to seek the lowest price for coverage. But there are significant differences among insurance providers. At Zurich, we differentiate our value through our ability to give our customers insights to improve the resilience of their organizations. We’re constantly working with customers to build that into the infrastructure of their organizations so that they can regain their footing quickly after a loss. Zurich has more than 100 years of experience in delivering on our promises to customers in North America, and as a leading global insurance group we can help property owners manage their risks in more than 200 countries and territories. Risk insight, claims expertise, global reach, financial strength — these are just a few of the reasons why multinational corporations have chosen Zurich as their risk partner for many years. We provide value not just in the insurance policies we offer but also through the insights we deliver.

How does Zurich help property customers build resilience?

Our risk engineers are equipped to help customers harden their assets against a variety of perils. Zurich risk engineers work closely with customers to build business continuity plans, and to take steps before, during and after a loss. We bring not just a catastrophic perspective or a fire perspective but broad-based experience in mitigating a broad spectrum of risks. Our teams gain insights from working with customers in all industries, and we are able to share insights to help reduce property risks. For example, a company in the plastics industry acquired a peer with manufacturing processes somewhat different from our customer’s operations. Zurich had experience with a loss on similar exposures faced by another customer, and our engineer was able to share these insights. We showed the companies where they could build protection into their processes. In another instance, we engaged with a large hospitality company to show them how to build in protection to prevent water intrusion, which causes most of the damage in hurricanes. From securing rooftop equipment with cables to sloping balconies to encourage drainage to the proper glazing and support structure of windows to resist projectiles and breakage, Zurich helped this customer enhance its resilience. We have shown our customers that it’s possible to retrofit buildings but generally much cheaper to incorporate the proper design up-front. Many of our large customers have used our insights to implement changes in the design phase.

How important is it for insurers to make investments that help customers build resilience?

We want our customers to expect full engagement and attention from us. Zurich continues to invest heavily in our risk engineering group, to deliver insights and to ensure we’re keeping up with changes in building and industry standards. Our teams have been through catastrophe events many times, and we are able to advise customers on what they need to do in the first hour, the first week and month, etc., when a loss occurs. Zurich’s relationships with vendors enable us to help customers plan for generators and fuel, for example. We are making investments to strengthen our ability to help our customers think about and plan for resilience and recovery.

For more information about Zurich property solutions and risk insights, visit zurichna.com and the Zurich Virtual Literature Rack at zurichvlr.com.

This is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available to qualified customers through the companies of Zurich in North America, provided solely for informational purposes. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, offer, advice, recommendation, or any other service with regard to any type of insurance product underwritten by individual member companies of Zurich in North America, including Zurich American Insurance Company, 1299 Zurich Way, Schaumburg, IL 60196.

Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage, terms and conditions. The description of the policy provisions gives a broad overview of coverages and does not revise or amend the policy. Coverages and rates are subject to individual insured meeting our underwriting qualifications and product availability in applicable states. Some coverages may be written on a nonadmitted basis through licensed surplus lines brokers. Zurich does not guarantee any particular outcome and there may be conditions on your premises or within your organization, which may not be apparent to us. You are in the best position to understand your business and your organization and to take steps to minimize risk, and we wish to assist you by providing the information and tools to help you assess your changing risk environment. Risk engineering services are provided by The Zurich Services Corporation.

©2016 Zurich American Insurance Company

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Zurich. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Zurich Insurance Group, Ltd is an insurance-based financial services provider with a global network of subsidiaries and offices in North America and Europe as well as in Asia Pacific, Latin America and other markets.

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R&I: What was your first job?

I was a financial analyst with the N.J. Casino Control Commission.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

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David Cammarata, assistant treasurer, risk management and insurance, Verizon Communications Inc.

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San Diego, any year.

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I think the most scary scenarios include a nuclear, biological, chemical or radiological event, a widespread global health epidemic and/or a widespread state sponsored cyber shutdown.

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We do almost all of our business through a broker.

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No. It’s a conflict.

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A lot.

“I love it when the risk management organization is able to contribute in a way that makes a real impact to the corporation’s overall objectives. On several occasions we have been able to make real contributions to the bottom line.”

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“My Cousin Vinny.” That movie makes me laugh no matter how many times I watch it.

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My dad used to take me to a place called Chick & Nello’s. It was an Italian place that did not have a menu. They came to your table and told you the two or three items they were making that day. The food was out of this world.

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What about the Fukushima 50? I don’t think I could have done what they did.

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Katie Siegel is a staff writer at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]