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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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The Profession: Curt Gross

This director of risk management sees cyber, IP and reputation risks as evolving threats, but more formal education may make emerging risk professionals better prepared.
By: | June 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first non-professional job was working at Burger King in high school. I learned some valuable life lessons there.

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

After taking some accounting classes in high school, I originally thought I wanted to be an accountant. After working on a few Widgets Inc. projects in college, I figured out that wasn’t what I really wanted to do. Risk management found me. The rest is history. Looking back, I am pleased with how things worked out.

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

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I think we do a nice job on post graduate education. I think the ARM and CPCU designations give credibility to the profession. Plus, formal college risk management degrees are becoming more popular these days. I know The University of Akron just launched a new risk management bachelor’s program in the fall of 2017 within the business school.

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

I think we could do a better job with streamlining certificates of insurance or, better yet, evaluating if they are even necessary. It just seems to me that there is a significant amount of time and expense around generating certificates. There has to be a more efficient way.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

Selfishly, I prefer a destination with a direct flight when possible. RIMS does a nice job of selecting various locations throughout the country. It is a big job to successfully pull off a conference of that size.

Curt Gross, Director of Risk Management, Parker Hannifin Corp.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

Definitely the change in nontraditional property & casualty exposures such as intellectual property and reputational risk. Those exposures existed way back when but in different ways. As computer networks become more and more connected and news travels at a more rapid pace, it just amplifies these types of exposures. Sometimes we have to think like the perpetrator, which can be difficult to do.

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

I hate to sound cliché — it’s quite the buzz these days — but I would have to say cyber. It’s such a complex risk involving nontraditional players and motives. Definitely a challenging exposure to get your arms around. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll really know the true exposure until there is more claim development.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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Our captive insurance company. I’ve been fortunate to work for several companies with a captive, each one with a different operating objective. I view a captive as an essential tool for a successful risk management program.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I can’t point to just one. I have and continue to be lucky to work for really good managers throughout my career. Each one has taken the time and interest to develop me as a professional. I certainly haven’t arrived yet and welcome feedback to continue to try to be the best I can be every day.

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

I would like to think I have and continue to bring meaningful value to my company. However, I would have to say my family is my proudest accomplishment.

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

Favorite movie is definitely “Good Will Hunting.”

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

Tough question to narrow down. If my wife ran a restaurant, it would be hers. We try to have dinner as a family as much as possible. If I had to pick one restaurant though, I would say Fire Food & Drink in Cleveland, Ohio. Chef Katz is a culinary genius.

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

The Grand Canyon. It is just so vast. A close second is Stonehenge.

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

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A few, actually. Up until a few years ago, I owned a sport bike (motorcycle). Of course, I wore the proper gear, took a safety course and read a motorcycle safety book. Also, I have taken a few laps in a NASCAR [race car] around Daytona International Speedway at 180 mph. Most recently, trying to ride my daughter’s skateboard.

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

The Dalai Lama. A world full of compassion, tolerance and patience and free of discrimination, racism and violence, while perhaps idealistic, sounds like a wonderful place to me.

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

I really enjoy the company I work for and my role, because I get the opportunity to work with various functions. For example, while mostly finance, I get to interact with legal, human resources, employee health and safety, to name a few.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

I asked my son. He said, “Risk management and insurance.” (He’s had the benefit of bring-your-kid-to-work day.)

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