NAPSLO 2016

Top 5 Challenges and Opportunities for E&S

Attendees of the 2016 NAPSLO Annual Convention shared their thoughts on what lies ahead for the excess and surplus insurance industry.
By: | October 5, 2016 • 5 min read

Thousands of attendees converged on Atlanta, Ga., from Sept. 25 to 28 for NAPSLO’s Annual Convention. From the many conversations among brokers, carriers and underwriters, a few common challenges and opportunities facing the excess and surplus market emerged.

1. Soft Market Conditions

Overwhelmingly, convention attendees cited the continuing soft market as their primary challenge.

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Excess capital and low investment income are making organic growth difficult, and most see no end in sight to that dynamic. The boost in M&A activity driven by these conditions is also emboldening primary insurers to take on new risks with expanded resources that typically are better suited to the E&S market.

“More standard carriers are entering into the Allied Health marketplace and driving prices down, which makes me less confident that the hard market will come again any time soon,” said Jennifer Schoenthal, a health care underwriter with Beazley.

“E&S shines where the standard market won’t go. There will always be opportunities for E&S as technology advances.” — Hank Watkins, president, Lloyd’s North America.

“E&S brokers used to be the brokers of last resort because there was no participation from standard insurers, but small agent consolidation makes standard insurers more inclined to place coverage themselves in new areas and forego E&S,” said Jon Starck, divisional vice president of marketing for the executive liability division of Great American Insurance Group.

“They are expanding their appetites.”

Some, however, took a more positive view, noting that some segments are performing better than others, forming “hard pockets” within the overall soft market.

“I think, though, there is a blurring between the soft and hard market. Non-admitted forms and products have improved, and there is a demand for specialized expertise,” Starck said.

2. New Risks Present New Opportunities

Despite movement from the primary market into E&S territory, opportunities remain in emerging risks like cyber, drones and driverless cars.

“E&S shines where the standard market won’t go. There will always be opportunities for E&S as technology advances,” said Hank Watkins, president of Lloyd’s North America.

One risk the primary market is hesitant to tackle is flood exposure. After the Senate vote earlier this year to allow the private market to provide flood insurance, many underwriters have approached with caution, but E&S insurers are already writing primary coverage.

“I don’t think there is enough investment in new technologies, but it’s tough to find the extra pennies in a challenging business environment when you’re trying to manage headcount and expenses.” — Ron Beauregard, head of U.S. E&S property, Beazley

“The NFIP is $25 billion in debt,” Watkins said. “There is a place for E&S to step in.”

Schoenthal of Beazley also noted that the specialty underwriter is adding value by participating in several health care-related risks that prove too tricky for the primary market, including telemedicine, clinical trials, implantable devices, nutraceuticals, and military medicine.

3. Technology and Pace of Change

To achieve growth in a soft market – other than through merger or acquisition – carriers, underwriters and brokers have to innovate. But that’s easier said than done.

“It’s imperative that we figure out how to create new products,” said David Nelson, senior vice president, E&S and specialty contract underwriting, Nationwide Insurance.

While many companies have idea-gathering mechanisms, they tend to fall short on the technology needed to turn those ideas to reality.

Younger generations communicate and build relationships differently, and there is increasing customer demand for greater ease of doing business. But industry leaders question whether they can keep up with the pace of technological change occurring in other sectors.

“We are an industry not used to rapid change,” said Craig Kliethermes, president and COO, RLI Insurance Co.

“I don’t think there is enough investment in new technologies,” said Ron Beauregard, head of U.S. E&S property, Beazley, “but it’s tough to find the extra pennies in a challenging business environment when you’re trying to manage headcount and expenses.”

In addition to servicing younger customers, updating technology will also be critical to attracting younger workers to the industry, many attendees agreed.

4. Talent Pipelines

Perspectives on recruiting and retaining talent varied widely. Some felt the issue was critical. With baby boomers preparing to retire, some executives were concerned about how to best transfer their knowledge and skills to incoming talent who — because of changes in technology — do business very differently.

Others were more optimistic. The more upbeat companies were those that had developed formal partnerships and internship programs with universities, or had robust training programs that gave new recruits face time with their older, experienced counterparts.

“We are an industry not used to rapid change.” –Craig Kliethermes, president and COO, RLI Insurance Co.

“People can always be trained,” said Schoenthal.

“You have to be willing to look outside the mold and look at other skill sets to find the person best able to do the job.”

5. Other Trends to Watch

Looking forward, attendees noted some new risks that present underwriting challenges and that need close attention.

Cyber and the Internet of Things as they relate to property risk remains a difficult exposure to identify and quantify, but will evolve rapidly as more devices become “connected.”

The marijuana market, set to expand as more states legalize possession of the drug, could offer abundant opportunities for insurers, but that expansion for now is stalled by prohibitive federal law.

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Watkins of Lloyd’s said that market pulled its products for marijuana purveyors last year due to incongruities between state and federal laws, and is watching developments closely to determine when, if ever, it would be wise to re-enter the market.

Kliethermes of RLI also highlighted the emerging trend of funded litigation — when a third party essentially “invests” in a lawsuit, hoping to make a profit from the settlement or eventual award. This outside funding makes plaintiffs’ attorneys less willing to settle, or more inclined to demand larger settlements.

Some of these third parties focus specifically on cases stemming from auto accidents, covering the defendant’s medical and living expenses in exchange for a piece of the final compensation.

Given the increasing severity of commercial auto claims, E&S insurers could have an opportunity to step in and provide coverage for this new risk.

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

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Cyber Liability

Fresh Worries for Boards of Directors

New cyber security regulations increase exposure for directors and officers at financial institutions.
By: | June 1, 2017 • 6 min read

Boards of directors could face a fresh wave of directors and officers (D&O) claims following the introduction of tough new cybersecurity rules for financial institutions by The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS).

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Prompted by recent high profile cyber attacks on JPMorgan Chase, Sony, Target, and others, the state regulations are the first of their kind and went into effect on March 1.

The new rules require banks, insurers and other financial institutions to establish an enterprise-wide cybersecurity program and adopt a written policy that must be reviewed by the board and approved by a senior officer annually.

The regulation also requires the more than 3,000 financial services firms operating in the state to appoint a chief information security officer to oversee the program, to report possible breaches within 72 hours, and to ensure that third-party vendors meet the new standards.

Companies will have until September 1 to comply with most of the new requirements, and beginning February 15, 2018, they will have to submit an annual certification of compliance.

The responsibility for cybersecurity will now fall squarely on the board and senior management actively overseeing the entity’s overall program. Some experts fear that the D&O insurance market is far from prepared to absorb this risk.

“The new rules could raise compliance risks for financial institutions and, in turn, premiums and loss potential for D&O insurance underwriters,” warned Fitch Ratings in a statement. “If management and directors of financial institutions that experience future cyber incidents are subsequently found to be noncompliant with the New York regulations, then they will be more exposed to litigation that would be covered under professional liability policies.”

D&O Challenge

Judy Selby, managing director in BDO Consulting’s technology advisory services practice, said that while many directors and officers rely on a CISO to deal with cybersecurity, under the new rules the buck stops with the board.

“The common refrain I hear from directors and officers is ‘we have a great IT guy or CIO,’ and while it’s important to have them in place, as the board, they are ultimately responsible for cybersecurity oversight,” she said.

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting at Argo Pro, said that unknown cyber threats, untested policy language and developing case laws would all make it more difficult for the D&O market to respond accurately to any such new claims.

“Insurers will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure,” he said.

Going forward, said Larry Hamilton, partner at Mayer Brown, D&O underwriters also need to scrutinize a company’s compliance with the regulations.

“To the extent that this risk was not adequately taken into account in the first place in the underwriting of in-force D&O policies, there could be unanticipated additional exposure for the D&O insurers,” he said.

Michelle Lopilato, Hub International’s director of cyber and technology solutions, added that some carriers may offer more coverage, while others may pull back.

“How the markets react will evolve as we see how involved the department becomes in investigating and fining financial institutions for noncompliance and its result on the balance sheet and dividends,” she said.

Christopher Keegan, senior managing director at Beecher Carlson, said that by setting a benchmark, the new rules would make it easier for claimants to make a case that the company had been negligent.

“If stock prices drop, then this makes it easier for class action lawyers to make their cases in D&O situations,” he said. “As a result, D&O carriers may see an uptick in cases against their insureds and an easier path for plaintiffs to show that the company did not meet its duty of care.”

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One area that regulators and plaintiffs might seize upon is the certification compliance requirement, according to Rob Yellen, executive vice president, D&O and fiduciary liability product leader, FINEX at Willis Towers Watson.

“A mere inaccuracy in a certification could result in criminal enforcement, in which case it would then become a boardroom issue,” he said.

A big grey area, however, said Shiraz Saeed, national practice leader for cyber risk at Starr Companies, is determining if a violation is a cyber or management liability issue in the first place.

“The complication arises when a company only has D&O coverage, but it doesn’t have a cyber policy and then they have to try and push all the claims down the D&O route, irrespective of their nature,” he said.

“Insurers, on their part, will need to account for the increased exposures presented by these new regulations and charge appropriately for such added exposure.” — William Kelly, senior vice president, underwriting, Argo Pro

Jim McCue, managing director at Aon’s financial services group, said many small and mid-size businesses may struggle to comply with the new rules in time.

“It’s going to be a steep learning curve and a lot of work in terms of preparedness and the implementation of a highly detailed cyber security program, risk assessment and response plan, all by September 2017,” he said.

The new regulation also has the potential to impact third parties including accounting, law, IT and even maintenance and repair firms who have access to a company’s information systems and personal data, said Keegan.

“That can include everyone from IT vendors to the people who maintain the building’s air conditioning,” he said.

New Models

Others have followed New York’s lead, with similar regulations being considered across federal, state and non-governmental regulators.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Cyber-security Taskforce has proposed an insurance data security model law that establishes exclusive standards for data security and investigation, and notification of a breach of data security for insurance providers.

Once enacted, each state would be free to adopt the new law, however, “our main concern is if regulators in different states start to adopt different standards from each other,” said Alex Hageli, director, personal lines policy at the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.

“It would only serve to make compliance harder, increase the cost of burden on companies, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really help anybody.”

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Richard Morris, partner at law firm Herrick, Feinstein LLP, said companies need to review their current cybersecurity program with their chief technology officer or IT provider.

“Companies should assess whether their current technology budget is adequate and consider what investments will be required in 2017 to keep up with regulatory and market expectations,” he said. “They should also review and assess the adequacy of insurance policies with respect to coverages, deductibles and other limitations.”

Adam Hamm, former NAIC chair and MD of Protiviti’s risk and compliance practice, added: “With New York’s new cyber regulation, this is a sea change from where we were a couple of years ago and it’s soon going to become the new norm for regulating cyber security.” &

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]