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PLUS Report

Turning the Market

The number of professional liability class actions is on a record tear, which should impact rates eventually.
By: | October 12, 2017 • 5 min read

The professional liability (PL) market became increasingly more competitive recently with record levels of capacity and capital and insurers fighting on price and policy terms to gain share.
Among the most competitive areas on coverage and pricing is middle market technology Errors & Omissions (E&O), closely followed by Directors & Officers (D&O) and employment practices liability (EPL).

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With large data and privacy losses from retail and big technology services claims mounting up on top of already expanding global privacy laws and a lack of primary PL coverage for tech firms, opportunities abound, particularly in cyber.

Cyber also drives demand for higher limits in the wake of the recent spate of high-profile cyber hacks and narrow indemnification language in vendor agreements.

With an estimated 500 PL securities class actions expected in 2017, according to industry experts, it’s probably only a matter of time before the market turns.

All of these factors will be key talking points among brokers, insurers and risk managers at next month’s Professional Liability Underwriting Society (PLUS) 30th International Conference in Atlanta.

“Rates are still coming down,” said Brian Wanat, CEO of Aon Risk Solutions’ Financial Services Group. “But with many insurance carriers barely breaking even and a low interest rate environment, some may be forced to try to gain rate or move away from writing those classes of business.”

Brian Wanat, CEO, Aon Risk Solutions’ Financial Services Group

A.M. Best’s latest special report on PL said that key coverages continue to be impacted by “more than ample capacity and competitive pressure on rates, and terms and conditions.”

“Beginning in Q1 2014, the influx of additional competitors in the professional liability market space has slowly but steadily driven rates downward,” the report read.
“In addition, the E&O marketplace is still trying to get its arms around the impact of large data and privacy-related losses affecting the retail and health sectors, along with other technology losses that have breached the six-figure threshold.”

The ratings agency expects PL markets to remain robust in 2017, with heightened competition in D&O and E&O specifically.

The Growth of Cyber

Cyber insurance is big business, not just in America but globally, with total premiums reaching $2.5 billion last year and expected to climb to $10 billion by 2020, according to Willis Towers Watson.

The middle market has become extremely competitive with explicit grants of coverage for ransomware and social engineering in stand-alone cyber forms as more first-time buyers enter the market.

Bob Parisi, managing director at Marsh FINPRO, said that the biggest challenge facing the PL market was the changing way companies do business and interact with their customers, vendors and trading partners, as well as how that risk is underwritten.

“After the latest WannaCry and Petya attacks, companies are a lot more wary and have been focused on their cyber security and controls,” he said. “Technology has skewed everything and added a layer of risk that wasn’t there 20 years ago.”

Parisi, moderating the “Business Interrupted: An Alien Concept?” panel at PLUS, added that insurers expanded their coverage in response to the proliferation of cyber attacks.

Matthew Prevost, vice president of Chubb Financial Lines, said cyber impacted all PL lines, highlighted by the recent wave of Petya and NotPetya attacks.

“After the latest WannaCry and Petya attacks, companies are a lot more wary and have been focused on their cyber security and controls. Technology has skewed everything and added a layer of risk that wasn’t there 20 years ago.” – Bob Parisi, managing director, Marsh FINPRO

“There’s not one line that ‘cyber’ doesn’t touch now, and companies and underwriters need to understand explicitly how it interacts with their business,” he said.

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Prevost, moderator for the “Ransomware Attacks! A Survival Guide” panel at PLUS, said that organizations can mitigate against cyber attacks by backing up their data both on and off line and by regularly patching to keep it updated.

“More broadly speaking, a company needs to be aware of both the internet response to an attack and their own risk management strategies,” he said.

“They need to recognize what to do in the event of an attack, whether it’s an individual device or a network-based ransomware attack.”

Boardroom Risks

D&O direct written premiums remained flat at $6.4 billion for the third straight year in 2016, with AIG maintaining the biggest share of 15 percent, according to Standard & Poor.

While loss ratios improved slightly, the WTW report expects securities class action filings to increase with around 500 expected this year; almost double the 270 recorded in 2016 and well above the 20-year average of 188.

Pharmaceutical industries were the hardest hit sub-sector, accounting for one quarter of the 125 reported filings so far this year, said WTW.

Geoff Allen, executive vice president, national professional services practice leader at WTW’s FINEX North America, who works predominantly with law firms, said that the biggest challenge facing companies in terms of PL was the rising cost of defending lawsuits.

“Coverage offerings are being stretched at an unprecedented pace while more capacity floods the space.” – Al Fantuzzi, SVP, professional liability, Allied World

“As a result we are seeing a number of cases signed off with significantly quicker settlements because of the cost of litigation,” he said.

“Also, from an insurance perspective, ongoing systemic claims are driving big pricing movements, and it’s hard to see where it’s going to end.”

In E&O, Al Fantuzzi, senior vice president, professional liability E&O at Allied World, said that the immediate challenge was maintaining a core portfolio in a constantly expanding marketplace.

“Coverage offerings are being stretched at an unprecedented pace while more capacity floods the space. The carriers that commit to it with underwriting integrity will be the most positive contributors, which in turn perpetuate opportunities to operate in these segments,” he said.

Workplace Liabilities

EPL rates also remained mostly stable with average primary rate increases of five percent, except in California where increases continue to fluctuate between five and 15 percent, said the WTW report.

The EPL market also remains very competitive with capacity of more than $800 million in the U.S., Bermuda and Europe combined.

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Claudia Costa, a partner at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, said that among the biggest challenges for employers were preventing cyber bullying and policing their employees’ use of the internet and social media.

“There is a definite relationship between what businesses are doing to prevent cyber bullying … and cyber security,” she said. “If employees are surfing the internet, an organization is effectively opening up their server to attack, and I think that’s only going to increase.”

Costa, who will be moderating the “Warning — The Internet May Be Hazardous to Employees!” panel at PLUS, said that employers needed to tighten up their policies on internet and social media usage, and to be more proactive in investigating allegations of online bullying or threats of violence made by an employee.

“Companies need to start treating claims of cyber threats and bullying by employees in the same way they would as with a complaint of discrimination,” she said.

PLUS International Conference 2017

Two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning will take a star turn at this year’s PLUS conference, which will be held at the Marriott Marquis in Atlanta Nov. 1 through Nov. 3.

The former Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts quarterback will deliver the opening keynote, sharing strategies for adapting to change. &

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]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Insurtech

Kiss Your Annual Renewal Goodbye; On-Demand Insurance Challenges the Traditional Policy

Gig workers' unique insurance needs drive delivery of on-demand coverage.
By: | September 14, 2018 • 6 min read

The gig economy is growing. Nearly six million Americans, or 3.8 percent of the U.S. workforce, now have “contingent” work arrangements, with a further 10.6 million in categories such as independent contractors, on-call workers or temporary help agency staff and for-contract firms, often with well-known names such as Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

The number of Americans owning a drone is also increasing — one recent survey suggested as much as one in 12 of the population — sparking vigorous debate on how regulation should apply to where and when the devices operate.

Add to this other 21st century societal changes, such as consumers’ appetite for other electronic gadgets and the advent of autonomous vehicles. It’s clear that the cover offered by the annually renewable traditional insurance policy is often not fit for purpose. Helped by the sophistication of insurance technology, the response has been an expanding range of ‘on-demand’ covers.

The term ‘on-demand’ is open to various interpretations. For Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO of pioneering on-demand insurance platform Trōv, it’s about “giving people agency over the items they own and enabling them to turn on insurance cover whenever they want for whatever they want — often for just a single item.”

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“On-demand represents a whole new behavior and attitude towards insurance, which for years has very much been a case of ‘get it and forget it,’ ” said Walchek.

Trōv’s mobile app enables users to insure just a single item, such as a laptop, whenever they wish and to also select the period of cover required. When ready to buy insurance, they then snap a picture of the sales receipt or product code of the item they want covered.

Welcoming Trōv: A New On-Demand Arrival

While Walchek, who set up Trōv in 2012, stressed it’s a technology company and not an insurance company, it has attracted industry giants such as AXA and Munich Re as partners. Trōv began the U.S. roll-out of its on-demand personal property products this summer by launching in Arizona, having already established itself in Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Australia and the UK were great testing grounds, thanks to their single regulatory authorities,” said Walchek. “Trōv is already approved in 45 states, and we expect to complete the process in all by November.

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group.” – Scott Walchek, founding chairman and CEO, Trōv

“On-demand products have a particular appeal to millennials who love the idea of having control via their smart devices and have embraced the concept of an unbundling of experiences: 75 percent of our users are in the 18 to 35 age group,” he added.

“But a mass of tectonic societal shifts is also impacting older generations — on-demand cover fits the new ways in which they work, particularly the ‘untethered’ who aren’t always in the same workplace or using the same device. So we see on-demand going into societal lifestyle changes.”

Wooing Baby Boomers

In addition to its backing for Trōv, across the Atlantic, AXA has partnered with Insurtech start-up By Miles, launching a pay-as-you-go car insurance policy in the UK. The product is promoted as low-cost car insurance for drivers who travel no more than 140 miles per week, or 7,000 miles annually.

“Due to the growing need for these products, companies such as Marmalade — cover for learner drivers — and Cuvva — cover for part-time drivers — have also increased in popularity, and we expect to see more enter the market in the near future,” said AXA UK’s head of telematics, Katy Simpson.

Simpson confirmed that the new products’ initial appeal is to younger motorists, who are more regular users of new technology, while older drivers are warier about sharing too much personal information. However, she expects this to change as on-demand products become more prevalent.

“Looking at mileage-based insurance, such as By Miles specifically, it’s actually older generations who are most likely to save money, as the use of their vehicles tends to decline. Our job is therefore to not only create more customer-centric products but also highlight their benefits to everyone.”

Another Insurtech ready to partner with long-established names is New York-based Slice Labs, which in the UK is working with Legal & General to enter the homeshare insurance market, recently announcing that XL Catlin will use its insurance cloud services platform to create the world’s first on-demand cyber insurance solution.

“For our cyber product, we were looking for a partner on the fintech side, which dovetailed perfectly with what Slice was trying to do,” said John Coletti, head of XL Catlin’s cyber insurance team.

“The premise of selling cyber insurance to small businesses needs a platform such as that provided by Slice — we can get to customers in a discrete, seamless manner, and the partnership offers potential to open up other products.”

Slice Labs’ CEO Tim Attia added: “You can roll up on-demand cover in many different areas, ranging from contract workers to vacation rentals.

“The next leap forward will be provided by the new economy, which will create a range of new risks for on-demand insurance to respond to. McKinsey forecasts that by 2025, ecosystems will account for 30 percent of global premium revenue.

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“When you’re a start-up, you can innovate and question long-held assumptions, but you don’t have the scale that an insurer can provide,” said Attia. “Our platform works well in getting new products out to the market and is scalable.”

Slice Labs is now reviewing the emerging markets, which aren’t hampered by “old, outdated infrastructures,” and plans to test the water via a hackathon in southeast Asia.

Collaboration Vs Competition

Insurtech-insurer collaborations suggest that the industry noted the banking sector’s experience, which names the tech disruptors before deciding partnerships, made greater sense commercially.

“It’s an interesting correlation,” said Slice’s managing director for marketing, Emily Kosick.

“I believe the trend worth calling out is that the window for insurers to innovate is much shorter, thanks to the banking sector’s efforts to offer omni-channel banking, incorporating mobile devices and, more recently, intelligent assistants like Alexa for personal banking.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.”

As with fintechs in banking, Insurtechs initially focused on the retail segment, with 75 percent of business in personal lines and the remainder in the commercial segment.

“Banks have bought into the value of these technology partnerships but had the benefit of consumer expectations changing slowly with them. This compares to insurers who are in an ever-increasing on-demand world where the risk is high for laggards to be left behind.” — Emily Kosick, managing director, marketing, Slice

Those proportions may be set to change, with innovations such as digital commercial insurance brokerage Embroker’s recent launch of the first digital D&O liability insurance policy, designed for venture capital-backed tech start-ups and reinsured by Munich Re.

Embroker said coverage that formerly took weeks to obtain is now available instantly.

“We focus on three main issues in developing new digital business — what is the customer’s pain point, what is the expense ratio and does it lend itself to algorithmic underwriting?” said CEO Matt Miller. “Workers’ compensation is another obvious class of insurance that can benefit from this approach.”

Jason Griswold, co-founder and chief operating officer of Insurtech REIN, highlighted further opportunities: “I’d add a third category to personal and business lines and that’s business-to-business-to-consumer. It’s there we see the biggest opportunities for partnering with major ecosystems generating large numbers of insureds and also big volumes of data.”

For now, insurers are accommodating Insurtech disruption. Will that change?

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“Insurtechs have focused on products that regulators can understand easily and for which there is clear existing legislation, with consumer protection and insurer solvency the two issues of paramount importance,” noted Shawn Hanson, litigation partner at law firm Akin Gump.

“In time, we could see the disruptors partner with reinsurers rather than primary carriers. Another possibility is the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, Facebook and Apple, with their massive balance sheets, deciding to link up with a reinsurer,” he said.

“You can imagine one of them finding a good Insurtech and buying it, much as Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods gave it entry into the retail sector.” &

Graham Buck is a UK-based writer and has contributed to Risk & Insurance® since 1998. He can be reached at riskletters.com.