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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

Cyber Resilience

No, Seriously. You Need a Comprehensive Cyber Incident Response Plan Before It’s Too Late.

Awareness of cyber risk is increasing, but some companies may be neglecting to prepare adequate response plans that could save them millions. 
By: | June 1, 2018 • 7 min read

To minimize the financial and reputational damage from a cyber attack, it is absolutely critical that businesses have a cyber incident response plan.

“Sadly, not all yet do,” said David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy.

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In the event of a breach, a company must be able to quickly identify and contain the problem, assess the level of impact, communicate internally and externally, recover where possible any lost data or functionality needed to resume business operations and act quickly to manage potential reputational risk.

This can only be achieved with help from the right external experts and the design and practice of a well-honed internal response.

The first step a company must take, said Legassick, is to understand its cyber exposures through asset identification, classification, risk assessment and protection measures, both technological and human.

According to Raf Sanchez, international breach response manager, Beazley, cyber-response plans should be flexible and applicable to a wide range of incidents, “not just a list of consecutive steps.”

They also should bring together key stakeholders and specify end goals.

Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

With bad actors becoming increasingly sophisticated and often acting in groups, attack vectors can hit companies from multiple angles simultaneously, meaning a holistic approach is essential, agreed Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions.

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.”

This means assembling a response team including individuals from IT, legal, operations, risk management, HR, finance and the board — each of whom must be well drilled in their responsibilities in the event of a breach.

“You can’t pick your players on the day of the game,” said Hogg. “Response times are critical, so speed and timing are of the essence. You should also have a very clear communication plan to keep the CEO and board of directors informed of recommended courses of action and timing expectations.”

People on the incident response team must have sufficient technical skills and access to critical third parties to be able to make decisions and move to contain incidents fast. Knowledge of the company’s data and network topology is also key, said Legassick.

“Perhaps most important of all,” he added, “is to capture in detail how, when, where and why an incident occurred so there is a feedback loop that ensures each threat makes the cyber defense stronger.”

Cyber insurance can play a key role by providing a range of experts such as forensic analysts to help manage a cyber breach quickly and effectively (as well as PR and legal help). However, the learning process should begin before a breach occurs.

Practice Makes Perfect

“Any incident response plan is only as strong as the practice that goes into it,” explained Mike Peters, vice president, IT, RIMS — who also conducts stress testing through his firm Sentinel Cyber Defense Advisors.

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Unless companies have an ethical hacker or certified information security officer on board who can conduct sophisticated simulated attacks, Peters recommended they hire third-party experts to test their networks for weaknesses, remediate these issues and retest again for vulnerabilities that haven’t been patched or have newly appeared.

“You need to plan for every type of threat that’s out there,” he added.

Hogg agreed that bringing third parties in to conduct tests brings “fresh thinking, best practice and cross-pollination of learnings from testing plans across a multitude of industries and enterprises.”

“Collaboration is key — you have to take silos down and work in a cross-functional manner.” — Jason J. Hogg, CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions

Legassick added that companies should test their plans at least annually, updating procedures whenever there is a significant change in business activity, technology or location.

“As companies expand, cyber security is not always front of mind, but new operations and territories all expose a company to new risks.”

For smaller companies that might not have the resources or the expertise to develop an internal cyber response plan from whole cloth, some carriers offer their own cyber risk resources online.

Evan Fenaroli, an underwriting product manager with the Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), said his company hosts an eRiskHub, which gives PHLY clients a place to start looking for cyber event response answers.

That includes access to a pool of attorneys who can guide company executives in creating a plan.

“It’s something at the highest level that needs to be a priority,” Fenaroli said. For those just getting started, Fenaroli provided a checklist for consideration:

  • Purchase cyber insurance, read the policy and understand its notice requirements.
  • Work with an attorney to develop a cyber event response plan that you can customize to your business.
  • Identify stakeholders within the company who will own the plan and its execution.
  • Find outside forensics experts that the company can call in an emergency.
  • Identify a public relations expert who can be called in the case of an event that could be leaked to the press or otherwise become newsworthy.

“When all of these things fall into place, the outcome is far better in that there isn’t a panic,” said Fenaroli, who, like others, recommends the plan be tested at least annually.

Cyber’s Physical Threat

With the digital and physical worlds converging due to the rise of the Internet of Things, Hogg reminded companies: “You can’t just test in the virtual world — testing physical end-point security is critical too.”

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How that testing is communicated to underwriters should also be a key focus, said Rich DePiero, head of cyber, North America, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions.

Don’t just report on what went well; it’s far more believable for an underwriter to hear what didn’t go well, he said.

“If I hear a client say it is perfect and then I look at some of the results of the responses to breaches last year, there is a disconnect. Help us understand what you learned and what you worked out. You want things to fail during these incident response tests, because that is how we learn,” he explained.

“Bringing in these outside firms, detailing what they learned and defining roles and responsibilities in the event of an incident is really the best practice, and we are seeing more and more companies do that.”

Support from the Board

Good cyber protection is built around a combination of process, technology, learning and people. While not every cyber incident needs to be reported to the boardroom, senior management has a key role in creating a culture of planning and risk awareness.

David Legassick, head of life sciences, tech and cyber, CNA Hardy

“Cyber is a boardroom risk. If it is not taken seriously at boardroom level, you are more than likely to suffer a network breach,” Legassick said.

However, getting board buy-in or buy-in from the C-suite is not always easy.

“C-suite executives often put off testing crisis plans as they get in the way of the day job. The irony here is obvious given how disruptive an incident can be,” said Sanchez.

“The C-suite must demonstrate its support for incident response planning and that it expects staff at all levels of the organization to play their part in recovering from serious incidents.”

“What these people need from the board is support,” said Jill Salmon, New York-based vice president, head of cyber/tech/MPL, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

“I don’t know that the information security folks are looking for direction from the board as much as they are looking for support from a resources standpoint and a visibility standpoint.

“They’ve got to be aware of what they need and they need to have the money to be able to build it up to that level,” she said.

Without that support, according to Legassick, failure to empower and encourage the IT team to manage cyber threats holistically through integration with the rest of the organization, particularly risk managers, becomes a common mistake.

He also warned that “blame culture” can prevent staff from escalating problems to management in a timely manner.

Collaboration and Communication

Given that cyber incident response truly is a team effort, it is therefore essential that a culture of collaboration, preparation and practice is embedded from the top down.

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One of the biggest tripping points for companies — and an area that has done the most damage from a reputational perspective — is in how quickly and effectively the company communicates to the public in the aftermath of a cyber event.

Salmon said of all the cyber incident response plans she has seen, the companies that have impressed her most are those that have written mock press releases and rehearsed how they are going to respond to the media in the aftermath of an event.

“We have seen so many companies trip up in that regard,” she said. “There have been examples of companies taking too long and then not explaining why it took them so long. It’s like any other crisis — the way that you are communicating it to the public is really important.” &

Antony Ireland is a London-based financial journalist. He can be reached at [email protected] Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]