2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Artificial Intelligence Ties Liability in Knots

The same technologies that are driving business forward are upending the nature of loss exposures and presenting new coverage challenges.
By: | April 7, 2017 • 7 min read

Despite dire predictions of an “Automation Apocalypse,” it turns out that automation has only obliterated one job in the last 60 years. (Sorry, elevator operators.) However, the steady encroachment into the workplace of automation, robotics and cutting edge technologies is all too real. Robots aren’t just making cars and widgets and filling warehouse orders. They’re harvesting crops, flipping burgers, making pizza and folding laundry — just for starters.

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For businesses, the potential boons are obvious: reduced labor and operational costs, reduced turnover and fewer injuries from repetitive tasks, increased overall safety, production speed and quality. Some economists project that current trends will eventually lead to lower prices and increased demand.

Unfortunately all of that silver lining isn’t without its dark clouds. The potential risks are evolving just as fast as the technology itself, and both insurers and insureds will be hard-pressed to keep up. Questions of liability and coverage and product response are becoming increasingly murky.

Yesterday’s loss scenarios were more or less straightforward. If a truck fails to brake and the resulting crash causes a loss, where does the liability lie? The operator? The truck manufacturer? The brake manufacturer? There might be disputes over fault, but at least the possibilities were limited.

Now you have the same crash in an autonomous truck and the questions can make your head spin.  Was the circuitry at fault? A chip? Was there a fault in the programming? Was there a connectivity issue? Was it hacked? Did the machine choose not to apply the brakes because of a specific set of circumstances presented?

Having a confluence of factors contributing to losses is not anything new in the insurance industry said Gail McGiffin, principal in the EY insurance practice and leader of underwriting, product, policy and billing solutions. What is new “is the breadth of everything that technology touches these days,” she said. The result being that you’re no longer talking about the combination of one or two technologies, it may be more like five technologies or more contributing to the complexity of an exposure.

John Lucker, principal and global advanced analytics market leader, Deloitte & Touche

“You have to think about some of these emerging technologies — that combination of artificial intelligence with machine learning, with semantic web, with predictive models — all being in operation,” she said.

“Dissecting the exposures introduced by individual technologies is challenging enough but understanding the compounded effect of this multitude of technologies and how it’s contributing to exposure and product response — that is the next major challenge area that we’re facing in the industry.”

If a piece of equipment has embedded intelligence, “whether it’s analytics, whether it’s robotic process automation, whatever the case may be — there’s a shift of liability that’s tacit and implicit inside of the underlying product or service,” agreed John Lucker, principal and global advanced analytics market leader with Deloitte & Touche.

What’s unclear at the moment said Greg Hendrick, president of property & casualty insurance and reinsurance at XL Catlin, “is how it’s all going to come together when you actually have something unfortunate happen — who’s going to pay what? That’s the interesting thing about this emerging risk: What normally was perceived as a usual course of action for liability could shift as you see more and more technology, more and more autonomy, enter your vehicles and your manufacturing process.”

Divvying Up Liability

For all parties connected to a loss, the challenge will be not only trying to sleuth out the root cause, but then teasing out an answer to the question of whose policy, and which line will respond to the loss.

“From the insurance side of this, I think the biggest risk is that they just don’t know what the risks are.”   — John Lucker, principal, global advanced analytics market leader, Deloitte & Touche

Let’s say a programming error created a serious security flaw in one piece of software operating a fleet of autonomous industrial vehicles or machines. A hacker exploited the flaw and caused the entire fleet to unexpectedly halt, rendering every unit permanently inoperable.

Multiple crashes arose from the unexpected stalls as well as significant business interruption losses. The manufacturer took a stiff reputational hit for its inability to make good on contracts for days or weeks while trying to get back up and running. How can the company expect their program to respond?

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The company’s property policy might not exclude coverage for physical damage and business interruption caused by a cyber attack. But then again, it just might.

On the other hand, its cyber policy might only cover the loss of data in the event of an attack, but not property damage. Would the equipment manufacturer’s product liability policy respond? The software developer’s errors and omissions policy might respond, but maybe not, if the damage was caused by the attacker rather than by the programming error directly.

With each loss scenario composed of its own unique set of variables, questions about where liability rests are likely to result in a lot of finger-pointing between stakeholders.

“If there’s a part that goes bad and it’s just a one-off, then maybe we have a product liability issue,” said Lucker.

“If there are a couple hundred [pieces of equipment affected], maybe it’s a product recall liability issue. It could be errors and omissions — the engineer could have made a mistake, the programmer could have made an error. It could be directors and officers liability — this could have been an issue that was discussed in the boardroom and the board didn’t react appropriately so these other liabilities could flow upwards to the boardroom.

“We’ve shifted something that used to be fairly simple — who’s at fault and who’s going to pay for it — to a complex suite of problems and products that makes either personal or commercial risk management much more complicated,” he added.

In one sense, it’s not that different from a simple failure of a mechanical part, said John Denton, managing director at Marsh USA. The manufacturer of a defective part or the manufacturer of equipment incorporating that defective part have historically been assigned liability for any accidents arising out of that defect.

“In the same way, the developer of the software or the manufacturer of the part that incorporates that software has that same liability from the software defect that the manufacturer of the part previously had,” he said.

The key difference in many cases, he said, may be that the software company or the manufacturer of the part using the software may not have experience with any significant third-party liability, and may not have a program that is designed to respond to that liability.

Claim Development Needed

“From the insurance side of this, I think the biggest risk is that they just don’t know what the risks are,” said Lucker.

Insurers are definitely asking questions, said Denton. But “time will tell whether they’re asking the right questions.”

The brunt of the challenge will necessarily fall to underwriters, who are going to have to become even more technologically savvy than ever before, said McGiffin.

Greg Hendrick, president of property & casualty insurance and reinsurance, XL Catlin

“This is about understanding technology in the world at large, and understanding it as a function of each of the industry segments you might be writing, and each one of the accounts, to be able to identify the proportion of risk introduced by these different elements — to be able to assess the risk, evaluate the mitigation that’s in place, and then make decisions and price the exposure … it’s just taking it to a whole new level of sophistication.”

Claim development is another key piece of the puzzle, she said.

“As we have more and more claim activity, claim adjudication, claim litigation, and we understand how the confluence of technologies and the modern work environment play out through claims, we learn how those losses are settled and the contribution of each technology — as well as the combination of technologies — to the root cause of loss.

“You can’t substitute the years of claim history that still have to happen.”

Even though underwriters will try to manage the exposures with existing policy forms and language, that claim development will be necessary to guide new products, said Hendrick.

“Quite often your best intentions of what you meant to spell out and what you did spell out end up being interpreted differently by a court of law,” he said.

Insurers, said Lucker, will have to “redraft and recraft” policies to create more clarity about the risks they’re taking on.

“Challenge yourself to constantly keep in tune with how your company’s risk profile is changing based on this technology revolution.”    — Greg Hendrick, president of property & casualty insurance and reinsurance, XL Catlin.

As that claims history develops, paths to subrogation may become less clear for insurers, said experts. Difficulties tracing through the supply chain to understand the role of each player will make it more challenging first to sort out which policy is the primary, but then to understand the litigation path to recover from other parties who share blame for the loss.

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“In the end, the primary insurance policy, whatever it is … regulators are going to hold that insurer responsible for doing the right thing for the insured — getting a check cut or getting something fixed or making sure that somebody’s medical bills are paid,” said Lucker.

“The consumer has to be made whole in a fair way. How that gets sorted out behind the scenes among all of the various parties — that becomes the insurance companies’ problem or the insurance ecosystem’s problem.”

For their part, regulators, at some point, “are going to have to start thinking more about this tangled web of potential liability and all of this contractual finger-pointing and subrogation, and how the industry is going to sort this all out,” said Lucker.

“It’s going to produce a whole lot of litigation so this is a kind of permanent employment plan for the legal profession and it’s not going to be simple to sort out.”

Risk Managers Must Keep Pace

It’s unclear whether everyone along the chain of those who make and produce autonomous, robotic or intelligent equipment is up to speed on the shifting exposures, said Hendrick. But risk managers employing these technologies are definitely thinking about how this risk is evolving and how it could impact their organizations, he said.

“Whether it’s their commercial fleet of cars or commercial fleet of trucks, their warehouse equipment, their manufacturing equipment, their retail or office buildings … with more and more interconnectivity, they’re definitely starting to think about,  ‘OK where does liability sit, how does it arise, and who’s going to be responsible?’ ”

“There really isn’t an industry out there that’s not exposed to additional risks already as a result of this technology,” said Marsh’s Denton.

“So everybody — whether industrial users, drivers, auto or refrigerator manufacturers — everybody’s got to grapple with this new technology and that potential increase in exposures and risks and how their insurance program will respond to that.”

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That’s why no business can afford to simply renew their insurance program without due diligence, he added. “You can’t just renew your program with the same limits and the same type of coverage. As technology changes … the nature of the risk may increase or decrease or the size of the risk will change. You need to constantly evaluate your program to see if it responds to the potential magnitude of the exposure.”

Risk managers must be continually asking, “Are the products that I’ve historically bought the right ones to buy to protect the risks that I have now?” said Hendrick.

Companies will need to keep assessing their own programs as well as their suppliers’ programs to ensure they have the right amount of coverage in the new technology enabled world, he said.

The goal is to stay ahead of each wave of change and keep adapting, he added.

“Challenge yourself to constantly keep in tune with how your company’s risk profile is changing based on this technology revolution,” he said. &

________________________________________________________________

2017 Most Dangerous Emerging Risks

Cyber Business Interruption

Attacks on internet infrastructure begin, leaving unknown risks for insureds and insurers alike.

 

 

U.S. Economic Nationalism

Nationalistic policies aim to boost American wealth and prosperity, but they may do long-term economic damage.

 

 

Foreign Economic Nationalism

Economic nationalism is upsetting the risk management landscape by presenting challenges in once stable environments.

 

 

Coastal Mortgage Value Collapse

As climate change drives rising seas, so arises the risk that buyers will become leery of taking on mortgages along our coasts.  Trillions in mortgage values are at stake unless the public and the private sector move quickly.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Exclusive | Hank Greenberg on China Trade, Starr’s Rapid Growth and 100th, Spitzer, Schneiderman and More

In a robust and frank conversation, the insurance legend provides unique insights into global trade, his past battles and what the future holds for the industry and his company.
By: | October 12, 2018 • 12 min read

In 1960, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg was hired as a vice president of C.V. Starr & Co. At age 35, he had already accomplished a great deal.

He served his country as part of the Allied Forces that stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated the Nazi death camps. He fought again during the Korean War, earning a Bronze Star. He held a law degree from New York Law School.

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Now he was ready to make his mark on the business world.

Even C.V. Starr himself — who hired Mr. Greenberg and later hand-picked him as the successor to the company he founded in Shanghai in 1919 — could not have imagined what a mark it would be.

Mr. Greenberg began to build AIG as a Starr subsidiary, then in 1969, he took it public. The company would, at its peak, achieve a market cap of some $180 billion and cement its place as the largest insurance and financial services company in history.

This month, Mr. Greenberg travels to China to celebrate the 100th anniversary of C.V. Starr & Co. That visit occurs at a prickly time in U.S.-Sino relations, as the Trump administration levies tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods and China retaliates.

In September, Risk & Insurance® sat down with Mr. Greenberg in his Park Avenue office to hear his thoughts on the centennial of C.V. Starr, the dynamics of U.S. trade relationships with China and the future of the U.S. insurance industry as it faces the challenges of technology development and talent recruitment and retention, among many others. What follows is an edited transcript of that discussion.


R&I: One hundred years is quite an impressive milestone for any company. Celebrating the anniversary in China signifies the importance and longevity of that relationship. Can you tell us more about C.V. Starr’s history with China?

Hank Greenberg: We have a long history in China. I first went there in 1975. There was little there, but I had business throughout Asia, and I stopped there all the time. I’d stop there a couple of times a year and build relationships.

When I first started visiting China, there was only one state-owned insurance company there, PICC (the People’s Insurance Company of China); it was tiny at the time. We helped them to grow.

I also received the first foreign life insurance license in China, for AIA (The American International Assurance Co.). To date, there has been no other foreign life insurance company in China. It took me 20 years of hard work to get that license.

We also introduced an agency system in China. They had none. Their life company employees would get a salary whether they sold something or not. With the agency system of course you get paid a commission if you sell something. Once that agency system was installed, it went on to create more than a million jobs.

R&I: So Starr’s success has meant success for the Chinese insurance industry as well.

Hank Greenberg: That’s partly why we’re going to be celebrating that anniversary there next month. That celebration will occur alongside that of IBLAC (International Business Leaders’ Advisory Council), an international business advisory group that was put together when Zhu Rongji was the mayor of Shanghai [Zhu is since retired from public life]. He asked me to start that to attract foreign companies to invest in Shanghai.

“It turns out that it is harder [for China] to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

Shanghai and China in general were just coming out of the doldrums then; there was a lack of foreign investment. Zhu asked me to chair IBLAC and to help get it started, which I did. I served as chairman of that group for a couple of terms. I am still a part of that board, and it will be celebrating its 30th anniversary along with our 100th anniversary.

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We have a good relationship with China, and we’re candid as you can tell from the op-ed I published in the Wall Street Journal. I’m told that my op-ed was received quite well in China, by both Chinese companies and foreign companies doing business there.

On August 29, Mr. Greenberg published an opinion piece in the WSJ reminding Chinese leaders of the productive history of U.S.-Sino relations and suggesting that Chinese leaders take pragmatic steps to ease trade tensions with the U.S.

R&I: What’s your outlook on current trade relations between the U.S. and China?

Hank Greenberg: As to the current environment, when you are in negotiations, every leader negotiates differently.

President Trump is negotiating based on his well-known approach. What’s different now is that President Xi (Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China) made himself the emperor. All the past presidents in China before the revolution had two terms. He’s there for life, which makes things much more difficult.

R&I: Sure does. You’ve got a one- or two-term president talking to somebody who can wait it out. It’s definitely unique.

Hank Greenberg: So, clearly a lot of change is going on in China. Some of it is good. But as I said in the op-ed, China needs to be treated like the second largest economy in the world, which it is. And it will be the number one economy in the world in not too many years. That means that you can’t use the same terms of trade that you did 25 or 30 years ago.

They want to have access to our market and other markets. Fine, but you have to have reciprocity, and they have not been very good at that.

R&I: What stands in the way of that happening?

Hank Greenberg: I think there are several substantial challenges. One, their structure makes it very difficult. They have a senior official, a regulator, who runs a division within the government for insurance. He keeps that job as long as he does what leadership wants him to do. He may not be sure what they want him to do.

For example, the president made a speech many months ago saying they are going to open up banking, insurance and a couple of additional sectors to foreign investment; nothing happened.

The reason was that the head of that division got changed. A new administrator came in who was not sure what the president wanted so he did nothing. Time went on and the international community said, “Wait a minute, you promised that you were going to do that and you didn’t do that.”

So the structure is such that it is very difficult. China can’t react as fast as it should. That will change, but it is going to take time.

R&I: That’s interesting, because during the financial crisis in 2008 there was talk that China, given their more centralized authority, could react more quickly, not less quickly.

Hank Greenberg: It turns out that it is harder to change, because they have one leader. My guess is that we’ll work it out sooner or later. Trump and Xi have to meet. That will result in some agreement that will get to them and they will have to finish the rest of the negotiations. I believe that will happen.

R&I: Obviously, you have a very unique perspective and experience in China. For American companies coming to China, what are some of the current challenges?

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Hank Greenberg: Well, they very much want to do business in China. That’s due to the sheer size of the country, at 1.4 billion people. It’s a very big market and not just for insurance companies. It’s a whole range of companies that would like to have access to China as easily as Chinese companies have access to the United States. As I said previously, that has to be resolved.

It’s not going to be easy, because China has a history of not being treated well by other countries. The U.S. has been pretty good in that way. We haven’t taken advantage of China.

R&I: Your op-ed was very enlightening on that topic.

Hank Greenberg: President Xi wants to rebuild the “middle kingdom,” to what China was, a great country. Part of that was his takeover of the South China Sea rock islands during the Obama Administration; we did nothing. It’s a little late now to try and do something. They promised they would never militarize those islands. Then they did. That’s a real problem in Southern Asia. The other countries in that region are not happy about that.

R&I: One thing that has differentiated your company is that it is not a public company, and it is not a mutual company. We think you’re the only large insurance company with that structure at that scale. What advantages does that give you?

Hank Greenberg: Two things. First of all, we’re more than an insurance company. We have the traditional investment unit with the insurance company. Then we have a separate investment unit that we started, which is very successful. So we have a source of income that is diverse. We don’t have to underwrite business that is going to lose a lot of money. Not knowingly anyway.

R&I: And that’s because you are a private company?

Hank Greenberg: Yes. We attract a different type of person in a private company.

R&I: Do you think that enables you to react more quickly?

Hank Greenberg: Absolutely. When we left AIG there were three of us. Myself, Howie Smith and Ed Matthews. Howie used to run the internal financials and Ed Matthews was the investment guy coming out of Morgan Stanley when I was putting AIG together. We started with three people and now we have 3,500 and growing.

“I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.” — Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, chairman and CEO, C.V. Starr & Co. Inc.

R&I:  You being forced to leave AIG in 2005 really was an injustice, by the way. AIG wouldn’t have been in the position it was in 2008 if you had still been there.

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Hank Greenberg: Absolutely not. We had all the right things in place. We met with the financial services division once a day every day to make sure they stuck to what they were supposed to do. Even Hank Paulson, the Secretary of Treasury, sat on the stand during my trial and said that if I’d been at the company, it would not have imploded the way it did.

R&I: And that fateful decision the AIG board made really affected the course of the country.

Hank Greenberg: So many people lost all of their net worth. The new management was taking on billions of dollars’ worth of risk with no collateral. They had decimated the internal risk management controls. And the government takeover of the company when the financial crisis blew up was grossly unfair.

From the time it went public, AIG’s value had increased from $300 million to $180 billion. Thanks to Eliot Spitzer, it’s now worth a fraction of that. His was a gross misuse of the Martin Act. It gives the Attorney General the power to investigate without probable cause and bring fraud charges without having to prove intent. Only in New York does the law grant the AG that much power.

R&I: It’s especially frustrating when you consider the quality of his own character, and the scandal he was involved in.

In early 2008, Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging a meeting with a prostitute at a Washington Hotel and resigned shortly thereafter.

Hank Greenberg: Yes. And it’s been successive. Look at Eric Schneiderman. He resigned earlier this year when it came out that he had abused several women. And this was after he came out so strongly against other men accused of the same thing. To me it demonstrates hypocrisy and abuse of power.

Schneiderman followed in Spitzer’s footsteps in leveraging the Martin Act against numerous corporations to generate multi-billion dollar settlements.

R&I: Starr, however, continues to thrive. You said you’re at 3,500 people and still growing. As you continue to expand, how do you deal with the challenge of attracting talent?

Hank Greenberg: We did something last week.

On September 16th, St. John’s University announced the largest gift in its 148-year history. The Starr Foundation donated $15 million to the school, establishing the Maurice R. Greenberg Leadership Initiative at St. John’s School of Risk Management, Insurance and Actuarial Science.

Hank Greenberg: We have recruited from St. John’s for many, many years. These are young people who want to be in the insurance industry. They don’t get into it by accident. They study to become proficient in this and we have recruited some very qualified individuals from that school. But we also recruit from many other universities. On the investment side, outside of the insurance industry, we also recruit from Wall Street.

R&I: We’re very interested in how you and other leaders in this industry view technology and how they’re going to use it.

Hank Greenberg: I think technology can play a role in reducing operating expenses. In the last 70 years, you have seen the expense ratio of the industry rise, and I’m not sure the industry can afford a 35 percent expense ratio. But while technology can help, some additional fundamental changes will also be required.

R&I: So as the pre-eminent leader of the insurance industry, what do you see in terms of where insurance is now an where it’s going?

Hank Greenberg: The country and the world will always need insurance. That doesn’t mean that what we have today is what we’re going to have 25 years from now.

How quickly the change comes and how far it will go will depend on individual companies and individual countries. Some will be more brave than others. But change will take place, there is no doubt about it.

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More will go on in space, there is no question about that. We’re involved in it right now as an insurance company, and it will get broader.

One of the things you have to worry about is it’s now a nuclear world. It’s a more dangerous world. And again, we have to find some way to deal with that.

So, change is inevitable. You need people who can deal with change.

R&I:  Is there anything else, Mr. Greenberg, you want to comment on?

Hank Greenberg: I think I’ve covered it. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]