Editor's Letter

Four Types of Rapidly Growing Emerging Risks

By: | August 14, 2018

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected].

Arsonists know that if they really want to burn down a house or a barn, a ready match is not all they need. No; to really get the job done they use an accelerant, a nice fat can of gasoline or, at least, an oil-soaked rag. As we observe and report on the Most Dangerous Emerging Risks for 2018, the same dynamic springs to mind. The fuel, to use our arson analogy, already exists, but factors are culminating that accelerate the risk.

1) Take reputational risk and its risk multipliers. Reputation was always important and maintaining it was risky. But now, to use the language of one of our sources, reputational damage descends tornado-like, such is the speed at which social media can sow outrage and reap punishment.

2) Artificial intelligence is another risk multiplier. The ability of machines to learn our cyber defenses and then think up ways to circumvent them takes an already scary risk — cyber — and makes it all the more unsettling.

3) Look also at our crumbling infrastructure.

The risk that a storm would wipe out a bridge and thus shut down a coastal hotel or restaurant’s business for weeks was already there. Now add our changing planet and the fact that our storms are growing more powerful. The risk is accelerating like a CAT-5 bearing down on Miami.

4) And, climate change in many ways is adding to the increasing gap between what’s insured and what’s not insured. That’s just one more emerging risk to worry about. The good news may be that just as technology in many cases accelerates the risk, it also gives us the foot speed to mitigate the risk.

The capability of creating algorithms that can sniff out a cyber attack or a reputation threat represents that kind of hope. In any event and in any industry, it’s not that the risk has a whole new face, it’s that it’s coming at you at a speed you never imagined before.

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