Tag Archives: Insurance

Exposure Data: The Undervalued Competitive Edge

High-quality catastrophe exposure data is key to a resilient and competitive insurer’s business. It can improve a wide range of risk management decisions, from basic geographical risk diversification to more advanced deterministic and probabilistic modeling.

The need to capture and use high quality exposure data is not new to insurance veterans. It is often referred to as the “garbage-in-garbage-out” principle, highlighting the dependency of catastrophe model’s output on reliable, high quality exposure data.

The underlying logic of this principle is echoed in the EU directive Solvency II, which requires firms to have a quantitative understanding of the uncertainties in their catastrophe models; including a thorough understanding of the uncertainties propagated by the data that feeds the models.

The competitive advantage of better exposure data

The implementation of Solvency II will lead to a better understanding of risk, increasing the resilience and competitiveness of insurance companies.

Firms see this, and more insurers are no longer passively reacting to the changes brought about by Solvency II. Increasingly, firms see the changes as an opportunity to proactively implement measures that improve exposure data quality and exposure data management.

And there is good reason for doing so: The majority of reinsurers polled recently by EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young) said quality of exposure data was their biggest concern. As a result, many reinsurers apply significant surcharges to cedants that are perceived to have low-quality exposure data and exposure management standards. Conversely, reinsurers are more likely to provide premium credits of 5 to 10 percent or offer additional capacity to cedants that submit high-quality exposure data.

Rating agencies and investors also expect more stringent exposure management processes and higher exposure data standards. Sound exposure data practices are, therefore, increasingly a priority for senior management, and changes are driven with the mindset of benefiting from the competitive advantage that high-quality exposure data offers.

However, managing the quality of exposure data over time can be a challenge: During its life cycle, exposure data degrades as it’s frequently reformatted and re-entered while passed on between different insurance entities along the insurance chain.

To fight the decrease of data quality, insurers spend considerable time and resources to re-format and re-enter exposure data as its being passed on along the insurance chain (and between departments within each individual touch point on the chain). However, due to the different systems, data standards and contract definitions in place a lot of this work remains manual and repetitive, inviting human error.

In this context, RMS’ new data standards, exposure management systems, and contract definition languages will be of interest to many insurers; not only because it will help them to tackle the data quality issue, but also by bringing considerable savings through reduced overhead expenditure, enabling clients to focus on their core insurance business.

Managing Cyber Catastrophes With Catastrophe Models

My colleague Andrew Coburn recently co-authored an article on Cyber Risk with Simon Ruffle and Sarah Pryor, both researchers at Cambridge University Centre of Risk Studies.

This is a timely article considering the cyber attacks in the past year on big U.S. corporations. TargetHome DepotJPMorgan and, most recently, Sony Pictures have all had to deal with unauthorized security breaches.

This isn’t the first time Sony has experienced a virtual assault. In 2011, the PlayStation Network suffered one of the biggest security breaches in recent memory, which is reported to have cost the company in excess of $171 million.

Image source

Cyber attacks can be costly and insurers are hesitant to offer commercial cyber attack coverage because the risk is not well understood.

Andrew and his co-authors contend that insurers are not concerned with individual loss events, such as the targeted security penetrations we’ve seen recently on Sony and JP Morgan. It’s whether individual loss events are manageable across a whole portfolio of policies.

The biggest challenge in evaluating cyber risk is its inherent systemic complexity and interconnectivity. The internet, the technology companies that run on it, and the enterprises they serve are inextricably intertwined; shocks to one part of a network can quickly cascade and affect the rest of the whole system.

Can catastrophe-modelling methodologies provide the solution? Read the full article in The Actuary here.

Your Excellent Questions On Earthquakes

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake which rocked California’s San Francisco Bay Area on October 17, 1989. To commemorate the anniversary and raise awareness about resilience against earthquakes, Dr. Robert Muir-Wood, RMS chief research officer, and Dr. Patricia Grossi, RMS senior director of global earthquake modeling, hosted a Reddit Science AMA (Ask Me Anything).

They discussed a number of topics; participants expressed curiosity not just for routine details like the best immediate action in the event of a quake, but also what fault lines are at risk and the finer points of earthquake insurance.

Here are just a few of the subjects they tackled in a conversation that generated close to 200 comments by Thursday afternoon – you can also read the entire Reddit thread.

Is the Bay Area is better prepared [now] than for the Loma Prieta quake? What role have you (or other scientists) played in planning?

Grossi: There’s been a lot of work by PG&E, BART, and other agencies to mitigate earthquake risk – as well as the new span of the Bay Bridge. In addition, the California Earthquake Authority has been encouraging mitigation – and have mitigation incentives if you retrofit your home to withstand earthquake ground shaking. Scientists can help by creating strategic plans or perform cost-benefit analyses for mitigation/retrofit.

Is there a link between fracking and earthquakes?

Muir-Wood: The term ‘earthquake’ can cover an enormous range of sizes of energy release. Fracking may sometimes trigger small shallow earthquakes or tremors. One day there might be a bigger earthquake nearby and people will argue over whether it was linked to the fracking. The link, however, will remain tenuous.

Am I being overcharged for earthquake insurance? I was charged $1,500 a year with a 15 percent deductible.

Grossi: Premiums associated with the coverage seem high (as generally double premiums here in California). However, they are based on price-based pricing. The coverage is meant to be a ‘minimum’ coverage – and provide protection for the worst-case scenario.

Is Tokyo due for another big earthquake?

Muir-Wood: The Big One happened beneath Tokyo in 1923, and before that a similar Big One (not quite on the same fault) occurred in 1703. The 1923 earthquake is not so likely to come around again. However, there was a M7 earthquake in 1855 that occurred right under Tokyo and may be the type of damaging earthquake we can expect. It could do a lot of damage.


Was there anything we missed you wanted to discuss? Please let us know in the comments. 

The California Drought: A Shift in the Medium-Term View of Risk

Indications are growing that there is a shift underway in the risk landscape in California that may last several years, prompted by the ongoing severe drought.

It’s no secret that California is a region prone to drought. History shows repeated drought events, and there is emerging consensus that the current drought has no end in sight. In fact, there are indications that the drought could just be getting started.

The situation could be exacerbated by climate change, which is increasing the rates of water evaporation in western regions of the U.S.

We also learned recently that the groundwater levels in Colorado have been depleted by a “shocking” amount, which affects California as a significant amount of water used in the state’s agricultural industry comes from the Colorado basin.

California’s abundant agricultural industry has been fueled by its high sunshine input and the availability of water from the Colorado basin.The state produces nearly half of U.S.-grown fruits, nuts, and vegetables, according to statistics from the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

The sustainability of the agricultural industry is now in question given the emerging information about the security of the water supply, with long-term implications for food production—and therefore prices. While the threat is not to the California economy as farming accounts for little more than two percent of the state’s $2 trillion economy, implications will be to broader food prices and food security issues, as well as the security of those employed to work in this industry.

From a natural catastrophe perspective, we can expect the severity and frequency of wildfire outbreaks to increase significantly for several years to come if current indications prove true. In addition, we can expect that more areas will be impacted by wildfires.

The insurance industry needs to pay close attention to methods for estimating wildfire risk to ensure the risk landscape is accurately reflected over the coming years, just as it adapted in the late 2000s to a forward-looking, medium-term view of the probability of landfalling hurricanes accounting for multi-decadal cycles of increased and decreased hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin relative to the long-term average – and the subsequent consequences for the medium-term risk landscape.

How is the 2014 North West Pacific Typhoon Season Shaping Up?

July’s Typhoon Matmo was the 10th named typhoon of 2014 and the 5th to make landfall in the West Pacific basin. Typhoons can occur throughout the year, but the peak of the season is July through October, when nearly 70 percent of all typhoons develop, so we expect to see more activity in the region in the coming months.

Let’s take a look at recent activity and typhoon risk in China, the Philippines, Japan, and Taiwan.


To date, China has been impacted by three landfalling typhoons in 2014, the strongest of which was Rammasun, a Category 4 strength storm, with maximum sustained winds of 135 mph impacting Hainan and Guangdong provinces, and the autonomous region of Guangxi.

The southeastern coastal provinces of Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang are most vulnerable to landfalling typhoons. They also represent some of China‘s most economically developed areas. Typhoon Rammasun impacted Guangdong province in July, bringing damaging wind and heavy rain. Overall in China, typhoon-induced flooding is the biggest driver of risk in high-exposure areas such as Guangdong, driving approximately 80 percent of the average annual losses from typhoon.

Insurance penetration is extremely low in China, varying by province. On average, about 15 percent of residential property risk is insured. Hainan, where Typhoon Rammasun first made landfall, has one of the lowest insurance penetrations in China, while Guangdong, one of the more prosperous provinces, is the second largest province for property insurance purchases with 41.7 billion Yuan ($6.8 billion) in direct premiums in 2012, according to the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.


Typhoon activity kicked off early this year in the Philippines with Tropical Storm Kajiki in January. More recently, the second storm to make landfall was Typhoon Rammasun, which hit Legaspi City in the Albay Province, south of the capital Manila, as a Category 3 storm. In a 36-hour period it brought 11.6 inches of rainfall, leading to flash flooding and landslides. The provinces impacted by Rammasun contain over $180 billion of insurable commercial and industrial building exposure, and over $215 billion of residential building exposure.

Like China, the Philippines lags behind some other markets in Asia in relation to insurance expenditure – non-life insurance penetration is 0.09 percent – though with higher proportionally for commercial and industrial businesses, which are centred around Manila and the industrial zones.


Tropical Storm Neoguri made landfall over the Kumamoto Prefecture on Kyushu Island in southwest Japan as the country’s first landfall this season. Neoguri brought strong winds, heavy rains, flooding, landslides, and mudslides to parts of southwest Japan. On Kyushu, the city of Ebino reported 13 inches of rain in the first 24 hours, and on Okinawa, heavy rainfall triggered flash flooding.

The southwestern parts of the country are the most vulnerable, particularly Shikoku, Kyushu, and San-in. Tokyo is rarely hit by typhoons and much of the coastline is protected from by the tsunami walls designed to protect from a four-meter storm surge.

Japan is the second largest non-life market in gross premium terms behind the U.S., and there is relatively high penetration of personal lines insurance, with over 50 percent of households buying building insurance. However, corporate Japan is massively under-insured compared to its western equivalents. Many large corporations only insure their property on an indemnity basis, while many small to medium-sized enterprises are completely uninsured.


So far this season, Taiwan has only been impacted by Typhoon Matmo, which passed through the center of the country as a Category 2 storm, bringing heavy rain and strong winds.

Storms typically travel towards the northwest from the Philippines, losing speed when they encounter the mountain chain running north-south down the center of Taiwan, and dropping most of their rain on the eastern side, causing rivers to overflow due to the extra water runoff from the mountains.

The most dangerous typhoons are those that approach from the south. The north-south mountain chain funnels them north up the Taiwan Straits so that they hit the western and northwestern parts of the island, including Taipei, where large industrial and commercial exposure is situated, such as the Hsin Chu Industrial Park in the province of Hsinchu which reportedly has a combined property/business interruption accumulation of $33.33 billion. However, insurers have reported few insured losses arising from wind damage alone, as the main damages are a result of flooding. Most of the losses caused by typhoons in Taiwan are agricultural, and thus uninsured. Insurance penetration is very low compared to some other markets in South East Asia in relation to insurance expenditure, with insurance penetration for non-life at 0.08 percent.

Building Better Models Through Collaboration

To calibrate and validate their models, catastrophe modeling firms ideally have access to large amounts of high-quality, high-resolution claims and exposure data. But the insurance industry has so much to offer than just data.

In addition to exposure data, insurance companies have detailed knowledge of the claims practice itself, the exact policy wording in the underlying exposure, and local expertise. In addition, many insurance companies today have highly experienced teams of scientists that evaluate vendor cat models, or build their own models in-house.

At RMS, our approach to building models has evolved in recent years to capture the insurance industry’s expertise and insight. At the start of a project, we strive to create partnerships with interested clients or companies to ensure we are aligned with market needs. These technical collaborations usually last for the duration of the model development process, and involve regular technical exchanges between RMS and partners to share methodologies and data sources. The exposure and claims data analysis becomes just one part of this broader initiative.

Over the past two years, we has been extremely fortunate to collaborate with two of Japan’s largest primary insurers, Tokio Marine and Sompo Japan, on the development of RMS’ earthquake and typhoon models for Japan.

Collaboration was in full force this June, when RMS’ typhoon modelers met with Hajime Sano, Head of Catastrophe Analytics, Sompo Japan, and his team in Tokyo for a day of technical discussions around hazard and vulnerability. The Sompo modeling team provided interesting ideas around open modeling features within the new model in order to better create their own view of risk.

Hajime Sano also joined us at our Exceedance conference in April as a featured guest speaker. At the event he explained why Sompo Japan develops in-house models, and why they decided to collaborate with RMS on the RMS Japan Typhoon Model update.

Tokio Marine in RMS London Office

At the end of June, Yuki Mizota from Tokio Marine Nichido Fire Insurance and Mizuki Shinohara from Tokio Marine & Nichido Risk Consulting visited our RMS London office. Yuki Mizota gave a very insightful presentation on the market conditions in Japan, and we had a number of productive discussions around exposure, hazard, and vulnerability.

Tour along Arakawa River

One highlight of the collaboration so far with Tokio Marine was a tour along the Arakawa river in Tokyo. During the visit we were able to see firsthand weak spots in the river defense system and witness the new super levees.

Such firsthand intelligence and data is vital in building a strong flood model. We conducted additional research leading to a much deeper understanding of the importance and state of the river defenses in Japan.

Partnerships with Tokio Marine and Sompo Japan

Our partnerships with Tokio Marine and Sompo Japan are great examples of what can be achieved when we work closely with clients to develop and update models. For us and our partners, this collaborative thinking is a win-win: the partner gains deeper insight into RMS modeling methodologies, a key element of their overall enterprise risk management, and RMS is able build better models based on the best science, the best data, and the additional expertise of local insurers. The industry as a whole benefits from state-of-the-art, well-calibrated models built collaboratively by some of the best minds across the insurance community.


Rammasun is One of the Strongest Typhoons to Hit Southeast China in Recent Years

RMS closely monitored typhoon Rammasun last week as it picked up strength en route to the Philippines. The world also watched, remembering the catastrophic damage typhoon Haiyan caused last November. While Rammasun did not wreak as much havoc as Haiyan, it still left a trail of damaged buildings and flooded crop fields in the Phillipines, southeast China and Vietnam. Below, RMS looks at the property damage and insurance industry implications as the typhoon hit both denser commercial metropolitan areas and agricultural provinces.


RMS reports that on Friday, July 19 Super typhoon Rammasun, one of the strongest to hit southeast China in recent years, made three landfalls in the provinces of Hainan, Guangdong, and Guangxi.

Rammasun has significantly impacted the Philippines, southeast China and Vietnam. Rammasun brought strong winds, heavy rain, and storm surge to some coastal areas with close to 300,000 buildings damaged in the affected countries.

In China, damaging wind and floods have destroyed at least 37,000 homes and ravaged 468,500 hectares of crops in Hainan, Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. Virtually all brick-and-tile houses in the town of Wengtian, Hainan were either destroyed or had their roofs removed. Within a 24 hour period up to 15 inches of rain fell in the city of Haikou; the week before Rammasun hit, the southeastern provinces were reportedly experiencing heavy floods, which have only been exacerbated by the typhoon.

“Typhoon-related flood, which includes both rainfall driven and coastal flooding, contributes as much as 80% to typhoon average annual loss in China, with the coastal provinces driving the loss,” said Nikki Chambers, hazards scientist at RMS. “July to October are the most active months for typhoons in this region. On average 6 typhoons make landfall a year in China and typhoon Rammasun highlights the importance of accounting for all sources of typhoon losses, of which flood is the main driver.” Insurance penetration is extremely low in China particularly for residential risk, slightly higher for commercial and industrial lines of business. On average, about 15% of property risk in China is insured. Insurance penetration varies by province; Hainan has one of the lowest insurance penetrations in China. Guangdong is one of the more prosperous provinces; it is the second largest province for property insurance purchases, with 41.7 billion yuan (US$6.8 billion) in direct premiums for property insurance in 2012, according to the China Insurance Regulatory Commission.


The typhoon wreaked havoc earlier in the week in the northern Philippines, which is still rebuilding after Typhoon Haiyan. Rammasun made its first landfall in the largely agricultural provinces south of the capitol Manila, leaving 94 people dead, and over 111,000 houses damaged, of which nearly 28,000 have been totally destroyed and 83,000 have been partially damaged., Based on analysis from the RMS Philippines Economic Exposure Database, the impacted provinces in the Philippines from Rammasun contains over 100 bn USD of insurable commercial building exposure, 80 bn USD of industrial building insurable exposure, and over 215bn USD of residential building exposure. Based on the RMS Philippines industrial cluster catalog, industry is clustered around metro Manila and in areas to the north and south of the capital in Central Luzon, which are located within the affected area of Rammasun. The insurance penetration rates in the Philippines is relatively low, though higher for commercial and industrial lines of business and will be centred around Manila and the industrial zones.


In northern Vietnam, Typhoon Rammasun made landfall Saturday morning, causing heavy flooding. At least eight people have died and it has affected more than 6,000 homes. The typhoon has damaged 3,300 hectares of rice and other crops and disrupted traffic in the region. Typhoon, Matmo, with maximum winds of 150km/h, is now threatening the area ravaged by Rammasun. RMS is monitoring the situation closely.

Dueling Agendas on TRIA

On Thursday, July 17, the Senate passed a reauthorization of TRIA, the Terrorism Risk and Insurance Act, extending the bill for seven years after its expiration at the end of 2014. The bill was passed with a 93-4 vote and made minor modifications to the expiring legislation. This is a promising sign for the insurance industry, which has been lobbying vigorously for a renewal since last year. But before the bill becomes law, there is certain to be opposition from influential members of Congress who favor more significant reductions to the federal government’s participation.

The Senate bill reduces TRIA’s coverage in two key ways: by increasing the industry co-pay from 15% to 20% over a five year period, and by pushing the Federal Government’s “mandatory recoupment” responsibility from $27.5 billion to $37.5 billion. By contrast, a competing bill proposed by Congress calls for even more substantial modifications, most notably raising the program trigger from $100 million to $500 million for all acts of terrorism except those arising from CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) events.

How the two bills are reconciled will have significant implications for the insurance industry, as any reduction in federal participation will amount to additional risk assumed by insurance carriers. However, property insurers today are more willing to take on terrorism risk that they would have previously excluded, as evidenced by the dramatic drop in terrorism insurance prices over the past decade. A recent study by the Wharton Center for Risk Management downplayed the impact of TRIA changes, noting that while the changes could increase the price of coverage, “firms’ demand for terrorism insurance is not very sensitive to gradual price changes under current market conditions.”

Whatever the case, the ultimate outcome of the TRIA will have a measurable impact on the price and availability of terrorism insurance, primary carriers’ risk appetites in urban areas, and the securitization of terrorism risk, which my colleague Gordon Woo recently wrote about. The U.S. has made great strides in the capability of its counterterrorism operations over the past decade, but even with these gains, insurers and reinsurers must continue managing their pricing, underwriting, and capital deployment strategies to address the risk of future catastrophic acts of terror.

RMS and the FIFA World Cup: Insuring Against Terrorism

As we reflect back on this year’s World Cup, which wrapped up without interruption after Germany’s victory on Sunday, it is clear that FIFA’s financial position is much stronger now than in 2006, due in part to the availability of terrorism insurance.

Eleven years ago, the global elite of the soccer world learned about innovative RMS risk analysis to help FIFA to prepare for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Sponsorship money was essential for FIFA’s cash flow and sponsors insisted on having insurance coverage against event cancellation. After 9/11, terrorism insurance became a necessity, but was available only through Warren Buffet, the astute insurer of last resort, and was extremely expensive. So, FIFA pursued alternative risk transfer to the capital markets through a catastrophe bond.

FIFA’s bankers at Credit Suisse turned to RMS to do what had been thought impossible – to get a terrorism risk securitization rated. It took multiple RMS meetings with Moody’s in London and New York over the course of a year to present and discuss the unique terrorism risk analysis and eventually secure an investment grade rating for Golden Goal Finance Ltd. This $260 million deal remains to this day the only stand-alone securitization of terrorism risk. Prospects for further terrorism risk securitizations depend on the scope of the U.S. Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which will be renewed at the end of 2014 with some further incremental reduction in the role of the federal government, but RMS was instrumental in instituting the precursors to these prospects.

Securitization of the cancellation risk of the 2006 World Cup was feasible in part due to the national importance of the event, which received extensive counter-terrorism protection.

While cancellation was still the biggest risk this year, the predominant local threat to the World Cup was disruption by public protest and riot. Following the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, there has been a surge of demand for international riot insurance, with a commensurate interest in riot analysis. As with terrorism, security is particularly crucial for the control of riot risk. With 170,000 Brazilian security personnel on duty for the month of the soccer tournament, insurers were able to enjoy the matches without concern that the July 13 final in Rio would be delayed.

While terrorism insurance is more widely available than in the past, it is still in short supply. Expanding modeling capabilities and increased demand for products such as terrorism and riot insurance will result in more insurance-linked securities (ILS) transactions such as the 2006 catastrophe bond, and ultimately promote a more resilient society.

Trading Risk Awards: ILS Innovation Recognized

In June, RMS had the pleasure of hosting a table at the Trading Risk Awards in London. These annual awards aim to recognize the best of the (re)insurance convergence market: individuals and companies contributing to the advancement of the insurance-linked securities (ILS) industry.

That night three RMS-modeled transactions that came to market in 2013 were given special recognition: Tradewynd Series 2013-2, MetroCat Re Ltd., and Atlas IX Capital Ltd. These three transactions incorporate several noteworthy innovations that promise to shape the future of ILS.

Initiative of the year – A Multi-Model Approach to Catastrophe Bond Risk Analysis

AIG and Swiss Re Capital Markets were awarded “Initiative of the Year” for their multi-model approach to Tradewynd Series 2013-2. This transaction provided a first for the industry by introducing transparency to a typically opaque and restricted risk management process.

Typically, data is only privy to the modeling firm retained to produce the risk analysis included in the offering documentation. On this occasion, while RMS was the main modeling agent for the deal, AIG’s exposure data was supplied to all three modeling firms so that investors had a more accurate representation of the risk of the bond under multiple views.

Not only did investors get the RMS view of commercial and high-end residential risk on this bond, they also got unprecedented insights into the exposures driving the risk. The market reacted favorably to the approach with markedly tighter spreads and larger issuance than the prior Tradewynd bond with a nearly identical risk profile.

Non-Life Transaction of the Year – MetroCat Re Ltd

This groundbreaking surge-parametric transaction received two accolades: the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was awarded “Sponsor of the Year,” and the deal itself was proclaimed “Non-Life Transaction of the Year,” recognizing the MTA, GC Securities, and Goldman Sachs for their roles in the transaction.

The MetroCat bond addressed the need for surge-insurance capacity after Superstorm Sandy by providing the MTA with insurance cover based on water levels exceeding certain heights at tide gauges in the New York area. The RMS® North Atlantic Hurricane Model, with its full-lifecycle hydrodynamic modeling capability, was critical in understanding the risk to the transaction. The success of MetroCat Re proves that corporates and municipalities can access capital through ILS, as well as produce transactions that provide much needed surge cover.

Life Transaction of the Year – Atlas IX Capital Ltd.

Aon Benfield Securities, BNP Paribas, Natixis, and SCOR won “Life Transaction of the Year” for Atlas IX Capital Ltd., the highest risk bond of its kind to come to market. For this watershed deal, RMS used its suite of LifeRisks models to provide scenario-based modeling results. This allowed investors to gain greater insight into the risk to the transaction from changing trends in baseline mortality in addition to excess mortality from infectious disease, terrorism, earthquakes, and residual risks.

Congratulations to all the winners. We are delighted to see continued innovation in the market.