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Many RMS colleagues attended the recent Reactions North America Awards 2020, admirably hosted by Shawn Moynihan, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief. The virtual awards ceremony was a great opportunity for the industry to come together and celebrate exceptional achievement in what has certainly been an unusual year. And on behalf of RMS®, I am delighted to receive the Reactions North America 2020 Award for “Risk Modeling Company of the Year.” I know that to win this award you need support from both the independent judges and from the market, so it is great to know that the work of all my RMS colleagues is recognized.

This is the third consecutive occasion that RMS has been named as Reactions North America Risk Modeling Company of the Year. Receiving three awards in a row seems to signal that we’re doing something right. What sets us apart?

Mohsen Rahnama

RMS is committed to investing more in model science and technology than any other company in the market, to ensure that we continue to bring the newest science, innovations, and the highest quality views of risk to the market. We believe this commitment will become even more apparent and valued in the coming five years as risks becoming more connected, more complex, and more influenced by climate change, cyber, systemic risks, and other factors.

Our core strength lies with our global development team of over 300 scientists, engineers and technologists, working on models for multiple perils, both manmade and natural. Thirty years of experience in developing products has enabled critical scientific innovations to be incorporated within our model suite, such as a new high definition (HD) modeling framework. This improves the fidelity of results at the location level and thus risk selection and underwriting for high hazard gradient perils such as flood and wildfire. RMS also renews and updates its model suite constantly, through both incorporating new innovations and when a new catastrophe provides additional data, ensuring that models reflect the most current and comprehensive view of the risk.

We use machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies in various areas, for example, in loss calibration and validation, image processing and event response. Partnerships with academia and the industry enable us to access claims data and deep scientific and market knowledge, both critical for all parts of the models. The quality of our research holds up to scrutiny from top scientists in the world, with over 100 peer-reviewed scientific articles published by RMS modelers in respected journals.

RMS has also led the industry charge for greater access to model assets and full model transparency, which is so important for our clients when adopting a new or updated model into production. By providing a large range of model options and sensitivity tests alongside extensive documentation and support, we are unique in the market through our facilitation of independent validation procedures.

When catastrophes hit, our clients need us most. The RMS Event Response teams, all dedicated scientific and engineering professionals, monitor and respond to events 24/7. Our response process, which has been refined and enhanced over decades, has led to accurate and timely products and services for managing risk in real-time. 

The accuracy of our event response loss estimates underlines the quality of our models. These estimates help clients understand the impact of events on their book of business (for example, after all the major 2017, 2018, and 2019 hurricanes and typhoons.) Event response at RMS means more than just responding to events. We have expanded to forecasting prior to impact based on RMS HWind technology.

Looking at the businesses that were nominated or won an award across a range of categories, we also know that we are in good company, with many RMS clients and partners gaining recognition. Congratulations to the many finalists and winners.

Clients are on a transformational journey to use deeper risk insights and then to move quickly, taking advantage of new market growth opportunities. RMS is there together with clients, with a pivotal role in this endeavor, and new technology is vital to support this transformation. With RMS Risk Intelligence, an open standard, cloud-based platform, clients are now adopting new risk insights faster than ever before. Applications such as Risk Modeler are helping clients embrace HD models to get a granular, location-specific analysis that allows for risk differentiation, a crucial advantage in this transforming industry.

The awards were part of the Reactions North America Re/Insurance Week, with three days of exceptional webinars from across the industry. My colleague Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS, took to the virtual stage with a webinar entitled “Applying New Science and New Data to Risk Modeling” and highlighted six areas where new science and new data can be applied to risk modeling, from flood to pandemic. As always with Robert, this is a fascinating presentation, with lots of new thinking and science insights which could shape future risk modeling approaches. You can register to watch Robert on-demand.

Thanks again to everyone at Reactions for an exceptional virtual week, and for the judges and those who voted for RMS. For all our clients who were nominated or won awards, congratulations. We’re delighted that our clients are being recognized for their continued success.

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October 07, 2019
Reactions North America Awards: We’re in Good Company

On Thursday, September 26, a contingent from RMS attended the Reactions’ 2019 North America (Re)Insurance Conference and Awards in New York. It was such an enjoyable event and it was a great honor to receive the North America Risk Modeler of the Year award. To win a Reactions award, you not only needed to impress the panel of independent judges, you also need market approval. Thank you to the judges and to everyone who took the time to support us. Alongside us were many of our clients and partners who were either award nominees or winners on that night, including North America Insurer, Specialty Reinsurer, ILS Investment Manager, and Consultancy of the Year. Congratulations to our clients gaining recognition for great work. We are proud to be in such good company! Get Fit for the Future A key theme for this year’s Reactions event was “Future-proofing Your Business,” with a panel discussion on this topic moderated by David Brown, senior partner, regional insurance leader at EY. David was joined on the panel by: Jean-Paul Conoscente, president and CEO of SCOR Global P&C; Peter Wilson, CEO – Insurance, AXIS Capital; and Michael Millette, managing partner at Hudson Structured Capital Management. This panel offered a deep dive into forward-looking best practices from leaders in the insurance industry and shared how they are safeguarding their positions in an ever-evolving market. They understand that the industry is continuing to evolve, largely driven by new and emerging risks. But they admitted that it is still slow to change, and stressed the need to innovate over time, and take advantage of the new tools that are set to change the way business is done. First on the “to-do” list: the panel stated that businesses still need to become much more agile and efficient. New entrants by default will have low costs and new, efficient processes. Making a business more efficient and agile will help when facing both the anticipated (and unanticipated) competitive moves from businesses armed with innovative technologies, some of which will demand a total reevaluation of existing business models. New entrants will also use differentiation, tied to a deeper understanding of customers – and businesses need to use analytics to drive the required customer insight. But many insurers are not investing enough, having to balance today’s operational costs with the resources they need to innovate differently moving forward. Moving Forward with a New Open Data Standard Also at the conference, Ryan Ogaard, senior vice president for RMS, gave a presentation on the Risk Data Open Standard (RDOS), a new, open data standard set to be released early in 2020. Ryan outlined the limitations of current schemas designed decades ago, and although they are still venerable workhorses, they are now out of date. Current schemas are just not designed to accommodate new perils, increased data sets, and complex financial structures.   A flexible, modern data schema, the RDOS is set to drive value innovation through many parts of the industry. Designed to hold information on risk, including exposure, coverage, model settings, domain data, and analysis results, the RDOS is an extensible, flexible, and future-proof asset within modeling and analysis systems, and as an information interchange vehicle. Ryan stressed the fact that the RDOS is an open standard, which gives the market the code, tooling, and documentation to leverage this technology in their organizations, and to also use the RDOS to contribute and innovate, to drive towards the industry goals of increasing efficiency and agility. This was a very insightful conference, made even better not just by our award, but the fact we were in such good company, with our clients also receiving well deserved recognition for their work.

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June 27, 2019
An Award-Winning U.S. Inland Flood Model

It was off to London’s Savoy Hotel for members of the RMS London team last Thursday, for the Eleventh Trading Risk Awards. And apart from the great hospitality, and the flowing conversation from colleagues and industry peers alike, RMS was also recognized by the award judges, receiving the “Initiative of the Year” award for the RMS U.S. Inland Flood HD model. Without sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech, on behalf of the team that worked on the model, I would like to thank the judging panel made up of representatives from the media and the industry for selecting our entry. Released last October, the flood model is designed to help the private insurance market seize the opportunities presented by this peril, and to also ultimately help accelerate flood insurance take up in the U.S. In a country where hurricanes, tornados and wildfires can dominate the headlines, it is flood that is the most frequent and widespread peril in the U.S. Events range from small, localized flooding to widespread inundation impacting multiple river catchments and basins. The state-backed National Insurance Flood Program (NFIP) – recently extended until the end of September by Congress, dominates the flood insurance market, providing 95 percent of residential flood policies. Even after significant flood events, such as from Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and Florence in 2018, NFIP policy numbers have recently plateaued; the New York Times reports that policies in force are below those a decade ago. In Midwest states, NFIP policies are down by a third since 2011, which has left many uninsured against this year’s ongoing flooding across the region. Flood is underinsured throughout much of the country, where only a third of homes in floodplains have insurance. And of the tens of trillions of dollars exposed to flood, still only a fraction is covered by the private market. With FEMA looking to boost the number of households with flood insurance in the U.S from around five million now to eight million in 2022, what can be done to start to increase flood insurance penetration and to close this growing protection gap? How can private insurers enter the market with confidence and build a flood insurance business which will be profitable and sustainable in the long-term? It is our belief that the insurance industry is currently inadequately served in terms of the accuracy and breadth of data available to achieve this task. As well as accessing accurate flood hazard data, this also extends to data on flood defenses, the first-floor height of a building or the presence of a basement – all key factors in assessing flood risk. There is also a need to use tools that can discern the high-gradient nature of flood extent and severity – and to accurately quantify probabilistic loss to exposures at risk. We believe that the RMS U.S. Inland Flood HD Model does offer a comprehensive and well-validated view of flood risk throughout the contiguous U.S., which can help (re)insurers gain the necessary insights into the range of potential commercial opportunities associated with the private flood market. It captures the risk associated with all aspects of precipitation-induced flooding, including those resulting from tropical cyclone and non-tropical cyclone rainfall, while also accounting for factors that impact rainfall runoff (e.g., groundwater response, surface evapotranspiration, and snowmelt). To capture flooding caused by tropical cyclones, the model is explicitly coupled to the same event set as the market-leading RMS North Atlantic Hurricane Model. Understanding flood risk and how it is correlated with wind exposure, is required for management of an overall book, risk tolerance and accumulations. And thus, it is particularly important to use a consistent view of risk across those aspects and across perils. By linking these models, it has enhanced the development of a truly complete and consistent view of the U.S. flood risk landscape – providing knowledge of how flood is spatially and temporally correlated across all its major sources, including storm surge and the wind peril. Probabilistic modeling is essential, and the proprietary modeling methodology simulates over one million individual events, collectively representing 50,000 years of continuous precipitation, runoff, river discharge, and inundation within and across affected regions. These robust simulations provide a complete characterization of low- and high-severity flood events that could damage property, minimizing uncertainty to inform confident capital allocation, solvency assessments, and pricing based on model output. The model includes simulations of physically plausible flood events capable of causing losses far greater than have been observed historically, allowing (re)insurers to prepare for the potential financial impacts of the next flood catastrophe. Using Innovative Modeling to Fill Critical Data Gaps Flood hazard, vulnerability, and loss are extremely sensitive to building elevation and the presence of basements, which vary geographically across the U.S. When this data is not captured by the user, the model leverages proprietary inventory databases developed from extensive research to infer each building’s first floor height and basement likelihood. The explicit modeling of these two flood-specific characteristics, in addition to other general characteristics (e.g., construction class, occupancy, year built, etc.), helps reduce uncertainty in technical pricing with high-precision, per-location risk assessment. Effective flood defenses also make a crucial difference when assessing flood risk. A major task of the RMS flood modeling team was to take disparate public levee data, which only accounts for a maximum of 20 percent of the nation’s flood defenses, together with the use of a proprietary stochastic modeling technique that accounts for the likely presence and standard of protection of defenses along the entire modeled river network. This gives the option to see defended and undefended views of risk – to establish how the risk is reduced by a flood defense, and also allows users to customize these views, by adding their own defense information or adjusting the model’s default view. Allowing the market to quantify the sensitivities and impacts of various flood mitigation efforts and failure scenarios helps facilitate appropriate flood risk selection, pricing, and portfolio growth decisions throughout the U.S. Gaining confidence and understanding around U.S. flood risk is a sound first step for the insurance industry to move forward and offer innovative coverages to meet the diverse needs of the market. And as the judging panel recognized, the U.S. Inland Flood Model represents real innovation to help achieve this.

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Mohsen Rahnama
Mohsen Rahnama
Chief Risk Modeling Officer and Executive Vice President, Models and Data

Mohsen is the senior executive for RMS’ models and data products, as well as the Chief Risk Modeling Officer. He leads a global team of scientists, engineers, and product managers responsible for the development and delivery of all RMS catastrophe models and data.

During his 20 years at RMS, Mohsen has been the passionate and hands-on leader of the largest and most global team of catastrophe modeling professionals in the industry across over two dozens fields of study. He is the publisher of the RMS Horizons series of modeling papers, has authored numerous scientific publications, leads many research collaborations throughout the world, and is a frequent speaker at scientific and risk management industry events.

He has 30 years of experience in structural engineering, catastrophe modeling, and risk assessment. He holds a master’s degree and doctorate in earthquake and structural engineering from Stanford University.

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