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Helen Yates
May 05, 2020
TreatyIQ: Striking a Difficult Balance

As treaty underwriters prepare to navigate another challenging renewal season, compounded by an uncertain economic outlook, many are looking to new technological solutions to help them capitalize on nascent optimism around rates and build sustainable profitability. EXPOSURE explores the importance of reliable marginal impact analytics to bias underwriting decisions in favor of diversification The fall of investment profits for insurance and reinsurance companies as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on financial markets is likely to encourage an upswing in reinsurance pricing. One of the factors that facilitates a hardening market is low investment returns, making an underwriting profit even more of an imperative. As the midyear renewals approach, reinsurance companies are cautiously optimistic that the reinsurance rate on line will continue on an upward trend. According to Willis Towers Watson, pricing was up significantly on loss-affected accounts as of April 1, but elsewhere there were more modest rate rises. It suggests that at this point in the cycle reinsurers cannot count on rate increases, presenting market pricing uncertainty that will need to be navigated in real time during the renewals. In the years of weaker market returns, investment in tools to deliver analytical rigor and agile pricing to underwriters can be difficult to justify, but in many cases, existing analytical processes during busy periods can expose blind spots in the assessment of a cedant portfolio and latency in the analysis of current portfolio risk positions. These inefficiencies will be more pronounced in the current work-from-home era and will leave many underwriters wondering how they can quickly identify and grab the best deals for their portfolios. Reducing Volatility Through the Cycle Both parts of the underwriting cycle can put pressure on reinsurers on underwriting decisions. Whether prices are hardening or softening, market forces can lead reinsurers toward higher volatility. “Part of the interplay in the treaty underwriting guidelines has to do with diversification,” explains Jesse Nickerson, senior director, pricing actuary at RMS. “Underwriters generally want to write risks that are diversifying in nature. However, when rates are low and competition is fierce, this desire is sometimes overwhelmed by pressure to put capital to use. Underwriting guidelines then have a somewhat natural tendency to slip as risks are written at inadequate prices. Underwriters generally want to write risks that are diversifying in nature. However, when rates are low and competition is fierce, this desire is sometimes overwhelmed by pressure to put capital to use Jesse Nickerson RMS “The reduced competition in the market during the period of low profitability triggers increases in rates, and the bounce upward begins,” he continues. “As rates rise and profitability increases, another loosening of underwriting guidelines can occur because all business begins to look like good business. This cycle is a challenge for all of these reinsurance companies to try and manage as it can add significant volatility to their book.” Tools such as RMS TreatyIQ™ help underwriters better carry out marginal impact analytics, which considers the view of risk if new books of business are included in a treaty portfolio. Treaty underwriters are typically tasked with balancing the profitability of individual treaties alongside their impact to aggregate portfolio positions. “One of the things that underwriters take into account as part of the underwriting process is, ‘What is the impact of this potential piece of business on my current portfolio,’” explains Oli Morran, director of product at RMS. “It’s just like an investment decision except that they’re investing risk capital rather than investment capital. In order to get insight into marginal impact, treaty underwriters need to have a view of their portfolio in the application, and not just their current portfolio as it looks last week, month or quarter, but how it looks today “In order to get insight into marginal impact, treaty underwriters need to have a view of their portfolio in the application, and not just their current portfolio as it looks last week, month or quarter, but how it looks today,” he continues. “So, it collects all the treaty contracts you’ve underwritten and rolls it up together to get to your current portfolio position.” Based on this understanding of a reinsurer’s aggregate risk position, underwriters are able to see in real time what impact any given piece of business would have, helping to inform how much capacity they are willing to bring to bear – and at what price. As reinsurers navigate the current, asymmetric market renewals, with the added challenge that increased home-working presents, such insight will allow them to make the right judgments based on a dynamic situation. “Treaty underwriters can import that loss data into TreatyIQ, do some quick analysis and ‘math magic’ to make it work for their view of risk and then get a report in the app that tells them profitability metrics on each of the treaties in the structure, so they can configure the right balance of participation in each treaty when quoting to the broker or cedant,” says Morran. An Art and Science Relationships have always been a central part of treaty underwriting whereby reinsurers select cedants to partner with based on many years of experience and association. Regardless of where the industry is at in the market cycle, these important bonds help to shape the renewal process at key discussion points in the calendar. New tools, such as the TreatyIQ application, are enhancing both the “art” and ”science” parts of the underwriting equation. They are reducing the potential for volatility as underwriters steer portfolios through the reinsurance cycle while harnessing experience and pricing artistry in an auditable way. While much of insurtech has until now been focused on the underlying insurance market, reinsurers are beginning to benefit from applications that offer them real-time insights. An informed approach can help identify the most profitable accounts and steer underwriters toward business that best complements their company’s existing portfolio, overall strategy and risk appetite. Reinsurance underwriters can now make decisions on whether to renew and what pricing to set based on a true understanding of what one risk sitting on their desk has the ability to do to the risks they already hold. With hundreds of treaty programs to assess during a busy renewal season, such insights support underwriters as they decide which deals to underwrite and what portion of each treaty to take on. A constant challenge for treaty underwriters is how to strike the right balance between managing complex and often longstanding relationships with cedants and brokers, while at the same time ensuring that underwritten business complements an existing portfolio. Maintaining underwriting discipline while nurturing all-important client relationships is a more straightforward task when there is data and insight readily available, says Nickerson. “Much of the strength of TreatyIQ is in the efficiency of workflows in augmenting the insight underwriters have at their fingertips. The faster they can get back to a cedant or broker, the better it is for the relationship. The more completely they understand the impact to their portfolio, the better it is for their bottom line.” RMS model data has long been a foundation in reinsurance treaty transactions, providing the common market view of risk for assessing probable catastrophe losses to a cedant’s portfolio. But using modeled data in treaty pricing analytics has traditionally been a multisystem undertaking, involving a supporting cast of actuaries and cat modelers. TreatyIQ allows you to pass losses through potential treaties and quickly see which are the most profitable based on a user’s unique pricing algorithms and risk tolerance RMS Risk Intelligence™ – a modular risk analytics platform – has enabled RMS to develop TreatyIQ as a solution to the analytics needs of treaty underwriters, covering pricing and portfolio roll-up, and to close the analytical gaps that muddy pricing insights. “TreatyIQ allows you to pass losses through potential treaties and quickly see which are the most profitable based on a user’s unique pricing algorithms and risk tolerance,” continues Nickerson. “You can see which have the most positive impact on your portfolio, allowing you to go back to the broker or cedant and make a more informed pitch. Ultimately, it allows underwriters to optimize internally against the constraints that exist in their world at a time of great uncertainty and change.”

NIGEL ALLEN
September 06, 2019
A Need for Multi-Gap Analysis

The insurance protection gap is composed of emerging markets and high-risk and intangible exposures There cannot be many industries that recognize that approximately 70 percent of market potential is untapped. Yet that is the scale of opportunity in the expanding “protection gap”. Power outage in lower Manhattan, New York, after Hurricane Sandy While efforts are ongoing to plug the colossal shortage, any meaningful industry foray into this barren range must acknowledge that the gap is actually multiple gaps, believes Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer at RMS.  “It is composed of three distinct insurance gaps — high risk, emerging markets and intangibles — each with separate causes and distinct solutions. Treating it as one single challenge means we will never achieve the loss clarity to tackle the multiple underlying issues.” High-risk, high-value gaps exist in regions where potential loss magnitude outweighs the ability of the industry to refund post-catastrophe. High deductibles and exclusions reduce coverage appeal and stunt market growth. “Take California earthquake. The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) was launched in 1996 to tackle the coverage dilemma exposed by the Northridge disaster. Yet increased deductibles and new exclusions led to a 30 percent gap expansion. And while recent changes have seen purchase uptick, penetration is around 12-14 percent for California homeowners.” On the emerging market front, micro- and meso-insurance and sovereign risk transfer efforts to bridge the gap have achieved limited success. “The shortfall in emerging economies remains static at between 80 to 100 percent,” he states, “and it is not just a developing world issue, it’s clearly evident in mature markets like Italy.” “The protection gap is composed of three distinct insurance gaps — high risk, emerging markets and intangibles — each with separate causes and distinct solutions” Robert Muir-Wood RMS A further fast-expanding gap is intangible assets. “In 1975, physical assets accounted for 83 percent of the value of S&P 500 companies,” Muir-Wood points out. “By 2015, that figure was 16 percent, with 84 percent composed of intangible assets such as IP, client data, brand value and innovation potential.”  While non-damage business interruption cover is evolving, expanding client demand for events such as power outage, cloud disruption and cyberbreach greatly outpace delivery. To start closing these gaps, Muir-Wood believes protection gap analytics are essential. “We have to first establish a consistent measurement for the difference between insured and total loss and split out ‘penetration’ and ‘coverage’ gaps. That gives us our baseline from which to set appropriate targets and monitor progress. “Probabilistic cat risk models will play a central role, particularly for the high-risk protection gap, where multiple region and peril-specific models already exist. However, for intangibles and emerging markets, where such models have yet to gain a strong foothold, focusing on scenario events might prove a more effective approach.” Variations in the gaps according to severity and geography of the catastrophe could be expressed in the form of an exceedance probability curve, showing how the percentage of uninsured risk varies by return period. “There should be standardization in measuring and reporting the gap,” he concludes. “This should include analyzing insured and economic loss based on probabilistic models, separating the effects of the penetration and coverage gaps, and identifying how gaps vary with annual probability and location.” 

Helen Yates
September 06, 2019
A Data Step Change

With the introduction of the Risk Data Open Standard, the potential now exists to change the way the (re)insurance industry interacts with risk modeling data In May 2019, RMS introduced the (re)insurance industry to a new open data standard. Set to redefine how the market structures data, the Risk Data Open Standard (RDOS) offers a flexible, fully transparent and highly efficient framework — spanning all risks, models and contracts and information sets — that can be implemented using a wide range of data technology. “The RDOS has been constructed to hold the entire set of information that supports the analysis of any risk” Ryan Ogaard RMS That this new standard has the potential to alter fundamentally how the market interacts with exposure data is not hyperbole. Consider the formats that it is replacing. The RMS Exposure and Results Data Modules (EDM and RDM) have been the data cornerstones of the property catastrophe market for over 20 years. Other vendors use similar data formats, and some catastrophe modeling firms have their own versions. These information workhorses have served the sector well, transforming the way property catastrophe risk is transacted, priced and managed. Out With the Old But after over two decades of dedicated service, it is past time these formats were put out to pasture. Built to handle a narrow range of modeling approaches, limited in their ability to handle multiple information formats, property-centric by design and powered by outdated technology, the EDM/RDM and other formats represent “old-gen” standards crumbling under current data demands. “EDM and RDM have earned their status as the de facto standards for property catastrophe data exchange,” explains Ryan Ogaard, senior vice president at RMS. “Clearly documented, easy to implement, SQL-based, they were groundbreaking and have been used extensively in systems and processes for over 20 years. But the industry has evolved well beyond the capabilities of all the existing formats, and a new data model must be introduced to facilitate innovation and efficiency across our industry.” The RDOS is not the only attempt to solve the data formatting challenge. Multiple other initiatives have been attempted, or are underway, to improve data efficiency within the insurance industry. However, Ogaard believes all of these share one fatal flaw — they do not go far enough. “I have been involved in various industry groups exploring ways to overcome data challenges,” he explains, “and have examined the potential of different options. But in every instance, what is clear is that they would not advance the industry far enough to make them worth switching to.” The switching costs are a major issue with any new data standard. Transitioning to a new format from one so firmly embedded within your data hierarchy is a considerable move. To shift to a new standard that offers only marginal relief from the data pains of the current system would not be enough. “The industry needs a data container that can be extended to new coverages, risk types or contracts,” he states. “If we require a different format for every line of business or type of model, we end up with a multiplicative world of data inefficiency. Look at cyber risk. We’ve already created a separate new standard for that information. If our industry is truly going to move forward, the switch must solve our challenges in the short, medium and long term. That means a future-proof design to handle new models, risks and contracts — ideally all in one container.” Setting the Standard Several years in the making, the RDOS is designed to address every deficiency in the current formatting framework, providing a data container that can be easily modified as needs change and can deliver information in a single, auditable format that supports a wide range of analytics. It is already used within the framework of the recently launched risk management platform RMS Risk Intelligence™ “The RDOS is designed to be extended across several dimensions,” Ogaard continues. “It can handle the data and output to support any modeling algorithm — so RMS, or anyone else, can use it as a basis for new or existing models. It was originally built to support our high-definition (HD) modeling, which requires a domain-specific language to represent policy or treaty terms and structures — that was not possible with the old format. During that process, we realized that we should design a container that would not have to be replaced in the future when we inevitably build other types of models.” The RDOS can also span all business lines. It is designed to accommodate the description of any risk item or subject at risk. The standard has inherent flexibility — new tables can be introduced to the framework without disrupting existing sets, while current tables can be extended to handle information for multiple model types or additional proprietary data. “EDM and RDM were fundamental to creating a much more stable, resilient and dynamic marketplace,” says Ogaard. “That level of modeling simply isn’t available across other lines — but with the RDOS it can be. Right off the bat, that has huge implications for issues such as clash risk. By taking the data that exists across your policy and treaty systems and converting it into a single data format, you can then apply an accumulation engine to evaluate all clash scenarios. So, essentially, you can tackle accumulation risk across all business lines.” It is also built to encompass the full “risk story.” Current data formats essentially provide exposure and modeling results, but lack critical information on how the exposure was used to create the results. This means that anyone receiving these data sets must rely on an explanation of how an analysis was done — or figure it out themselves. “The RDOS has been constructed to hold the entire set of information that supports the analysis of any risk,” he explains. “This includes exposures, (re)insurance coverage information, the business structure used to create the results, complete model settings and adjustments, the results, and the linkage between the information.  Multiple analyses can also be included in a single container. That means more time can be spent on accurate risk decision-making.” The RDOS is also independent of any specific technology and can be implemented in modern object relational technology, making it highly flexible. It can also be implemented in SQL Server if the limitations of a relational representation are adequate for the intended usage. The insurance industry, and cat analytics software, has been slow to adopt the power of tools such as Parquet, Spark, Athena and other new and powerful (and often open-source) data tools that can drive more data insights. Opening the Box For the RDOS to achieve its full potential, however, it cannot be constrained by ownership. By its very nature, it must be an open standard operated in a neutral environment if it is to be adopted by all and serve a larger market purpose. RMS recognized this and donated the RDOS to the industry (and beyond) as an open standard, harnessing open-source principles common in the software industry. Taking this route is perhaps not surprising given the executive leadership now in place at the company, with both CEO Karen White and Executive Vice President of Product Cihan Biyikoglu having strong open-source credentials. “When they saw the RDOS,” Ogaard explains, “it clearly had all of the hallmarks of an open-source candidate. It was being built by a leading market player with an industrywide purpose that required a collaborative approach.” What RMS has created with the RDOS represents a viable standard — but rather than a finished product, it is a series of building blocks designed to create a vast range of new applications from across the market. And to do that it must be a completely open standard that can evolve with the industry. “Some companies claim to have open standards,” he continues, “but by that they mean that you can look inside the box. Truly open standards are set up to be overseen and actually modified by the industry. With the RDOS, companies can not only open the box, but take the standard out, use it and modify it to create something better. They can build additions and submit them for inclusion and use by the entire industry. The RDOS will not be driven by RMS needs and priorities — it will exist as a separate entity. RMS cannot build every potential solution or model. We hope that by making this an open standard, new synergy is created that will benefit everyone — including us, of course.” Under Scrutiny To create a standard fit for all, RMS accepted that the RDOS could not be built in isolation and pushed out into the market — it had to be tested, the underlying premise reviewed, the format scrutinized. To ensure this, the company set up a steering committee from across the (re)insurance market. Charged with putting the RDOS through its paces, the committee members are given a central role in virtually every development stage.  The committee is currently sixteen companies strong and growing.  It will be dynamic and membership will change over time as issues and company focuses evolve. The membership list can be seen at www.riskdataos.org. “You cannot sit in an ivory tower and decide what might work for the industry as a whole,” Ogaard explains. “You need a robust vetting process and by creating this group of leading (re)insurance practitioners, each committed not simply to the success of the project but to the development of the best possible data solution, the RDOS will be guided by the industry, not just one company.” The role of the committee is twofold. First, it reviewed the existing specification, documentation and tooling to determine if it was ready for market consumption. RDOS saw its industry launch at the end of January 2020, and now the RDOS is published, the committee’s role will be to advise on the priorities and scope of future developments based on market-led requests for change and improvement. “Almost every open standard in any industry is based on a real, working product — not a theoretical construct,” he states. “Because the RDOS was built for a practical purpose and is in real-world use, it is much more likely to hold up to wider use and scrutiny.” So, while the RDOS may be growing its awareness in the wider market, it has already established its data credentials within the RMS model framework. Of course, there remains the fundamental challenge of shifting from one data format to another — but measures are already in place to make this as painless as possible. “The RDOS is essentially a superset of the original EDM and RDM formats,” he explains, “offering an environment in which the new and old standards are interchangeable. So, a company can translate an EDM into an RDOS and vice versa. The open standard tooling will include translators to make this translation. The user will therefore be able to operate both formats simultaneously and, as they recognize the RDOS data benefits, transition to that environment at their own pace. The RDOS could be extended to include other modelers’ data fields as well — so could solve model interoperability issues — if the industry decides to use it this way.” The standard has launched on the global development platform GitHub, which supports open-source standards, offering a series of downloadable assets including the RDOS specification, documentation, tools and data so that companies can create their own implementation and translate to and from old data formats. The potential that it creates is considerable and to a degree only limited by the willingness of users to push boundaries. “Success could come in several forms,” Ogaard concludes. “The RDOS becomes the single universal container for data exchange, creating huge efficiencies. Or it creates a robust ecosystem of developers opening up new opportunities and promoting greater industry choice. Or it supports new products that could not be foreseen today and creates synergies that drive more value — perhaps even outside the traditional market. Ideally, all of these things.”

NIGEL ALLEN
September 06, 2019
ILS: A Responsible Investment Approach

As environmental, social and governance principles become more prominent in guiding investment strategies, the ILS market must respond  In recent years, there has been a sharper focus by the investment community on responsible investment. One indicator of this has been the increased adoption of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), as environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns become a more prominent influencer of investment strategies. Investment houses are also seeking closer alignment between their ESG practices and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 17 interconnected SDGs, set in 2015, are a call to action to end poverty, achieve peace and prosperity for all, and create a sustainable society by 2030. As investors target more demonstrable outcomes from their investment practices, is there a possible opportunity for the insurance-linked securities (ILS) market to grow, given the potential societal capital that insurance can generate? “Insurance certainly has all of the hallmarks of an ESG-compatible investment opportunity,” believes Charlotte Acton, director of capital and resilience solutions at RMS. “It has the potential to promote resilience through enabling broader access and uptake of appropriate affordable financial protection and reducing the protection gap; supporting faster and more efficient responses to disasters; and incentivizing mitigation and resilient building practices pre- and post-event.” RMS has been collaborating on numerous initiatives designed to further the role of insurance and insurance technologies in disaster and climate-change resilience. These include exploring ways to monetize the dividends of resilience to incentivize resilient building, using catastrophe models to quantify the benefits of resilience investments such as flood defenses, and earthquake retrofit programs for housing. The work has also involved designing innovative parametric structures to provide rapid post-disaster liquidity. “Investors will want a clear understanding of the exposure or assets that are being protected and whether they are ESG-friendly” Charlotte Acton RMS “ILS offers a clear route for investors to engage with insurance,” explains Acton, “broadening the capital pool that supports insurance is critical as it facilitates the expansion of insurance to new regions and allows the industry to absorb increasingly large losses from growing threats such as climate change.” Viewed as a force for social good, it can certainly be argued that insurance-linked securities supports a number of the U.N.’s SDGs, including reducing the human impact of disasters and creating more sustainable cities, increasing overall resilience levels and increasing access to financial services that enhance sustainable growth potential. While there is opportunity for ILS to play a large part in ESG, the specific role of ILS within PRI is still being determined. According to LGT Capital Partners ESG Report 2019, managers in the ILS space have, in general, yet to start “actively integrating ESG into their investment strategies,” adding that across the ILS asset class “there is still little agreement on how ESG considerations should be applied. However, there is movement in this area. For example, the Bermuda Stock Exchange, a primary exchange for ILS issuers, recently launched an ESG initiative in line with the World Federation of Exchanges’ Sustainability Principles, stating that ESG was a priority in 2019 “with the aim to empower sustainable and responsible growth for its member companies, listings and the wider community.” For ILS to become a key investment option for ESG-focused investors, it must be able to demonstrate its sustainability credentials clearly. “Investors will want a clear understanding of the exposure or assets that are being protected,” Acton explains, “and whether they are ESG-friendly. They will want to know whether the protection offered provides significant societal benefits. If the ILS market can factor ESG considerations into its approach more effectively, then there is no reason why it should not attract greater attention from responsible investors.”

Helen Yates
September 06, 2019
Today's Stress Test for Tomorrow's Climate

Why the PRA’s stress test has pushed climate change to the top of (re)insurance company agendas As part of its 2019 biennial insurance stress test, the U.K. insurance industry regulator  — for the first time  — asked insurers and reinsurers to conduct an exploratory exercise in relation to climate change. Using predictions published by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and in other academic literature, the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) came up with a series of future climate change scenarios, which it asked (re)insurers to use as a basis for stress-testing the impact on their assets and liabilities. The PRA stress test came at a time when pressure is building for commercial and financial services businesses around the world to assess the likely impact of climate change on their business, through initiatives such as the Task Force for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). The submission deadline for the stress-tested scenarios ended on October 31, 2019, following which the PRA will publish a summary of overall results. From a property catastrophe (re)insurance industry perspective, the importance of assessing the potential impact, both in the near and long term, is clear. Companies must ensure their underwriting strategies and solvency levels are adequate so as to be able to account for additional losses from rising sea levels, more climate extremes, and potentially more frequent and/or intense natural catastrophes. Then there’s the more strategic considerations in the long term — how much coverages change and what will consumers demand in a changing climate? The PRA stress test, explains Callum Higgins, product manager of global climate at RMS, is the regulator’s attempt to test the waters. The hypothetical narratives are designed to help companies think about how different plausible futures could impact their business models, according to the PRA. “The climate change scenarios are not designed to assess current financial resilience but rather to provide additional impetus in this area, with results comparable across firms to better understand the different approaches companies are using.” “There was pressure on clients to respond to this because those that don’t participate will probably come under greater scrutiny” Callum Higgins RMS RMS was particularly well placed to support (re)insurers in responding to the “Assumptions to Assess the Impact on an Insurer’s Liabilities” section of the climate change scenarios, with catastrophe models the perfect tools to evaluate such physical climate change risk to liabilities. This portion of the stress test examined how changes in both U.S. hurricane and U.K. weather risk under the different climate change scenarios may affect losses. The assumptions around U.K. weather included shifts in U.K. inland and coastal flood hazard, looking at the potential loss changes from increased surface runoff and sea level rise. While in the U.S., the assumptions included a 10 percent and 20 percent increase in the frequency of major hurricanes by 2050 and 2100, respectively.  “While the assumptions and scenarios are hypothetical, it is important (re)insurers use this work to develop their capabilities to understand physical climate change risk,” says Higgins. “At the moment, it is exploratory work, but results will be used to guide future exercises that may put (re)insurers under pressure to provide more sophisticated responses.” Given the short timescales involved, RMS promptly modified the necessary models in time for clients to benefit for their submissions. “To help clients start thinking about how to respond to the PRA request, we  provided them with industrywide factors, which allowed for the approximation of losses under the PRA assumptions but will likely not accurately reflect the impact on their portfolios. For this reason, we could also run (re)insurers’ own exposures through the adjusted models, via RMS Analytical Services, better satisfying the PRA’s requirements for those who choose this approach. “To reasonably represent these assumptions and scenarios, we think it does need help from vendor companies like RMS to adjust the model data appropriately, which is possibly out of scope for many businesses,” he adds. Detailed results based on the outcome of the stress-test exercise can be applied to use cases beyond the regulatory submission for the PRA. These or other similar scenarios can be used to sensitivity test possible answers to questions such as how will technical pricing of U.K. flood be affected by climate change, how should U.S. underwriting strategy shift in response to sea level rise or how will capital adequacy requirements change as a result of climate change — and inform strategic decisions accordingly.

NIGEL ALLEN
September 06, 2019
What a Difference

As the insurance industry’s Dive In Festival continues to gather momentum, EXPOSURE examines the factors influencing the speed at which the diversity and inclusion dial is moving September 2019 marks the fifth Dive In Festival, a global movement in the insurance sector to support the development of inclusive workplace cultures. An industry phenomenon, it has ballooned in size from a London-only initiative in 2015 attracting 1,700 people to an international spectacle spanning 27 countries and reaching over 9,000 people in 2018. That the event should gather such momentum clearly demonstrates a market that is moving forward. There is now an industrywide acknowledgement of the need to better reflect the diversity of the customer base within the industry’s professional ranks. The Starting Point As Pauline Miller, head of talent development and inclusion (D&I) at Lloyd’s, explains, the insurance industry is a market that has, in the past, been slow to change its practitioner profile. “If you look at Lloyd’s, for example, for nearly three hundred years it was a men-only environment, with women only admitted as members in December 1969. “It’s about bringing together the most creative group of people that represent different ways of thinking that have evolved out of the multiple factors that make them different” Pauline Miller Lloyd’s “You also have to recognize that the insurance industry is not as far along the diversity and inclusion journey compared to other sectors,” she continues. “I previously worked in the banking industry, and diversity and inclusion had been an agenda issue in the organization for a number of years. So, we must acknowledge that this is a journey that will require multiple more steps before we really begin breaking down barriers.” However, she is confident the insurance industry can quickly make up ground. “By its very nature, the insurance market lends itself to the spread of the D&I initiative,” Miller believes. “We are a relationship-based business that thrives on direct contact, and our day-to-day activities are based upon collaboration. We must leverage this to help speed up the creation of a more diverse and inclusive environment.” The positive effects of collaboration are already evident in how this is evolving. Initiatives like Dive In, a weeklong focus on diversity and inclusion, within other financial sectors have tended to be confined to individual organizations, with few generating the level of industrywide engagement witnessed within the insurance sector. However, as Danny Fisher, global HR business partner and EMEA HR manager at RMS, points out, for the drive to gain real traction there must be marketwide consensus on the direction it is moving in. “There is always a risk,” he says, “that any complex initiative that begins with such positive intent can become derailed if there is not an understanding of a common vision from the start, and the benefits it will deliver. “There also needs to be better understanding and acknowledgement of the multitude of factors that may have contributed to the uniformity we see across the insurance sector. We have to establish why this has happened and address the flaws in our industry contributing to it.” It can be argued that the insurance industry is still composed of a relatively homogeneous group of people. In terms of gender disparity, ethnic diversity, and people of different sexual orientations, from different cultural or social backgrounds, or with physical or mental impairments, the industry recognizes a need to improve.  Diversity is the range of human differences, including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, social class, physical ability or attributes, religious or ethical values system, national origin, and political beliefs. “As a market,” Miller agrees, “there is a tendency to hire people similar to the person who is recruiting. Whether that’s someone of the same gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or from the same university or social background.” “You can end up with a very uniform workforce,” adds Fisher, “where people look the same and have a similar view of the world, which can foster ‘groupthink’ and is prone to bias and questionable conclusions. People approach problems and solutions in the same way, with no one looking at an alternative — an alternative that is often greatly needed. So, a key part of the diversity push is the need to generate greater diversity of thought.” The challenge is also introducing that talent in an inclusive way that promotes the effective development of new solutions to existing and future problems. That broad palette of talent can only be created by attracting and retaining the best and brightest from across the social spectrum within a framework in which that blend of skills, perspectives and opinions can thrive. “Diversity is not simply about the number of women, ethnicities, people with disabilities or people from disadvantaged backgrounds that you hire,” believes Miller. “It’s about bringing together the most creative group of people that represent different ways of thinking that have evolved out of the multiple factors that make them different.” Moving the Dial There is clearly a desire to make this happen and strong evidence that the industry is moving together. Top-level support for D&I initiatives coupled with the rapid growth of industrywide networks representing different demographics are helping firm up the foundations of a more diverse and inclusive marketplace.  But what other developments are needed to move the dial further? “We have to recognize that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ to this challenge,” says Miller. “Policies and strategies must be designed to create an environment in which diversity and inclusion can thrive, but fundamentally they must reflect the unique dynamics of your own organization. “We also must ensure we are promoting the benefits of a career in insurance in a more powerful and enticing way and to a broader audience,” she adds. “We operate in a fantastic industry, but we don’t sell it enough. And when we do get that diversity of talent through the door, we have to offer a workplace that sticks, so they don’t simply walk straight back out again.  “For example, someone from a disadvantaged community coming through an intern program may never have worked in an office environment before, and when they look around are they going to see people like themselves that they can relate to? What role models can they connect with? Are we prepared for that?” For Fisher, steps can also be taken to change processes and modernize thinking and habits. “We have to be training managers in interview and evaluation techniques and discipline to keep unconscious bias in check. There has to be consistency with meaningful tests to ensure data-driven hiring decisions. “At RMS, we are fortunate to attract talent from around the world and are able to facilitate bringing them on board to add further variety in solving for complex problems. A successful approach for us, for example, has been accessing talent early, often prior to their professional career.” There is, of course, the risk that the push for greater diversity leads to a quota-based approach.  “Nobody wants this to become a tick-box exercise,” believes Miller, “and equally nobody wants to be hired simply because they represent a particular demographic. But if we are expecting change, we do need measurements in place to show how we are moving the dial forward. That may mean introducing realistic targets within realistic timeframes that are monitored carefully to ensure we are on track. “Ultimately,” she concludes, “what we are all working to do is to create the best environment for the broadest spectrum of people to come into what is a truly amazing marketplace. And when they do, offering a workplace that enables them to thrive and enjoy very successful careers that contribute to the advancement of our industry. That’s what we all have to be working toward.”

NIGEL ALLEN
May 20, 2019
Vulnerability: In Equal Measure

As international efforts grow to minimize the disproportionate impact of disasters on specific parts of society, EXPOSURE looks at how close public/private collaboration will be critical to moving forward There is a widely held and understandable belief that large-scale disasters are indiscriminate events. They weigh out devastation in equal measure, irrespective of the gender, age, social standing or physical ability of those impacted. The reality, however, is very different. Catastrophic events expose the various inequalities within society in horrific fashion. Women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and those living in economically deprived areas are at much greater risk than other parts of society both during the initial disaster phase and the recovery process. Cyclone Gorky, for example, which struck Bangladesh in 1991, caused in the region of 140,000 deaths — women made up 93 percent of that colossal death toll. Similarly, in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami some 70 percent of the 250,000 fatalities were women. Looking at the disparity from an age-banded perspective, during the 2005 Kashmir Earthquake 10,000 schools collapsed resulting in the deaths of 19,000 children. Children also remain particularly vulnerable well after disasters have subsided. In 2014, a study by the University of San Francisco of death rates in the Philippines found that delayed deaths among female infants outnumbered reported typhoon deaths by 15-to-1 following an average typhoon season — a statistic widely attributed to parents prioritizing their male infants at a time of extreme financial difficulty. And this disaster disparity is not limited to developing nations as some may assume. Societal groups in developed nations can be just as exposed to a disproportionate level of risk. During the recent Camp Fire in California, figures revealed that residents in the town of Paradise aged 75 or over were 8 times more likely to die than the average for all other age bands. This age-related disparity was only marginally smaller for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The Scale of the Problem These alarming statistics are now resonating at the highest levels. Growing recognition of the inequalities in disaster-related fatality ratios is now influencing global thinking on disaster response and management strategies. Most importantly, it is a central tenet of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030, which demands an “all-of-society engagement and partnership” to reduce risk that encompasses those “disproportionately affected by disasters.” Yet a fundamental problem is that disaggregated data for specific vulnerable groups is not being captured for the majority of disasters. “There is a growing acknowledgment across many nations that certain groupings within society are disproportionately impacted by disasters,” explains Alison Dobbin, principal catastrophe risk modeler at RMS. “Yet the data required to get a true sense of the scale of the problem simply isn’t being utilized and disaggregated in an effective manner post-disaster. And without exploiting and building on the data that is available, we cannot gain a working understanding of how best to tackle the multiple issues that contribute to it.” The criticality of capturing disaster datasets specific to particular groups and age bands is clearly flagged in the Sendai Framework. Under the “Guiding Principles,” the document states: “Disaster risk reduction requires a multi-hazard approach and inclusive risk-informed decision-making based on the open exchange and dissemination of disaggregated data, including by sex, age and disability, as well as on easily accessible, up-to-date, comprehensible, science-based, non-sensitive risk information, complemented by traditional knowledge.” Gathering the Data Effective data capture, however, requires a consistent approach to the collection of disaggregated information across all groups — first, to understand the specific impacts of particular perils on distinct groups, and second, to generate guidance, policies and standards for preparedness and resilience that reflect the unique sensitivities. While efforts to collect and analyze aggregated data are increasing, the complexities involved in ascertaining differentiated vulnerabilities to specific groups are becoming increasingly apparent, as Nicola Howe, lead catastrophe risk modeler at RMS, explains. “We can go beyond statistics collection, and model those factors which lead to discriminative outcomes” Nicola Howe RMS “You have to remember that social vulnerability varies from place to place and is often in a state of flux,” she says. “People move, levels of equality change, lifestyles evolve and the economic conditions in specific regions fluctuate. Take gender-based vulnerabilities for example. They tend not to be as evident in societies that demonstrate stronger levels of sexual equality. “Experiences during disasters are also highly localized and specific to the particular event or peril,” she continues. “There are multiple variables that can influence the impact on specific groups. Cultural, political and economic factors are strong influencers, but other aspects such as the time of day or the particular season can also have a significant effect on outcomes.” This creates challenges, not only for attributing specific vulnerabilities to particular groups and establishing policies designed to reduce those vulnerabilities, but also for assessing the extent to which the measures are having the desired outcomes. Establishing data consistency and overcoming the complexities posed by this universal problem will require the close collaboration of all key participants. “It is imperative that governments and NGOs recognize the important part that the private sector can play in working together and converting relevant data into the targeted insight required to support effective decision-making in this area,” says Dobbin. A Collective Response At time of writing, Dobbin and Howe were preparing to join a diverse panel of speakers at the UN’s 2019 Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Switzerland. This year’s convening marks the third consecutive conference at which RMS has participated. Previous events have seen Robert Muir-Wood, chief research officer, and Daniel Stander, global managing director, present on the resilience dividend andrisk finance. The title of this year’s discussion is “Using Gender, Age and Disability-Responsive Data to Empower Those Left Furthest Behind.” “One of our primary aims at the event,” says Howe, “will be to demonstrate the central role that the private sector, and in our case the risk modeling community, can play in helping to bridge the data gap that exists and help promote the meaningful way in which we can contribute.” The data does, in some cases, exist and is maintained primarily by governments and NGOs in the form of census data, death certificates, survey results and general studies. “Companies such as RMS provide the capabilities to convert this raw data into actionable insight,” Dobbin says. “We model from hazard, through vulnerability and exposure, all the way to the financial loss. That means we can take the data and turn it into outputs that governments and NGOs can use to better integrate disadvantaged groups into resilience planning.” But it’s not simply about getting access to the data. It is also about working closely with these bodies to establish the questions that they need answers to. “We need to understand the specific outputs required. To this end, we are regularly having conversations with many diverse stakeholders,” adds Dobbin. While to date the analytical capabilities of the risk modeling community have not been directed at the social vulnerability issue in any significant way, RMS has worked with organizations to model human exposure levels for perils. Collaborating with the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau of California (WCIRB), a private, nonprofit association, RMS conducted probabilistic earthquake analysis on exposure data for more than 11 million employees. This included information about the occupation of each employee to establish potential exposure levels for workers’ compensation cover in the state. “We were able to combine human exposure data to model the impact of an earthquake, ascertaining vulnerability based on where employees were likely to be, their locations, their specific jobs, the buildings they worked in and the time of day that the event occurred,” says Howe. “We have already established that we can incorporate age and gender data into the model, so we know that our technology is capable of supporting detailed analyses of this nature on a huge scale.” She continues: “We must show where the modeling community can make a tangible difference. We bring the ability to go beyond the collection of statistics post-disaster and to model those factors that lead to such strong differences in outcomes, so that we can identify where discrimination and selective outcomes are anticipated before they actually happen in disasters. This could be through identifying where people are situated in buildings at different times of day, by gender, age, disability, etc. It could be by modeling how different people by age, gender or disability will respond to a warning of a tsunami or a storm surge. It could be by modeling evacuation protocols to demonstrate how inclusive they are.” Strengthening the Synergies A critical aspect of reducing the vulnerability of specific groups is to ensure disadvantaged elements of society become more prominent components of mitigation and response planning efforts. A more people-centered approach to disaster management was a key aspect of the forerunner to the Sendai Framework, the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015. The plan called for risk reduction practices to be more inclusive and engage a broader scope of stakeholders, including those viewed as being at higher risk. This approach is a core part of the “Guiding Principles” that underpin the Sendai Framework. It states: “Disaster risk reduction requires an all-of-society engagement and partnership. It also requires empowerment and inclusive, accessible and non-discriminatory participation, paying special attention to people disproportionately affected by disasters, especially the poorest. A gender, age, disability and cultural perspective should be integrated in all policies and practices, and women and youth leadership should be promoted.” The Framework also calls for the empowerment of women and people with disabilities, stating that enabling them “to publicly lead and promote gender equitable and universally accessible response, recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction approaches.” This is a main area of focus for the U.N. event, explains Howe. “The conference will explore how we can promote greater involvement among members of these disadvantaged groups in resilience-related discussions, because at present we are simply not capitalizing on the insight that they can provide. “Take gender for instance. We need to get the views of those disproportionately impacted by disaster involved at every stage of the discussion process so that we can ensure that we are generating gender-sensitive risk reduction strategies, that we are factoring universal design components into how we build our shelters, so women feel welcome and supported. Only then can we say we are truly recognizing the principles of the Sendai Framework.”

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