Storm coming for insurers as losses grow: Hannover Re
May 2, 2016
According to the Institute of Actuaries, climate change, wealth concentration and the interdependence of industries will continue to increase the severity of economic damage and the insured.
Hannover Re GM Australia and Australasia Property and Casualty Head Michael Eberhardt spoke at the institute’s Extreme Events Management forum in Sydney last week.
He stressed the importance of insurance in this risky environment.
Recent natural disasters, he said, have provided (re)insurers with important “lessons” that will prove vital when disaster risk levels rise.
Mr. Eberhardt illustrated his point with three examples: Hurricane Katrina in the US in 2005, floods in Thailand in 2011 and the New Zealand earthquake in 2010/11.
Katrina leads to the implementation of risk mitigation measures such as building codes and dam construction. The disaster models were adjusted for additional losses after the events, and the actual disaster scenarios were incorporated into the risk management process.
Flooding in Thailand – unprecedented and therefore only a rudimentary model – underscores the need to “expect the unexpected and think it through”.
After the New Zealand earthquake, open replacement policies switched to total coverage policies for most parts of the market.
The disaster highlighted the economic importance of insurance. “High insurance penetration allows the New Zealand economy to continue to grow [after] terrible earthquakes happened and to lessen the impact on debt and GDP,” said Mr. Eberhardt.
With the increasing prevalence of weather-related disasters, insurance companies will increasingly play a central role.
And the experience in each of the disasters highlighted points to public relations troubles ahead.
“The public picture for the insurance industry after these events is negative, despite the billions of dollars in payouts. Insurance companies are rarely loved [in these situations]’ said Mr. Eberhardt.
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