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China’s Cyberwar Skills

Rupert Alabaster, Director BMS Professional & Financial Servicesresponds with his thoughts following  the  US report on China’s cyberwar skills, a risk to military  – profiled by BBC News, 8 March 2012. Rupert will be establishing a regular blog on the themes of Cyber Risk, Intangible assets and the insurance market.

There is more and more talk of the next confrontation being fought in cyberspace rather than with soldiers. Certainly, there is a concern that key infrastructure from utilities and government through to emergency-responder networks and banking systems maybe targeted.

And it will not obviously be one nation state versus another, at least on the surface. Rather all sorts of cyber groups may be at work infiltrating systems, manipulating, stealing and changing data.

As more and more companies become aware that it is not just a lone hacker sitting in their bedroom that could be interested in what is on their servers, there is a much heightened focus on cyber security. In turn, risk managers are being asked to buy cyber insurance as protection against security breaches. But – and it is a big but – cyber insurance policies are not all the same and few, if any, are specifically designed to protect against a coordinated attack on behalf of a State.

The problem is that most cyber policies carry a version of the traditional War/Terrorism exclusion. They vary in their language but generally the intent is not to cover coordinated State or politically motivated attacks. And with the US declaring that State coordinated cyber attacks could constitute an act of war (BBC News, 1 June 2011) you can bet that underwriters will look closely at this exclusion in the event of a big claim.

Cyber is not only the new front for war and criminal activity, it is also at the vanguard of new risks being identified and insurances designed. It is early days and the present crop of coverages have a long way to go before risk managers can sleep easy at night.

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Bad Faith Claims Handling for Natural Disasters

BMS’ Vice President of Claims, Urban Friesz discusses bad faith claims handling for natural disasters. He will be establishing a regular client services and claims themed blog.

In light of the immense storm activity we experienced in the South and Midwest last week, I thought it might be timely to revisit an article titled 3 Steps Insurers Can Take To Avoid Class Action Litigation Stemming From Natural Disasters, which was published in October 2011 on Property Casualty 360°, a National Underwriter Website.

As a reinsurance claims specialist, the part of the article that drew my attention dealt with claims for bad-faith. Most treaty reinsurance agreements include coverage for the insurer’s liability for loss or damage arising because of certain failures of a company in handling a claim. Two of the three recommendations included in the article involve claims handling. As a general rule, claims handling methodology should satisfy fair claims handling practices as required by each state as well as meet the prescribed duty of care required of the relationship between policyholder and insurer. A handy 50 State guide for claims handling practices assembled by Lynch & Associates can be found at Claim-Handling Guidelines.

Insurance companies typically have claims handling manuals which set forth acceptable claims handling practices and procedures in the acknowledgement, investigation and settlement of claims. In addition to these standard elements of the claims process, these manuals often prescribe additional steps to be taken in the event of a full or partial denial of coverage or other claim dispute. So, as long as you have a sound claims handling manual and your claims staff adhere to these practices, you should be good right?

Well….what about the scores of independent adjusters and appraisers that get involved when disaster strikes? Because of the difficulty in planning and deploying claims resources for sudden catastrophic events, most insurance companies rely heavily on local or national independent adjusting firms to help adjust catastrophe claims. What happens when these adjusters don’t adhere to a company’s claims procedures or fail to operate within the scope of the service agreement between the insurance company and the adjusting firm? What happens if the “failure” in claims handling mentioned above is attributed to actions of an independent adjuster?

The Vermont Supreme Court stated in Hamill v. Pawtucket Mutual. Ins. Co., No. 2005-025, 2005 WL 3556694 (Vt. Dec. 30, 2005) that, because the conduct of an adjuster acting within the scope of his or her authority as agent for the insurer is imputed to the insurer, the insurer is subject to liability for the adjuster’s mishandling of claims in actions alleging breach of contract or bad faith. An action for breach of contract or bad faith stems from the terms of the insurance policy itself or the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing which commonly exists in the contract between an insured and his insurer. Absent privity of contract with the insured, the independent adjuster does not owe an independent duty to the insured unless the insured is suing for an intentional tort such as fraud or deceit (Dumas v. ACCC Insur. Co., Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Case No. 09-13027). As a result, the insurer is often on the hook for activities of an independent adjuster when they lead to bad faith allegations.

It’s hard to think about bad faith claims handling in light of the devastation and tragedy experienced across parts of the country last week. Insurance companies are diligently deploying resources and capital to help individuals and communities in need as a result of these storms. Nonetheless, taking a few moments to review your service agreements with independent adjuster firms and formalizing expectations may save you time and money later.

If you have any comments/questions about my blog or would like to contact me, please email: urban.friesz@bmsgroup.com

Disclaimer: This article and the Website content that can be linked to through this article are offered for informational purposes only. The article and linked-to Website content are made available without warranty of any kind. They are not offered or intended as advice on any specific facts or circumstances, and you should not rely on them as a substitute for independently obtaining such advice.

Raymond James & BMS Partner to offer essential Premium Line Data

BMS is pleased to announce, from Monday 21st November 2011, we will be offering access to the Raymond James Premium Line Data on our Website Media Centre and also on our daily BMS Industry Newsletter every Monday thereafter. Please see the Orange button at the bottom of the Media Centre homepage to access the data.

This Raymond James & Associates research offers up-to-date stock valuation data and insight into the market on a weekly basis bringing together essential research – at the touch of a button.

We are pleased to partner with Raymond James to offer access to our clients and people, ensuring that they have the expert advice and data they need to make decisions in this ever-more competitive market. To register for the daily BMS Industry Newsletter – please subscribe using the button on the Media Centre hompage, under the Twitter logo.

Pre-Baden Baden Review

Jonathan Morris, Managing Director of the BMS Retro team, considers the hot topics for debate at the upcoming Baden Baden Meeting.

I have been going to Baden Baden for the last four years and although relatively internationally focused, it has become an increasing important conference where after the early discussions of Monte Carlo Rendez-Vous; we finally get down to business and focus on client/contract specific topics. This concentration of market players in one location all with a focus on the renewal season ahead, to my mind makes Baden the real beginning of the new season.

BMS Re will be represented this year by myself and Georgina Glander. We will be hosting meetings between our clients and their markets. We also plan to see other existing and potential retro markets form Europe, Bermuda, Barbados and Scandinavia. These markets include hedge funds as well as traditional reinsurance.

I think the key discussions at Baden Baden will be focused around the poor results relating to the sizeable losses experienced in New Zealand and Japan earlier in the year and how these losses will impact throughout the market and potentially drive change. It is obvious that it will take more than one year to recoup such exceptional losses and to get clients’ portfolios back into the black.

Capacity is always a hot topic and this year talk will be around whether traditional or less-traditional forms of capacity emerging from capital-based market will be used to complete programs. These new players in the retro scene are good for clients, as a buyer they need a mix of traditional and capital markets to try to smooth out any volatility in pricing each year. There is an increase in choice for clients overall, be it Insurance linked securities (ILS), Industry Loss Warranties (ILW), traditional cover or capital markets.

In terms of the retrocessional market, it is early days regarding 1/1 renewals, but Baden will set the scene for the latter weeks in December when the decisions are made. Our biggest competitors are ‘net retentions’ and deductibles. For me, if retro reinsurance is too expensive; people will buy less of it and stay out of the marketplace for longer, which is not what we want.

I foresee loss reporting from cedants as growing concern for reinsurers and their retro reinsurers. Earthquake losses, in particular, take a long time to gather reliable data from, so both the Japanese earthquake and New Zealand have taken a long time to get accurate loss estimates to base any sort of pricing around.

Overall it is definitely going to be a tough renewal season for all concerned and I believe the above themes will dominate the industry conferences for some time to come.

The 3rd Annual Reactions North America Conference, Risk and Capital Management Issues, New York, September 27th 2011

There were some stimulating panel discussions at this conference, the highlight being the CEO panel, which had a great line up. I particularly enjoyed all the discussion around “when will the market turn.”

One panel member described the market as a “not yet” market, that there have been pockets of change but nothing has as “yet” had enough impact. Another panel member cautioned us about blaming others/other industries for our results.

Of obvious interest to me, as EVP of BMS’ Specialty Casualty team, was when one panel member expanded on the casualty market commenting that the casualty business looks surprising good – in spite of the depressed rate levels.

I also enjoyed the CFO panel where one debate focused on the benefits of reinsurance and whether or not it is felt the capital markets sector will displace the demand for reinsurance. One panel member was quick to comment that reinsurance does more than provide capital for their company, that it helps to de-risk as they build a diversified book and they value the reinsurance partnership with key players in the industry.

The keynote speaker raised some valid discussion points when he pushed thinking around the question; “Are we driving people/companies out of the market?” based upon the increased retentions. Furthermore, he talked about growth opportunities in this challenging market and how the real money is in the “specialties” (Practice Groups by Industry/Product). He concluded with the fact that opportunity lies in differentiated talent, that the focus of companies, needs to be on obtaining the best talent – then lead, motivate and retain them.

The MPL Market – What’s the Prognosis?

Since 2006 the Medical Professional Liability (MPL) market has become increasingly competitive, but it remains both healthy and profitable, particularly when compared to other casualty lines. The key challenge faced by the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA) member companies is whether they can reverse the declining trend in profitability before the market hits the unprofitable levels experienced in the early 2000’s.

BMS’s recent analysis looks at the results of PIAA member companies (who make up more than 50% of the MPL market) from 2001 – 2010 to look at where results have been and where they might be heading.

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BMS expands its analytics team with two new senior hires

Independent global broker BMS Group today announces that it is continuing to invest in its analytics business with the appointment of two industry experts:

  • Julie Serakos, Executive Vice President, Catastrophe Modelling
  • Mike Larson, Executive Vice President and Actuary for BMS Intermediaries

Julie will join BMS this week to lead the Catastrophe Modelling department.  She joins from Willis Re where she built up the company’s catastrophe risk modelling and advisory services business becoming the Executive Vice President in their Property Resource Division.

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