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Social instability challenges captive insurance sector

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BOCA RATON, Fla. — Owners of captive insurers need to be aware of how events in other countries could affect their business, as a global climate of growing social unrest shows no sign of settling down, a captive expert says.

One of the biggest issues the world is experiencing is the involuntary migration that has driven over 60 million people to leave their countries in the past few years. The number of displaced people worldwide is about 50% larger now than after World War II, and migration has manifested into social unrest, especially in Europe, John Drzik, New York-based president of global risk and specialties at Marsh L.L.C., said Tuesday at the 25th annual World Captive Forum in Boca Raton, Florida.

With social instability at the heart of a web of interconnected risks, “the cocktail of risks in the market are a challenging mix right now,” Mr. Drzik said.

Citing from the World Economic Forum Global Risks 2016 report, executives in countries including the United States, Germany and Switzerland list cyber as their No. 1 concern, with data fraud, terrorist attacks, fiscal crisis and asset bubbles as other reported chief concerns, Mr. Drzik said. The worldwide retiree population also is going to see issues arise over the next 20 or more years due to promises made to them that won't be met, and there is also a rise in energy risk with oil priced as low as it is, he said.

However, many new economic issues are growing with the rise in societal issues, and these instabilities will spill out and influence other risks, such as cyber attacks motivated by the social unrest, Mr. Drzik said.

The migration crisis is also putting pressure on countries' political leaders to turn inward, which may induce trade sanctions and tariffs in different regions of the world.

“It could cause the creation of policies that are not the best for business and are more protective in nature,” Mr. Drzik said.

“We don't see this as a passing phase, this unrest. It is hard to see how the issues are going to be resolved any time soon,” he said.

In the face of this report, with political and social unrest in many countries higher than seen in decades, captive owners need to look at how to be more resilient and mitigate risk where possible within their operations, he said.

Mr. Drzik recommended running scenarios to find changes that could be made to company resiliency plans.

“Look at any partners and vendors in your supply chain and make sure they are adequately diversified,” he said. Portfolio investments should be examined for risk in particular countries that could be affected by a food or water shortage or social unrest, which could cause business disruption that could damage a business or investments, he said.

Captive uses are evolving in the face of the new risks.

The fastest-growing lines of nontraditional coverage are political risk and voluntary unemployment. Captives can try to meet that need for coverage and plug that gap, he said.

“If you can find a gap in the market and figure out how to deal with it better than anyone else, it can be an opportunity. Having a deeper analysis of the risk can be something captives can offer,” Mr. Drzik said.