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Insurers' lack of innovation is top concern of U.K. risk managers

Insurers' lack of innovation is top concern of U.K. risk managers

BIRMINGHAM, England — Risk managers must work with their brokerages and insurers to devise innovative insurance to cover the changing risks their companies face.

While buyers decry a lack of innovative insurance to address the complex risks they face in areas such as cyber, reputation and supply chain risks, brokers and insurers say they need more data and transparency from risk managers to devise new products.

A lack of innovation was the top concern cited by U.K. risk managers in a recent survey, said Chris McGloin, outgoing chairman of U.K. risk management group Airmic Ltd. and vice president of risk management and insurance at London technology firm Invensys P.L.C.

Twenty-six percent of 110 risk managers, who were asked to rank their biggest concerns in the May and June study by Airmic cited lack of innovation by the insurance market as a major concern.

Helen Pope, incoming chair of Airmic and head of insurable risk at London-based supermarket chain Tesco P.L.C., said the upcoming Solvency II risk-based capital regulations for insurers and reinsurers in Europe may stifle innovation.

She said the rules, which are to go into effect in 2016, will restrict insurers' ability to underwrite policies that span several classes of insurance. “Solvency II is very restrictive on the way insurers can write bespoke policies,” she said.

In some cases, however, changes in law and regulations may drive innovation, said Thomas Keist, Zurich-based head of specialties for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region at Swiss Re Corporate Solutions, a unit of Swiss Re Ltd.

For example, he said rules that went into effect in February in the United Kingdom allow companies that admit a breach of regulations to reach a settlement and indefinitely defer prosecution may alter the way that directors and officers policies are written.

This change may require underwriters to reshape directors and officers coverage to make sure it is applicable, he said. Any increase in defense and claims costs may test policy limits and result in underwriters offering separate limits for each category, he said.

“This may be a driver of the much-sought-after innovation in the industry,” he said, as separate limits would effectively enable larger limits.

Experts who gathered at Airmic's annual conference June 16-18 in Birmingham, England, agreed that risk managers, brokers and underwriters must work together if there is to be innovation in the industry.

“It is simplistic to suggest that all the responsibility for innovation rests with the insurer,” said George Davies, U.K. chief client officer at Marsh Ltd. in London. “It needs to be three-way. The industry evolves through client need and client understanding.

“The challenge for the broker is to facilitate the relationship between client and underwriter.” Then the parties can work together to drive innovation, he said.

“Some of the issues that buyers are facing are so new and so pervasive that we do need to come together to try to build products and services” such as cyber, said Mike Hammond, CEO of Lockton Cos. L.L.P.'s international operations based in London.

Greater collaboration is needed within the industry and with other parties that have particular expertise, he said.

Insurers need quality data from buyers to be able to innovate, said Charles Beresford-Davies, U.K. risk management practice leader at Marsh in London.

“If we are going to start to write more innovative coverage, we need more transparency from clients,” said Nigel Bamber, U.K. country manager for XL Group P.L.C. in London. “There is a real benefit from having that dialogue.”

For certain risks, historical data that underwriters typically might require to begin underwriting a risk might be limited, XL CEO Mike McGavick said.

“Because the pace of change is so fast, we will not as an industry be able to innovate at the correct pace if we are asking (buyers) for 10 years' worth of data, so we cannot work in the old way,” he said. Insurers need to look for “adjacencies in terms of data,” as well as “learn to work more flexibly” and be less restrictive about who “owns solutions,” he said.

For example, Mr. McGavick said cyber risk underwriters need to work with experts in that field to come up with coverage that matches clients' needs.

Collaboration is needed for innovation, said Philippe Rocard, CEO of Axa Corporate Solutions, a unit of Paris-based Axa S.A. “Historically, we have not been good at forecasting” future risks and trends, she said.