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Insurance industry reacts to coronavirus spread

Coronavirus insurance travel

Updated March 3 to reflect the cancelation of CICA.

Insurers, brokers and others say they are cautiously monitoring the situation with regards to the coronavirus, with some imposing limited travel restrictions and canceling events.

One major industry event was canceled just two days before it was due to begin.

Several insurers and brokers say they are imposing bans to areas badly affected by the new coronavirus and several are imposing restrictions on other international travel. As of Thursday, more than 90,000 people worldwide had contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

The Captive Insurance Companies Association’s 2020 international conference next week was canceled Friday.

Minneapolis-based CICA, which was due to hold its conference at the Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, California, March 8-10 had previously indicated that it would proceed with the conference but include several safety measures.

The decision to cancel was made out of concern to attendees and because several of the organization's member companies had imposed travel bans, CICA said.

Bryan Sanders, president, Markel Specialty, a unit of Glen Allen, Virginia-based Markel Corp., and president of the Kansas City, Missouri-based Wholesale & Specialty Insurance Association, said during the organization’s underwriting summit earlier this week that a legislative “fly-in” where WSIA representatives planned to fly to Washington March 12 to speak to legislators, has been canceled. “There was concern,” he said.

A Marsh LLC spokeswoman said in a statement measures introduced by the brokerage include postponing Marsh-sponsored conferences and large internal meetings that require travel.

Decisions on whether to go forward with large gatherings of local colleagues and/or clients will take into consideration any guidance or requirements from local health authorities, the spokeswoman said, and it is putting travel restrictions in place to affected areas.

Marsh said also any staff that traveled to an affected area are being advised to inform their line managers and remain at home for 14 days.

An Aon spokeswoman said in a statement it has asked colleagues to limit non-essential travel.

“We have many other options to remain in close contact and serve our clients and find that these often are suitable alternatives in the near term. We also have postponed some events,” said the statement.

Axa SA, the parent of commercial insurance Axa XL, said in a statement it has a ban on business trips to or from affected areas such as Hubei Province in China, South Korea, Iran and specific areas in some European countries.

The Paris-based insurer said its entities in affected areas have put in place “concrete measures” to protect employees and “proactively measure the situation,” including allowing employees to work remotely, providing adequate health and hygiene advice, events and travel restrictions.

Zurich Insurance Group said in a statement that in-country travel is left to the discretion of local management and any cross-border travel requires approval.

The insurer said employees traveling outside their home country are required to return home as soon as possible, and regular cross-border commuters are required to work from home or nearby office without commuting, in agreement with their line manager.

A Travelers Cos. Inc. spokesman said the insurer is restricting travel to China, Hong Kong and South Korea. “At this point, we’re still monitoring the situation.  We do have the business continuity in place so that people can work remotely.”

A USI Insurance Services LLC spokesman said in an email that the brokerage is “restricting all nonessential domestic and international business travel, recommending the use of teleconferencing technology as a preferred alternative to in-person meetings, enabling flexible/remote work arrangements,” among other things.

While sources say Greenwich, Connecticut-based W.R. Berkley Corp. is restricting employee travel, a spokeswoman said “we have not stated anything publicly.” 

Other brokers and insurers contacted by Business Insurance said they do not comment publicly on their policies or did not respond to queries.

More insurance and risk management news on the coronavirus crisis here.