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Editorial: Technology transforms risks

Gavin Souter

Changes in the way business is conducted inevitably lead to developments in risk management and insurance. In the past few decades, the prime mover behind most of the changes has been technology, in particular the internet, and insurers and risk managers have had to respond to the evolving environment with new products and different approaches.

The retail sector has been disrupted as much as any traditional business by the introduction of online sales. Many stores and brands have had to adapt to e-commerce or face extinction, while new entrants — large and small — take an increasing share of existing markets and develop new ones.

But as we report in the story leading this annual issue of Business Insurance looking at specialty and emerging risks, the product liability landscape for e-commerce is complex. With so many organizations from around the world involved in delivering goods to customers’ doors, companies throughout the supply chain could potentially be on the hook for claims, and courts have yet to reach a consensus on who’s to blame when things go wrong.

Technology is also changing the workplace. Even jobs that still rely heavily on physical exertion, such as many in the construction industry, are being overhauled as a result of technological developments, including new tools aimed at improving safety. Their introduction, though, is sometimes hitting hurdles as buyers look for proof that the sometimes substantial costs are justified.

But it’s not just high tech that is leading to changes in the way risks are viewed and handled; politics also plays a role. Whether it’s the increased risks of navigating such a highly charged political environment or contradictory laws leaving questions over how to conduct business in sectors such as cannabis, managing such volatile risks remains a challenge.