Natural disasters, power outages or a pandemic – all these events can lead to business interruptions and production shutdowns without causing any property damage. This is a difficult risk management starting point, especially for insurance companies.
A major fire. Parts of the buildings and production facilities are damaged or even destroyed. There is a business interruption. Sales cannot be generated, revenues cannot be earned, and the ongoing costs cannot be financed. Damage of this kind can quickly run into the two to three-digit millions. Traditional property and business interruption insurance offers suitable cover in such cases. It provides compensation for the property damage as well as for the ongoing costs and loss of earnings.
However, established insurance concepts are unsuitable if a production stoppage or business interruption occurs without prior property damage, for example, due to the ash cloud over Europe in March 2010 or due to a widespread power outage, i.e. a blackout.
Currently, the best-known event that has led to shutdowns and outages in many industries is Covid-19. This event is derived from a single cause and occurred almost simultaneously worldwide. From an actuarial point of view, a risk transfer via insurance solutions is currently not possible without government involvement.
Alternative coverage concepts
For other failure scenarios, so-called non-damage business interruption policies, or NDBI for short, offer insurance coverage. Examples include natural events such as extreme cold, which causes river routes to freeze over, or regional flooding, which impedes access to and departure from operating sites and thus interrupts necessary raw material deliveries.
Limits to risk transfer and risk management
Many companies want to insure themselves against all the uncertainties that can occur in their value or supply chain, including market risk and price fluctuations. However, this is where the insurance industry reaches its limits. As in traditional insurance, innovative risk transfer solutions such as NDBI must meet criteria such as randomness, uniqueness, estimability and independence.
Here is a brief insight into the small 1 x 1 of insurability:
Randomness means that the risk is uncertain and uncontrollable when the contract is concluded. To eliminate moral hazards, uncertainty must be present in both contracting parties. Besides moral hazard, information asymmetry is one of the biggest challenges for the insurance market. Often, the insurer does not have the same level of knowledge about the circumstances that may lead to a loss and may impose limitations on the scope of coverage. Customised solutions based on weather events as triggers, offer the advantage of objective risk assessment here, as the data is often provided by an independent third-party provider, such as NASA, satellites or weather stations.
Uniqueness requires that all essential characteristics of the event as well as the obligation to perform must be definable. Any residual risks must be borne by the policyholder. For example, the values from a weather station may have to be extrapolated to cover a larger area or region. In this case, the damage presented may deviate from reality.
Estimability is the ability to determine the expected value and spread of the loss distribution to be insured (loss amount and probability of occurrence). Estimability is not sufficiently ensured if there is not enough meaningful data to be able to create an appropriate risk model. Otherwise, subjective risk assessments – but with an increased risk of error – can also be considered.
Independence ensures that the risk can be diversified for the insurer. This means that many risks that do not materialise in the same event must be insured in the risk community of the insured. The aim is to avoid accumulation risk, i.e. the probability of a simultaneous or staged occurrence of loss for many insured risks. In a global value chain where just-in-time delivery is required, a strong correlation of various events can be assumed. A disruption at a manufacturer of certain components in Asia can cause massive damage and interruptions in Europe and vice versa.
These basic principles essentially define the limits in risk transfer. The criteria for insurability do not necessarily have to be met in full; a level at which risk equalisation is sufficiently ensured is adequate.
4 Findings for the Insurance and Risk Management Industry
The key findings of various studies on the development of global insurance markets by Deloitte, Ernst & Young, A.M. Best Rating Agency and Swiss Re show that:
1. The pandemic has highlighted the relevance of the insurance industry as a financial relief for households, companies and governments in times of crisis.
2. Supply chain disruptions require better protection to make businesses and society more resilient.
3. Insurers must adapt to widespread change, become more agile, and develop new solutions and even more specific services.
4. Digitalisation accelerated by the pandemic will enable improved risk assessment through Big Data & Co as well as more transparent pricing in the future. Optimised processes will lead to efficiency gains and favour the development of new, more attractive products based on AI and Big Data.
Risk managers are also challenged to evaluate alternative solutions for risk transfer (e.g. in the form of an NDBI) to make decisions for targeted deployment. There are no standardised products or parameters for such solutions. Each contract is tailor-made and individual. Here, too, integrative networking of risk and insurance management is a recipe for success in supporting the company’s success in the long term.
This article is a part of our latest Spotlight publication focusing on supply chain issues. Read the publication and learn more about how you can protect your business from changes and unpredictable supply chain disruptions.
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