Airmic Chair & CEO urge insurers to up their game to stay relevant

Airmic out going Chair Paul Goulding and CEO John Ludlow

The insurance community - risk carriers, brokers and buyers - need to up their game if they are to remain at the heart of corporate risk management as company business models continue to evolve. That was the message delivered by both Paul Goulding, the outgoing chair of Airmic, and CEO John Ludlow.

"We've been talking for years about the need for insurance to cover risks to intangible assets yet, despite our best efforts, we've made very little progress. In some areas, like business interruption, there's a perception that things have actually gone backwards," said John Ludlow.

"We know that the commercial insurance market is very experienced at protecting physical things like property, but that is not where the future lies for most of its customers," he said. "Threats to reputation, cyber, supply chains and other intangibles are what really worry them and insurance needs to be able to find solutions. Otherwise it will cease to be central to the risk management of most large companies.

"This is a challenge equally for buyers, especially in the way they use and gather data and understand the wider risk picture in order to use insurance strategically and maintain the interest of the C-Suite. If insurers, brokers and buyers can work together to resolve these challenges - and I am sure we can - then the future will look bright."

Paul Goulding stressed the need for risk managers to do more to understand their risks before asking insurers to cover them. "You have to be able to articulate your risk. It is about risk managers being acute enough and well connected in their business to articulate those risks for a carrier to take them on," he said.

"Digital disruption is just a way of life"

The question of how to transfer intangible risks, especially when digital-related, provided a big theme for the Insurance Panel debate on the second day of the conference. "Digital disruption is just a way of life," said Vivek Banga, chief digital officer at Gallagher. He said a partnership was needed between the insurance industry and its clients to tackle the resulting issues.

Tony Buckle, MD Global Risk Solutions at RSA, added to general agreement that the job of insurers was to look with their clients at what is disrupting their own industries.

There was equally agreement that data is key. "The richness of the data that's coming in is just exploding," said Chris Johnson, executive vice president at FM Global. The challenge, as he saw it, was to making sense of the data - like trying to see patterns in a snowstorm.

Vinicio Cellerini, head of commercial insurance at Zurich Insurance, was optimistic about the ability of the industry to provide cover for digital risks. He said a lot of work had gone on, and would bear fruit, predicting "a massive acceleration in the next few years".

Ross Harrington, London market client director at Aviva, said it was important for insurers to gain the ear of company boards in order to provide them with the help they need. "We need access to the right people," he said.