By: 14 December 2018
Fires and explosions cause largest losses for business, finds AGCS

Fire and explosion incidents are causing the largest claims for insurers and the businesses they cover, according to new research from Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS).

In its latest Global Claims Review, AGCS reveals the top causes of claims in the corporate insurance segment based on an analysis of 470,000 claims from more than 200 countries over the past five years (July 2013 to July 2018) with an approximate value of £51.7 billion.

According to AGCS, the largest financial losses come from fires/explosions, aviation incidents, faulty workmanship/maintenance incidents and storms, which collectively account for more than 50% of all claims by total value.

More than 75% of financial losses globally arise from 10 major causes of loss. Professional indemnity-related losses (such as negligence/misadvice)—stemming from a number of corporate actions—and fires are the most expensive causes of loss in the UK, both accounting for 28% of the value of all claims analysed.

“The report highlights the increasingly high values at risk for businesses and their insurers alike,” said Philipp Cremer, global head of claims at AGCS. “In today’s interconnected and globalised business environment, financial losses are increasing due to geographical concentration of values—often in risk-exposed areas—and from the knock-on effects of global supply chains and networks. Looking to the future, new technologies bring business benefits but also risks and claims. However, they also provide an opportunity to prevent and mitigate losses and improve the claims settlement process for our customers.”

Over the past five years, fire and explosion incidents have caused in excess of £12.6 billion worth of losses and are responsible for more than half (11) of the 20 largest non-natural catastrophe events analysed. The average claim is almost £1.3 million.

“In general, property insurance claims are higher with inflation and greater concentration in value as a result of globalisation and more integrated supply chains,” explained Raymond Hogendoorn, property and engineering claims specialist at AGCS. “As manufacturers have become more efficient, the values per square meter have risen exponentially. Fire and flood claims are much more expensive per square meter than a decade ago.”

Costs associated with the impact of business interruption can significantly add to the final loss total from fire and explosion incidents, as well as many of the other major causes of loss identified in the report.

Almost all large property insurance claims now include a major business interruption element, with the average property insurance claim in this area totalling more than £2.7 million. This is around 39% higher than the corresponding average direct property loss (£2 million).

Despite recent record-breaking natural catastrophe loss activity in the US and around the world, storm is the only natural catastrophe event to appear in the top 10 causes of loss. Analysis shows corporate insurance claims typically originate from technical or human factors—or non-natural catastrophe events—accounting for 87% of all claims by value.

The global aviation industry recently experienced its safest year ever but claims activity shows no sign of abating. Aviation collision/crash incidents—on the ground and in the air—are the second major cause of losses. Increasing repair costs from composite materials and more sophisticated higher value engines on aircrafts are also a factor.

Defective products and faulty workmanship incidents, which account for 14% of all claims by value, are the top cause of liability losses for businesses. Product liability claims are becoming larger and product recalls are increasing in size. Supply chains in industries such as automotive manufacturing are now more complex. As companies restrict their number of worldwide suppliers, it increases product liability risks for these few suppliers exponentially.

It is estimated that around a third of large corporate liability claims involve litigation with third parties, compared with property insurance where less than 1% of claims do on average. The US in particular has seen a trend towards higher settlements and awards in personal injury cases, with some facing high punitive damages as recent verdicts around the chemical glyphosate and talc products demonstrate.

“We are not seeing a rise in the frequency of liability claims but the value of claims has been rising with higher awards and rising legal costs,” said Peter Oenning, liability claims specialist at AGCS. “We are also seeing much larger claims in Latin America and Asia than in the past. Once, nine out of 10 of our largest claims globally would have come from the US, now it is more like seven out of 10.”

Analysis also shows that insurers have paid on average £28.7 million per day over the past five years to cover losses. AGCS alone paid £4.3 billion to its insureds in 2017.

Insurers are increasingly adopting innovative technologies to improve the claims handling process, according to AGCS. Machine learning and robotics can speed up the claims process for low-value, high-frequency claims. To quickly assess wind or flood damage following natural catastrophes, AGCS uses satellite imagery and drones, providing faster loss estimates that enable better allocation of resources and earlier claims payments.