Technology Responses to CAT Events.
The nature of catastrophic (CAT) events is changing, with frequency and impact increasing markedly in recent years. Last year alone, insured CAT losses in the U.S. rose to $35.9 billion. Thankfully, technology is keeping pace with the shift in CAT events, helping businesses be more resilient in the aftermath of a CAT event and reducing the total cost of loss. An informed first step in this regard is working with a global insurer, such as Zurich, that is at the forefront of employing such technology on an enterprise basis.
This technology takes many forms, from the commonplace to the cutting edge. Expanded global bandwidth and social media, for example, have allowed insurers to see images and better understand situations in the world faster than ever before and regardless of where they occur, in turn allowing companies to react more quickly than previously possible.
“Just about everyone has a cellphone with a camera that they can use to upload images to Facebook or YouTube,” says Mike Cincinelli, National Catastrophe Team Manager, Zurich in North America Property Claims, who has been with Zurich since 2004 and helped to create the team he manages. “We’ve seen events on YouTube within minutes of them happening. We can tap into that.”
Improved data sharing has proven to be another key advancement. Whether it’s a conference room with repositories for data that permit an entire team to start collaborating at once, posting shared schedules, notes or analysis, or co-workers Skype-ing across the globe, such technology is helping leading companies like Zurich get the process started more quickly.
Aerial imaging has also cut the time needed to grasp the situation in an affected area by enabling Zurich to understand a CAT situation pre-loss without jumping into a plane or car. The company also works with aerial imaging vendors that provide multidimensional images of insured properties, likewise getting measurements without touching the ground. This allows field adjustors to focus on working with the customer to address damage assessment needs. Aerial imaging vendors also can perform flyovers of damaged areas on wide-spread CATs, providing a broader view and aiding pre- and post-loss comparisons.
Many countries now have Web-based claims systems, and Zurich’s status as a global provider combined with its technology focus allows the company to have consistent, common data and line of sight into what is happening in the claims system worldwide. The company already knows what is happening with the attendant potential catastrophes worldwide: Its Catastrophe Identification Team (CIT) has leaders throughout the business who monitor and react to CAT events every hour of every day. “Many times we have a 24- or 48-hour jump on the industry as it relates to our overall CAT response and customer outreach,” says Cincinelli. “CIT can directly impact loss cost reduction because of its proactive nature.”
Businesses can also take the initiative when it comes to employing appropriate, tailored technology to combat the potential effects of CAT events. Mobile alerts are a valuable such tool: Cincinelli, for example, has one for his mobile device that immediately informs him of any earthquake worldwide reading 6.0 or higher on the Richter scale.
Another technology Zurich consistently deploys is customizable mapping to understand where its customers are and whether they have been impacted by a CAT event. This allows Zurich to focus greater resources and attention on these customers—sometimes, to check on them proactively and, if necessary, facilitate claims services. (It is worth noting, too, that Zurich’s risk engineering team sometimes undertakes this job. This permits claims professionals to focus on reported claims; meanwhile, the risk engineers often know the building’s construction, or in some way bring added value to bear. This embodies the company’s collaborative “one Zurich” ethos.) When Hurricane Irene hit last August, Zurich’s Catastrophe Field Response was able to visit over 1,200 insured locations and 100 percent of its targeted Select Brokers—and had “unprovoked” contact with 192 customers and brokers in 10 states via its ZCAT (Zurich Catastrophe Action Team) program.
“In many cases, customers are dealing with many things, including the home front. Sometimes the business isn’t first priority, and sometimes insurance isn’t the first thing on their mind as they initiate the business recovery process,” says Gerald Kissner, Vice President, Zurich North in America Property Claims, a 15-year Zurich veteran who serves on the Property Claim Subcommittee of the American Insurance Association. “In many cases, technology allows us to show up at a customer’s location before they’ve even called us. And that is very gratifying.”