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U.S. riot losses accelerated & worsened by pandemic: Johansmeyer at ILS Asia 2020


In an extensive and insightful keynote at the virtually held Artemis ILS Asia 2020 conference (now available on-demand), Head of PCS, Tom Johansmeyer discussed a number of Covid-19 loss scenarios, including the potential combined impacts of the virus and strike riot, civil commotion (SRCC) in the U.S.

tom-johansmeyer-ils-asia-2020Triggered by the killing of unarmed George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, widespread protesting, some of which turned violent in the early days as groups clashed with police, has persisted across the U.S. and other parts of the world.

Prior to the start of the rioting, PCS had designated SRCC industry loss events before, but for the first time in its history, the firm designated the U.S. riots as a catastrophe in multiple states.

Of course, SRCC events can be complex for the re/insurance industry at the best of times, but throw in a pandemic and the socio-political economic factors that come with it, and there’s a situation where numerous problems fuse and exacerbate an already stressed environment.

“SRCC was accelerated by the pandemic, worsened by the pandemic, and now when you look at the businesses that may have been shut due to Covid-19, or are operating well below capacity because of Covid-19 before the riots, now they have riot driven business interruption, which could be an opportunity to drive some claim leakage as well,” said Johansmeyer.

Adding that prior to the riots in the U.S., Covid-19 was already expected to complicate the commercial claims process.

“Of course, there’s a question of whether or not infectious disease is covered by insurance programmes. More and more people in our industry are believing that the U.S. business interruption will not come in. Due to the lack of homogeneity in insurance language, non-U.S. is harder to wrap our heads around as an industry.

“You’ve got declines in consumer spending in May, now we’re seeing declines in consumer spending again, just in different parts, and you’ve got a mix of drug consumer spending, and a refusal to increase restrictions in the U.S.

“Then, eventually, as the pandemic becomes more impactful, you will see a later shut down and as things reopen again there’s going to be a lack of trust in government institutions and in businesses, which will lead to a drag on consumer spending through a longer, more drawn out recovery.”

Additionally, warned Johansmeyer, claim volumes, which with Covid-19 were already a problem, will be even more challenging with the riots because with both events, most of the P&C claims are going to be commercial, which are generally more difficult to adjust.

For example, with an auto claim and auto physical damage, “you’ve got a claims adjuster walking around your car with a clipboard, looking for body damage, he may check the windows or wind-shield for broken glass, start the motor, OK,” Johansmeyer told the audience.

However, “even a simple commercial claim requires forensic accountants, lawyers, possibly engineers for a build-out. These take time, these take money and they take expertise that may not be in sufficient supply for a large scale of claims,” he explained.

Ultimately, the riots in the U.S. didn’t result in a lot of claims by volume. “But, it should provide an interesting case to see whether or not there is sufficient expertise and whether or not there’s an elongation of the claim life cycle as a result of the influx of claims from the riots, and then on top of that, whether or not a shortage of adjusters is created by Covid-19,” said Johansmeyer.

Looking forward to the remainder of the year, and Johansmeyer feels that the spread of Covid-19 across both key markets and worldwide, could lead to SRCC, and exacerbate SRCC.

“You’re looking at major states in the U.S. right now that are being affected (by Covid-19), like Florida, like Texas, California. These are big states with a lot of large cities in there, and they could wind up with significant impacts from Covid-19 and if there’s a spark event for SRCC, it’s not inconceivable that that could go quickly,” he explained.

View the full keynote speech replay on-demand here.

Every session from the conference is now available to view on-demand.

As well as the on-demand playback, we will be archiving every session from our online and virtual ILS Asia 2020 conference over on our YouTube Channel in the coming weeks.

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