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Cloud services, diseases among emerging risks: Swiss Re

Infectious diseases and the widespread use of cloud services are among the top six emerging risks with high potential impacts, according to this year’s Swiss Re Sonar report.

Data and services are increasingly accessed through “super clouds” by businesses and households, generating potential for trouble, the reinsurer says.

“If a huge data storage provider such as Amazon Web Services is disabled for 24 hours, it is going to cause business interruption for countless sub-providers and their clients,” the annual report says.

Risks to the insurance industry in the next three years include the return of inflation, reduced market access amid a rise in nationalism and protectionism, and regulatory fragmentation.

Longer term, the report flags underestimated infectious diseases and growing water supply stress as threats with the highest potential impact.

Avian flu, SARS, Ebola, smallpox, yellow fever, dengue and Zika are well known, but diseases are becoming less predictable as risk factors change and grow more complex.

“The question isn’t whether another deadly infectious disease will appear, but when and how well society is prepared to cope with it,” the report says.

Swiss Re identified 20 emerging risks using an internal crowdsourcing platform that collects views from underwriters, client managers, risk experts and others.

“Ignoring emerging risks is not an option, neither for political decision-makers, the insurance industry, nor society as a whole,” Swiss Re Chief Risk Officer Patrick Raaflaub says.

“The earlier we adapt to these changes, the better prepared we will be.”

The Internet of Things and related cyber attacks is considered a medium-impact risk in the next three years, as are ramifications from increased use of opioid medication, and stress and fatigue in safety-relevant jobs.

“Eroding rationality” as the rise of social media and other internet platforms affects information quality also has implications for insurers.

“Growing distrust in established political institutions is spreading to corporate players, many of which are already held in low esteem by important sections of the population.

“This will have a particular impact on the insurance industry, whose business model is highly dependent on clients’ trust.”

Other issues flagged include the rise of the gig economy, carcinogens in artificial turf, artificial intelligence, antimicrobial overuse in animal farming and dangers from eSports, or hardcore video gaming.

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