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AIMS survey highlights industry shift

Brokers are starting to move business in response to new insurtech offerings, the latest AIMS member survey shows.

In the report’s executive summary, the broking group says the next generation of insurers is emerging “with the ability to deliver tomorrow”.

GM Glenn Schultz, who finished up at AIMS on Friday prior to his move to Steadfast, told insuranceNEWS.com.au the situation is “worth watching”.

“This is the first time that we have seen new and different offerings leading to brokers moving business,” he said.

“It’s not a massive wave, but it’s interesting. Traditional insurers are not going to just let business walk out the door and will have to identify improvements in their own organisations.”

The report also makes clear that insurtech is not having the negative impact on brokers that some predicted.

“Insurtech was heralded as the great disruptor to insurance and in particular the broking sphere,” it says.

“In fact, insurtech has become a useful partner in providing increased value to our clients. Instead of being the enemy, those focused on tomorrow have enlisted insurtech as a collaborator.”

Mr Schultz told insuranceNEWS.com.au brokers’ portfolios are still growing. “There is still value in what a broker does for a client,” he says.

Blue Zebra, launched last year, has stormed to the top of the survey’s charts in home and private motor, posting record scores in the process.

The survey’s overall satisfaction chart (all products) sees Allianz out in front with a rating of 46 (down from 51 in the last survey), followed by Zurich (43, down from 50), CGU (42, down from 44), Vero (41, down from 49), and QBE (37, down from 39).

“Certainly, claims handling remains a major contributor to some of the negative sentiment,” the report says.

In business pack, Chubb maintains a strong lead (58) with 360 Underwriting (49) in second place. Hollard Commercial Insurance achieved a significant 13-point improvement (45) since rebranding from Calibre.

In home insurance Blue Zebra is a clear leader (70), followed by Chubb (56).

Blue Zebra is also way out in front on private motor (68), with Allianz (47) in second place.

In industrial special risks Chubb is the leader (58), followed by Zurich (45). Chubb is also the clear choice on liability (55), with QBE (48) in second.

GT Insurance now leads the way in commercial motor (60), with NTI next best (54), followed by Sura and Zurich (both 48).

Dual is ahead on management liability (58), with CGU (48) and Sura (47) posting significant improvements. Dual is also the leader in cyber (58), followed by Chubb (46).

This survey is the last to include the views of IBNA and AUB brokers, after IBNA agreed to quit AIMS and join Steadfast. The survey will continue but in future will reflect responses from just AUB Group brokers.

IAG, Suncorp ceding ground to 'spectacular' rivals: Macquarie

New entrants in the home and personal motor lines have hatched a “spectacular” plan built around the broker channel to successfully challenge the dominance of IAG and Suncorp, according to a Macquarie Research report.

It says the broker channel is the least profitable in the two markets, but the newcomers have succeeded by adopting a leaner cost base.

“The start-up structure of the new entrants has allowed them to pay competitive broker commissions, while lowering the premium to the customer and providing the same customer service – all by reimagining the cost base,” Macquarie says.

“Each new entrant is addressing their cost base in a different way… As a result, this could turn an ‘unprofitable’ channel into an opportunity where the customer, broker and insurer wins.

“This makes the business plan of the latest entrants even more spectacular.”

According to Macquarie Research the insurers that entered the profitable personal lines market in the past 24 months are already underwriting about $100 million worth of business each.

It lists AIG, Zurich and Chubb as the ones focused on the broker channel, a departure from the prior decade when going directly to customers was the preferred strategy.

Axa and Liberty entered the home market in July, and are also employing the broker channel, Macquarie says.

By Macquarie’s estimates, the combined market share of IAG and Suncorp in the personal home and motor lines has declined to 56.9% as of June. About 10 years ago that figure was 61.3%.

The original challengers including Youi, Hollard and Auto + General presently have about 10% of the market from practically no footprint 15 years ago.

“Both IAG and Suncorp remain distracted by regulatory pressures, heightened by a tangle of legacy technology,” Macquarie says.

“As incumbents continue to focus inwards, the risk of ongoing market share losses remains heightened, as even more insurers enter the market and the old guard get a second wind.”

Bushfires update: claims exceed 100

Insurers have so far received about 120 claims from the bushfires in NSW and Queensland.

Figures put out last week by the Insurance Council of Australia have the losses at about $13.5 million from nearly 100 claims lodged with insurers.

The number of claims insurer IAG has received so far has risen to 73 for motor and property damage, a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au today. Last week the insurer had about 39 claims submitted.

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils Mark Leplastrier says natural disasters in Australia are increasing in frequency and severity. He says the bushfire threat is worsening as the climate changes.

“The bushfires we are seeing now are significant and are outside of the typical bushfire season,” he said.

“The increasing number of unseasonal or record extreme weather [events] is telling us an inescapable truth – that climate change is happening and that it will continue to impact our communities financially and socially.”

The NSW Rural Fire Service says today on its Twitter feed that as of 9am about 48 bush and grass fires are burning in the state – 11 of them being uncontained.

It says the north-east of the state is experiencing high fire danger today.

The Bureau of Meteorology’s Queensland office predicts very high to severe fire danger tomorrow in the south-east as winds pick up.

Climate Index shows autumn temperatures exceed average trends

Australia’s most recent autumn ranked as the second most extreme in the number of hot days, according to the latest Climate Index readings.

The frequency of extreme high temperatures during the period was 96% above the long-term average.

Finity Consultant and Actuary Tim Andrews, who collates the index for the Actuaries Institute, expects new temperate records in the coming years based on the current weather trends.

The ongoing bushfires catastrophe in NSW and Queensland will have an impact on the next reading of the index, which is prepared at the end of each season from Bureau of Meteorology data.

“While the index is backwards looking, it is a useful reference to indicate how the frequency of extreme weather conditions has been changing,” Mr Andrews told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“The current fires in NSW and Queensland are partly linked to unseasonally warm weather, and this will show up in the index for spring.

“The increase in the frequency of hot days shown by the index over a long period gives us insight into the increase in bushfire risk over time.”

The readings reinforce other studies that have similarly concluded the country is experiencing rising temperatures and the Actuaries Institute says there are implications for the economy that must not be ignored.

“There is a growing urgency to understand the occurrence of extremes and the impacts of climate change on businesses and communities,” CEO Elayne Grace said.

“We have seen a strong rise in the momentum of interest from various parties, including from Australia's regulators, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Reserve Bank of Australia.”

The index was launched in November 2018 and shows changes in the frequency of extreme high and low temperatures, heavy precipitation, dry days, strong winds and changes in sea levels.

See ANALYSIS.

Lloyd’s fights total disablement claim by fast bowler Starc

Lloyd’s has rejected a claim by Australian fast bowler Mitchell Starc for $1.5 million under a total disablement policy issued by one of its syndicates, denying the cricketer suffered a fracture of his right tibial bone and saying his injury does not meet the policy requirements for payment.

A three-day civil trial on the matter is listed to begin in the County Court of Victoria on March 30 next year.

Mr Starc, 29, is suing Lloyd’s after he missed the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) season last year due to injury. He is seeking $1.51 million, plus interest to the date of judgement.

Court documents prepared by Mr Starc’s lawyers Mills Oakley state the period of coverage began on 27 February 2018 and ended on 31 May 2018. Mr Starc paid a premium of $97,920.

“The defendant denies that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief sought or any relief at all," a County Court of Victoria document filed in May by Clyde and Co on behalf of Lloyd’s says.

Mr Starc did not "meet the policy requirements for payment of the total disablement benefit” because he had not "suffered total disablement as a result of a bodily injury as defined by the policy contract,” the document says.

A counter missive on behalf of the bowler states Mr Starc was contracted to play in the April and May 2018 Indian Premier League for the Kolkata Knight Riders cricket team, and the insurance contract was triggered when Mr Starc missed IPL play through injury.

Mr Starc was secured for $1.8 million in the 2018 IPL auction, according to Fairfax Media (now Nine), but did not play after he fractured his right shinbone.

His writ states that on March 10 2018, Mr Starc suffered a leg injury while playing in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

“While bowling on uneven footmarks on a worn wicket, the plaintiff suffered a sudden onset of pain in his right calf. The pain worsened over the next few bowling sessions and during the next Test match. Ultimately, the injury resulted in the plaintiff missing the final Test match of the tour,” the writ states.

That meant Mr Starc was unable to play any of the matches he was contracted to play for the Kolkata Knight Riders during the 2018 season, Mills Oakley argue.

Insurers getting better treatment, says adviser body

The Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) has slammed the “double standards” of the Federal Government extending due regulatory process to insurers while denying it to the financial advice sector.

In a letter to members blasting the flawed process of banning grandfathered commissions, AFA GM Policy and Professionalism Phil Anderson questions why Treasury is including a proper draft regulation impact statement in its consultation about extending unfair contract terms to insurance, when the Government wouldn’t grant one when banning grandfathered commissions.

The 2012 Future of Financial Advice laws outlawed trailing commissions to advisers on all new financial products, but commissions on pre-2013 products were allowed to continue under a grandfathering arrangement.

The House of Representatives passed a bill last week outlawing these grandfathered commissions from 2021, under a flawed and rushed consultation process. The AFA says many advisers will go bankrupt because of the bill.

The letter quotes a recent speech by Commissioner Kenneth Hayne to the Melbourne Law School in which he says “decision-making processes [of government] … not only are opaque, but also, too often, are seen as skewed, if not captured, by the interests of those large and powerful enough to lobby governments behind closed doors”.

“What is the difference that would suggest that a regulation impact statement was required for extending unfair contract terms to insurance contracts, but not for the banning of grandfathered commissions?” Mr Anderson says.

“We can only wonder whether this goes back to the statement of Kenneth Hayne, and it is the difference between a number of large insurance companies and a large number of small financial advice businesses.”

He says the proposal to extend unfair contract terms to insurance also includes an 18-month implementation period, whereas in the case of grandfathered commissions the timeframe is much shorter despite it being more complicated.

“There will be no insurance companies that go bankrupt as a result of extending unfair contract terms to insurance contracts. However, banning grandfathered commissions, in the currently proposed timeframe, will result in many small financial advice businesses going bankrupt.”

Cyber claims frequency, severity on the rise

Cyber specialist underwriting agency Emergence Insurance says claims frequency rose 29% and average severity jumped 51% in the past financial year.

Its portfolio analysis correlates with the latest Office of the Australian Information Commissioner quarterly data, which reported a 14% increase in notifiable breaches from the prior three-month period.

Claims costs are up to three times higher for firms with no written cyber risk management policies or awareness training, with incident severity varying widely depending on preparedness.

“The garden-variety cyber criminal goes after low-hanging fruit – organisations with weak security postures where they can access systems via open back doors,” Emergence Head of Sales Gerry Power said.

“More sophisticated criminals can be embedded within organisations’ systems for six to nine months, observing interactions, before launching targeted attacks.”

Data shows hacking is responsible for 36% of claims and extortion 31%.

Professional, scientific or technical services accounted for 20% of claims and healthcare and social assistance 14%. Financial and insurance services represented 20% of claims, but 20% of costs.

The underwriting agency says organisations that do daily back-ups recover 25% faster, and a large proportion of business interruption claim costs is in data recovery.

NZ homeowners miscalculating rebuild costs

New Zealand homeowners are miscalculating the cost of rebuilding their properties, leading to the risk of underinsurance, IAG has warned.

Home and Contents Portfolio Manager Brendan McGillicuddy says property owners can overlook rising building material costs, demolition expenses if the home can’t be repaired and regulations and compliance changes introduced after the property was constructed.

“The cost to rebuild is an important thing to understand. It’s not the same as market value or rateable value. We really want people to know these concepts are not the same,” he said during Money Week.

“We would recommend homeowners take the time to consider their sum insured, not just when they take out a policy or at renewal time, but whenever there are significant changes made to their home.”

Data from New Zealand valuation services firm Quotable Value (QV) shows the cost of construction in the country’s main centres has increased more than 30% over the past 10 years.

Money Week is an initiative of the Commission for Financial Capability and aims to increase education and awareness of financial matters. Last Tuesday was Insurance Day in New Zealand.

NZ Ombudsman complaints rise by 448

Complaint enquiries to New Zealand’s Financial Services Ombudsman jumped to 3805 in the year to June 30, up from 3357 in the previous year, with the most common complaint issues centred on insurance policy exclusions, scope of cover, non-disclosure, pre-existing conditions and gradual damage.

Complaint numbers were close to steady at 322, against 320 the previous year, with 225 or 70% about general insurance. Of the total, 91 complaints were about house insurance, 54 travel, 46 vehicle, and 22 contents insurance.

“Complaints continue to show that many people simply don’t understand the policy or the contract they’re signing up to,” Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman Karen Stevens said.

“Communication between financial service providers and their customers must improve.”

Seventy-five complaints resulted in $NZ1.8 million ($1.68 million) being paid by participants to consumers, not including weekly disability benefit payments under income protection, superannuation or life policies.

In one settled complaint, a woman who made a claim for cracking walls from roadworks received from her insurer a detailed apology, a payment of $NZ50,000 ($46,750) and cash towards legal fees after the Ombudsman found it had significantly breached the industry code with delays, lack of transparency and follow-up relating to incomplete repairs.

A quarter of complaints were about health, life and disability insurance, 12 about credit contracts, and three about financial advisers.

The Ombudsman has been more involved with the Insurance Council of NZ’s Fair Insurance Code, with increased complaints about breaches of transparency and delays, Ms Stevens says.

“Often the breaches are only technical but lead to useful learnings for general insurers about compliance and better communication with customers,” she said.

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Corporate

IAG rejects possible $1 billion claim in add-on class action

A class action against IAG subsidiary Swann Insurance over add-on cover sold through motor dealerships could involve sums of up to $1 billion, the Federal Court has heard.

Justice Jacqueline Gleeson said last week the number of participants in the case is unknown, but evidence put forward suggests it could be in the hundreds of thousands, based on sales and premiums between 2008 and 2017.

Senior counsel for IAG submitted during a hearing on litigation funding arrangements that the sums involved could be “in the order of $600 million to $1 billion”.

“Needless to say, the respondents do not concede for a moment that the potential liability is this high,” Justice Gleeson said.

IAG is defending the class action, which has been filed by solicitors Johnson Winter & Slattery, with funding from Balance REV.

On Friday the court approved a funding order for class action members to share legal costs, deducted from any payment to which they become entitled, unless they opt out of the proceeding. Balance REV will be able to receive a commission of not more than 25%, with details to be decided later.

Justice Gleeson says the proposed funding arrangements will achieve equal treatment for class members and avoid a windfall to Balance REV.

“Conversely, it will ensure that the funder is appropriately and reasonably remunerated in due course, and it will facilitate the group members in making reasonably informed decisions on the question of whether to opt out of the proceeding,” she said.

Mediation is scheduled for November and the trial has been listed for hearing next July.

Swann had stopped selling the add-on products before IAG was grilled over the cover during the Hayne royal commission.

Catastrophes dent Youi earnings

Youi Australia saw its operating profit decline 10.9% to $98 million in the past financial year because of increased natural perils claims.

A number of large weather-linked catastrophes such as hailstorms in Sydney and Gympie in Queensland have affected its results.

“In the prior year, the natural perils claims experienced by Youi Australia was unusually low,” parent group Outsurance Holdings says in its annual report.

“This compares to 2019 where various large natural catastrophes impacted the claims ratio.”

The claims ratio worsened to 54% from 53.2% and the combined ratio deteriorated 2.4 percentage points to 85.8%.

Gross written premium (GWP) improved 5.3% to $695 million but headline earnings decreased 2.9% to $68 million.

The New Zealand arm of the South African-owned company achieved a 78% rise in operating profit to 12 million rand ($1.2 million).

Looking ahead, Outsurance warns that climate change and global warming may over time affect its business in the form of transition and physical risks.

Suncorp CEO spells out climate change challenge

Newly appointed Suncorp CEO Steve Johnston has called for urgent action to address the impact of climate change on extreme weather events.

Working with governments to “make communities and properties more resilient” is the priority, he told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“As an insurance company we have a lot of actuarial data at our disposal and I don’t think there is any doubt that the frequency and intensity and severity of weather activity has increased over the past five to 10 years,” he said.

“We’ve had to increase all of our allowances for weather like the rest of the industry, and we’ve bought some more reinsurance cover to protect our balance sheet from the volatility that comes from those events.”

Mr Johnston says Suncorp has worked to reduce its own carbon footprint and “adjust our underwriting where appropriate to reflect community standards”. Suncorp has pledged to phase out thermal coal exposures by 2025.

Doing nothing is not an option, Mr Johnston says.

“If we just sit back and wait for these events to happen and pick up the pieces and mop up the damage, that becomes an unsustainable model in an environment where weather events are becoming more regular and more intense.

“We need to make sure when these events come, personal and community infrastructure can deal with it better.

“That will make communities more resilient over time and allow us to reflect that in our underwriting and pricing, and make insurance more sustainable.”

CHUiSaver rebrands as Flex Insurance

Strata insurance specialist CHU Underwriting Agencies has rebranded its CHUiSaver digital business as Flex Insurance.

Started three years ago, the business has been revamped with the launch of residential strata insurance cover that can be tailored by the customer. Further products will follow.

“It’s simple and straightforward, cutting through sometimes confusing insurance jargon,” CHU CEO Bobby Lehane said.

Flex Insurance policies are underwritten by QBE.

QBE names new Singapore CEO

QBE has appointed Ronak Shah as its Singapore CEO, reporting to QBE Asia CEO Jason Hammond.

Mr Shah joined QBE in 2017 as Regional Head of Financial & Professional and Casualty Lines. He has prior experience at JLT Group, Allied World Assurance Company, Willis and Marsh.

“Ronak’s appointment is aligned to QBE’s focus on building a more agile and customer-centred organisation for the future,” QBE said.

Enstar grows business in Australian run-off deal with Munich Re

Run-off specialist Gordian has agreed to acquire $228 million worth of long-tail insurance portfolios in Australia from Munich Re subsidiaries, Great Lakes Insurance and HSB Engineering Insurance.

They did not provide details of the run-off books being offloaded except that it relates to “certain portfolios” from the Australian branches of the German reinsurer’s businesses.

The agreement between Gordian, which is owned by Bermuda-based Enstar Group, and Munich Re is subject to approval from regulators and the Federal Court of Australia.

“The parties will pursue a portfolio transfer of the insurance business under … Australia’s Insurance Act, which would provide legal finality for Munich Re,” Enstar says in a statement.

Gordian, which was acquired by Enstar in 2008, has featured in a number of insurance run-offs in Australia, including AMP’s disposal of GIO assets in 2002 after a ruinous takeover battle, and Zurich’s offloading of its NSW compulsory third party business last year.

According to its 2018 annual report, Enstar acquires and manages insurance and reinsurance companies and portfolios of insurance and reinsurance business in run-off.

“Since formation, we have completed the acquisition of more than 90 insurance and reinsurance companies and portfolios of business,” the company says in its annual report.

Broker Trans-West to use processing platform JAVLN

Sydney-based Trans-West Insurance Brokers has selected specialist insurance platform JAVLN as the new processing platform for its business.

Insurtech vendor JAVLN is cloud based and offers full policy and claims lifecycle management. It provides built-in CRM, email, document storage, client and agent portals and automation, which enables the scaling of any insurance business.

“The JAVLN platform will enable our business to deliver smart innovations, reduce processing times and allow brokers to spend more time with our clients,” said Trans-West MD Sam Sofi.

JAVLN provides full policy lifecycle management with advanced automation. The platform saves time and reduces overheads, promising to unlock business potential and profitability.

“JAVLN will enable Trans-West to grow and scale without technology constraints, and we look forward to engaging with such a dynamic brokerage,” JAVLN CEO Dale Smith said.

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Regulatory & Government

ICA warns against ‘quick solutions’ for northern Australia

A Government-backed reinsurance pool or insurance mutual would provide only marginal premium relief – if any – for the north of Australia, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says in a submission.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has listed reinsurance pools, mutual insurers and direct subsidies as subjects for further consultation as part of its ongoing inquiry to improve insurance affordability in the region.

ICA has stuck to its insistence that disaster risk mitigation is the only answer and not “quick solutions” that could backfire.

“Quick solutions to pricing without addressing the underlying cause risks disincentivising community engagement in critically needed disaster mitigation, and therefore only delays the issue of insurance affordability to the near future,” the ICA submission says.

“The only means to effect lasting change to insurance affordability and accessibility…is by adopting a systematic approach to disaster risk reduction in which the measures interact to improve the resilience of communities, reduce the residual risk of disaster and ultimately improve insurance affordability.”

ICA supports the idea of direct subsidy only if the scheme is aimed at financially supporting private mitigation efforts.

It is against using subsidies to improve insurance affordability, calling such a potential move a “spurious solution” that would not address the root causes of the premium woes facing residents in the north.

“This approach only offers to temporarily alleviate the symptoms of high hazard exposure, without making any lasting improvements to affordability because the underlying risk remains unchanged,” ICA says.

“Further, direct subsidy also creates a moral hazard by disincentivising mitigation and therefore exacerbating the ongoing risk of disaster in northern Australia.”

On the issue of a reinsurance pool, ICA says past inquiries have found such a set-up to not be viable. Additionally, the US Government-backed flood scheme has shown that artificially lowering premiums made homeowners more complacent about the hazards facing their properties.

“Reinsurance pools are bad public policy, and once implemented they become extremely difficult for government to withdraw from,” ICA says.

“As soon as premiums are subsidised by a pool, homeowners are no longer motivated to invest in mitigation because the financial incentive of doing so has been removed.”

ICA calls for claims competition in NSW workers' comp

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has urged greater competition in icare’s claims management, as an independent review into the NSW workers’ compensation scheme continues.

Submissions to the review have now been published, with a final report expected before the end of the year.

Workers’ compensation claims in NSW were previously handled by a panel of insurers, but last year EML became the sole claims manager for new claims.

ICA’s submission notes the scheme has “experienced combined underwriting losses for the 2017 and 2018 financial years of over $2 billion” and says competitive provision of claims management could improve performance and outcomes.

“It has been well documented that competition in well-designed injury insurance schemes can be beneficial,” the submission says.

“Therefore, going forward, the ICA would like to see competition in claims management restored in the scheme.”

ICA also emphasises the importance of clear and consistent data collection and reporting.

“Without this a meaningful and transparent measure of the scheme’s performance cannot be obtained, potentially undermining public confidence in the scheme as well as its agents and service providers.”

The National Insurance Brokers Association (NIBA) has also made a submission, but asked for it to be kept confidential.

When the review was announced, CEO Dallas Booth told insuranceNEWS.com.au NIBA members had previously raised issues with claims handling and other operations.

Mr Booth said NIBA’s submission would seek clarity around the overall financial performance of the scheme.

The NSW Business Chamber has been highly critical of the scheme. Its submission highlights a lack of transparency over the new premium-setting model, and continuing claims management concerns.

“For many employers the new claims management model has led to a noticeable deterioration in return to work outcomes,” it said.

icare CEO and MD John Nagle told insuranceNEWS.com.au feedback is welcome.

“We are supportive of the review of the NSW workers’ compensation system and icare, as part of our regulatory environment,” he said.

“As the state’s social insurer we strive to deliver better outcomes for the customers we serve and the communities we protect.

“As part of this review we welcome the feedback of our stakeholders via submissions and have already proactively engaged with some who had previously shared their submissions with us. We look forward to receiving the findings of the full report.”

Mr Nagle says more than $2 billion in costs has been saved since icare was created in 2015, enabling average premiums to remain stable.

“We acknowledge this comes with significant disruption which we have not always explained or executed on well,” he said.

Contract terms reforms put onus on insurers

Insurers will need to give close consideration to the policy terms they include in standard form contracts when unfair contract terms (UCT) laws are extended to the sector, law firm Clyde & Co says.

Excess payments, exclusions and defined terms that have uncommon meanings are particular areas of risk that insurers must pay extra attention to.

There is likely to be an increased requirement to justify such provisions through actuarial data, the law firm says in a report outlining the regulatory changes facing the Australian corporate sector.

Additionally, terms that focus on liability limits and premium payment terms may not be exempt from the UCT regime.

Treasury consultation over draft legislation to apply UCT laws to insurance contracts closed in August.

The looming UCT reforms and other regulatory changes that Canberra has committed to take up, a number of which were proposed by the Hayne royal commission, have upped the pressure on companies.

“The fast pace of regulatory change in Australia continues [this year],” the report says.

“It is clear from the recent regulatory developments in corporations law that the central theme for the year … is ensuring good corporate culture across Australian companies.

“Corporate culture will continue to be a focus by regulators and it will be increasingly important for businesses to have data and analytics to support and demonstrate the effective implementation of policies and processes.

“Compliance frameworks must be adapted to reflect this shift and executives must lead culture revision from the top.”

Proposed add-on selling rules tackle 'halo effect'

An enforced four-day pause in the sale of add-on insurance would allow time for a purchasing “halo-effect” to fade, Treasury says in a consultation paper on proposed new rules.

The Federal Government, which plans to introduce legislation by June 30 for an industry-wide deferred sales model, is conducting an extra round of consultation given the diversity of products and the absence of international templates.

A three-tier proposal in the Treasury paper would capture all add-on insurance products by default, minimising exemptions.

Under the second tier, intermediaries or insurers could only contact the consumer by writing four days after the underlying product sale, while consumers would have the option of shortening the pause to one day.

“An appropriate deferral length should be long enough to allow the ‘halo effect’ of purchasing the primary product or financing agreement to wear off, so the consumer is able to dispassionately assess their need for insurance,” Treasury says.

The Hayne royal commission recommended delinking the sale of add-on cover from the time when an underlying item is purchased after hearing evidence of shoddy practices.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has proposed reforms for products sold via car yards and has criticised high-pressure selling of consumer credit insurance.

Treasury’s first tier would see ASIC use new product intervention powers for “the most egregious add-on” products that cause detriment, while products in the third tier could be given case-by-case exemptions to the four-day rule.

Exemptions would apply where products are historically good value for money and well understood by consumers, where there’s strong competition and there is a danger of underinsurance.

Submissions on the consultation paper, available here, are due by September 30.

Draft product regulations fail to address ICA concerns

Draft regulations for financial product design and distribution obligations have not addressed Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) concerns over how the rules will apply when policies are renewed.

Insurers have warned that processes could be unnecessarily lengthened, to the frustration of consumers, if obligations to ensure products are sold correctly are triggered at each renewal.

Treasury released the draft regulations last week after Federal Parliament earlier this year passed legislation to prevent the mis-selling of financial products.

“The ICA is in discussion with the Government and other stakeholders and will be putting our case in a submission,” a spokeswoman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

The National Insurance Brokers Association is also scrutinising the draft regulations after previously raising concerns.

“We will be looking at them in great detail because this is crucially important for brokers in their role as distributors of products and also crucially important to the broader insurance process,” CEO Dallas Booth told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

Earlier this year the National Insurance Brokers Association warned of a potential conflict in broker statutory duties if a policy is clearly in the best interests of a client who falls outside a target market determination developed by an insurer.

The laws will be enforced by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission after a transition period that ends in April 2021.

Comment on the draft regulations is due by October 11. Details are available  here.

Consultation begins on new ASIC powers

Treasury is seeking feedback on its draft legislation that would expand the supervisory powers of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

The consultation covers recommendations the ASIC Enforcement Review Taskforce submitted in December 2017 to the Coalition Government, which agreed last year in principle to go ahead with the proposals.

Among the changes are amendments to the Telecommunications Interception Information Act to allow the corporate regulator to receive and use intercepted data for investigating and prosecuting serious offences.

Submitting false or misleading documents could see an individual jailed for five years.

“The exposure draft legislation is further evidence of the government’s commitment to strengthening financial regulators like ASIC and restoring trust in the financial system as part of our plan to build a stronger economy,” a statement from the office of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says.

The draft legislation also:

  • Strengthens ASIC's licensing powers by increasing the standards required of an Australian Financial Services Licence holder, at both the time of application and on an ongoing basis.
  • Aligns the penalties for false and misleading statements in AFS Licence and Australian Credit Licence applications.
  • Extends ASIC's powers so it may ban a person from performing functions in a financial services or credit business. The legislation also expands the grounds on which ASIC can issue banning orders.
  • Unites ASIC's search warrant powers across different Acts and brings them into line with the search warrant powers in the Crimes Act.

The closing date for submissions is October 9.

For more information, click here.

Meanwhile, ASIC has provided an update on actions it has taken in response to the recommendations made by the Hayne royal commission in its final report.

“This update, outlining as it does the progress in pursuit of ASIC’s renewed enforcement mandate, should indicate the sense of urgency and significance that the ASIC Commissioners and staff are bringing to the task,” Chairman James Shipton said.

“It also demonstrates that we will continue to use all of the regulatory tools at our disposal to deliver a fair, safe and efficient financial system for all Australians.”

Click here for the update.

AFCA targets insurers in national tour

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is kicking off a six-month roadshow aimed at addressing Australians’ lack of awareness on how to resolve a dispute with insurers and other financial firms.

Launching in Hobart next Monday, the roadshow bus will have visited 77 metropolitan, regional and rural communities by April. AFCA will offer free financial fairness checks and use the nationwide tour to learn more about financial issues faced by regional Australians.

Research shows fewer than half of people with a concern about their financial advice lodge a complaint, AFCA says.

AFCA raised the curtain on the roadshow at Parliament House on Thursday to a diverse mix of industry stakeholders and MPs.

Speakers included AFCA Chairman Helen Coonan and CEO David Locke, and Jane Hume, Assistant Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and Financial Technology, who spoke on the importance of better financial literacy.

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Life Insurance

AFA savages commissions bill

The passage of the bill banning grandfathered commissions last week leaves thousands of advisers and clients without any solutions about what to do, the Association of Financial Advisers (AFA) says.

It says hundreds of thousands of clients are now at risk of being worse off, facing additional costs or losing access to their adviser.

“We are deeply disappointed at the lack of analysis on the impacts of this reform and the lack of communication and guidance for impacted clients and advisers. At this stage there will be many thousands of cases where a sensible solution is simply not available,” AFA CEO Philip Kewin said.

This is underscored by the AFA publishing a “decision tree” flow-chart to guide advisers how to move clients off commissions and on to a financial arrangement known as an adviser service fee.

Multiple process paths in the chart end without any advice – “adviser action unknown” – or say to simply cancel the arrangement.

In a letter sent to members to “put our views on the public record”, AFA GM Policy and Professionalism Phil Anderson savages the way the reform was developed and implemented, with the AFA’s views on the necessity of keeping trailing commissions for some clients ignored.

It criticises the lack of a regulation impact statement and the lack of guidance from regulators, product providers or government as to how to address the requirements of the reform.

“It is apparent that our input … has not been taken into account and that none of our recommendations have been incorporated,” Mr Anderson says.

The letter also suggests that the debate about grandfathered commissions was captured by vested interests, and framed for partisan advantage.

Some advisers are using grandfathered commission clients as collateral against a significant level of debt, Mr Kewin says.

“We call on the banks to treat these financial advisers with respect and allow them time to adjust their business models so that they are viable in the longer term.”

The letter also accuses the Government of stripping advisers of the ability to apply for compensation under the Corporations Act in order to protect the interests of large financial product providers.

“This action has delivered a very clear signal to big business that they can do what they want to achieve the objective of this bill, and small business can expect no support from any quarter,” Mr Anderson says.

He adds that banning grandfathered commissions in the proposed timeframe will lead to financial advice businesses going bankrupt.

Grandfathered commissions will be banned from January 2021. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission is responsible for monitoring how product issuers act to end grandfathered commissions between now and then.

Shock tactics: Industry lobbying called 'emotional blackmail'

The life insurance sector’s efforts to convince politicians to vote against further insurance in super legislation is “emotional blackmail”, Super Consumers Australia says.

The advocacy group – which partners with Choice – says the industry is using shock tactics to dissuade the Senate from voting for the bill, including what has been dubbed the “Book of Death”.

Media reports last month reveal insurers have purportedly been circulating the 187-page claims case study to senators, which includes hundreds of examples of dead or injured workers who received life, disability and income protection payouts who could have missed out under the proposed changes.

The bill would make life cover opt-in for under 25s and those with low balance accounts.

Super Consumers Director Xavier O’Halloran says the lobbying is “mafia-like”.

“Life insurance lobbyists are using shock tactics to protect their profits,” he says. “We remain dismayed by the reluctance of insurers and super funds to design and price products for the needs of their members.

“We all want a system that supports people and their families who need assistance due to death or disability, but the cold hard truth is that change is long overdue, and the life insurance sector has been dragged to this point, bitterly and petulantly.”

Super Consumers says the poor understanding of the obligation to offer life insurance in super and the number of people unaware they have coverage has allowed insurers “to make fat profits from perverse outcomes”.

Treasury estimates the changes would cost insurers up to $3 billion in reduced premiums, it says.

ASIC takes phone sales companies to court

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is taking insurance sales companies Select AFSL, BlueInc Services, Insurance Marketing Services and director Russell Howden to court for mis-selling insurance policies to vulnerable customers.

ASIC alleges law breaches involving phone sales of life and accidental injury insurance to 14 customers between February 1 2015 and March 19 2018, involving unconscionable conduct when selling insurance and when customers tried to cancel policies, undue harassment, coercion, and making false or misleading representations.

The case was filed last week in the NSW Federal Court.

Nine of the customers involved were Aboriginal and many didn’t understand what was being sold to them, ASIC says. The agents lied to customers that there were only limited exclusions, that optional extras were in fact standard, and the policies had level premiums, not stepped.

The agents also refused to help the customers to cancel their policies and continually tried to seek payment despite the customers telling the agents they didn’t want the policy. The policies were issued by St Andrews Life Insurance under the names Let’s Insure and FlexiSure.

ASIC says the companies used an incentives scheme to get sales agents to coerce customers into buying the policies, including a Gold Coast cruise, a Vespa scooter and trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas – a breach of the Corporations Act.

ASIC alleges that Mr Howden was intimately involved in the incentives program, and personally arranged for the Vespa to be bought.

ASIC is seeking civil penalties, injunctions, compliance orders and compensation that amounts to millions of dollars. It is also seeking to disqualify Mr Howden from the industry, and civil penalties.

Select was one of the firms included in an ASIC review last year of direct life sales, which found companies pushing policies consumers didn’t want and couldn’t afford, sold without personal advice, and outside group cover. The company was savaged at the Hayne royal commission for aggressively selling insurance to Aboriginal customers.

ASIC has since banned direct phone sales of insurance.

ASIC suspends licence for planning practice

The corporate regulator has suspended the financial services licence of Queensland-based planning business Financial Options so it can put its house in order.

The suspension will run until February 26 next year.

The Australian Securities and Investments Commission says Financial Options didn’t lodge its accounts and audit report for the 2017-18 financial year, doesn’t have a dispute resolution system and doesn’t have the organisational competence or resources to provide financial services.

Financial Options has since become a member of the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.

The suspension will allow the company to do everything necessary to meet ASIC’s concerns, the regulator says. It will consider cancelling the licence if Financial Options can’t demonstrate that it can comply with its obligations by February next year.

Financial Options can appeal ASIC’s decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Senate forms fintech committee inquiry

The Financial Planning Association (FPA) has applauded the Senate for launching an inquiry into fintech and regtech.

The committee will examine how fintech and regtech can benefit consumers and businesses and report back to the Senate in October next year.

Fintech is already playing an important role in the evolution of the financial planning profession and the Australian economy, with more than 400 fintech businesses across Australia, FPA CEO Dante De Gori says.

“Fintech can help financial planning professionals deliver more affordable and accessible high quality advice to Australian consumers, but it’s important that regulations keep up with the new technology.”

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The Professional

NTI mourns ‘powerhouse’ state manager Renzo Antidormi

NTI Victoria and Tasmania State Manager Renzo Antidormi has died after a three-year battle with cancer. He was 57.

Mr Antidormi started his insurance career with NTI in 2005 and was renowned for his leadership and professionalism as he led the Victorian and Tasmanian teams, the company says.

“Renzo was a powerhouse within NTI and he grew the company’s business in the region threefold during this time,” CEO Tony Clark said.

NTI Commercial GM Mike Edmonds says Mr Antidormi touched many people throughout his career with his unique style.

“He was a great family man, and our love goes out to his wife Jacqui and their children Ryan, Sophie and Scott at this time,” he said.

A celebration of Mr Antidormi’s life will be held at the Boyd Chapel at Springvale Cemetery in Melbourne at 11am on Thursday.

Chubb names middle market manager

Chubb has appointed Katie Miller to take up the newly created role of Middle Market Manager Australia.

She will focus on building the insurer’s mid-market offerings across all business lines.

Ms Miller is also Distribution Manager Casualty, Global Broker Unit, NSW and ACT, according to her LinkedIn account.

She has been with Chubb since 2011 when she joined the insurer as senior commercial development underwriter at its Dublin office.

In other appointments, Sonny de Livera has been named SME Sales Leader Queensland and Andre Sliwka recruited as Accident and Health Underwriting Manager.

Mr de Livera was most recently AIG national partnership manager/broker relationship manager Queensland, according to his LinkedIn account.

Mr Sliwka left World Nomads Group where he was GM to take up his Chubb appointment in July, his LinkedIn account says.

ANZIIF names New Zealand awards finalists

The Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance (ANZIIF) has revealed its finalists for this year’s New Zealand Insurance Industry Awards, now in their eighth year.

The awards will be presented on November 27 in Auckland.

The finalists in each category are:

  • Direct General Insurance Company: AA Insurance, FMG, Tower Insurance
  • Large Broking Company: Insurance Advisernet NZ, Rothbury Insurance Brokers
  • Life Insurance Company: Asteron Life, Fidelity Life
  • Underwriting Agency: Delta Insurance, Underwriting Agencies NZ
  • Innovation of the Year: AA Insurance, Cove, Cover-More Travel Insurance, Initio
  • Excellence in Workplace Diversity and Inclusion: DLA Piper, IAG NZ, Suncorp NZ, Zurich N.
  • Young Insurance Professional: John Borland of Isacorp, Kristin Bridges of Bridges Insurance Services, Ben Holloway of Fidelity Life, Courtney King of Runacres Insurance, Shalvina Nair and Kieran Simmons of Tower Insurance, Liberty Newlands of Zurich NZ, Anna Parker of Crombie Lockwood
  • Service Provider to the Insurance Industry: CoreLogic NZ, IVAA Jewellery Claims Management, JB Hi-Fi, Smith & Smith, Verisk
  • Professional Services Firm of the Year: Crawford and Company NZ, DLA Piper, Duncan Cotterill, Finity Consulting, RMS, Sedgwick New Zealand, Wotton + Kearney.

This year’s selections for the award categories of Small-Medium Broking Company, Intermediated Insurance Company and Insurance Leader are to be announced on the night.

Lockton appoints business development manager

Lockton Companies Australia has hired Chris Jamieson as Manager – Business Development in its Sydney office.

He was formerly business development manager – people risk at JLT, and was prior to that a senior consultant. He will report to National Manager Business Development Patrick Moore.

His experience in customer success, strategic business growth, product development, innovation and marketing make him an ideal fit for Lockton’s growth strategy, the insurance broker says.

Gallagher creates Stewart Cox Memorial Award for NT

Gallagher has created a new regional award to recognise insurance professionals who display both dedication to the industry and commitment to the Northern Territory.

The Gallagher Stewart Cox Memorial Award ‒ Legend of the Industry, recognises insurance professionals who display both dedication to the industry and commitment to the region.

Mr Cox, who was leader of Gallagher’s Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs branches, died in December after a long illness. Accolades he had gained included an Order of Australia for his services to the community, as well as the 2017 Northern Territory Insurance Senior Broker of the Year Award.

The inaugural Stewart Cox Memorial Award winner will receive a trophy and up to $5000 for a professional opportunity of their own choosing.

Nominations close on September 23 and can be submitted here. The winner will be announced at the Northern Territory Insurance Conference on November 1 at the Darwin Convention Centre.

Marine Protect insures Supercars racing championship

NTI subsidiary Marine Protect insured all 24 competing entries in the Supercars Championship in New Zealand at the weekend.

The policy covered all cars, tools, pit equipment and spare parts travelling from Avalon Airport near Melbourne to Auckland. Marine Protect also branded the Holden Commodore of racing driver Jack Le Brocq for the race.

The logistics were organised through series supplier Gibson Freight.

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International

Global premium growth steady despite economic headwinds

Insurers have remained profitable despite nearly every large economy experiencing slowing momentum, while emerging markets are benefitting from insurtech investments, the Insurance Information Institute says.

“Global premium growth has been steady,” Vice President and Senior Economist Michel Leonard says, referring to insurers in all lines of business.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development sees gross written premium growth of 5.1% this year compared with 4.7% in 2018 and 4.1% in 2017.

The New York-based institute, in a macro and insurance outlook, says traditionally insurers have mostly invested in fixed income, but non-life insurers in France, Japan, Sweden and the US have performed well with equity exposures around 25%.

For the first time global insurtech deal volume has topped $US1 billion ($1.5 billion) for three quarters in a row, and technology is now a major growth driver in emerging markets where demographics have traditionally been the key factor, Dr Leonard says.

“A lot of the ways that emerging market carriers have been able to drive growth is by looking at insurtech channels, looking at digital improvements and processes and custom products and so forth,” he said.

Globally, second-quarter gross domestic product data has confirmed a downward economic growth trend this year, while political risks from Brexit, trade wars, and tensions in Hong Kong are adding to volatility.

Japanese typhoon will cost insurers up to $10 billion

Insured losses from Typhoon Faxai will be anywhere between $US3 billion and $US7 billion ($4 billion and $10 billion), risk modelling firm AIR Worldwide says.

The typhoon made landfall in Japan last week. It was packing sustained winds of 170 kmh and struck Tokyo with a force equivalent to a category 2 hurricane. It is comparable in strength to Typhoon Jebi, which devastated Japan last year.

Southwest of Tokyo the city of Izu had more than 43 cm of rain in 24 hours, and a storm surge of more than a metre was experienced on the Izu Peninsula. On the main island of Honshu, 900,000 people were left without power.

The estimates don’t include land and infrastructure losses, business interruption, rain-induced flood or landslide.

Guy Carpenter warns of ‘catastrophic’ bushfire risk

Guy Carpenter says insurers and reinsurers must reassess the growing bushfire threat to avoid a “catastrophic claims event”.

The global reinsurance broker says bushfires – or wildfires as they are called in the US – are becoming “larger and more severe”.

MD Robert Reader says the concerning trend is caused by the changing climate plus increasing development in at-risk areas.

“Wildfire-related losses have significantly increased in the past several decades as more and more properties have been built in such areas — the areas where human development encroaches on and interacts with natural woodlands or vegetation that is at high risk for wildfire,” he said.

Mr Reader says insurers and reinsurers must “refine customer selection” using enhanced underwriting techniques to prevent “a potentially catastrophic claims event”.

“While personal lines may be the most affected line of business, commercial portfolios can also be exposed,” he said.

“Insurers writing in areas with high wildfire risk could sustain abnormally high losses compared to their peers.

“Without knowledge of the risks, (re)insurers cannot develop a proper underwriting strategy that takes the specific risks into account.

“Relying on historical data only is not adequate for estimating wildfire risk because of the changing nature of the risk due to the development of the WUI [wildland urban interface].

“Insurers must evolve their risk assessment strategies using catastrophe models that account for a wide range of complex factors and do so on a regular basis as the territorial factors change over time.”

Terrorism backstop ‘vital for US market’

Affordable insurance coverage for major US events such as the Super Bowl, the Summer Olympics and large construction projects may be threatened unless government policy brought in after the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks 18 years ago is reinstated.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) says the current version of the US Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), a federal law since 2002, is set to expire at the end of 2020.

While the US terrorism insurance market is more robust than in the immediate aftermath of September 11, it “does not appear to have the ability to bear all terrorism risk,” according to an III white paper.

“Without a federal backstop, insurance markets could be disrupted,” says James Lynch, the III’s Chief Actuary and Senior VP, Research and Education.

“In a world without TRIA, it looks like terrorism insurance would be less available to businesses of all sizes who want, and need, these policies.”

The paper concludes that it is uncertain exactly how the marketplace might change if the TRIA program were to disappear in 2021, but “that it will be significantly disrupted seems likely”.

“Uncertainty around the future of [the] Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP) imposes costs on its own, as insurers and reinsurers begin to renegotiate with the possibility that TRIP may not be re-authorised,” the paper says.

“Acts of terror are unpredictable. Uncertainty regarding government support and the regulatory environment complicate the issue.”

TRIA has made terrorism insurance available and affordable by agreeing to reimburse insurers for certain losses which result from a certified act of terrorism.

No act of terrorism in the US has triggered TRIA, which only the US Treasury Department can do, so the law has so far not required any expenditure of federal taxpayer dollars.

The September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 resulted in insured losses of about $US47 billion ($68.47 billion) in 2019 dollars.

Global protection gap continues to widen: AIR

Insured average annual losses rose $US6.1 billion ($8.86 billion) over 2019 to nearly $US92 billion ($133.67 billion), according to AIR’s global cat losses report.

Average annual losses have now risen for three consecutive years. Losses were $US78.7 billion ($114.35 billion) in 2017.

The global protection gap widened over 2019 by $3.5 billion ($5.09 billion), according to the AIR statistics. The number of insurable properties grew from $US181.8 billion ($264.15 billion) to $US191.4 billion ($278.09 billion), yet average annual insured losses now sit at less than half that (47%). The growth in losses partly reflects risk changes based on AIR’s annual review of industry insured values around the world.

Insured losses in Asia are only 23% of all insurable losses – $US50.9 billion ($73.96 billion) in insurable property as against only $US12 billion ($17.44 billion) in insured property – the worst regional result. Yet the protection gap in North America – including the United States – is $US47.9 billion ($69.6 billion), and $US8 billion ($11.62 billion) in Europe.

Severe storms or tropical cyclones were responsible for 62% of global average annual insured losses this year. Wildfires only accounted for 4% of losses. Earthquakes were responsible for 14% of losses. A major update to Australia’s earthquake model was not included in the paper.

The total global economic loss from natural catastrophes is estimated at $US393.8 billion ($572.17 billion).

“Our analyses indicate there’s still work to be done to address the disparity between economic and insured losses,” said AIR Worldwide president Bill Churney. “With modelled average annual loss at less than a quarter of the global economic estimate, we’re not seeing a significant narrowing trend.”

Insurers tougher on local mining premiums

The Australian mining market has seen further increases in premium rating throughout the first half of 2019 as conditions carry on from the previous year, Willis Towers Watson (WTW) says in its latest Mining Risk Review.

Capacity remains relatively stable in Australia, although underwriters are reviewing the deployment of their capacity to every operation, according to Stephen McDermott, Placement Services Director at WTW in Brisbane.

“The previous 12 months was another challenging year for underwriters in this sector and has seen the enforcement of underwriting guidelines from management, with requests for more granular information than in past years as underwriters seek to return to underwriting profitability,” he said.

Optimal renewal outcomes will require submissions detailing operational exposures – especially tailings dams – as well as natural catastrophe exposure, analysis of commodity price changes, risk engineering programs and mitigations that are in place.

An exception to the mostly steady capacity was continued constriction for thermal coal operations, with more insurers recently announcing they are also withdrawing from this part of the mining sector.

Globally, the report found mining insurance did not yet constitute a genuinely hard market.

“Although rates are generally hardening as a result of tailings dam and other losses, this is still not yet a truly hard market,” Graham Knight, Global Head of Natural Resources at WTW, said.

“Capacity remains plentiful by historical standards and when rates are on an upward trend, we are by no means in a truly distressed situation.”

Also contributing to the review, Munich Re Head of Mining Gunter Becker says the results for mining insurers have been “mediocre at best” for a couple of years, with the premium pool drained by attritional losses.

“During the past two years there has been not enough money to pay the bigger losses for which we are in business,” he said. “However, I would like to believe that currently rating levels are generally going in the right direction and market forces are doing their job.”

The politics around climate change – its impact and the reasons for it on one side and the catastrophic incidents in the mining industry on the other – is directly affecting the mining insurance market, he says.

“All this is putting pressure on those insurers and reinsurers supporting the mining industry as one, which we still need for some time. The mining industry needs to overcome the perceptions.

“This will allow us underwriters to concentrate on what we know best – providing sustainable insurance cover for a sustainable industry.”

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Analysis

Climate change: still in denial as neighbourhoods burn

Australia’s biggest insurers have flagged the importance of urgent action on climate change as out-of-season bushfires rip through Queensland and NSW.

However, some politicians, media commentators – and some readers of insuranceNEWS.com.au – still prefer to score cheap points than contribute to genuine solutions.

Leaders at IAG and Suncorp tell insuranceNEWS.com.au the evidence is clear – our changing climate is leading to more frequent and severe extreme weather.

IAG Executive Manager Natural Perils Mark Leplastrier says rising temperatures will likely result in prolonged and severe bushfire seasons as we head towards summer in “ongoing drought conditions”.

“Bushfires increasingly are occurring outside the traditional bushfire season which normally starts at the end of September,” he said.

“We saw this in August 2018 with bushfires in Tathra and with the current bushfires in Queensland and northern NSW.

“The increasing number of unseasonal or record extreme weather [events] is telling us an inescapable truth – that climate change is happening and that it will continue to impact our communities financially and socially.”

Suncorp’s new CEO Steve Johnston is singing from the same hymn sheet.

In an interview with insuranceNEWS.com.au, he confirmed the insurer’s vast data reserves back up the science.

“As an insurance company we have a lot of actuarial data at our disposal and I don’t think there is any doubt that the frequency and intensity and severity of weather activity has increased over the past five to 10 years,” he said.

“We’ve had to increase all of our allowances for weather like the rest of the industry, and we’ve bought some more reinsurance cover to protect our balance sheet from the volatility that comes from those events.

“The most important point from our perspective is [partnering] with government around making communities and properties more resilient.

“If we just sit back and wait for these events to happen and pick up the pieces, that becomes an unsustainable model in an environment where weather events are becoming more regular and more intense.”

The latest Actuaries Institute Climate Index shows extreme heat and dryness is a continuing trend, with Finity Consultant and Actuary Tim Andrews telling insuranceNEWS.com.au the current fires are at least “partly linked” to unseasonal warm weather.

Meanwhile, reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter says increasingly severe bushfires are a global problem, with last year’s Camp Fire in northern California causing a record $US12 billion ($17.49 billion) in insured losses.

Fires have become larger and more severe and populations are expanding into riskier zones, MD Robert Reader says.

“Wildfire-related losses have significantly increased in the past several decades as more and more properties have been built in such areas — the areas where human development encroaches on and interacts with natural woodlands or vegetation that is at high risk for wildfire,” he said.

At the same time, he confirms changing weather patterns are “clearly influencing wildfire activity”.

But all this expert commentary isn’t enough for some.

“Teens charged with arson. Are their names ‘climate’ and ‘change’?” asks the Herald Sun’s Andrew Bolt.

A reader of insuranceNEWS.com.au posted a similar comment to our website (which wasn’t published after being caught by our swear filter) after we highlighted IAG’s concerns in our Daily bulletin.

“Deliberately lit you clowns at IAG – maybe [Greens leader] Di Natale has taken over the CEO role.”

Never mind the fact there have been more than 100 fires across the two states, and that even if ignition was deliberate in some cases, our changing climate helps create the catastrophic conditions to fan the flames.

Such comments are not unusual.

And Mr Bolt goes further in his column, arguing that warmist “vultures” can’t have it both ways by arguing climate change is responsible for more floods and fires.

“This blaming of global warming for both fires and flood seems a bit desperate,” he writes.

This is very simplistic thinking – as scientists tell us this is exactly what will happen.

Mr Bolt is keen to point out that Australia may well see fewer cyclones in future – but he fails to note they will also be more intense and slower moving, dumping more rainfall on affected areas.

On bushfires, he chooses to ignore the global scientific consensus that rising temperatures have already resulted in extended fire seasons, and greater temperature extremes will see catastrophic bushfire conditions develop more often.

To top it off, we were also treated last week to Federal Natural Disasters Minister David Littleproud’s bombshell that he wasn’t sure whether man-made climate change was real.

Where does all this leave us?

Insurance industry leaders accept the truth and want to address it, as shown by the comments from IAG and Suncorp.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) is also very clear on the issue, releasing a public statement earlier this year.

“The impacts of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are becoming increasingly evident through the occurrence of more frequent and intense extreme weather events, sea level rise and global mean temperature increase,” ICA says.

But while significant numbers of people within the industry, key politicians and media commentators pull in the opposite direction, it will remain hard to do what needs to be done.

And if inaction continues, we are set for more damaging out-of-season bushfires and more off-the-chart flood events like Townsville.

When you look at the evidence, it’s not that hard to understand.