Virtual Triple-I Forum Reviews 2020, Looks Ahead at Risks, Opportunities

Sean Kevelighan, Triple-I CEO

Insurance is a business that promotes and demands resilience, and 2020 was a year-long case study in our industry’s ability to respond rapidly to new challenges from a firm financial foundation. Triple-I’s virtual Joint Industry Forum (JIF) provided many examples from a range of industry and academic leaders, along with insightful discussions about what the industry faces in the near and longer terms.

At the 2020 JIF in New York City, it was clear from our various panels that the industry had a full plate of priorities for the year ahead. Then came COVID-19, and a whole new set of public health and economic concerns was added to the existing exposure mix. The virus brought a strong economy nearly to a halt; while officials assessed and responded to these threats, civil unrest on a scale not seen since the 1990s broke out on the streets of many cities; historic and near-historic weather and wildfire activity descended on communities whose resources were already strained by the pandemic.

And all of the above took place amid the uncertainty created by the most contentious, chaotic election year in modern U.S. history.

Through it all, as this year’s JIF speakers described, the property/casualty insurance industry managed to shine.

“Look at how our companies performed” in the real-time shift to fully remote work, noted Chuck Chamness, President and CEO of the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC). “Then look at the dynamic changes in our businesses caused in large part by the pandemic, where we gave back $14 billion in premiums to policyholders and contributed a couple of hundred million dollars-plus in charitable contributions. We really did our job this year.”

David Sampson, American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA) President and CEO, added that the “bulk of the industry came together to proactively work with agents and policymakers to create a solution that could work for all stakeholders to provide protection against widespread economic shutdown as a result of a viral outbreak.”

APCIA, NAMIC, and Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America proposed to Congress a Business Continuity Protection Plan (BCPP) that would allow businesses to buy revenue-replacement coverage for up to 80 percent of payroll and other expenses in the event of a pandemic through state-regulated insurance entities, with aid coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which would run the program.

Our industry also faced a literal existential threat in the form of efforts to require insurers to pay billions in business income (interruption) claims for which not one penny of premium had ever been paid. Thanks to industry leaders stepping up to educate policymakers and the media, much of this threat – though, by no means all of it – seems to have faded. Triple-I’s Future of American Insurance & Reinsurance (FAIR) campaign played a critical role in informing policy discussions on business interruption coverage, the uninsurability of pandemic risk, and the need for federal involvement to mitigate the financial impact of future pandemics.

Throughout this year’s virtual JIF, the emphasis on innovation is a consistent thread. Peter Miller, President and CEO of The Institutes, observed that the pandemic and its attendant operational and economic stresses forced the industry into innovation overdrive. He cited a member of The Institutes’ board saying 2020 “caused them to do 10 years of innovation in one,” adding that board members have told him work-from-home alone has saved their companies “one hundred-plus million dollars a year.”

Whether discussing the industry’s response to climate change and extreme weather or how to communicate the importance of risk-based pricing to policymakers, innovation is at the heart of solving every challenge (and seizing every opportunity) our industry faces. Peter emphasized the importance of using innovation strategically across the entire value chain – not just to solve specific problems as they emerge.

In addition to the panelists I mentioned above, the conversations featured a cross section of industry leaders, Triple-I subject-matter experts and non-resident scholars. If you weren’t able to attend, you can view and watch the panels here.