CEO talks CRO: Importance of the role rising for global corporations

If your company doesn’t have a chief risk officer (CRO) today, it will soon. Given the multitude of risks facing today’s global business, it’s become a critical “C” level role in any organisation. While the specific role of the CRO varies from company to company, the essence of the job is the same. CROs and their organisations are tasked to manage and mitigate risk. What does this mean? It means being prepared for the unknown. How would you like that in your job description? The Evolution of the CRO For the CRO of Southwest Airlines in 2007, it meant preserving the company’s low fare business model during a period of highly volatile fuel prices. When oil prices spiked to over US$150 a barrel, Southwest successfully hedged its jet fuel purchases allowing them to keep fares low and maintain profitability. Other airlines didn’t fare so well (no pun intended) and were forced to match Southwest’s prices and absorb the hit to their bottom line. I cut my teeth in the telecommunications industry and witnessed the rise of the CIO (chief information officer). Though they didn’t have “risk” in their title, their job certainly looked a lot like today’s CRO. The CIO’s job was to bring their company into the digital age and navigate the choppy waters of the newly emerging internet economy. If you were the CIO of Blockbuster or Walmart, the challenges you faced were immense. You had a booming business, but a cloudy horizon with small upstarts like Netflix and Amazon promoting disruptive business models. What do you do? Build more brick and mortar stores or begin to hedge your strategy? Enter the CRO, whose role it is to understand the timing, likelihood and potential impact of a specified risk and mitigate it. The insurance industry learned about the importance of properly assessing risk the hard way. In the wake of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the industry did not heed warnings by weather experts that predicted heavy rainfall and large storms and as a result, several insurers went bankrupt covering claims in the region. To read more, visit this link.

Zoonotic Threats: As Unpredictable as They Are Dangerous

In epidemiology, some things are highly predictable. For instance, it’s a sure bet that whenever the next outbreak of some strange-sounding disease occurs, the media will start calling, the public will start worrying, and the government will rush in with promises of new research funding. (See H1N1; West Nile; Ebola; Zika.) The boom-and-bust pattern of public attention repeats itself over and over again. What is less predictable is which particular disease will spark the next global health crisis. Public health experts believe the biggest threats are diseases transmitted from animals to humans. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 6 in 10 known infectious diseases are believed to be zoonotic, and three-quarters of new or emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic. Yet, the goal of predicting precisely which zoonotic diseases will become epidemic remains elusive.   To read more of this article, click here.

Sparking a Disaster: New Blog Post on the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Sparking a Disaster Introduction This year marks the 100th anniversary of one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history - The 1918 influenza pandemic, also known as the “Spanish Flu”, which killed about 50 million people worldwide. Pandemic influenza is different than typical, seasonal influenza that circulates every winter, and it only happens when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads globally. In the past century, there have only been four influenza pandemics, with the "Spanish Flu" being the deadliest. When examining the spread of a pandemic and the likelihood of it happening again, it is important to first understand what sparks these types of events. To read more, visit this link.

ARC and Metabiota Tackling Africa's Epidemics

At various industry events, talk is often of the insurance gap that exists between indemnified losses and insured losses. This gap applies to both emerging and established economies. There is also considerable talk about the drive to establish new products. For the emerging economies, that means getting people accustomed to the concept of insurance, and in the established ones, it is about highlighting the benefits of such protection and ensuring that exposures are appropriately managed. Africa, and in particular the threat posed by epidemic disease, presents another series of challenges altogether, although it is hoped a new partnership between African Risk Capacity (ARC) and specialist risk modeller Metabiota will help close the insurance gap in the continent while also providing some much needed financial relief in the event of a disease breaking out. The new pioneering programme is designed to support the continent’s countries in evaluating their epidemic risk and ultimately help transfer some of the financial costs in mitigating and managing such exposures to the insurance industry. Events such as the Ebola outbreak hit countries with considerable costs, and figures from the World Bank suggest that managing the cost of the crisis may have exceeded $32bn. A further $2.2bn is thought to have been lost in the gross domestic product of three of the hardest hit African countries in 2015. The partnership between ARC, a specialised agency within the African Union, and Metabiota will help countries get a better understanding of the risks they are facing, and so that future outbreaks can be adequately and appropriately insured against. The insurance products that can be established would provide resources, financing and other forms of risk profiling and contingency planning in the event of an outbreak. “The ARC Outbreak & Epidemic Program allows each sovereign nation to respond faster and more sustainably to public health disasters by really doing assessments of each country’s ability to putt in motion plans in an outbreak event,” Dr Karen Saylors, vice president of field research for Metabiota, explained, adding: “It really allows an interesting insurance model because you’re dealing at the African continent level with sovereign nations who are making key decisions for the safety of their country rather than relying on international aid. “The first work stream is risk profiling, so it’s looking at the country’s capabilities, infrastructure and operational response capacity as it currently stands so a contingency plan can be put in place.” For more of the article, visit this link.

Global Virome Project Will Spend Next 10 Years Identifying Unknown Viruses in the Wild

Following recent outbreaks of viruses such as Zika and Ebola, public health researchers are increasingly working to discover new viruses before they emerge and cause human outbreaks. To meet that goal, this year will mark the launch of the Global Virome Project. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published its priority list of diseases and pathogens in need of research and development in 2018. Along with viruses such as Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, and Zika, last on that list is Disease X, which the WHO says represents the understanding that a currently unknown pathogen may emerge to cause a serious global epidemic in the human population. While the inclusion of Disease X has been somewhat controversial, it reflects the growing belief that rather than waiting for the emergence of a new pathogen to react, the public health community needs to find the next viral threats and prepare for them before they cause human pandemics. In a study published in 2017, researchers suggested that the most likely place to discover emerging pathogens would be along the fault lines of human-animal interaction. To that end, a new paper published in the journal Science has announced the impending launch of the Global Virome Project in 2018 to find unknown diseases in the wild, an effort expected to take 10 years and cost $1.2 billion. The project was first announced in 2016 as a proposed cooperative scientific initiative to identify and characterize 99% of the world’s zoonotic viruses with the potential to cause human epidemics.   To read more of the article, visit this link.

The Global Virome Project: Providing timely data to battle future pandemics

Outbreaks of previously unknown viral and other diseases have the potential to inflict serious and massive negative health and economic impact on the world. A new program, a really big idea, is set to start this year and looks to stay one step ahead of this situation identifying viruses in advance and provide timely data for public health interventions against future pandemics. It’s called the Global Virome Project and joining me to discuss this massive and important endeavor is Chief Scientific Officer with Metabiota, Eddy Rubin, MD, PhD. Visit this link to hear the interview.

Metabiota and African Risk Capacity (ARC) Help African Nations Better Plan for and Mitigate Risk of Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Today, Metabiota, the pioneer in epidemic risk modeling, with over 12 years building disease surveillance, lab diagnostics and response capacity across the African continent, announced it has commenced the modeling work for a trailblazing initiative with the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a Specialized Agency of the African Union (AU), to help Africa’s sovereign nations evaluate their epidemic risk, engage coordinated contingency planning with pilot country ministries, and equip governments with the financial resources to respond to the first signs of a national epidemic. The World Bank estimates the cost of managing the Ebola crisis could have topped $32 billion, with an estimated $2.2 billion lost in the gross domestic product (GDP) in the three hardest hit African countries in 2015 alone. Metabiota’s research shows that outbreaks illustrate distinct patterns and therefore can be insured so that resources, financing, and other risk profiling and contingency planning support can be set up in advance to offset the impact. To read more, visit this link.

Modeling the Casualty Exposures in Epidemics

A casualty actuary might be forgiven for thinking that illness and disease are what those “other” actuaries worry about. Though risk of illness is usually considered the province of the life-health actuary, a session at the 2017 CAS Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, showed how epidemics can affect property-casualty risks. The session also described how to approach modeling those exposures. Speakers intoned that, if done right, the modeling could drive new insurance products. These developments could narrow the insurance gap — the chasm between what is insured and what could be insured. ... Cathine Lam, ACAS, an actuarial associate at Metabiota, continued the session with examples demonstrating how epidemics and pandemics involve property-casualty exposures. She pointed to what happened to a Dallas, Texas, hospital during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and described how the Zika virus befell Miami in 2016. Ebola in Dallas The deadly outbreak (28,000 cases/11,000 deaths worldwide) originated in West Africa. One man who contracted the disease only displayed symptoms after he traveled to Texas. He went to a hospital and died two weeks later. In the meantime, he infected two individuals. The property-casualty exposures include the following: Business interruption. When potential patients learned of possible Ebola exposure, the number of emergency room visits was cut in half. Additionally, the number of patients per day fell by 22 percent and net revenues declined by 25 percent ($12 million). After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the hospital was Ebola-free, revenues returned to normal. Malpractice. The victim’s family sued the hospital. A nurse also sued, alleging that the staff had inadequate training to deal with Ebola victims and that she had suffered a loss of privacy, becoming known as “the Ebola nurse.” And the exposures extended beyond the hospital. A bridal shop that the nurse had visited became known as “the Ebola shop.” It closed. Zika in Miami The 2016 Zika outbreak was the widest ever, Lam said. The virus is generally not dangerous to adults, but a pregnant woman can pass it to her fetus, causing severe birth defects. The first case in Miami occurred in the Wynwood neighborhood, where the CDC had issued a six-week travel advisory. The advisory was later lifted, but at its height, airline travel to the Miami area fell by 17 percent. Revenues from hotel taxes dropped about five percent and the majority of all businesses reported a decrease in revenue of at least 20 percent. The disease being modeled has to originate somewhere. From that point of origin, the amount that the disease spreads depends on the originating state’s ability to combat it. This is reflected in what Lam calls a “Preparedness Index.” Keeping these examples in mind, it takes little imagination to construct an insurance product that would respond to an epidemic. Pricing that product, though, would be a challenge. Epidemics are fortunately rare, Lam noted, so there will never be much historical data from which to project. The alternative was to build a model. Such a model, Lam said, would require a solid scientific foundation. It would be a multidisciplinary exercise, involving knowledge of how diseases spread and how economies are affected, among other things. The result would provide a granular look at how the spread of a disease would affect property-casualty exposures. At a high level, the procedure she described resembles catastrophe modeling, translated to the world of disease. As with a catastrophe model, one models the exposure, creates a catalog of events, and then uses the information to inform pricing and capital decisions. ... Read the full article here.

How the Flu’s Severity Will Effect Healthcare Spending

In addition to starting earlier, this season’s influenza is also remarkable for spreading throughout the United States relatively quickly—with all the continental U.S. states reporting widespread flu activity concurrently for the first time. Since January 1, the CDC has estimated that more than 5% of all doctor’s visits are attributable to influenza-like illnesses—which is consistent with moderately severe flu activity, says Mark Gallivan, MPH, senior data scientist, Metabiota, an epidemic risk analytics company in San Francisco. Flu hospitalizations have also spiked and reported deaths are consistent with the start of a moderate to severe season. Influenza is a serious disease that circulates annually in the United States, resulting in widespread illness. The CDC estimates that influenza-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of 12,000 (during 2011 to 2012) to a high of 56,000 (during 2012 to 2013). The influenza vaccine is recalibrated annually to try and match the anticipated strain, Patrick Ayscue, DVM, director of epidemiology, Metabiota, says. This year, the match is only moderately effective. Read more of this story here.

Think this flu season’s bad? Just wait until The Big One

“It’s pretty much 100% accepted.” Those aren’t the words you want to hear from a leading epidemiologist predicting a second coming of the deadliest flu pandemic in modern history. And this time around, the damage will be much, much greater. CRI sat down with Patrick Ayscue, director of epidemiology at Metabiota, to talk about the current flu strain that has staff grabbing the Kleenex left right and centre in an office near you, but the infectious disease expert was quick to shift attention to flu seasons yet to come.  “This is definitely a bad flu season,” Ayscue says. “It’s one of the worst ones we’ve seen in the last ten years or so, but actually 2014-2015 at this point was a bit worse.” What’s clouding our perception of the severity, he says, is the fact that this year’s flu season started earlier than normal. To read more of this appeared coverage in Corporate Risk and Insurance, click here.