Before and After the Storm

Willis Re on Crowdsourcing to Tsunami Zones
By Karen Richardson | Published January 2, 2012

A string of natural catastrophes over the past 18 months has cost the insurance industry billions of dollars worldwide and has forced insurers and reinsurers to reevaluate their risk management and claims response processes. Willis Re, headquartered in London, England, is a broker for reinsurance products, helping its clients – insurers – manage their risks. Willis Re also acts as an intermediary between insurers and other reinsurance companies.

Following the magnitude 9.0 earthquake that rocked Japan on March 11, 2011, and set off a tsunami, Willis Re quickly went to work gathering critical information for their insurance clients. Using a system called eNCOMPASS Online based on Esri ArcGIS software, Willis Re was able to assess areas of tsunami inundation and, using their understanding of their insurance clients’ portfolios of exposure, to estimate potential insured losses. Willis Re’s insurance clients in Japan and other territories across the globe are now giving direct access to this system to interact with their own data themselves.

Preparing for the Worst

Willis Re’s core focus is to provide insurance companies with a superior understanding of the risks they face, helping them manage extremes. When the organization anticipated a more active tropical storm season during 2011, they built eNCOMPASS Online within eight weeks to estimate the potential impact of large tropical storms on insured portfolios on behalf of their clients. Both client users and Willis Re analysts can view and discuss a portfolio by logging on to eNCOMPASS Online from anywhere in the world. The spatial analysis component of the system allows them to identify exposures or individual policies that are physically located in the projected path of an active storm and to determine the associated projected wind speed, storm surge or similar information.

“Willis Re and client users are able to see events unfold at the same time, which encourages collaboration,” said Nigel Davis, Executive Director of Product Development, Willis Global Analytics. “Discussions can take place around the levels of insured value identified within a tsunami-affected area, or can identify insurance policies that are about to be affected by a hurricane.”

Once the affected exposures are identified, all the descriptive information associated with those exposures can be exported for further analysis as required outside of the system. For example, an insurer could apply some loss calculations, plan emergency operations or even contact policy holders ensuring that response and customer service are accurate and timely.

Willis Re consumes or develops live feeds for real-time or near real-time information on events. For example, a process to download United States Geological Survey (USGS) data was developed by Willis Re to display recent significant earthquake activity across the globe. The platform does not contain just active hazards, but also historical events and risk models and indices. In particular, it is becoming a window for research outputs of the Willis Research Network – the world’s largest partnership between academia and the insurance industry, in which Willis Re has teamed up more than 50 leading universities and institutions worldwide who are involved in atmospheric science and climate statistics, geography, hydrology and seismology. Through this unique collaboration, insurance client users are increasingly going to be able to interact with leading research in conjunction with their portfolios.

Willis Re relies heavily on...

Complete article available in Fall 2011 Digital Edition of LBx Journal.