By Massimiliano Malinverno, Head of Claims, Italy, AXA XL, a division of AXA
After several decades of experience, the benefits of global insurance programs for multinational clients – notably improved capital efficiencies, more effective enterprise risk management and greater control over claims – are now well documented. And these benefits only continue to expand as insurers and clients develop greater expertise in designing and managing these programs.
For many companies with operations in multiple countries, the rationale for insuring certain risks with a global master policy often centers on the advantages of having broad, consistent coverage with no gaps or overlaps. And by aggregating individual country risk globally, the enterprise usually can accept retentions that are higher than a particular subsidiary would be comfortable with; that’s especially relevant when the client uses its captive to finance the self-insured portion of the program.
Supporting more effective enterprise risk management
In addition to the direct economic benefits, a centrally managed global program can also help to strengthen risk management awareness and practices at both the enterprise and local levels.
For starters, implementing and managing a global program necessarily involves collecting consistent and standardized data on the company’s assets and operations around the world. Although that can entail additional time and resources at the outset, once the processes and systems are established, clients can take advantage of these capabilities to more closely monitor their exposures globally and at individual locations. Clients also can use that repository of centralized information to slice and dice claims data to identify trends and trouble-spots.
In other words, a client managing risks via a global program typically has ready access to centralized and standardized data that can be analyzed by risk, location, occupancy (i.e., how a property is being used), or other relevant variables. This capability, in turn, can facilitate a more expansive and detailed view of the company’s risk landscape as well as how different parts of the organization are managing particular risks. Armed with these more in-depth insights, clients are better able to tailor their insurance coverages to fit their specific circumstances and needs, and to prioritize loss prevention and control efforts based on their expected impact and cost-effectiveness.
Global programs can also help to promote greater safety and enhanced protection among local subsidiaries. When allocating premiums and setting retentions for local operations, for instance, the corporate risk manager has powerful levers for rewarding those subsidiaries that are successfully minimizing their exposures; and vice-versa.
Greater control in resolving claims
Global programs also provide risk managers with greater control over how claims are managed; that has two noteworthy implications.
First, while these situations often require collaborative decision-making involving stakeholders at the headquarters and local levels, the corporate risk manager is better positioned to guide the overall strategy, as well as the options for managing different claims, when the losses are covered in a global program. That can include, for instance, deciding whether the claim needs to be resolved as quickly and expeditiously as possible, or if a more deliberative approach is warranted. Also, with major claims where the damages are significant, the client often must consider a range of alternatives and potential tradeoffs. For example, are some increased costs of working justified so that production can be restarted as soon as possible? Or, should improvements in the protection systems be installed right away or deferred until the next scheduled maintenance interval?
Second, whether the payouts are made to the local subsidiary or corporate center, the risk manager nonetheless will have considerable authority over how and where the claims payments are used. For example, she/he may be able to stipulate that some of the funds be used to implement specific loss prevention measures, especially those that have been effective in other parts of the company. And in instances where a facility has been severely damaged, the risk manager, in conjunction with colleagues at the corporate headquarters, may decide that it makes more sense to direct some if not all of the payouts to other parts of the business instead of using the funds to restore/replace the operation.
Globally consistent, locally responsive
Consistent service delivery also is a necessity. Clients today are taking advantage of attractive business opportunities in countries all over the world, and they expect the same level of responsiveness and follow-through when it comes to managing claims in, for example, Peru, Thailand or Tunisia.
That also means, of course, that open and effective communications are essential, and the client, lead insurer and other key stakeholders need to work together closely and productively to ensure the global program delivers its full potential. So whenever a claim is triggered in a global program, the lead insurer’s claims manager must be extremely proactive and responsive. He/she must quickly open lines of communications with the local experts who know the laws, regulations and customs in the territory where the incident occurred and maintain regular and frequent dialogue throughout the process.
It also goes without saying that the capabilities and expertise that reside within the lead insurer’s global network are a critical success factor. While we are continually improving our systems and processes to support the needs of our global program clients, one of the most important lessons my colleagues and I have learned over the past decades is the importance of developing and nurturing personal relationships with the people working on the ground in different countries. In addition to helping navigate the local legal and regulatory systems, they must meet clients’ expectations that claims management will adhere to a consistent, global standard, wherever they occur, while still respecting the country’s customs and market practices.
As a result, we devote considerable time and resources to deepening our relationships with our colleagues and partners around the world; it’s a highly collaborative process. As a lead insurer operating internationally, we are always looking for opportunities to exchange lessons learned, best practices and innovative new approaches with our colleagues and partners in different countries. We also share our understanding and insights about clients’ strategic and operational objectives, risk management philosophies, service expectations, and so on.
At the same time, they are our eyes and ears on the ground. They let us know about new developments – legal, political, economic, etc. – and how these could affect the country’s risk landscape and commercial environment, as well as our clients’ operations in the country. So, while our technical expertise and systems capabilities are essential, I also believe that the strength of our relationships with people on the frontlines in countries around the world makes an important – albeit intangible – contribution to our efforts to help clients achieve the full range of benefits global programs can deliver.