To Bundle or Unbundle Loss Control: That Is The Question
When looking to employ risk engineering expertise to help them strengthen property protection and other risk mitigation strategies for equipment, fleets and more, business have a considered two options: to bundle or unbundle. But according to AXA XL Risk Consulting’s Jonathan Salter, there’s a third option.
American diplomat, inventor, author and scientist Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” to remind his fellow Philadelphians that they should remain vigilant about fire awareness and prevention. He saw a lot of value in taking precautions. In fact, his early fire protection advocacy led the way for what would become a critical component in insuring and protecting properties around the world – risk engineering.
Risk engineering has evolved since Mr. Franklin’s day. What was once a practice focused on fire protection is now a data-driven, collaborative approach intent on finding ways to protect property against damage from a wide variety of operational risks, such as equipment breakdown, and natural forces including high winds, flooding, wildfire, earthquakes and more.
Personally, I am particularly proud that AXA XL Risk Consulting colleagues have played a significant role in risk engineering’s historical transformation. Today, “an ounce of prevention” is helping prevent more than a “pound of cure.” It’s preventing multi-million-dollar losses.
Bundled vs Unbundled Options
Businesses also have more options when looking to employ risk engineering expertise to help them strengthen their property protection and other risk mitigation strategies for their equipment, fleets and more.
First, there’s the bundled option, meaning they bundle their loss control with their commercial insurance program, relying on their insurer’s in-house risk consulting services, to provide risk assessments. The assessment is integral to the underwriting processing, providing insurers with information to build an appropriate insurance program and price the risk, but also giving clients insight into where loss prevention improvements can be made.
Another option is an unbundled one, using an independent risk engineering firm to provide property risks assessments for property owners. Some feel they have more control when they have a choice in who conducts their risk assessments. They also may feel that they have more control over the information and data collected, essentially owning it so that they can use the information more widely, and can also decide what to share, or not share, with their insurer when seeking insurance coverage.
A Third Alternative
There are many ways of looking at this. Having been on both sides of the debate – working for insurance companies and running my own independent risk engineering business, I’m familiar with both. What’s missing in current debates about unbundled and unbundled services, however, is a third alternative.
This third way is by partnering with a risk engineering provider like AXA XL Risk Consulting to undertake risk engineering assessments on behalf of the client’s business but through a contractual arrangement. While AXA XL Risk Consulting is affiliated with AXA XL Insurance, it is a separate division with more than 400 risk professionals globally, representing a variety of disciplines including property & marine loss prevention, fleet safety, workers compensation and others.
The contract gives our client ownership of the data. Of course, we hope that they are happy with our risk consulting service and our insurance provider performance, but it is a business relationship, and clients can use the data as they see fit. This contract also defines the cost of the service, so clients are free to check that the value for money of the service being purchased is there and is separated from the insurance premium.
What difference does this make? There are definitely advantages to working with risk consultants associated with an insurer, given their access to additional information, collective data and other resources. Consider these:
130 years of loss prevention knowledge: In 1890, a group of 11 of the larger stock fire insurance companies, including AXA XL Risk Consulting’s legacy organization, got together and formed a fire insurance organization called Factory Insurance Association (FIA). To ensure that any new business met the established criteria, the FIA inspection or engineering department was responsible for inspecting or surveying properties as prospects (potential customers) for FIA coverage. At the same time, they conducted periodic inspections of FIA insureds to make sure a required level of protection was maintained or improved. Such a long institutional history, which also includes participation in standard-setting industry bodies, like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), has given our in-house risk consultants a deep understanding of client challenges across many industries.
Greater access to information and data: Our loss prevention knowledge is further enhanced through interaction with our underwriting and claims colleagues who bring to the table an understanding of businesses constantly changing risks. For instance, knowledge, and direct access to claims information, allow us to focus our recommendations at the first indication that we see a problem trending in claims activity. We can immediately apply those loss lessons to our clients’ risk management plans.
Investment in data delivery and analysis: Loss prevention today needs to be very data-driven. That’s why our innovation centre is focused on bringing new technology to the table to help our clients and risk engineers in the field make sense of it all. For instance, through Spotlight, an artificial intelligence tool, our engineers are able to include in their assessments more data and information, scanned from a variety of sources including engineering reports and historical documents. And our SiteForward platform gives our clients access to their risk assessment information, loss prevention recommendations and other resources. Continued investment in innovation has also allowed us to adapt quickly when required such as during COVID when we applied broader use of remote risk dialogues, risk scanning and the Digital Risk Engineer service that we provide.
A broad perspective: One key advantage of working with a global, multi-disciplined organization like AXA XL Risk Consulting is our comprehensive view of the risk landscape. We have to take a wide-angled view because we support our clients across a broad breadth of business exposures, risks that are constantly changing either based on business priorities (Read how we helped our pharmaceutical clients prepare for vaccine rollouts) or the current business environment. For instance, among clients, we’re hearing growing concerns about supply chains, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and the effect of climate or water scarcity on our clients’ business operations. From our vantage point, within a large global organization, we can bring additional perspective and resources to help businesses address ever-changing risks and concerns.
Thoughts for Moving Forward
And here’s what will help make the risk engineering/client relationships even more productive:
Building more trust. Trust is a big driver of successful business relationships. That’s especially true in managing risk. Businesses need to be able to trust their insurers enough to share relevant information that can have a big impact on their insurance protection. Insurers also rely on this information to price risk appropriately and develop new coverages to address clients’ potential coverage gaps. On the flip side, it’s also beneficial for clients to see data and recommendations that come out of risk assessments and how it impacts coverage terms and pricing. This is where a risk engineering relationship shows its full value. Development of the risk engineering relationship ensures that businesses have contact with their insurers more than once a year, making it a partnership rather than a transaction. For AXA XL, that’s part of our Payer to Partner strategy.
Take some ownership. We all have skin in the game. A business has to look out for its best interest. And an insurance company, by assuming a business’ risks, also needs to have accurate risk assessment to help them minimize their losses and to help clients minimize theirs. This also translates to a feeling of ownership for the risk engineer who, in a sense, has a vested interest around working with businesses to keep them loss free.
Collaboration is imperative. Many clients rely on their brokers as well as multiple carriers to build property programs. Consider the use of loss scenarios which are developed following standard definitions and shared with clients, brokers, and other involved carriers to help review current insurance policies and identify coverage gaps. As the insurance placement is spread over a number of carriers, all insurance carriers need to know that the loss scenarios are reliable and realistic.
To bundle or unbundle loss control? It’s a question that some may continue to debate. Yet, many others have already found clear advantages of working with risk engineers within an insurance operation, especially given new ways and reasons to work together and share data.