A major hurricane or earthquake hitting a densely populated metropolitan area like Miami or Los Angeles will leave insurers facing losses that far exceed their estimated 100 year probable maximum loss (PML) due to highly concentrated property values, a new report suggests.
In its analysis, Karen Clark & Company (KCC) notes that the PMLs that the insurance industry has been using to manage risk and rating agencies and regulators have been using to monitor solvency can give a false sense of security.
For example, it says the 100 year hurricane making a direct hit on downtown Miami will cause over $250 billion insured losses today, twice the estimated 100 year PML.
Insurers typically manage their potential catastrophe losses to the 100 year PMLs, but because of increasingly concentrated property values in several major metropolitan areas, the losses insurers will suffer from the 100 year event will greatly exceed their estimated 100 year PMLs.”
Instead, the report suggests new risk metrics—Characteristic Events (CEs)—could help insurers better understand their catastrophe loss potential and avoid surprise solvency-impairing events.
The CE approach defines the probabilities of a mega-catastrophe event based on the hazard rather than the loss and gives a more complete picture of catastrophe loss potential.
Rather than simulating many thousands of random events, the CE approach creates events using all of the scientific knowledge about the events in specific regions.
This information is then used to develop events with characteristics reflecting various return periods of interest, such as 100 and 250 year, which are then floated to estimate losses at specific locations.
To protect against solvency-impairing events, the report suggests insurers should monitor their exposure concentrations with additional metrics, such as the CEs and the CE to PML ratio.
KCC estimates that overall U.S. insured property values increased by 9 percent from 2012 to 2014, faster than the general economy.
The state with the most property value is California, followed by New York and Texas. The top 10 states account for over 50 percent of the U.S. total.
U.S. vulnerability to hurricanes and other coastal hazards continues to rise because of increasing concentrations of property values along the coast.
Of the $90 trillion in total U.S. property exposure, over $16 trillion is in the first tier of Gulf and Atlantic coastal counties, up from $14.5 trillion in 2012, KCC estimates.