The 2022 Emerging Issues Bracket Challenge is over and the top issue of 2022 is…supply chain bottlenecks.
It was a close contest, with many issues advancing on just the slimmest of margins.
We booted up Verisk’s resident AI bracketologist, Bractuary Bot, to get its take on the challenge. What follows is an edited transcript:
Andrew Blancher: Hi Bractuary Bot, it’s been an exciting tournament, wouldn’t you agree?
Bractuary Bot: I believe we established at the outset of the challenge that I do not experience human emotion, Andrew.
AB: Right, how could I forget? What can you tell us about the top issue?
BB: Supply chain disruptions have been felt across many industries, including insurance. The embrace of “just-in-time” delivery and leaner inventory models have optimized the global supply chain for efficiency, but not resiliency.1 The pandemic and its resultant impact on consumer shopping patterns have placed acute strain on supply chains, but other shocks—from geopolitics to the climate crisis—may also loom.2, 3
AB: Well, I was also struck by the quarter final results. PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances), or “forever chemicals”, pulled ahead of future pandemics. In the past two challenges, pandemic was the top issue. What does that tell you?
BB: According to my analytics, PFAS edged out future pandemics by a narrow margin. While pandemics likely continue to weigh on the minds of insurers, the risks posed by PFAS might be too large to ignore. In fact, since the challenge began, there was news of a major PFAS lawsuit involving a cosmetic company—following similar suits at the end of 2021.4 This suggests that PFAS litigation is growing beyond the manufacturers of those chemicals and sweeping up other businesses whose products incorporate PFAS. For insurers, it could be a significant liability exposure given just how many products use PFAS.
AB: It’s an issue we’re tracking very closely at Verisk. In fact, we’ve just launched a PFAS resource page for insurers.
BB: Is that what you call a “shameless plug,” Andrew?
AB: Guilty as charged. Let’s talk about another issue that’s clearly grabbed people’s attention: Social inflation. What is it, and why is it concerning?
BB: Social inflation has been defined by some as growing insurance claims costs due to increased litigation and larger jury awards. It should not be confused with standard economic inflation, which has also been rising sharply of late.
When analyzing ISO Statistical Data and data from insurers annual statements, we have noticed that some coverages within general liability, commercial auto, and commercial umbrella/excess have experienced growing loss ratios since around 2015—or earlier. When we analyze the data and market trends, such as the growth in litigation funding, we see suggestive signs that social inflation is at least partly responsible for driving up those losses. For insurers, social inflation can pose a challenge in many areas, including reserving, pricing, and sustaining profitability.
AB: Which helps explain why it had such strong showing in this year’s tournament. Our next issue is definitely not a sleeper and that’s ransomware. It debuted as an issue in the challenge in 2017 but never made it out of the first round. In 2018, it made it to the second round. It was in the final eight in 2019 and it was the runner-up in 2020. It’s clearly become top-of-mind for insurers.
BB: And for good reason: In one recent survey, 37 percent of organizations reported being victimized by a ransomware attack in 2021 and the average cost of such attacks was $1.85 million.5 The nature of the ransomware threat appears to be changing. As one cybersecurity firm noted, rather than building their own custom ransomware, a “ransomware-as-a-service” industry has sprouted on the dark web, enabling hackers to lease ransomware rather than build their own.6 It appears that, as a result, ransomware is becoming more “professionalized” with a division of labor between those skilled at developing the malicious software and those adept at tricking victims into installing it through phishing or other social engineering techniques.7
AB: It sounds like building resilience to disruptions, whether in cyberspace or our physical world, is going to be a recurring theme in future challenges.
See the final 2022 Emerging Issues Bracket.