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The 2021 ISO Emerging Issues bracket challenge is on

Update: The 2021 ISO Emerging Issues bracket challenge is over. View the full results.

For the past eight years, we've used the ISO Emerging Issues bracket challenge as a light-hearted way to highlight a number of serious issues confronting the insurance industry. During the challenge, we survey insurance and risk management professionals via our ISO Emerging Issues Weekly Digest, narrowing 32 leading topics in a tournament-style matchup until only one remains.

2021 Emerging Issues Bracket #4

This year's bracket will look a little different than in years past. First, our resident bracketologist, Bractuary Bill*, has decided to step back from the grueling demands of bracket analysis to pursue other life-long passions. We wish him well.

With Bill tending greener pastures, we're introducing our new, cutting-edge bracketologist, Bractuary Bot*, an artificial intelligence program designed to ingest voluminous quantities of news and research and generate emerging issues brackets and analysis. Bractuary Bot helped us develop the following bracket for the 2021 tournament.

As you can see, it's a competitive field. Bractuary Bot predicts this year's brackets may break for survey respondents sooner than ever. We intend to coronate the top emerging issue in March.

Chatting with Bractuary Bot about the lessons of the 2020 bracket

Bractuary Bot: What is your question? If it is related to a bracket, I can help.

Andrew Blancher: Yes, of course, we wouldn't ask you about the weather, don't worry.

BB: I cannot predict the weather based on my knowledge domain, but do you want to know what emerging issue will win in 2021?  Let me flex my AI muscles...

AB:  No, no, please no spoilers!  Let's look backward at 2020.  What happened in 2020 during our bracket challenge?

BB: When we assembled the 2020 bracket in early January of 2020, the novel coronavirus had begun its remorseless spread across the globe—but it hadn't yet exploded into the acute public health emergency it has since become. By the time our bracket challenge had concluded, it was abundantly clear that the pandemic was the most urgent emerging issue confronting not just insurers and risk managers, but the world at large.

AB: But it wasn't alone. Tell us about some of the other emerging issues.

BB: While humans, and some of my pathogen modeling colleagues, continue to battle COVID-19, the other leading issues in last year's bracket—climate change, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things (IoT), and autonomous vehicles—continue to present both challenges, and opportunities, for many insurers. Consider climate change. In the midst of the pandemic, we received multiple, jarring reminders on land and at sea that a changing climate will likely bring with it record-setting devastation.

AB: Based on your analysis, have you made any changes to the 2021 bracket?

BB: Last year also served as a reminder on some issues that may not have been top-of-mind for insurers in the U.S. at the start of the year, such as civil unrest, could nonetheless result in significant losses. In fact, according to Verisk PCS, insured losses from civil unrest events totaled $2 billion in 2020—the largest figure since PCS record keeping began.  Therefore, not surprisingly, I have suggested the addition of civil unrest as a new issue to the 2021 bracket.

AB: Wow, didn't expect that.  OK, thanks Bractuary Bot!

BB: I've been batch processing all morning, so I'm going to power down for a bit. Let's chat soon.

Select your "winners"

While we may all hope that 2021 will be less….eventful….than 2020, the ISO Emerging Issues Bracket can help to frame many of the issues insurers and risk managers will likely confront as the year unfolds.

See and print the full 2021 ISO Emerging Issues bracket.

*Both Bractuary Bill and Bractuary Bot are fictional characters. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or an actual artificial intelligence system is purely coincidental.

Andrew Blancher, CPCU

Andrew Blancher, CPCU, is director of commercial automobile product development and Emerging Issues at Verisk. You can contact him at

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