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The COVID-19 pandemic affected the way businesses of all types had to work and the risks that they faced. Against this backdrop, insurance innovation adapted and accelerated to help clients meet these challenges. Hélène Stanway, Digital Leader at AXA XL, explains more. 

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the way clients had to manage their risks, and the solutions they looked for from their insurance partners? 

The COVID-19 pandemic, and the lockdown of many areas of the economy across the globe, had a huge and immediate effect on the risks that many clients faced and the way they had to manage them. The restrictions on the movement of people meant that businesses of all types had to change the way they worked. Many had to make the switch to having large numbers of colleagues working from home, others had to idle facilities. 

And some clients changed the very nature of what they produced; for example, some clothing manufacturers produced masks and medical clothing, drinks companies produced hand sanitiser, engineering companies worked on medical equipment, and so on. Our risk engineering teams worked to find ways to help clients to manage and transfer the new risks associated with these changes in activity. This also affected the way we innovate; we accelerated some projects, adapted others, and found new ways to look at certain problems. 

How did innovation efforts adapt to the situation? Did the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown prompt new ways of innovating around risk management and transfer? 

Innovation did not stop during the lockdown period; indeed, in many instances innovation was accelerated by the changed and unprecedented circumstances caused by COVID-19. For example, the restriction on the movement of people sparked the idea for us to rethink and completely virtualise our risk innovation incubator – Cube.

Cube was launched late last year and involves clients and risk experts working together to co-create solutions to the most complex risks. The Cube process involves a series of workshops which previously would have been face-to-face. Rather than simply adapt things temporarily, we completely reviewed  the process to make it entirely virtual – an evolution that we think will continue to benefit clients in the future. 

We also were able to accelerate innovation projects that were already in the works to help clients to adapt to the changed circumstances. For example, we piloted our Digital Risk Engineer solution, which monitors buildings’ health when they are unoccupied. 

How does the Digital Risk Engineer work and how will it help risk managers to monitor the condition of their buildings?

The Digital Risk Engineer uses the Internet of Things to monitor buildings and assets 24/7. The solution “listens” to your building management systems and other control systems, like energy, utilities and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Using a device installed in the client’s facility, the Digital Risk Engineer captures data about stresses on systems, the impact of weather changes on the internal environment, system control efficiency, how systems are working and whether they are conflicting with each other in any way, and much more. 

This data is fed through to our unique dashboard, which can be accessed by both AXA XL and the client, to give 24/7 insights into the building’s health.

During periods when a building is unoccupied, or only partially occupied, these insights can be even more useful. Because monitoring is 24/7, risks are identified in real-time, meaning that repair or modification can take place more quickly. This should not only help to prevent accidents, it also means that operations are interrupted for shorter periods of time – or even that interruptions are avoided altogether – thanks to early detection. And there are other benefits too. The system enables our risk engineers to offer insights without having to perform physical site visits; this reduces cost and makes the process much more efficient. The combination of constant remote monitoring, and insights and visits from risk engineers adds even greater oversight of risk. We are currently working with clients on a wider pilot of the Digital Risk Engineer and the solution will launch in 2021.

Going forward, how do you see innovation adapting to the “new normal” of however the world of risk looks after COVID-19?

Innovation will keep happening, and it will probably continue to happen at a faster pace as we all look to adapt to the changing world around us. 

Several of the innovations we have been working on have been accelerated by the pandemic and its effects. For example, we have been exploring the use of wearable tech for workers in certain industries that will help them to ensure that social-distancing measures are observed. 

We also have been exploring new ways that sensors can help manage risks associated with the transport of vaccines – a vital industry as medical scientists search for ways to combat the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a humanitarian crisis on an unprecedented scale and has forced us all to look at things differently. Innovation in risk assessment, management and transfer will play a hugely important role as we all adapt to the changed and changing world in which we find ourselves. 

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  • Digital Leader, AXA XL
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Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. AXA XL Risk. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any publication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with this publication, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

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In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
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