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One of the most spectacular, mass kidnap-for-ransom incidents occurred a little more than year ago on January 16, 2013. In the early morning hours in a remote area of Algeria, 32 heavily-armed terrorists entered the In Amenas gas plant. At the time, nearly 130 foreign workers were employed at the plant. They came from 30 different countries and represented numerous operators, contractors and subcontractors from 50 companies based around the world. No company or country’s workers were immune to the violence that day.  What was so surprising about the incident was the number of nationalities caught up in the attack and the geographic diversity of the workforce employed at In Amenas.

Whether one employee or hundreds of employees are deployed overseas, for short or long term assignments, there are unknown and unseen dangers in sending employees to foreign lands. Today, the largest proportion of recorded kidnappings takes place in Asia and the Pacific, particularly in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Philippines.  While Mexico remains the top country for kidnappings, the oil rich regions of Africa – Nigeria, Kenya, the Sudan, Mali and Libya – present significant risks as illustrated in the In Amenas example above. Following the Arab Spring and the civil war in Syria, the Middle East is once again among the riskiest places in the world. 

In Latin America, the most serious kidnap cases seem to be getting more protracted as hardened kidnappers have taken more care in choosing wealthier targets and become more patient.  According to Terra Firma Risk Management, a security consultancy firm, “express” kidnapping  has been steadily on the rise. Instead of negotiated ransoms, this quicker version involves fast, targeted grabs, followed by short periods of detention and smaller ransoms.  Kidnap Hot SpotsBalancing the risks and the rewards of global expansion

The risks – and rewards – of global expansion are massive for companies and employees working in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific regions. To protect employees and company facilities, most prudent multinational companies buy kidnap, ransom and extortion (KRE) coverage.

However, according to a recent Forbes magazine article, “there’s a Catch 22 to K&R coverage.” The employee isn’t supposed to know about the coverage. If they do, the coverage may not be valid. The whole point of a kidnapping is to collect a ransom and knowing that coverage exists could make the employee even more vulnerable to kidnapping.

KRE Coverage is available as part of a corporate insurance portfolio or as a stand-alone policy for family protection or marine piracy protection. XL Group has just introduced a comprehensive, new kidnap, ransom and extortion (KRE) crisis policy.  Covered incidents include not just kidnap-for-ransom, but extortion, hijack, wrongful detention, threat event, disappearance, express kidnap, hostage crisis, child abduction and assault. 

A unique feature of this coverage is that workplace violence is covered under XL’s definition of assault. Personal Accident limits are 100% of loss limit and there is no sub-limitation for loss of limb.

The policy covers reimbursement for the loss arising from a covered event and provides crisis management services from Terra Firma, a best-in-class security/response firm. Terra Firma offers pre-incident, real time and post-incident services to XL clients.

In addition, XL clients have access to a 24/7/365 dedicated Crisis Hotline and a dedicated crisis management underwriting and claims team.

What to do if you go

When an employee is traveling on business to an area where kidnap and other forms of crisis risk are common, here are a few recommendations that will help reduce their exposure:

  1. Be aware of your surroundings.
  2. Keep a low profile. Do not talk loudly or wear conspicuous clothes or jewelry. Be careful when speaking on the phone, especially on a mobile or in a public place.
  3. Do not carry large sums of money or all of your credit cards on you.
  4. Make copies of your passport, visas and tickets. Keep them separate from your passport, wallet, purse or other original documents.
  5. Do not discuss your plans or itinerary in public or with strangers. Do not advertise your corporate affiliations.

The real value of XL’s coverage is the security consultant that comes with the purchase of the policy. Amongst the services Terra Firma can provide, is training the company’s crisis management team on how to react, reviewing a company’s travel and safety protocols, and assisting in formulating a crisis response plan. In the event kidnappers strike, the internal crisis management team would be trained and in place and prepared to activate the crisis plan.


About the author. . .

Denise Balan  is US Country Manager for XL Group’s global Crisis Management team.  Her team provides products and services that respond to insured events related to Terrorism and Political Violence, Product Recall and Kidnap, Ransom & Extortion. 



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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.

US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

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.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.