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A standard definition for resilience is "the ability to respond to and recover from misfortune or change." In the past few years, businesses worldwide have witnessed much misfortune and change, including numerous record-breaking natural disasters. In response, AXA XL and AXA Climate have developed innovative and integrated capabilities, including a Risk Scanning solution and a risk monitoring application called CYMO, to strengthen companies' resilience against natural perils.

Fast Fast Forward recently spoke with Maxime Ambourg and Huu-An Pham about how companies can deploy Risk Scanning and CYMO to improve their responses to and recovery from natural disasters, including hurricanes/typhoons, earthquakes/tsunamis and wildfires.

First, why is resilience such a priority for companies today?

Maxime Ambourg: Now more than ever, employees want to work for companies that respect their values, their diversity and the environment. Clients want to partner with firms that understand and care about their businesses. Finally, climate change is inescapable. In the years and decades ahead, companies will be compelled to assess their operating models and business processes not just in terms of efficiency or productivity, but also in the context of their broader responsibilities to society.

Regarding natural disasters, there is abundant evidence showing that, in some part of the world, some weather-related perils are becoming more frequent or severe, and costly. To cite just one of the many available statistics, the total cost of natural catastrophes from 2000 to 2009 was USD 1.8 trillion. Over the following ten years, that amount grew to USD 3.0 trillion.

These realities reinforce the need for companies, especially large, multinational organizations, to focus on concerted efforts to improve their ability to respond to and recover from natural disasters. I would also note that such investments have a societal benefit and are cost-effective. According to one recent study, a dollar spent on improving disaster resilience returns six dollars in savings.

How do Risk Scanning and CYMO help companies bolster their resilience to natural disasters?

Maxime Ambourg: Actions taken to increase resilience have three distinct components or phases: anticipate, respond and recover. The anticipation phase is where AXA XL's Risk Scanning solution is at the forefront. It is also the most important component. It encompasses assessing the risks, prioritizing the needs and preparing in advance. The decisions and actions taken here establish the frameworks for reducing the severity of a natural disaster and ensuring faster, more robust recovery efforts.

The Risk Scanning process starts by analyzing an extensive portfolio of properties/assets based on data from the client and external sources. We use risk assessment algorithms that quantify and benchmark the perils associated with specific assets. The assessment's key elements include exposure to different risks given a site's location and other asset-specific factors such as occupancy, construction type, property height and age. The potential direct and indirect financial impacts are then calculated based on the type of disaster and its severity, relying on peril-specific, proprietary risk modeling platforms.

The output is a consistent picture of relative risk levels for the overall portfolio and individual sites. From there, clients can allocate their resources more efficiently and make targeted investments in prevention, preparation and—as Huu-An will describe—ongoing monitoring. In that next phase, clients typically work with our risk engineers to identify and implement practical and cost-effective solutions to prevent or minimize potential impacts and to develop/update disaster-response and business-continuity plans.

Many companies have been undertaking risk assessment exercises for some time now. What's new here?

Maxime Ambourg: Yes, the generic process I just sketched out—assess, prioritize, prepare—isn't new. However, our Risk Scanning solution capitalizes on new tools and technologies, including machine reading applications and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. With these, we can collect, analyze and synthesize massive amounts of data from disparate sources, and do so faster and more economically than previously.

The expanding network of high-resolution satellites in orbit today also enables us to predict hurricanes/typhoons, floods, windstorms and wildfires much earlier and with greater precision. Earthquakes are still very difficult to predict. With hailstorms, however, new geospatial technologies can provide at least a few hours of advance warning. We also better understand the factors influencing the pace and quality of disaster response efforts, including the value of risk prevention/remediation. As I noted before, spending on disaster resilience delivers a substantial return-on-investment.

What is CYMO and how does it complement the Risk Scanning solution?

Huu-An Pham: The word CYMO comes from Greek mythology. CYMO was one of the Nereids, a group of sea nymphs who often accompanied Poseidon and helped sailors. Her superpower was the ability "to still the wind and calm the seas." More matter-of-factly, in the crucial periods before, during and after a natural disaster, CYMO helps clients make the right decisions to minimize losses and foster resilience.

CYMO works by harnessing the collective intelligence of dozens of climate and weather experts around the world, a 365/24/7 Operations team. This team relies on a global network of satellites, drones and social networks to gather a view of an event and risk. We also integrate this external information with a client's organizational charts, disaster-response and business-continuity plans and, to the extent possible, information on its supplier networks. All of these come together to provide a 360-degree view of a natural disaster in real-time.

Although clients can access CYMO on a standalone basis, combining it alongside the Risk Scanning solution yields better outcomes. For example, say a client has tens if not hundreds of facilities around the world. Monitoring all of them with CYMO likely would consume a significant portion of its risk management budget. However, after conducting a portfolio analysis using Risk Scanning, clients will have a clearer, more detailed view of where and why big losses can occur. For instance, that could include an operation in the U.S. exposed to hurricanes, a site in an earthquake-prone region in Turkey, and a warehouse in Southeast Asia where cyclones are a regular occurrence. In other words, places where extra vigilance is warranted.

How does CYMO help clients before, during and after an event?

Huu-An Pham: Once CYMO "sees" that something could be in the offing, the system sends targeted alerts to the relevant people via SMS, email and/or phone. The notifications tell them what to expect and outline the steps they should initiate based on predictions about how the event will unfold. That guidance also is enriched by the disaster-response and business-continuity plans developed or updated with the Risk Scanning solution. These alerts become increasingly detailed and impact specific as more and more data about the event are processed by CYMO 24/7 Operations team. To Maxime's previous point, while seismic activity could hint that something is imminent, earthquakes typically occurs without warning.

Throughout a disaster, we mobilize all of CYMO's capabilities so that clients can make the right decisions and take the right actions to minimize losses. Perhaps most important, CYMO collects and synthesizes imagery collected during and immediately after the event from satellites, drones and social media networks. That allows us to develop and quickly deliver a precise visual-assessment map showing four distinct damage levels: destroyed, major, minor and affected. This capability is especially relevant when the damage is widespread, and clients need to consider how, for example, damaged or destroyed infrastructure could impede disaster response efforts. This visual assessment map of the Beirut harbor explosion shows how CYMO can provide vital insight into the situation on-the-ground after a natural disaster.

To sum up, AXA XL's Risk Scanning solution and AXA Climate's CYMO application leverage new technologies and the expertise of risk engineers, climate scientists, modeling experts and claims managers experienced in disaster recovery. These tools and capabilities increase clients' ability to respond to and recover from natural disasters by helping them:

  • assess all or part of their portfolio
  • prioritize sites where the risks are most significant
  • prepare/update site-specific disaster-response and business-continuity plans
  • monitor sites around the clock and intensively once a natural disaster appears imminent
  • stay informed as the event progresses
  • implement the response plans
  • assess the damages
  • start the recovery effort.

Or, more simply, to still the wind and calm the seas.

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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.