Insurers bet on Mother Nature and lost

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on March 04, 2022 Fact Checked
Insurers bet on Mother Nature and lost

Estimates from insurers such as Suncorp show Earth continues to blow provisions they've made for natural disasters out of the water.

Last Monday one of Australia's largest insurers, Suncorp, estimated the cost of the floods will amount to $75 million.

This is largely consistent with the group's deductible for triggering its reinsurance program - meaning insurance from other insurers.

This financial year the group forecast natural hazard costs to be around $1.075 billion.

At the time of its first half update (July through December 2021), it blew past its $490 million allowance by $205 million.

For the current year it increased its provision to $980 million.

As of 28 February the group had received more than 5,000 claims across NSW and Queensland.

"The next few weeks will be challenging for residents as they return to their homes, assess the damage and start the clean-up," Suncorp Group CEO Steve Johnston said.

"Our team of dedicated client managers for each major home claim is ready to help on the long road to recovery."

Insurance Australia Group (IAG), which underwrites insurers such as NRMA and CGU, estimates its losses will amount to $95 million - thought to totally erode its deductible.

In the first half of the financial year, IAG had reported insurance claims of $681 million - $299 million above its $382 million allowance.

Across its brands, IAG had received about 6,700 claims as of 1 March. 

See Also: How to claim flood disaster payments

How to bet on the weather

While not popular in Australia, one way to manage risk of weather events is through what's called a weather derivative or weather future.

In Australia they are also called weather certificates, and are most often used by farmers to manage risk.

This effectively transfers risk from an affected party to an unaffected party who trades in risk financially.

One such provider to offer weather derivatives is Grain Brokers Australia, which estimates up to 70% of agricultural risk in the country is related to weather.

For example, a grain farmer might estimate every 100mm in rain results in X amount of dollars in grain output lost.

They would then find a company willing to engage in this 'bet' with them.

Such exotic financial products are different from that insurance in that to trigger an insurance payout, a disaster usually needs to happen.

The Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) introduced its first weather future in 1999, and the ill-fated energy trading company Enron was the first to sell contracts online. 

The CME lists weather derivatives for 24 cities in the US, plus three cities in Australia. 

Before the Great Recession of 2007-2009 it was estimated the CME weather futures market was worth USD $19 billion.

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Photo by Alin Andersen on Unsplash

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Harrison is Savings.com.au's Assistant Editor. Prior to joining Savings in January 2020, he worked for some of Australia's largest comparison sites and media organisations. With a keen interest in the economy, housing policy, and personal finance, Harrison strives to deliver and edit news and guides that are engaging, thought-provoking, and simple to read.

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