Bridging the Protection Gap: Reflections from the International Forum of Terrorism Risk (Re)Insurance Pools (IFTRIP)


Sandy Warne , Head of Terrorism and Political Violence at Howden Re, attended IFTRIP’s annual meeting held in Washington D.C. from 23-25 April 2024. The forum serves as an international collaboration platform attended by academics, insurance industry partners, policy makers, and sovereign-backed terrorism reinsurance pools.

Over the three-day forum, these groups discussed the diverse and increasingly complex nature of risks associated with terrorism and resulting strategies for mitigating potential major economic losses resulting from the ever evolving, and increasingly unpredictable, threat landscape.

Here, Sandy shares her key take-seats and thoughts from the conference.

The 2024 Threat Landscape: A Complex Web

The discussions highlighted a stark reality: the spectrum of terrorism risk that the world faces is vast and multifaceted, fuelled by an increasingly complex, unstable, and volatile geopolitical landscape.

From the rise in lone-wolf attacks as tragically seen in recent events in Australia, to concerns of violence surrounding the upcoming South African elections in May, to the rise of heightened domestic extremism threat levels in the United States, both the genesis, and nature of potential terrorist activity is shifting.

Globally, this necessitates adjustments in anticipatory capabilities, insurance models, and public response strategies.

Social Media and Civilian Engagement in Political Processes

This elevated risk level is further compounded by social media’s influence in spreading misinformation and radicalising individuals. Social media is, therefore, both a political engagement tool and platform capable of igniting and escalating political violence, from election interferences to coordinating extremist activities.

With increased civilian engagement in social causes and political processes comes the potential for disputes to escalate into riots and civil unrest, particularly when exacerbated by geopolitical and social tensions.

With several pivotal elections and events, such as the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris on the horizon, these issues have come into sharp focus as the risk of attacks increase. The current threat landscape complicates the predictability of risk scenarios, posing significant challenges for insurers and reinsurers in accurately modelling and pricing their products.

Predicting the Unpredictable

We can’t mitigate what we can’t predict. Terrorism’s increasing unpredictability demands, from a (re)insurance perspective, that we rethink traditional risk management frameworks and develop more dynamic, flexible strategies that can anticipate and adapt to the fluid nature of terrorism risks.

For example, as Strikes, Riots, and Civil Commotion (SRCC) events become more frequent and severe, and as facets of terrorism evolve, specialised insurance products like active assailant policies, designed to address very specific risks, may quickly become outdated. As the world continues to change, so too must (re)insurance practices.

Combining technology, intelligence, and community engagement will increasingly be essential for predicting and preventing violence. By using data analytics to decode behavioural patterns linked to terrorism, we can refine our prevention strategies. Improved global intelligence sharing could also boost the predictive capabilities of both governments and private sectors.

Closing the Protection Gap: The Role of (Re)Insurance

With the escalation of extremist groups and domestic terrorism globally, closing the protection gap has become increasingly urgent. However, the rising unpredictability and evolving nature of terrorism poses significant challenges in bridging that gap.

Forums like IFTRIP play a key role in facilitating dialogue between the public sector, academia, and the (re)insurance industry. This is crucial for developing more responsive and comprehensive coverage solutions that reflect today’s threat landscape.

Only by continuing to innovate and modernise risk assessment models, can we create (re)insurance products that keep pace with these evolving threats, safeguard economies against such disruptions, and effectively bridge the protection gap. At Howden Re, our data analytics-driven approach to risk identification, prevention, and mitigation, coupled with the breadth of experience across our specialist teams, allows us to be resilient, forward-thinking, and flexible, creating tailored models and unique insights for each client.

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