Global insurance broker Willis uses geospatial information to help customers manage complex asset risk, supply chains and prepare for catastrophic event. One of Willis’ latest client developments is a unique risk management solution for its corporate clients – called Atlas that harnesses risk information and analytics expertise gained through the Willis Research Network. Atlas’s highly visual interactive environment allows users to quickly and easily identify where threats are and what could help reduce them.
Company boards, CFOs and corporate risk managers are more interested than ever in forecasting and planning for the impact of serious events and disasters. Preparing for and responding in the right way to the effects of a major incident can be the difference between a company surviving or failing. As a result, good risk management is now seen as a significant competitive advantage. This is where Willis, one of the world’s largest insurance brokers based in London, England, comes in. Willis has created proprietary software solutions by creating an infrastructure based on Esri technology, including ArcGIS for server and ArcGis Online, that help their customers assess natural catastrophe, man-made and internal threats across their asset base, and limit their exposure to property risk arising from these, such as building, stock and machinery damage or business interruption.
A global view of worldwide risk
“When evaluating risk at a global scale, there is a lot of information, and it can be hard to deal with,” said Nigel Davis, Willis. “Our clients need information they can make use of, and get to the detail very quickly.”
Willis chose ArcGIS as the basis for their comprehensive suite of products because the platform supports the creation of simple applications that gives many people access to useful tools quickly and easily. “This is the thing that I love about Esri’s tools,” says Davis, “there is an application or API to suit every type of situation and user within the company. When our customers use our spatial tools they learn more about their own business data – this is the interesting part.”
These tools are extensible, cloud-based and easily customised, and best yet, provide a view into information based on where it is. “Maps that show the interaction of hazards and business locations are the most important part of our analysis,” says Nick Charteris, Willis Global Markets. “Once we understand this, we can drill down and look at interactions and really ask questions that challenge a client’s business.”
Unlocking the potential of spatial information
Willis has used ESRI technologies in risk modeling and assessment for over 15 years and started their journey using ArcView and ArcInfoworkstation to build their own models. The company has made the journey from desktop to web technologies in partnershipwith Esri, embracing each generation of products as they arrived.
The step-change happened in 2010 when the reinsurance part of the business created eNCOMPASS Online, a web-based application enabling its account executives and insurance clients to view their insured locations in relation to major natural catastrophe risks across the globe. 2010 was expected to be a very active year for tropical storms and in a few months, eNCOMPASS Online was contstructed as a forecasting system before being used more widely in response to events such as the 2011 Japan tsunami. Today, the use of location intelligence, mapping and analysis is being used more widely across other areas of the business. These analytics become an integral part of Willis’ technical infrastructure empowering Willis employees and clients alike with new ideas and innovations.
An Atlas for an organisation
One of Willis’ latest client developments is a unique risk management solution for its corporate clients – called Atlas that harnesses risk information and analytics expertise gained through the Willis Research Network. The Network is the academic and analytical arm of Willis, and provides a working partnership with other organisations including the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR), a strategic framework adopted by UN member states at the beginning of the century. The ISDR guides and coordinates the efforts of a wide range of partners to achieve a substantive reduction in disaster losses. Tapping into this resource, Willis is able to offer corporates with a unique view of their property risks and those of their key suppliers.
Atlas gathers and interprets a range of freely available and proprietary data sets, which are blended with a client’s own risk information, to deliver deep insights into a company’s risk profile around the world. Atlas’s highly visual interactive environment allows users to quickly and easily identify where threats are and what could help reduce them.
Willis’ engineers use their sector specific expertise to visit sites and make practical recommendations about appropriate risk mitigation measures. These recommendations, and further key data about structures and facilities at the site, called Risk Engineering data, and their status, are tracked by Atlas over time so they can be managed on an on-going basis.
By using Atlas as part of their regular workflow, corporate risk managers can easily visualise how a range of different risks can adversely affect their property and asset portfolios. Atlas extends these risk management features to the production supply chain of an organisation. This can help a risk manager to raise awareness within his/her own company about key risks and secure the appropriate investment from the board to respond to the risk recommendations logged against each site. Responding to these recommendations provides proof to the insurance market that risks are being actively managed and can be viewed in a more favorable light.
A risk manager can, for example, layer spatial risk information such as tropical storms, floods and earthquakes over their global asset map to quickly illustrate how, why and where they are exposed. By pinpointing potential “at risk” locations in this way Atlas enables identification of the company’s risk “hot spots”. This helps a risk manager relate the insured values of assets at the site to the relative level of risk, to estimate the potential costs of loss and therefore the necessary sums to be insured.
Atlas empowers risk managers to take proactive control of the risks they face. It highlights strengths, weaknesses and where improvements need to be made in a company’s asset protection program. This helps a risk manager prioritise his/her investments in risk control and mitigation and improves the overall resiliency of the company to disasters. In addition, this increased visibility over potential risks and the corresponding improvements in the company’s risk management program helps Willis brokers to secure a much more competitive insurance premium from the commercial insurance market.