Insurance firm's niche focus reaps rewards

Jackie Chan's movies, Taylor Swift's concerts and David Beckham's feet have all been insured by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. AGCS group chief executive Chris Fischer says the firm wants to grow premiums from Asia to €500 million (S$807.5 m
Jackie Chan's movies (above), Taylor Swift's concerts and David Beckham's feet have all been insured by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Jackie Chan's movies, Taylor Swift's concerts and David Beckham's feet have all been insured by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. AGCS group chief executive Chris Fischer says the firm wants to grow premiums from Asia to €500 million (S$807.5 m
Jackie Chan's movies, Taylor Swift's concerts ( above) and David Beckham's feet have all been insured by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Jackie Chan's movies, Taylor Swift's concerts and David Beckham's feet have all been insured by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. AGCS group chief executive Chris Fischer says the firm wants to grow premiums from Asia to €500 million (S$807.5 m
Jackie Chan's movies, Taylor Swift's concerts and David Beckham's feet ( above) have all been insured by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. PHOTOS: GOLDEN VILLAGE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
Jackie Chan's movies, Taylor Swift's concerts and David Beckham's feet have all been insured by Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty. AGCS group chief executive Chris Fischer says the firm wants to grow premiums from Asia to €500 million (S$807.5 m
AGCS group chief executive Chris Fischer says the firm wants to grow premiums from Asia to €500 million (S$807.5 million) by 2020.

Movies, events, sports among Allianz speciality arm's targets in expansion of enterprise risk management

James Bond movies, Taylor Swift's concerts, Jackie Chan's hits, David Beckham's foot and Kim Kardashian's glorious posterior all have one thing in common - insurance.

They have been insured at some point by German insurance giant Allianz Group's corporate arm, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS), which focuses on large risks in several industries and corporate fields.

The unit is a market leader in entertainment insurance, with a 30 per cent share in the United States, AGCS group chief executive Chris Fischer told The Straits Times in a recent exclusive interview.

"Entertainment is a speciality risk. You may say, what's it got to do with global corporate (insurance)? We do productions and live events in music, sports... Why does this matter also to corporates?

"Corporates also organise events, commercials, advertisements and such, so as an expansion of enterprise risk management, we can now bring in that expertise too."

Mr Fischer acknowledged that these projects may not bring in "big-ticket premiums in the corporate relationship", but they allow AGCS to address an additional concern that risk managers have.

While he was unable to reveal the premiums for specific celebrities, The Belfast Telegraph noted in 2014 that Ms Kardashian allegedly insured her behind for US$21 million (S$28.5 million).

  • €7.6b

    The premiums Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty collected at the end of last year.

Time magazine revealed in 2010 a £100 million (S$175.4 million) deal for Mr Beckham's feet and possible disfigurement.

Mr Fischer noted: "In entertainment, it is not just Hollywood productions but Bollywood as well, and, beyond that, it is also about private productions by firms like Netflix or animated movies where you need computers.

"We also cover smaller events and motor sports but not Formula One, and that has been developing nicely."

Besides covering total loss risks, such as an airline crash or a building fire, AGCS also covers corporate issues such as business interruption, cyber risks and reputation risks, among others.

AGCS has been growing its global footprint over the years, capitalising especially on Asia's growth.

Mr Fischer said: "Being global refers to just one balance sheet, one capital base, talent pool... it all adds up to a common approach to the markets you are in.

"You get exactly the same thing whether you are in Singapore, China or Germany."

This strategy has played an important role, especially over the last 10 years, where there is a lot of activity in growth markets in Asia.

AGCS was set up in 2006 and was in nine countries, with some 1,600 employees. It is now in 32 countries, with more than 70 locations and about 5,000 employees.

Its premiums came in at €7.6 billion (S$12.3 billion) at the end of last year, "a multiple of what we started out with", said Mr Fischer.

Asia contributed to €350 million worth of premiums last year and for the first half of this year, it was €200 million - of which 40 per cent was booked in Singapore.

He added: "By 2020, we want that to grow to €500 million, and that is going to come from China and our expansion into South Korea, Indonesia and so on."

The scene has also changed since 2006, when its business was heavily dominated by property and liability insurance.

The engineering portfolio has grown, along with other emerging risks such as in the cyber sector, for instance.

"The cyber market is big... look at how many events have happened and there is a lot we don't even know about," said Mr Fischer.

"So we will work on the asset protection side and provide funds, but we will also work with our partners on forensic research. And look at what a firm can do to improve its set-up and rehearse what happens if a cyber event occurs."

Although there is no scientific evidence to back this up yet, Mr Fischer said AGCS has seen that if there is a cyber attack and a listed company declares it has cyber protection measures in place, there would not be "volatility in the stock price".

As a result, he said, issues of cyber risk have been of great interest to C-suite executives.

Another emerging risk has to do with reputation, and can be caused by events like product recalls, such as when Volkswagen had to recall more than 450,000 sport utility vehicles in the United States because of faulty fuel-pump parts.

Mr Fischer said: "The simple thing is paying for the goods to come back and replace them but the bigger item attached to that is reputational risk."

It may be just one product, but consumers will start to question others.

So besides the usual services provided, AGCS has an ecosystem involving specialised firms, such as those that can work with affected brands to "reach out to clients or rebrand the name".

Mr Fischer stressed: "Again, if companies can demonstrate that they have rehearsed, have cover in place and thought through a crisis scenario, those stock prices do not deteriorate. "

He added that post-event, the stock prices can actually increase "because there is greater belief in the enterprise risk management of the client - and that is the approach we put to the forefront".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2017, with the headline 'Insurance firm's niche focus reaps rewards'. Print Edition | Subscribe