Swiss Re enlightens the industry in Japan Earthquake Forum

Swiss Re organised a Japan Earthquake Forum on 19 Oct 2011 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Tokyo with over 80 clients attended. Four experts on disasters from academia and insurance industry shared their viewpoints on future disaster counterstrategies and the risk acceptance of insurance companies, as well as future responses to earthquake risks based on cutting-edge theories.

Takashi Goda, Head Swiss Re Japan gave his opening speech, reflecting that the recent disasters not only illustrate the importance of insurance, but also remind our role in corporate social responsibility.

During the forum, earthquake geology expert Associate Professor Shinji Toda of Kyoto University presented the theme of "Seismic Activities: Lessons to be learnt from the East Japan Earthquake, and moving on", and debunked several popular myths about major earthquakes. For instance, large magnitude events occur only at relatively young subduction plates and high velocity of convergence. Since the 1980s, the seismological community had accepted this without dissent and no one thought that a M9 EQ could occur at Tohoku, as its subduction plate was relatively old. He pointed out that seismic activity spans much more than decades and that seismologists' community should not think within what is available and agreed.

Professor Fumihiko Imamura of Tohoku University Graduate School spoke about the tsunami that accompanied the earthquake and its impacts on society based on available meteorological records and field surveys to the affected area. A great tsunami always occurs together with a large-scale seaquake, which happens less frequent but catastrophic. With such a time scale, he mentioned that it is important to collect historical records from various sources including past tsunami debris by land drilling and local traditional pattern of tsunami risk.

Under the theme of "East Japan Earthquake and earthquake risk modeling", Dr Kazuya Fujimura from AIR Worldwide shared the modeling company’s experience and challenges in assessing insurance loss immediately after the event. The AIR model, like other vendor models available for Japan EQ, did not look into the M9 earthquake possibility in the Tohoku-oki region. Neither did the existing model include widespread liquefaction and widespread tsunami damage. Dr Fujimura indicated that from now on, there is the need to update their hazard model to include tsunamis and liquefactions, while also taking into consideration both the scale and occurrences of earthquakes and the effect of linked earthquakes.

Balz Grollimund, Swiss Re’s Earthquake Team Head discussed on the topic "Earthquake Insurance Underwriting", explaining the effect of earthquakes on the reinsurance market. He started with the current status of earthquake model capability with examples where he saw the shortcomings such as assessment of tsunami, liquefaction and aftershocks risks, and loss estimation of contingent business interruption. Going forward, to improve the capability of loss modelling, he pointed out that it was the industry needs to collect more detailed claims information from this event and to increase exposure transparency to assess geography specific risks like tsunami.

Following that, there was a Panel Discussion where the speakers answered questions such as "Was the risk analysis of tremors sufficient?", "Was there sufficient analysis of post-quake tsunami risks?", and "What can scientists and researchers do to deepen their understanding of earthquake and tsunami risks?" The discussion was a lively exchange of ideas on the current capability of assessing shake and Tsunami risks, and where we see changes needed to cope with future surprising events.

The seminar was wrapped up in the closing remark by Atsuhiro Dodo from Swiss Re Property & Specialty who summarised the half-day discussion. A cocktail reception was held thereafter to enable follow-up conversation and networking among speakers and all participants. The event was concluded in great success with 97% respondents rated good or excellent.

The Swiss Re Japan Earthquake Forum was well attended with over 80 participants exchanging knowledge and views on the country’s hottest topic.

Takashi Goda, Head Swiss Re Japan
made the welcome remarks to all the participants.

Balz Grollimund, Swiss Re’s Earthquake Team Head discussed on the topic "Earthquake Insurance Underwriting", explaining the effect of earthquakes on the reinsurance market.

Atsuhiro Dodo from Swiss Re Property & Specialty
hosted an interactive panel discussion with other speakers to explore the current capability of assessing earthquake and Tsunami risks.

Published December 2011

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