Underwriting Exposures and Cyber-Insurance Evolution Examined by Fitch

Man holding virtual blue safe with lock icon and dial and the words CYBER INSURANCE in glass above a desk in an office

October 06, 2017 |

Man holding virtual blue safe with lock icon and dial and the words CYBER INSURANCE in glass above a desk in an office

Cyber-insurance has been a profitable business line for early market entrants and is a rapid growth segment, with global premium volume set to increase six- to eightfold within a decade, Fitch Ratings said in a September 27, 2017, report titled Cyber Insurance—Risks and Opportunities (Global Non-Life Insurer Underwriting Exposures Examined).

Among other facets, the report reveals the following.

Challenges Faced by Insurers and Policyholders

  • Cyber-insurance is an emerging business line that presents unique, new risks for insurers.
  • Limited historical loss data creates difficulty in pricing coverage.
  • The nature of cyber-risk and the wide variety of potential cyber-events add to challenges in quantifying risk aggregations and catastrophe loss potential.
  • A lack of standardized policy language and terms can also lead to meaningful differences in individual insurers' product offerings, which is a source of confusion and uncertainty for policyholders.
  • Insurers that lack cyber-underwriting expertise, poorly manage their risk accumulations, or fail to recognize loss potential from "silent" cyber-exposure in their traditional commercial insurance products could face pressure on earnings, capital, or even ratings, if large loss scenarios emerge as the market expands.
  • Unduly large cyber-risk aggregations of specific insurers may not become evident until after a large or catastrophic cyber-event.

Key Underwriting Factors

The report identifies the following key factors to consider for underwriting cyber-insurance risk. These factors are described in more detail within the report.

  • Types of data handled
  • Past loss experience
  • Data protection and controls
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity plans
  • Risk of suppliers, vendors, and business partners
  • Website activity and content

Diversification Benefits Less Apparent

The benefits of geographical diversification for an insurer's credit profile are not necessarily as strong for cyber-exposure relative to other insurance lines. Recent ransomware attacks show that digital interconnectedness across the world can lead to a very wide geographic footprint for a single cyber-disaster. Risk concentrations may be more correlated to factors other than industry or geography, such as concentrated exposure to one electronic payment processor or firewall system.

Recent Notable Cyber-Incidents

The report identifies the following notable recent cyber-incidents and identifies the type of cyber-risk presented with each incident.


Fitch Study list of cyber incidents in blue

Source: Cyber Insurance—Risks and Opportunities, Fitch Ratings, September 2017.

Growth Drivers and the State of the Cyber-Market in the United States and Europe

  • The global market for stand-alone cyber-coverage is estimated to have grown to between $2.5 billion and $3.5 billion annually.
  • Growth is driven by increasing risk and awareness of cyber-attacks, such as the theft of an estimated 143 million individuals' personal data from credit monitoring agency Equifax between May and July 2017.
  • More active cyber-regulation in the United States is a prime factor behind an estimated 90 percent of global cyber-premium originating there.
  • Developing cyber-regulation in Europe and elsewhere is likely to spark demand for coverage.
  • The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) implementation in May 2018 will introduce more stringent notification requirements that increase awareness of the prevalence of data breaches.
  • The GDPR will also expose organizations to large fines for data breaches—up to 4 percent of turnover—although it is not clear whether insurance would be allowed to cover these.

Fitch Ratings Implications

Fitch expects cyber-insurance business to be ratings neutral for most highly rated insurers with sound underwriting, particularly as it represents a relatively modest percentage of individual insurers' overall premium volume and risk exposure.

Read the report (registration is required for access).

October 06, 2017