Insurers struggle to get grip on burgeoning cyber risk market

Mon Jul 14, 2014 1:20pm EDT
 
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By Leigh Thomas and Jim Finkle

PARIS/BOSTON (Reuters) - Insurers are eagerly eyeing exponential growth in the tiny cyber coverage market but their lack of experience and skills handling hackers and data breaches may keep their ambitions in check.

High profile cases of hackers seizing sensitive customer data from companies, such as U.S. retailer Target Corp or e-commerce company eBay Inc, have executives checking their insurance policies.

Increasingly, corporate risk managers are seeing insurance against cyber crime as necessary budget spending rather than just nice to have.

The insurance broking arm of Marsh & McLennan Companies estimates the U.S cyber insurance market was worth $1 billion last year in gross written premiums and could reach as much as $2 billion this year. The European market is currently a fraction of that, at around $150 million, but is growing by 50 to 100 percent annually, according to Marsh.

Those numbers represent a sliver of the overall insurance market, which is growing at a far more sluggish rate. Premiums are set to grow only 2.8 percent this year in inflation-adjusted terms, according to Munich Re, the world's biggest reinsurer.

The European cyber coverage market could get a big boost from draft EU data protection rules in the works that would force companies to disclose breaches of customer data to them.

"Companies have become aware that the risk of being hacked is unavoidable," said Andreas Schlayer, responsible for cyber risk insurance at Munich Re. "People are now more aware that hackers can attack and do great damage to central infrastructure, for example in the energy sector."

Insurers, which have more experience handling risks like hurricanes and fires, are now rushing to gain expertise in cyber technology.   Continued...

 
A lock icon, signifying an encrypted Internet connection, is seen on an Internet Explorer browser in a photo illustration in Paris April 15, 2014.  REUTERS/Mal Langsdon