Attitudes in Norwegian insurance companies towards sharing loss data

Background and research questions

Research has shown that loss data on asset level from insurance companies have high utility value for local municipalities. These data can foster better understanding of the risks linked to nature events and surface-water flooding, in turn facilitating well-informed choices on what areas to prioritize in implementing prevention measures.

The Norwegian Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) and Finance Norway, the organization for financial industry in Norway, co-operate in working to prevent undesirable nature events and in implementing preventive measures. DSB is developing a ‘knowledge bank’ that will compile and provide access to data on nature events and surface water flooding. The aim is to strengthen Norwegian municipalities and counties in their work on impact prevention and climate adaptation.Loss data from insurance companies are one type of data relevant for the planned knowledge bank. On this background, the research questions for the study reported here were:

  1. What are the attitudes to sharing loss data in Norwegian insurance companies?
  2. What does it take for insurance companies to be willing to share such data – with whom,on what level, and in what ways?
  3. What technical solutions are required to enable sharing of loss data from insurance companies on a digital platform?

Method

The project is based on qualitative interviews in Norway’s eight largest insurance companies in Norway, two of which responded via email. We had requested interviews with the management, the head of a professional division and the IT-responsible; the companies themselves selected the informants they deemed best suited to answer the interview guide. In total, 15 informants in the insurance business have given their views.

Attitudes to sharing of loss data

All except one of the companies say that they are willing to share their loss data on asset level, and most of them say that they are positive towards this. Some make this contingent on there being a sector-wide attitude for sharing (as seems to be the case). Most prefer there to be a requirement to share such data.

Willingness to share depends on how the data are treated.

Even if they are willing, some are sceptical to the value of sharing their loss data. They say that the problem regarding prevention measures is a question of other needs than the municipalities‘ need for loss data.

What does it imply for the insurance companies to share their loss data?

Restricted admission:

All the companies demand that their loss data must not be made available to other rival companies.

  • If other insurance companies had access, that might lead to price-fixing cartels and lack of competition.
  • Several companies mention fears that foreign companies would gain easy access to the Norwegian market if they could obtain such loss data.
  • Price is the most central element of competition in the insurance market. Costeffective management and service are not enough.

On the other hand, according to some informants, historical climate data mean less and less for setting the right prices, as climate change is making the weather more extreme than before. To a larger extent, one must consider various climate scenarios and employ new methods for rating.

Log-in and protection are extremely important. If too many stakeholders can obtain access to the data, it will be difficult to filter out undesirable persons. Access should be granted only to stakeholders who can utilize the loss data in prevention and climate adaptation work.

Governmental agencies may have access; however, the main target group must be the municipalities.

Consultants, researchers and students may have access through special arrangements that entail the obligation to maintain secrecy. According to some respondents, if the data are sufficiently aggregated, there should be no problem in giving access to outside consultants in connection with assisting the municipalities with prevention measures. One of the companies suggested that such persons could have limited access with only online viewing.

Protection of privacy

All companies are concerned with protection of privacy. Several of them mentioned implementation of the EU General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) that entered into force in May 2018. They have difficulty in understanding that sharing personal loss data will be legal.This would require a legal basis, and it would require the data to be aggregated on a level where no specific individuals could be identified. Furthermore, it must also be arranged so that insurance companies are not responsible for the information after it has been delivered. Interviewees expect this to be resolved without the data losing value: ‘address level in, aggregated level out’. The following aggregated level for the loss data is proposed: postcode, basic circuit.

  • Several of the companies noted that the purpose of data sharing must be clearly defined.
  • It should not be able to identify which insurance company has provided the loss data.

Administrator of the data

Interviewees think the administrator should be a public, independent organization in which society has confidence: the Directorate for Civil Protection (DSB) was mentioned as one possibility. Some interviewees said that the most important point is for the organization to be able to implement an IT structure that can satisfactorily ensure security.

Arrangement:

It will probably not be necessary to share loss data more than once a year. These should be closed cases, so that the sums are known. No company would demand payment for contributing to the knowledge base, unless the requirements for data quality proved too costly. The companies do not ask for anything in return; however, several representatives suggested that the municipalities commit themselves to preparing an action plan or to using the loss data for prevention measures. Other interviewees said that what they wanted in return was security that the data would remain protected and not made available to outsiders.

Conclusions and further follow-up

The study showed that 1) the largest insurance companies in Norway, representing more than 90 % of the market, are willing to share loss data with municipalities and governmental agencies working with prevention of risks and climate adaptation. They may deliver data on address level. However, 2) the output (public) data must be aggregated higher than address level: this is a clear condition. This point relates to the insurance company’s responsibility for protection of privacy for its customers; finding solutions to such legal questions is up to the public authorities. Log-in and commercial sensitivity are very important for the companies: only chosen entities should be allowed access. Interviewees prefer that responsibility for sharing data is imposed on the companies. 3) The process of company registration of loss data appears adequately digitalized for problem-free transfer of loss data.

Klima 2050 will follow up further work with insurance loss data for climate adaptation through case studies of municipalities.

Written by Hauge, Å, Flyen, C, Venås, C, Aall, C, Kokkonen, A, Ebeltoft.

The survey was initiated by Finans Norge and worked out together with Klima2050 (who did the interviews) and the Norwegian Civil Protection (DSB).