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Call for team approach as more risk falls on companies, individuals 

Accessible, affordable insurance is “not something any business or individual can take for granted”, Zurich’s Geoff Summerhayes has warned. 

The insurer’s Australia and New Zealand chairman says climate change and chronic diseases, as well as policy, regulation and reputational issues, are pushing risks and losses from insurers to governments and “worryingly” to individuals. 

“Private individuals and companies themselves in many cases must simply absorb losses, expenses, income impacts, injury or death and try to move on,” he told the Zurich Accelerate Strategy & Leadership Conference. “That’s a problem for insurers, it’s a far bigger problem for governments and society. 

“We are seeing, in real time, a transfer of risk back onto businesses and individuals, with governments as a safety net, in which case the costs are passed back ... via the tax system. Unchecked and unaddressed, this shift, and concentration of risk, can have a damaging impact on communities and our economy.” 

Mr Summerhayes wants to lift resilience by leveraging the interconnectedness of businesses, governments, citizens and insurers via “genuine risk sharing”. 

“National prosperity is a team sport – as an industry we have an important role to play,” he said, adding insurer intelligence “remains largely untapped” and the “brand of insurance” would benefit from more open sharing of where customers are exposed and what changes could increase their resilience.  

“How could we model that risk with, say, AI and show how risk evolves over time, not just one year to the next, but through a business cycle and over a decade?” he said. “There is a significant leadership opportunity for the insurance industry if we adapt and work with businesses, governments, citizens on the great challenges of our time.”