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Willis Research Network Newsletter – Q1 2020

Aerospace|Risk & Analytics|Corporate Risk Tools and Technology|Cyber Risk Management|Environmental|Marine|Property|Reinsurance
Climate Risk and Resilience|COVID 19 Coronavirus|Geopolitical Risk

March 24, 2020

In this spring newsletter, you will find a selection of topics showing the variety of research partnerships facilitated by the Willis Research Network.

Welcome to our first quarterly newsletter of 2020.

Earlier this year the World Economic Forum published its 15th Global Risk Report 2020 ahead of its conference in Davos, which Willis Towers Watson attended as a strategic partner. For the first time, climate change and environmental risks rank in the top 5 in terms of likelihood (and 4 out of the top 5 in terms of impact). Interestingly, infectious diseases had not featured amongst the top risks over the last few years, either in terms of likelihood and impact. I suspect the survey will look very different next year.

2020 is still set to be a “climate action” year. In January in Davos, Willis Towers Watson launched Climate QuantifiedTM, a new offering which combines the deep weather expertise, climate analytical experience from our (re)insurance and investment colleagues with leading-edge academic research via the Willis Research Network. Our long-standing focus on climate research differentiates between seasonal climate variability (see the European windstorm seasonal forecast review below) and longer term climate change trends and their impacts - more on this in the next newsletter.

Yet it will not detract our attention from other important research themes, featured in this newsletter: we reflect on a structured approach to the impact of pandemics against a background of “infodemic”; we also shine a light on the little-known risk of tailings dam failure.

And we continue to explore applications of research to specific industries: geopolitical risk scenarios for the renewable energy market and for the marine industry. Finally, we are delighted to coordinate a new project with our Airport Risk Community (ARC) and our long-standing partner, the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies to identify, quantify and benchmark disruptive threats to airports across the globe. The results of this study will be shared at our 2020 Airport Conference in Budapest in September.

In light of the new Coronavirus outbreak, many companies, including Willis Towers Watson, have been cancelling travel and attendance of large events until further notice. Therefore we will postpone our planned series of seminars / webinars. Instead we will soon launch our Willis Research Network Digital Dialogues, a new guest blog series putting key questions to a panel of in-house experts and Willis Research Network partners.

As ever, we hope that you find something of interest in this newsletter, and feel free to get in touch if you are curious to know more.

Hélène Galy
Managing Director
Willis Research Network

Table of Contents

  1. 01

    Geopolitics of pandemics: Diagnosing threats to organizational resilience

    Lucy Stanbrough | February 21, 2020

    COVID19 – (Coronavirus) continues to show how pandemic risks are frontier less. Climate change, global travel patterns, technology advances, animal-borne diseases and the rise of multi-drug resistant organisms all contribute to the interconnectedness, frequency and scale of risks. The Willis Research Network outlines some of the direct and indirect connections that are starting to unfold from this outbreak, and how science can aid contingency planning, highlighting research by one of our partners, Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies at the Judge Business School.

  2. 02

    The eye of the storm for flood risk models

    Nalan Senol Cabi and Prof. Hayley Fowler | March 17, 2020

    The march is on to reflect more frequent, high intensity rainstorms in the flood risk models that insurers and infrastructure planners use. The combined effects of three back-to-back, named storms – Ciara, Dennis and Jorge – made last month the wettest February in the UK since records began in 1862. Nalan Cabi, Senior Lead Flood Specialist at Willis Re and WRN partner Professor Hayley Fowler, Newcastle University talk through the need to reflect more frequent, high intensity rainstorms in the flood risk models that insurers and infrastructure planners use.

  3. 03

    Tailings facilities and dam failure from a risk management and insurance perspective

    Dr. Stephen Edwards and Katrin Hayduk | March 11, 2020

    Tailings have historically been used by mining companies to construct dams that support their operations. This makes them relatively cheap to build, but potentially inherently weak and susceptible to seepage. The latest Willis Research Network blog from our Earth hub supports thinking with our Natural Resources group to consider why most failures have occurred when facilities are active, and considers some of the implications for risk management.

  4. 04

    Spring has sprung, but have we seen the last of this year’s winter storms?

    Geoffrey Saville | March 16, 2020

    As the European storm season draws to a close, we reflect on the major events of the winter, their predictability, and discuss them in the context of climate change.

  5. 05

    Geopolitics at sea: Navigating threats to the marine industry

    Lucy Stanbrough | January 22, 2020

    Modern day pirates present a significant geopolitical risk to shipowners and the marine industry - as the 162 incidents recorded in 2019 attest. The latest Willis Research Network blog for the geopolitical risk initiative challenges thinking on the risks and opportunities associated with alternative futures for the design of autonomous ships, global supply chains, and the polar silk road.

  6. 06

    What you should know about the changing cyber risk

    Elisabeth Braw | December 20, 2019

    Imagine the paralysis in major cities today if the internet was disabled. Refined Kitten and the growing number of other state-sponsored hackers pose that threat. Willis Research Network Partner, Elisabeth Braw who directs the Modern Deterrence project at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), talks through how companies, not just governments, have a role to play in increasing cybersecurity.

  7. 07

    Renewable energy market review 2020

    Robin Somerville | February 4, 2020

    Renewable energy is not just at the behest of geopolitics, but is creating waves of its own. Three scenarios created by the Willis Research Network explore how new challenges and risks are emerging that, if not managed correctly, can threaten the very viability and long-term profitability of projects.

  8. 08

    Willis Research Network Spotlight series: Elisabeth Braw

    Elisabeth Braw of Willis Research Network partner, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), directs its Modern Deterrence project focusing on how governments, business and civil society can work together to strengthen countries' defence against existing and emerging threats. Elisabeth discusses how the partnership works, how their research is applied to our industry, and anticipated areas of cutting-edge research in the next five to 10 years.


Hélène Galy
Managing Director of Willis Research Network
Research Manager: People Risks

Stuart Calam
Programme Director of Willis Research Network
Research Manager: Technology Risks

Research Manager: Weather and Climate Risks and Flood Risks

Geoff joined Willis Towers Watson in 2013, and works with the Willis Research Network stakeholders and academic partners to match business needs to the latest in scientific research, and derive tangible outputs for Willis Towers Watson to help advise its clients to advance their understanding of risk from weather and climate related hazards.

His background is in meteorology and climate science, having worked in forecasting for over a decade for the UK Met Office and Bermuda Weather Service, in all aspects of delivering forecast services from media broadcasting to delivering warnings and actionable guidance on extreme weather phenomena such as tropical cyclones and heavy rainfall leading to flooding.

He holds a BSc in Environmental Science from the University of East Anglia, and a Masters (with distinction) in Climate Change from University College London. He is also an active Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Research Manager: Earthquake, Volcanic, Tsunami and Geological Risks

Rosa joined Willis in 2016, as a subject matter expert in catastrophe risk management for the WRN. Since then, she has been creating and managing a large network of international partnerships between the scientific community and industry stakeholders, to foster innovation and shape service offering through science.

She is an award-winning PhD statistician (UPC), has an MS in Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research (NYU), and a Bs in Business Administration (USC). She is an international reference in the volcanology community for 10+ years of research on probabilistic modelling of volcanic risk for decision-making, has a tracked record of publications in international peer-reviewed journals, and contributions to several books.

Before that, she spent 10+ years in the corporate sector (JP Morgan Chase, GE Capital) applying predictive modelling and data science to credit risk quantification, price optimization, portfolio risk management, capital allocation, and risk rating. She lived and worked in four different countries and speaks five languages.

Lucy Stanbrough
Research Manager: Emerging Risks

Digital Marketing Coordinator

Setareh has a background in Psychology and Marketing Coordination. Her masters focused on digital marketing management and communications. She has marketing experience in a variety of sectors including the charity and the retail industries. Her role within Willis Towers Watson is to oversee, manage and coordinate all of the marketing and digital activities for Willis Research Network and its affiliates.

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