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Survey Report

Insurance Marketplace Realities 2021 – Special contingency risks: kidnap and ransom

Financial, Executive and Professional Risks (FINEX)|Credit, Political Risk and Terrorism

November 18, 2020

The special risks insurance markets continue to reduce their exposure to cyber extortion events.

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Rate predictions: Special Contingency Risks - Kidnap and Ransom
  Trend Range
Special contingency risks – kidnap and ransom: Increase (Purple triangle pointing up) -5% to +5%

Key takeaway

The special risks insurance markets continue to reduce their exposure to cyber extortion events.

The pandemic has so far not had a direct impact on this insurance sector.

  • Criminals will likely continue to invest in schemes such as virtual kidnapping, and the continued economic impact of COVID-19 could lead to criminals becoming more desperate, leading to sporadic cases of kidnap for ransom targeting high-profile individuals. Such desperation possibly led to the brazen daytime attempted kidnap of a Chinese billionaire from his guarded villa in China’s Guangdong province in June.
  • Please review the following links for further detail in our full Global Kidnap and Mass Shooter Analysis During the Pandemic:

Insurers are adjusting policy language pertaining to cyber events that could be considered part of a ransom scenario.

  • Most insurers have now introduced blanket exclusions for cyber extortion, applying the exclusion on virtually all new business and renewal quotes.
  • Those still offering coverage for cyber extortion are being very selective. They have strong restrictions for industries deemed more susceptible to cyber extortion threats. These restrictions include:
    • Limiting policy coverage to reimbursement of ransom (per insured event and in the annual or policy aggregate) and crisis consultancy fees.
    • Excluding judgement, settlement and defense costs.
    • Limiting or excluding reimbursement of expenses.
    • Amending the “other insurance” clauses to clarify that coverage is to apply in excess of any other valid and collectible insurance.
  • For those few programs that do not have a cyber extortion exclusion, sublimits will apply to cyber extortion business interruption

Interest in active assailant coverage is growing.

  • Many kidnap and ransom (K&R) insurers, as well as insurers underwriting crisis management risks, are increasing their positions in the active assailant coverage market and have begun offering customized solutions (either via endorsement or stand-alone policies) with a focus on post-incident crisis management support, legal liability coverage, business interruption coverage (as a result of both physical and non-physical damage) and indemnification of a variety of incident-related expenses.
  • These solutions go beyond traditional terrorism and/or political violence coverage and are increasingly being used to complement traditional policies.

Kidnap trends

  • Rates of kidnap underwent a significant increase during the months of June, July and August as countries around the world eased their lockdown restrictions.
  • The tempo of kidnapping has largely returned to near pre-pandemic levels but, as always, kidnap risks continue to fluctuate with geopolitical and security developments.
  • Mexico has retained its position as the world’s kidnap hotspot.
  • Elsewhere in the Americas, traditional hotspots Colombia and Venezuela also saw high numbers of kidnaps, particularly in urban centers, areas historically associated with militias, and border regions.
  • Nigeria meanwhile suffered the second highest total of incidents, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Niger, Mozambique and Mali also featuring in the top 10, underscoring the risk of kidnap on the African continent.
  • Syria and Iraq have re-entered the top 10, following a spate of recent incidents.

The employment categories of victims provide an interesting insight into the development of kidnap trends as a result of the pandemic.

  • We have noted a dramatic increase in cases where relatives of prominent figures are being targeted, rather than the high-profile individual themselves, likely due to the relatives’ lighter security protection. On numerous occasions the relatives are identified and targeted as a consequence of relaxed attitudes to social media privacy as well as traditional surveillance. 
  • Perhaps because of the global pandemic and the stresses placed on logistics and supply chains, we have seen a significant increase in incidents involving transportation and shipping, rising to 18% of incidents logged.
  • Extractive industry workers, NGOs and security personnel consistently form a noteworthy percentage of victims.
  • Local nationals accounted for 87% of victims in the most recent quarter surveyed. This marks a 17% increase from before the pandemic, highlighting the impact of COVID-19 restricting the movement of people around the globe.
Percentage of kidnapping victims by industry type

Victim Industry


Willis Towers Watson hopes you found the general information provided in this publication informative and helpful. The information contained herein is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with your own legal advisors. In the event you would like more information regarding your insurance coverage, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. In North America, Willis Towers Watson offers insurance products through licensed subsidiaries of Willis North America Inc., including Willis Towers Watson Northeast Inc. (in the United States) and Willis Canada, Inc.


Philipp Seel
Special Contingency Risks, Inc.

Nicholas Barry
Special Contingency Risks, Inc.

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