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10 May 19 18:25

This year, May 2’nd & 3’rd, for
the first time the National Bureau of Economic Research [https://www.nber.org/] organized a conference meeting on the impacts of Blockchain, Distributed Ledgers and Smart Contracts on financial and insurance institutions, firms and markets. The fundamental problem, which a distributed ledger with smart certificates & contracts can remediate by the very nature of its design is to perfectly reflect the attribute of joint ownership of a (re)insurance contract, as it does of any other financial or trade agreement. The network design of a distributed ledger of smart contracts as a joint ownership certificate, which is secure, immutable, and meticulously and chronologically tracks even the minutes change, which itself needs to be accepted and validated by all parties involved, renders perfectly well the nature of the contracting relationship between the insurer, reinsurer, broker and regulator. Because all parties involved in the ledger will own all certificates through replication with equal ownership rights, Blockchain solutions for now may not be well suited to solve scalability problems, such as supporting a large scale distribution chain of index insurance, which is targeted to solve a coverage gap problem, such as the lack of insurance penetration for farmers, small and medium income households and businesses in the growing market economies. The distributed ledger does not address well the one-to-many relationship, which will be needed for an insurance distribution network of millions of index-based policies, which undergo very little chronological change. However, the distributed ledger is a perfect tool to support the relationship of a few entities, with many shared certificates of many classes among them, where each entity - institution needs to have an equal ownership rights of the contract. This perfectly describes the relationship between the insurer, broker and reinsurer. While the above fitness of purpose of distributed block-chain ledgers is understood in the industry, and pilot projects are already underway, to further optimize (re)insurer firms workflows an advanced system could be envisioned where quantitative triggers and indices, produced by a catastrophe loss model and real-time catastrophe tracking software product will at some point control the acceptance, rejection, modification, re/negotiation and binding of smart contracts. Overall the promise of distributed ledgers is quite evident in the form of its own attributes, which will enhance the industry value chain - immutable record, mandatory collaboration, mandatory reconciliation, joint ownership and authority, mandatory replication, evidence of tamper, stickiness & difficulty to modify. At this list of potentials the late Sir Arthur C. Clark might have quipped that 'any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic'. Yet even magic has its limitations. The properties of distributed ledgers hold promise to decrease intra-organizational and operational frictions and cost, as well as the same class of costs between institutions partnering in complex and large contracts, which undergo frequent changes and require constant quantitative and legal monitoring. The multiple pilot projects sponsored by the large brokers and (re)insurers will show in due time if this theoretical promise will hold to the test of market practices. Our slides from the event are available at:[https://www.slideshare.net/IvelinZvezdov/nber-2019-smart-insurance-contracts]


Category: Climate/natural disasters: Climate change, Disaster risk, Resilience

Location: Cambridge, MA, USA


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