How CAT Modeling is Improving the Customer Experience

Catastrophe modeling, often called CAT modeling, is essential in insurance and risk management. CAT modeling is used to determine the probability of natural disasters and the likely financial impact. Additionally, CAT modeling can be used to assess the risk of hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods, storms, terrorism and other major catastrophes.

The Problem of Inaccurate Models

We’ve all experienced the frustration of inaccurate weather forecasts before. The weather report calls for sunny skies, but then a rainstorm soaks your picnic.

Inaccurate risk assessments are similar in a way, but much more serious. For example, in 2017, Hurricane Harvey flooded the Houston area and caused $125 billion in damage. The town of Hitchcock saw severe flooding, but only one in four homes had flood insurance. According to Bloomberg, FEMA had not updated flood risk maps for the area since 1983, and residents might not have been aware of their true flood risks.

The Threat Is Increasing

Natural disasters have always been a threat, but now that threat may be getting worse. Wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters cost the United States $91 billion in 2018, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That year was the fourth worst year in terms of cost, behind only 2017, 2012 and 2005.

According to the NASA Earth Observatory, “Climate change may not be responsible for the recent skyrocketing cost of natural disasters, but it is very likely that it will impact future catastrophes.”

Data is Improving

While disasters might be getting worse, data is getting better. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, “Catastrophe models (CAT models) have been rapidly evolving since their introduction in the 1980s. Technological advances and higher resolution exposure data have accelerated this evolution in recent years.”

These advancements are coming in many forms. Remote sensing with satellites, for example, could improve the detection and prediction of catastrophes. On the ground, the rise of smart devices is creating new opportunities. Researchers at Tel Aviv University have discovered how to use smartphone sensors to predict flash floods. With six billion smartphones in use by 2020 – far more than the 10,000 official weather stations – that amount of data and the possible applications are staggering.

We have more data than ever before. Social media, smart devices, satellites and other sources of data are combining to paint a clearer picture of the risks we face. Insurtech will put this information to good use in improved CAT modeling.

Putting Data to Good Use

Better data helps insurers develop better risk assessment, pricing and claim preparedness. Better data also helps insurance customers more accurately determine the risks they face and exactly how much coverage they need. The possibilities don’t end here though.

When a catastrophe strikes, the right data can help insurers respond fast and deploy specialists as soon as possible to initiate the recovery process. In some cases, insurance companies may even jump into action before the disaster hits. According to Insurance Journal, The Travelers Companies use maps to assess storms as they approach. Then third parties are sent to help customers take precautionary measures, like putting tarps on houses or clearing trees.

In the end, modern CAT modeling is about more than predicting losses. By leveraging knowledge and working together, insurers, businesses and individuals can take preventative actions to offset the ever-increasing risk of natural disaster.