AXA Future Risks Report: quels sont les risques de demain ?

Chaque année depuis 7 ans, le groupe AXA publie son “Future Risks Report », interrogeant des experts en gestion des risques sur leur avis et perceptions des plus gros risques pour les prochains 5 à 10 ans. Pour cette année, AXA a collaboré avec IPSOS et le thinktank géopolitique Eurasia Group. L’étude a été menée en juillet 2020, en pleine pandémie.

Comme l’on pouvait s’y attendre étant donné le contexte, le risque de pandémie est au centre de l’étude, arrivant en première place du podium (l’année dernière il ne figurait qu’au huitième rang du classement). Le top 3 est complété par les risques liés au changement climatique et les risques de cybersécurité.

 

Axa Future Risks Report 2020

1. La pandémie et son impact sur le monde

A moins que vous ayez hiberné ces neuf derniers mois (ce qui ne serait pas une si mauvaise idée après tout) vous savez que nous sommes au beau milieu d’une pandémie. En toute logique, cela a eu un impact sur les experts en gestion des risques ayant répondu au sondage, car ils ont placé le risque de pandémie comme le 1er risque au cœur de leurs préoccupations. Comparé à l’année passée, le pourcentage de gestionnaires de risques conscients de ce risque est passé de 23% à 56%.

Bien que ce risque soit extrêmement tangible et actuel, il ne faut cependant pas s’y arrêter. En effet, lacovid-19 et le confinement international qui s’en est suivi ont eu d’importantes conséquences : approfondissement de la dette publique et privée, tensions géopolitiques, aggravement des problèmes de santé mentale, déficit et pertes économiques, accentuations des inégalités… La crise sanitaire en cours et le confinement ont agi comme des catalyseurs, accélérant et/ou aggravant ces les conséquences de ces risques.

Enfin, toute l’attention (publique et privée) étant portée vers cette catastrophe sanitaire, les autres risques, tout aussi important mais un peu moins actuels, sont occultés, ne faisant qu’aggraver leur  impact futur.

 

2. Le changement climatique

L’année passée, les risques liés au changement climatique arrivaient en 1er dans le classement. Cette année, le Comme l’a souligné Thomas Buberl, CEO du groupe AXA, “il ne faudrait pas que les risques court terme éclipsent les menaces à plus long-terme ». Ce constat s’avère d’autant plus vrai pour les régions qui sont pourtant les plus polluantes et les plus exposées aux conséquences du changement climatique : l’Asie et les Amériques. En effet, en Amérique du Nord par exemple, le pourcentage d’experts interrogés considérant le changement climatique comme une réelle menace a sombré de 71% en 2019 à seulement 46% pour cette année.

 

3. Les risques liés à la cybersécurité

Les risques de cybersécurité figurent toujours dans le top 3 des risques principaux pour ces 5 à 10 prochaines années. Le confinement a eu un impact assez important sur les risques cyber. En effet, la généralisation du télétravail a favorisé l’utilisation de services et appareils connectés ou en ligne, multipliant les potentielles failles virtuelles. De plus, les travailleurs utilisent leur réseau privé, et parfois leurs ordinateurs privés, qui sont, dans la grande majorité des cas, beaucoup moins bien protégés qu’en entreprise.

Le magazine Infosecurity a également observé une importante augmentation des tentatives de phishing par mail entre le mois de février et mars 2020 avec +667%. En effet, en travaillant à distance, la communication entre les départements est souvent moins fluide, et les hackers en ont profité pour tester les limites de la sécurité et du bon sens de tout un chacun.

 

4. Les risques oubliés

L’année passée déjà, AXA soulignait l’aspect critique du risque de pandémie bien qu’il n’était classé que 8èmeCette année, AXA met en avant quelques risques moins cités par les experts interrogés sur le sujet, mais qui leur semblent pourtant être une menace non négligeable :

  • La santé mentale: le nombre de personnes souffrant d’une maladie mentale a augmenté, et le confinement n’a fait qu’aggraver la situation.
  • La désinformation: en ces temps électoraux (actuels ou à venir), la désinformation et la propagation des « fake news » aura un impact bien plus large que ce que l’on imagine.
  • L’utilisation de l’intelligence artificielle (IA) et les nouvelles technologies: leur usage se répand, le progrès avance et la déontologie et l’éthique doivent suivre. Ce sont bien ces 2 derniers points qui sont critiques, même Elon Musk s’en inquiète ! Nancy Bewlay, Global Chief Underwriting Officer d’AXA XL a commenté : “Les nouvelles technologie, telles que l’IA et le Machine Learning, sont de plus en plus utilisés pour prédire l’avenir. Il existe un risque réel que ces prédictions soient erronées ou biaisées si les modèles sont incorrects ou ne sont pas basés sur suffisamment de données. »
  • Enfin, bien que la pandémie occupe le paysage sanitaire, il ne faut pas oublier les risques croissant de résistance des microbes et des superbactéries. Cette préoccupation est passée de 29% pour l’année passée à 9% pour cette année. Il s’agit pourtant d’un sujet critique car il pourrait être à l’origine d’une crise sanitaire encore plus grave que celle d’aujourd’hui et pourrait avoir des conséquences sur les soins, leurs coûts, et par conséquent sur tout le secteur assurantiel.

 

5. Des risques de plus en plus interdépendants

Pour conclure, AXA souligne le fait que les risques deviennent de plus en plus connectés et interdépendants, les rendant encore plus complexes à prévoir et à prévenir. La crise que nous traversons actuellement en est un bon exemple. En effet, comme vu plus haut, la pandémie a eu impact bien évidemment sanitaire, mais également économique, social et politique. Cette interconnexion nécessite une approche globale, interdisciplinaire et multipartite pour pouvoir faire de la prévention et de la protection. Un autre bon exemple est l’impact que la désinformation et la diffusion des « fake news » peuvent avoir sur la perception d’autres risques (changement climatique, pandémie…). Comme l’a dit l’un des experts ayant répondu à l’étude, “le plus grand risque émergent est peut-être notre foi toujours moindre dans la science et les faits”.

 

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AXA Future Risks Report: what are tomorrow’s risks?

A pessimist guide to tomorrow’s greatest threats

 

For the last 7 years, AXA has published its AXA Future Risks Report. This year, they partnered with IPSOS and the geopolitical analysis firm Eurasia Group. The study was led in July 2020, in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and interrogated risk experts and citizens around the globe.

Obviously, given the context, the pandemic risk is the center of attention. Although last year it was clearly overlooked and ranked at the 8th place in the future risks ranking, this year the risk experts put it as 1st risk for the next 5 to 10 years. The two following risks are climate change and cyber security.

Axa Future Risks Report 2020

 

1. The impact of pandemics and infectious diseases

Indeed, unless you have been living under a rock for the last 9 months, you are aware we are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Logically, this reflects in the risk experts’ concerns, as the number of them that ranks pandemics as a major emerging risk more than doubled, from 23% to 56% compared to 2019.

However, pandemics and infectious diseases are not just the top emerging risks because of the very current and tangible threat to the general population’s health. The lockdown and the Covid-19 have had important consequences and impacts. Indeed, the spiraling public debt, the escalation of geopolitical tension, growing mental health issues and surging inequalities are other risks that were accelerated by the pandemics. Furthermore, the public attention, both from governments and citizens, dedicated to the coronavirus crisis will likely steal the thunder of other major but less imminent threats, steering even more other underrated risks.

 

2. Climate change

Last year, climate change was the number one risk according to risk experts worldwide. This year, it has been overshadowed by the current sanitary crisis and is now 2nd in the risk perception ranking.  It seems that the short-term issues have overshadowed the longer-term threats as Thomas Buberl highlights. This observation is even truer for the regions thar are the most polluting and most at risk of climate change consequences: Asia and Americas. Indeed, in North America, for instance, the share of experts worried about climate sunk from 71% in 2019 to 46% this year.

 

3. Cyber risks

Cyber security is still considered as one of the major risks for the next 5 to 10 years, although it lost one place in the ranking (from 2nd to 3rd). Surprisingly, or not, the lockdown has cyber security needs.  Remote working is the new normal.  The use of online devices and systems for both private and professional communications has increased the points of cyber vulnerability. Additionally, homeworkers may also be using personal devices, which, unlike office equipment, may not be configured with the latest cyber defenses.

Working remotely also means less fluid communications between teams or departments, hackers tested the limits during the lockdown, and from February to March 2020, the number of phishing e-mails has increased by 667%, as revealed by Infosecurity Magazine.

 

4. Overlooked risks

Last year, pandemics and infectious diseases was one of the overlooked risks, but as we all know, it turned out that the risk was way higher than foreseen by the risk experts. What are the current risks that might be overlooked?

  • Mental health issues, rates of mental health issues are higher than ever, and the lockdown took a toll on mental public health.
  • De- and mis-information, specifically in the period of elections in various region of the globe
  • Advanced technologies and the use of AI, as well as deontology and ethics in the use of AI and big data. Even Elon Musk is worried about that ! Furthermore, Nancy Bewlay, Global Chief Underwriting Officer of AXA XL adds “Advanced technologies, such as AI and machine learning, are increasingly being used to predict the future. There’s a real risk that these predictions will be wrong or biased if the models are incorrect or are not based on enough data.”
  • Finally, as the focus is on Covid-19 regarding health issues, experts are less concerned about antimicrobial resistance and superbugs, this risk tumbled from 29% last year to 9% this year. There may have been a decrease in the perceived severity of antimicrobial resistance, but it still has the potential to create a future health crisis. The report states “Global spread of bugs’ resistance to common antibiotics could dramatically raise the risk level of common healthcare treatments such as chemotherapy, organ transplants, caesarean sections, and hip replacements. This would not only prolong illness but also significantly increase the cost of healthcare. The impact of these risks may be less sudden than a pandemic, but the long-term effects have the potential to be equally devastating.”

 

5. Towards more interdependent risks

Finally, the AXA Future Risk report highlights the fact that risks are more and more connected and interdependent. The current pandemic exemplifies how they are global, complex, and, therefore, difficult to address. Indeed, the pandemic impacted health (obviously), macroeconomic, debt, poverty, mental health…  This interlinking requires a global, interdisciplinary, and multi-stakeholder approach to prevention and protection. Another good example of that is the impact that the misinformation and spreading of fake news can have on other risks’ perception (climate change, pandemic…). As one of the experts who answered to the study put it “Perhaps the biggest emerging risk is our ever-reducing

 

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How to stand out as an actuary: our top 3 most in-demand skills

In a continually changing and fast-paced environment, upskilling and reskilling the workforce has become standard practice in the insurance and banking industry. However, while the idea of training a new employee to close a technical skill gap does not appear to be a problem, companies have become more and more inflexible on their requirements when it comes to soft skills. As a headhunting firm specialising in actuarial profiles, that’s a challenge we have to face on a daily basis: companies are now more and more looking for a personality with a set of technical skills, not the other way around.

 

The challenge

Let’s put the classical cliché of the introverted actuary aside and focus on some facts. In the Influential Actuary, a book published in 2010, the author interviewed four American influential actuaries who shared their views on the key competencies to set yourself apart as an actuary. At the time, Laura Hay, one of the interviewees, was already pointing out the introverted nature of the actuarial training as a thing that holds actuaries back. “It’s a lot of self-study. I think preparing for exams is a lonely process in which you sit by yourself, you take them, and then you tell a few people that you passed, but it’s not a sharing experience. What you’re doing in a working environment is almost the opposite of your entire technical training.[1]

Although things may have evolved in the United States and other markets where actuarial training courses are increasingly aimed at training business-oriented actuaries, this statement is still particularly true regarding the Belgian market. Given the high level of technical requirements to become an Actuary in Belgium, and due to the fact that there is a limit to the number of courses that make up a university programme, universities have unfortunately little room for manoeuvre to integrate courses focused on soft skills development. On the other hand, the Institute of Actuaries in Belgium (IABE) encourages the development of soft skills by including CPD points in its continuous learning program. In order to place a greater emphasis on its importance, the IABE could make it compulsory as does the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries (FOA) in the UK.

However, we must say that actuaries’ profiles have diversified over the years, by force of circumstance: on the one hand, thanks to universities’ bridging programmes allowing more business oriented students with less technical backgrounds head toward actuarial science masters, and on the other, because of the insurance companies’ structure becoming more transversally networked and flat, leaving actuaries’ no choice than to adapt.
 

“Actuaries’ technical knowledge is increasingly becoming an asset in non-technical departments.”

 
Things aren’t as bad as they may sound, but the demand for actuaries with strong soft skills is growing at a fast pace and working on them should not be an option anymore.

Actuaries are nowadays more and more expected to take up on less traditional missions and contribute to other areas of the business. Alexandre Jacobs, our Managing Director, says that actuaries’ technical knowledge is increasingly becoming an asset in non-technical departments. As this may seem to be a big challenge in terms of soft skills, remember that’s it’s above all creating strong career opportunities for those who are willing to take them. Are you in ?
 

“What would really be amazing, is an Actuary who …”

We heard this sentence countless times. Here’s the top 3 soft skills that give our clients a hard time in their research (and that’s what we’re here for;-))

1. 🎤 An Actuary who can communicate is gold: with colleagues from the same team, with the management, with other less technical departments and with internal and/or external clients, requiring the ability to explain (complex) actuarial topics in an understandable way, and sometimes even with a more commercial approach. Ability to present and speak in public is also very appreciated by our clients. Really, we are talking about communication all the way up, and maybe this is what makes our clients’ research that difficult, because that actually requires a whole lot of personal qualities : clarity and concision, organisation, open mindedness, respect, diplomacy, persuasion, ability to listen, and so on. Actuaries as a whole are often perceived as poor communicators (we have read some 50-page long publications on the subject). However, reality is more nuanced than that, as there has been a great evolution in recent years and we are seeing more and more actuaries taking on responsibilities in positions where communication skills are essential. In any case, we reassure you: it takes some work but everyone can become a great communicator!

2. 🤸🏻‍♂️ An Actuary with broad creative business savvy. Actuaries are expected to be able to have a broad-based knowledge of the business, outside their realm of expertise, which means understanding the purpose of other departments (whether they are technical or less technical). Only then will actuaries truly be able to grasp the whole of a problem or situation and develop creative, implementable solutions. The actuary with business acumen perceives quickly the essence of business situations, and acts accordingly.[2]Leading actuaries have often worked within many different departments: technical departments, operational departments, risk management departments, … Having experience in both consulting and insurance companies also lead actuaries to build strong business acumen. This kind of experience inevitably strengthens soft skills and the ability to step back to have a 360° view of the business.

3. 👨🏻‍🔧 An Actuary who is able to adapt. The world is changing and it’s changing fast, especially in the insurance industry where there is still so much to do in terms of digital transformation. Actuaries are expected to play a role in this transformation, meaning that they have to be able to keep pace, be flexible and adapt in order to meet the changes that the actuarial profession is undergoing. “Remember the day when an actuary could get a practicing certificate and then rest assured that their future career was lined out until retirement? Those days are gone […] We need to have the ability to adapt to the needs of the changing business environment and apply our skills and knowledge in new domains and ways”[3] says Mark Farell, a Fellow of the FOA and founder of ProActuary.com blog. In this context, there is no room for passivity: proactivity and curiosity go hand in hand with an actuary’s ability to adapt. The good news? The ability to adapt often goes with broad career perspectives. Employers who ask for adaptability are in general very willing to invest in their employees and to develop their potentials. So it’s a win-win situation!

 

The perfect combination

The perfect combination of both strong technical and soft skills is of course our clients’ initial goal. In Belgium in particular, in addition to that combination, the knowledge of several languages and especially French, Dutch and English is also very valued.

Clients favouring soft skills over technical skills exist. It’s not that soft skills became more important than technical skills, it’s that they got just as important in a sector that initially was an only hard skills world. Of course, depending on the nature of the position, its seniority and level of responsibility, clients will put more emphasis on one or on the other. For instance: one of our clients had several very strong candidates from a technical point of view, and yet the company chose a fresh out of school candidate. In this case, the client favoured soft skills and potential over acquired technical skills. Such a choice was motivated by the fact that the candidate had the attitude that the client was looking for and that was a perfect fit for the team. In addition, he came with a strong set of technical skills and an ability to quickly learn actuarial related topics thanks to his highly advanced technical training.
 

So, what now?

Of course, actuarial training institutions in Belgium should inevitably place some focus on the development of soft skills. But all the responsibility is not up to them: as individuals, each and every one is responsible for his or her own professional development. Remember: take initiative! For instance, getting involved in activities outside of school or work, such as getting involved in a scouting movement or taking theatre classes, is one way among others to improve your set of soft skills.

This makes even more sense in a Covid-19 context where companies had to adapt their way of working in a rush, and maybe you realised to what extend soft skills of each and one of you are key in a constantly evolving and unpredictable world. The way you managed to keep the business going and evolving, while keeping in touch with your team, your superiors, and the business, already says a lot about you.

There are so many ways to address the subject and there are many steps you can take to work on your soft skills: we should definitely look into it in another article. Meanwhile, keep in mind that you have so much to offer to the business as a whole, it’s time to raise your game!

Written by Sophie Kusmierek, Analyst at Asquare Partners

 

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Appointments update October 2020 : Women at the Top!

October has brought its share of appointments in Belgium, with some major changes at the top of several companies, paving the way for parity between men and women. Here is our monthly overview of the most recent assignations.
 

AG Insurance

As of today, October the 22nd, Heidi Delobelle is officially the new CEO of AG Insurance. She succeeds to Hans De Cuyper, who has been appointed to a new role at a group level. As a matter of fact, as from today, Hans de Cuyper is CEO of Ageas, replacing Bart de Smet.

Heidi Delobelle has already announced that she will continue the work of her predecessor. She also wants to arm AG Insurance for the digital shift and transform the insurer into a “socially responsible” company.
 

Euler Hermes

The Belgian Wilfried Verstraete leaves his position as CEO of the world’s leading credit insurance company to make way for French citizen Clarisse Kopff.

Wilfried Verstraete sings his successor’s praise: “I am convinced that thanks to her visionary leadership, and her experience at Allianz France, Clarisse will take Euler Hermes to the next level and continue to raise the quality standards in credit insurance even further”.
 

Assuralia

Wauthier Robyns, spokesperson for Assuralia, will leave office in the beginning of 2022. After having been the face of insurance in Belgium for forty years, he will be taking over the five-year mandate as representative of the financial sector in the European Economic and Social Committee.

Barbara Van Speybroeck will replace him at Assuralia from December the 1st as Communications Director.
 

Actuarial Association of Europe

Wilhelm Schneemeier has been elected as the new Chairperson of the AAE for the next twelve months. Philippe Demol (Belgium) and Inga Helmane (Latvia) were elected as Board members replacing José Mendinhos (Portugal) and Kartina Thomson (UK) whose terms ended.
 
 

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The raise of Socially Responsible Investment

Temps de lecture : 10 min


The planet is burning but the financial world keeps turning.

The last few months have shaken the world and raised consciousness. How to invest, and get the most out of your savings while respecting your own personal values and ethic?

Sustainable or green investments are seen as a good start. Thematic investing has been around for many years. In the 90’s Robecco, a Dutch company, already proposed sectorial funds with underlying thematic. Nowadays, the thematic is mainly linked to the sustainable and/or socially responsible investments to meet customers’ expectations (who are more and more eco-conscious) while doing good deeds.
Although financial key players, such as Triodos Bank, have made sustainability their main purpose, the main traditional ones start definitely to go greener in their investment strategy.

For instance, in February 2019, Belfius launched its Cure Funds, a fund that invests in companies and organizations researching ways of fighting and curing cancers. They also have a Climate funds, and recently announced the very first funds for gender equalities in Belgium: Belfius Equities WO=MEN. For any of these 3 ethical funds, they give back 10% of the management fees earned to an NGO or association working to improve our society according to the commitments of the fund.

While last year, the AXA group announced a new more sustainable investment strategy: they disengaged their investments in the coal industry and increased their investments in green bonds.

In Belgium, the Central Labelling Agency (CLA) has created the label “Towards Sustainability” to ensure the sustainability and ethics of investments by all types of retail and institutional investors. It aims at educating the investors and helping them finding a suitable investment opportunity Their “quality standard aspires to increase the level of socially responsible and sustainable financial products, and to mainstream its principles towards traditional financial products.”

The Financité network (that brings together citizens and organizations to form a movement that tries to make the financial world a real factor of positive change) has published its sustainable investment barometer, and the investments keep increasing! Indeed, the total amount of Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) in Belgium has reached €59,94 billion in Belgium for 2019. That represents an increase of 40% compared to 2018.

We forecast a positive evolution in this type of ethical investment.  Generating benefit while making the world a better place is the kind of initiative we wish to hear more and more.

 

 

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