Bridging the knowledge gap today and tomorrow

part two of our 10th anniversary interview series

The last ten years have been a whirlwind for the team at JBA Risk Management – and the next ten don’t look like they will be any different, writes Dr Jane Toothill, founding director and now Managing Director of JBA Risk Management. 

When we launched JBA Risk Management back in 2011, the importance of flood risk was only just starting to be understood by insurance markets around the world, and it was a poorly served peril from both a flood map and a modelling perspective.

How things have changed with flood now seen as a major peril that insurers, lenders, banks, and the wider investment world view as a key tangible risk to understand, respond to and plan for. In fact, the consideration of flood risk in underwriting and accumulation control is now an accepted and expected norm.

I have been fascinated by insurance, and flood in particular, for over 20 years, and originally joined JBA from reinsurance broker Guy Carpenter in 2008.

There was an enormous gap in knowledge around flood, with the insurance market knowing very little about the flood risks they were writing, and flood experts knowing very little about insurance.

Interest in flood from the insurance market remained low until a series of wake-up calls brought it into sharp focus, including the Summer 2007 floods in the UK, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike in 2005 and 2008 respectively, and the Thai floods of 2011.

Timing is everything in business and we launched JBA Risk Management – aka The Flood People – in 2011.

We quickly carved out a niche, aided by our development of the world’s largest hydraulic processing grid using high powered graphics processing units (GPUs). Running proprietary JFlow® software on this grid enabled us to produce flood maps, quickly, that were highly detailed and for territories across the world. The flooding associated with hurricanes Ike (2008) and Sandy (2012) served to underline the relevance and timeliness of our launch.

Fast forward ten years, and we are still at the forefront of flood science. We drove the first revolution in the development of flood maps and models and are now driving the next one in response to the demands of climate change.

Our global climate change flood models must cater not just for one version of future events, but for different climate scenarios and time horizons. This means moving away from pre-building models and embracing a flexible modelling approach using our modelling technology. This in turn empowers our clients to customise models to their own choice of data and parameters – and, for example, to see the impacts of different RCP scenarios on their businesses.

Different customers have different needs – with banks and mortgage companies typically considering risk up to 25 years or more ahead – a very different approach to the traditional insurance consideration of one-year policies. And of course, international regulators, who are looking at market resilience as well as pushing financial businesses to understand their own resilience to climate change, also demand different information.

Predicting how flood maps and modelling will develop over the next decade is challenging. Ten years ago, I would not have envisaged we would be able to provide clients with a global flood model and enable them to customise that model to provide results for multiple climate scenarios. Change is of course a constant and technology will undoubtedly change yet more in the next ten years.

Increased computer power however will be matched by ever more complex data – from improved characterisation of catchments to more detailed building information such as doorstep and air brick heights – and the desire for ever-improved models, all of which will also need sophisticated analysis and interpretation.

Our business strategy is one of constant betterment and investment, pushing the boundaries in terms of modelling, and responding to market needs.

So, what I do know is that the ever changing demands and needs of clients, combined with JBA’s own desire for advancing science, will ensure that we will still be pushing against the boundaries of what is possible and that JBA will remain at the forefront of flood science. It’s in our DNA; it’s what we do.

This is part two of a series of interviews with the JBA team over the coming weeks. Read the first in the series here.

For more information on JBA's work, get in touch with the team using the form below.

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