Skip to main content
Article | WTW Research Network Newsletter

WTW Research Network Newsletter – Q4 2020

December 18, 2020

In this winter newsletter, you will find a selection of topics showing the variety of research partnerships facilitated by the WTW Research Network.
Climate|Credit, Political Risk and Terrorism|Cyber Risk Management|Medioambiental
Climate Risk and Resilience|Pandemic Risk and Response|Geopolitical Risk

This year has been so eventful that Oxford English Dictionaries has expanded its word of the year to several "Words of an Unprecedented Year": bushfires, COVID-19, WFH, lockdown, circuit-breaker, support bubbles, keyworkers, furlough, Black Lives Matter and moonshot. Yet usage of “Climate” – part of last year’s Word(s) of the Year “climate emergency” – was down 50% as the pandemic emerged in March and April and 2016 winner “Brexit” is down by 80% even though we enter its most critical phase. These trends show that human attention is sadly limited, reactive and backward looking, and this can hamper efforts to prepare for the next shock.

In our view, this reinforces the importance of adopting a wider, balanced view of risk, and horizon scanning, both key guiding principles for the WRN. The pandemic has sorely tested the resilience of our societies, but there are many useful lessons to be learned and the hope is these will be used as countries around the world are finally taking the climate crisis more seriously with an increasing understanding that delaying action further is not only costly but can exacerbate inequalities. Developments in natural science are essential to inform policy, but decisions made by politicians require weaving this information with social sciences and ethics. The WRN mission to translate science into actionable insights for our clients is more relevant than ever.

Resilience, trust and preparedness, together with an expanded focus on climate research, will be at the core of our WRN research programme in the new year, without losing sight of the range of natural hazard and man-made risks that our societies remain vulnerable to. On all sustainability and climate topics, we’ll continue to work closely with our Thinking Ahead Institute colleagues, and our new Acclimatise colleagues.

We wish you a peaceful end to 2020, and look forward to 2021.

The Willis Research Network Team

  1. 01

    Pandemic models are evolving quickly; pandemic insurance needs to as well

    In the context of the global re/insurance market, it must be recognised that while modelling infectious disease risk is challenging and will take time and resources to build the level of trust found in nat cat models, there are already pathways to gain an understanding of the risk. This present understanding is sufficient to support tangible innovation – policy experiments, insurance structures, refinements to preparedness and mitigation strategies – within both public and private sectors.

  2. 02

    How ready is the UK for future flood events?

    Nalan Senol Cabi, the research manager for the Flood hub was invited to be part of a panel discussion about UK flood risk, alongside Avi Baruch of Previsico and Ralph de Mesquita of Zurich UK, and hosted by Jonathan Swift of Insurance Post.

  3. 03

    Time to move climate centre stage in insurance ERM

    Insurers are not big polluters in their own right, nor do they typically have lots of physical assets at risk, except indirectly through investment portfolios either now or in the future when economic transition raises the possibility of stranded assets. Yet the impacts of climate on insurance operations are only too evident. Losses from more frequent flood events and other climate-related events; changing attitudes towards insuring and investing in high carbon industries; burgeoning regulation and moves towards mandatory climate risk disclosure; and external ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) ratings that increasingly reflect assessments of climate risk management - are all changing insurers’ risk landscapes.

  4. 04

    Has COVID-19 changed the political landscape for global business?

    It’s still early when it comes to governments’ policy responses to the global pandemic. What we’ve seen suggests that the responses to the pandemic could alter the situation for companies doing business across borders in fundamental ways.

  5. 05

    African Swine Flu on the horizon

    With COVID-19 continuing to dominate the headlines and board agendas, it can be easy to lose focus of the wider risk landscape. However, if you are involved in pork production or any of the associated industries, the spread of African Swine Fever virus (ASF), and its potential impact on the global $400bn pork industry and shake-up of the wider global protein markets is a growing global concern.

  6. 06

    Earthquake science for (re)insurance decision-makers

    The Global Earthquake Model foundation is a key Willis Research Network partner with whom we have collaborated on a number of initiatives over the last few years to deliver earthquake risk assessment solutions for Willis Towers Watson clients. On 23 September Willis Towers Watson held a webinar looking at earthquake science for (re)insurance decision-making, focusing on how the industry can leverage the latest research outputs from GEM.

  7. 07

    Professor Adam Scaife awarded Edward Appleton Medal

    Adam Scaife the U.K. Met Office’s Head of Long Range Prediction has been recognised for his pioneering work on computer simulation and long-range prediction of the atmosphere.

  8. 08

    Exeter PhD student successfully completes viva after important project on storm impacts on fisheries in the context of climate change

    Huge congratulations to Dr. Nigel Sainsbury for passing his viva in December after completing his four years of study which looked at fishers’ behaviour in response to storms and the implications for the vulnerability of the fishing fleet to changing storminess. We hope that Nigel’s insights from months of surveys and interviews with skippers in Cornwall and analysis of the impact of weather conditions on UK fisheries landings can inform new products and services that improve the financial resilience of fishing communities. Some of his published research can be found here. Well done to Nigel, and we wish him luck in his future endeavours as he sails off into the sunset.

  9. 09

    Willis Towers Watson's STEM Insight Week

    In November, our Weather & Climate research manager Geoffrey Saville took part in Willis Towers Watson’s STEM Insight Week in conjunction with other STEM Ambassadors, to inspire a number of students. The session on Geoff’s career and WRN work showed our support for early career scientists and highlighted how the WRN engages with scientists. The insurance sector is one of the few sectors that has STEM embedded in the whole value chain.

Future Events

Subscribe to the Willis Research Network newsletter if you would like to hear about upcoming events.

  • Building Business Resilience: Strategic Security and Business Intelligence
    • January 12, 2020
    • Executive briefing, by invite only.
    • The latest in the Find Your Geopolitical Feet series of events discussing how we to improve our planning horizons to better forecast what lies ahead and to build the required levels of resilience into business.
    • Please contact Ryan Brown for more information.
  • 1st Willis Towers Watson Denmark Annual Risk Conference
    • January 27, 2020
    • A new online conference for risk managers in Denmark aimed at giving participants insight into leading experts latest experiences, research, and knowledge on the significance of climate change for properties and urban development.
    • Please click here to register.

Recent Events

Emerging risks webinar with Willis Re ERM and WRN

In December, Lucy Stanbrough took part in the last Willis Re ERM webinar of the year with Dave Ingram and Daniil Shalmiyev. The session focused on emerging risks and some of the work over the last year from the Emerging Risks hub, along with discussions on how to find them, and what to keep in mind when evaluating, monitoring and taking action. Examples of emerging risks were used throughout the webinar, including a list of 50 possible risks that are on our radar. Watch the recording here.


Stuart Calam
Programme Director of WTW Research Network
Head of Technology Risks Research
email Email

Head of Weather and Climate Risks Research
email Email

Head of Emerging Risks and Business Engagement, WTW Research Network Team

Head of Flood Risks Research

Contact us