Allianz Risk Transfer and Nephila Successfully Pilot Blockchain Technology

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Allianz Risk Transfer and Nephila Capital Limited have successfully piloted the use of Blockchain smart contract technology for transacting a natural catastrophe swap. The test run not only demonstrates that transactional processing and settlement between insurers and investors could be significantly accelerated and simplified by Blockchain-based contracts, but also points to other benefits such as increased tradability of cat bonds and wider opportunities to apply this technology in other insurance transactions.

“Blockchain technology would increase reliability, auditability and speed for both cat swaps and bonds as less manual processing, authentication and verification through intermediaries is required to confirm the legitimacy of payments/transactions to and from the investors,” explains Richard Boyd, Bermuda-based Chief Underwriting Officer of ART. “By replacing the human interventions which are currently embedded throughout the entire risk transfer process, frictional delays and the risks of human error are completely removed – with a radical effect on the speed and efficiency of the process and, in the case of bonds, on the tradability of such securities.”

So-called catastrophe or ‘cat’ swaps and bonds are financial instruments which transfer a specific set of risks, typically natural disaster risks such as hurricanes or typhoons, from an insurer to investors or other insurers utilizing triggers with defined parameters. In the case of a financial cat swap, the insurer pays a third party to assume the financial risk of a defined catastrophe event such as a Florida hurricane in exchange for a payment or series of payments. If the event occurs and meets the pre-defined trigger criteria, the third party is responsible for the pre-agreed financial risk.

Cat bonds follow a similar approach but with multiple parties assuming the catastrophe exposure through a securitized financial instrument in which the parties invest. If a qualifying cat event occurs, the investors lose all or part of the principal they have invested; if not, they receive interest in the form of a periodic ‘coupon’ payment as well as the return of their principal investment at the bond’s maturity.

Blockchain-based smart contract technology has the potential to facilitate and accelerate the contract management process of such cat swaps and bonds. Each validated contract on the open shared infrastructure contains data and self-executable codes inherent to that contract. When a triggering event occurs which meets the agreed conditions, the Blockchain smart contract picks up the predefined data sources of all participants, and then automatically activates and determines payouts to or from contract parties.

Blockchain is the technology underlying the bitcoin digital currency but its applications in cryptocurrency, smart contracts and distributed ledgers are being explored throughout the financial services industry. The smart contract technology allows digital execution of contracts with automated and distributed ledgers which are designed to be incorruptible, thus having the potential to significantly reduce the arbitration and validation functions traditionally performed by independent third party institutions such as banks, intermediaries and administrators, auditors and clearing houses.

Wider applications for Blockchain

ART and Nephila have worked with a number of firms to develop the proof of concept and see extensions of this technology having relevance across the insurance industry: for example, in optimizing the payment processes involved in international fronting for captive insurers, where multiple process steps are involved in transferring premium from a corporate to its own subsidiary.

Laura Taylor, Managing Principal at Nephila, adds:

“We believe technology will drive the future of insurance. We have invested a great deal accordingly and are pleased to extend our long-standing strategic partnership with ART to use of the Blockchain.”

“In our journey to become more digital, Blockchain promises to help us create more transparent, more convenient and faster services for our customers,” says Solmaz Altin, who is driving the digital transformation of Allianz Group as Chief Digital Officer. “Blockchain is obviously a fascinating technology and we are starting to explore the use of it in several fields,” says Michael Eitelwein, Head of Disruptive Technology of Allianz Group.

About Richard Kastelein

Founder, Publisher and Editor in Chief of industry leading online publication, Blockchain News and co-founder and director at Blockchain Partners in London/Amsterdam/NYC. Kastelein is also an advisor with a number Blockchain startups doing ICOs including Humaniq.co where hs is interim CMO, DECENT.ch, Inchain, Chronobank, eGaas and others. He is regarded as one of the top journalists by the Blockchain and fintech communities – as is evident by his entry in the Top 150 Fintech journalists online and in the top 10 of the Blockchain Top 100 List.

As a prominent keynote presenter, he has spoken on Blockchain at events in Gdansk, Amsterdam, Minsk, Dubai, Antwerp, Eindhoven, Bucharest, Nairobi, Tel Aviv, Manchester, Brussels, Barcelona etc, where he helped spread the cause for Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency and, consequently, has built a notable network in the scene.

He’s also a director of a Dutch foundation called The Hackitarians and has run innovation events in London, San Francisco, Berlin, Amsterdam and other cities around the world on topics such Blockchain, Health, Energy, Internet of Things, AI etc.

In 2013, the European Commission appointed him as an expert for overseeing financing for emerging startups as a part of the European Commission’s 90 billion euro Horizon 2020 project, created in Brussels to promote innovation as a driving force of job creation and business ventures across Europe. He has also worked as an external expert for Innovate UK since 2012, judging startups for the UK government.

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