The Human Factor

Emerging Risks talks to Graeme Mackenzie, managing partner, MBL Global, about a more holistic approach to rehabilitation in the wake of a major catastrophe.

Ask anyone to describe what the insurance market offers policyholders, it would almost certainly revolve arounds terms such as indemnity, restoration and risk management. The thinking would be that the policyholder will receive financial compensation for a specific loss or series of losses, under the terms of their policy. And of course none of this would be wrong. The wider (re)insurance market pays the loss and associated expenses in the wake of a claim.

But what of the human cost of a major catastrophe such as a school shooting, terrorist attack, wildfire or flood? The traumatic consequences of these events for those who witness them or are affected by them can be severe and long-lasting if not dealt with properly, and are just as – if not more – important in many ways than financial recompense on its own.

Which is where MBL Global comes into the picture. The company was established in 2016 in South Africa initially in the political violence and terror space, but has since expanded its remit to sit behind event insurers and corporate property insurers dealing with nat cat events. 

It now operates in 190 countries around the world, and considers itself unique in offering a ‘human indemnity’ in the wake of a major event, providing a specialist, global-scale trauma service to put people involved in or witness to a major event back into the mental health position they were before the event. 

It works by having a network of psychologists and clinical social workers in private practice globally, which it says number some 300,000.

According to Graeme Mackenzie, MBL Global’s managing partner, the company deals primarily with corporate property and specialty insurers and MGAs. The service It can be built into an insurer or MGA’s underwriting product as an add-on for commercial policies. AIG is a client, as well as the Lloyd’s market.

Holistic rehabilitation

He talks about the origins of the offering: “We undertook some research in South Africa and determined that while insurers and agencies down there were good at financial rehabilitation, at repairing the asset and repairing the balance sheet, what they weren’t very good at there – and as we consequently realised in the rest of the world – was dealing with the human cost and the human rehabilitation.”

Concurrent with this thinking, he adds, has been the rise up the agenda of Corporate Social Responsibility, and the need of insurers to be seen to comply with this agenda. “In our experience, some insurers are happier to comply than others. For some it’s a box ticking exercise, and for other it’s a way of life.”

“You’ve also had the rise of ESG, and a significant rise in the awareness of mental health following COVID. Locally here, you’ve also had the need for more compliant-based risk management and risk assessment up-front for the insurer to undertake. But what happens at the back end of that? If there is an event, what happens?”

“Let’s just say there is a shooting in a particular location, and that location is insured by our insurer client. We have an emergency crisis line that sits in the policy document- that number is called and it will either be handled locally or rooted to one of 15 global critical incident centres. The call is answered and triaged by a qualified professional, who will then send a team of rapid response counsellors to the site. Concurrently, we will look for a near site location where we can start to co-ordinate and administer counselling. Thereafter, we will set up sessions for all of the people that are affected by the event.”

The human cost

He says that what they are able to provide is a service which is “ridiculously missing” from the whole risk management framework, which is assessing the human cost of an event and providing that data to the insurance market:

“Look at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. A first world country and a massive event, with hundreds of people traumatised. Yet nobody has a clue as to what the human cost of the event actually was. How long did it take for people to get back to work? How traumatised were they? But we have such data and we can give that to the insurer, and such data is valuable. The insurer can then use that data as a source within their own business, and they can also use it as a source for government to make enquiries and various other things.”