The Willis Research Network Newsletter

Issue No. 6 – Spring 2018

Welcome to the first Willis Research Newsletter (WRN) of 2018, our quarterly update aimed at providing insight and updates from our latest research and activities.


The WRN is proud to be able to host discussions and talks that help connect leading academic research with industry experts.  In this context, Our upcoming Spring Seminar series, hosted over a number of weeks in April and May, will be a great way to continue these links.  As we look at key areas of risk,  natural catastrophe and climate extremes remain key areas of research with events continuing to cause mass destruction and loss.  Spring seminars from partners at CEDIM on European hail modelling; from UCL EPICentre looking at sequential hazard vulnerability and with the University of Exeter on correlations between extreme flood and severe wind all promise to offer new thoughts on topics that remain fundamental to our work.  Alongside that, we also acknowledge the pace of change in our industry today is truly astonishing.  Risks in areas such as technology and geopolitics are some of the fastest growing influencers on connected global and local economies. Our fourth seminar, from the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, focusses on the management of corporate risk in this increasingly volatile world.


The WRN will also be attending the European Geophysical Union (EGU) Conference in April to talk about “bridging the gap between science and practice”. The EGU brings together geoscientists from across the globe to cover all areas of natural hazard impacting our industry and provides a forum where scientists can interact with industry to discuss and develop understanding of risk.


As always, please do feel free to send back any feedback or queries.



Research to Support Blue Economy

Urgency in understanding and sustaining the marine environment and the services it
provides to coastal and island communities is peaking due to pressures from over-fishing, plastics and other pollution, as well as the ongoing risks due to climate change. A recent announcement by Willis Towers Watson representatives at the World Ocean Summit, included the initiation of the Global Ecosystem Resilience Facility which aims to provide new tools and frameworks for developing sustainable and resilient development of the blue economy. Covered in the industry press here and here, the team behind the initiative are hoping to transfer risk management expertise to communities and business that rely on marine ecosystems and provide improved disaster recovery and preparedness through innovative financial instruments.


The WRN is also supporting a project related to the blue economy through PhD students at the University of Exeter. The research looks at the links between storminess and the behaviour of fishing fleets. Initially focussed on UK fisheries, where this work can benefit from relatively rich data sets, it is hoped that the findings from this project can be used in other parts of the world to provide financial resilience to vulnerable fishing fleets when storms strike. 



Sequential Hazard Vulnerability

Across the globe, extreme natural
hazard events can have a devastating impact on societies and economies.  A growing body of literature in disaster risk management has begun to recognise the important connections between otherwise unrelated disaster events.  Work underway at the UCL EPICentre, a dynamic multidisciplinary research centre that investigates risk to society, the built and natural environment from natural hazards, is leading our understanding of scenarios involving sequential hazards.


Through a performance-based assessment of the built environment to sequential hazards, such as earthquake followed by tsunami, UCL are leveraging unique testing facilities to simulate the impact of tsunami on buildings and coastal defences.  Likewise, the performance-based assessment of earthquake-induced structural fracture in high-rise steel buildings, is being considered in the context damage accumulation due to wind-induced fatigue crack growth in structural connections. Our Spring Seminar series will explore this topic further.

Extreme Hail Risk Modelling 

Ongoing research from WRN Fellows Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Punge and Dr. Michael Kunz at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) focusses on our hail modelling capabilities. After successfully contributing to the development of the European hail model, with continuing interactions on new versions and updates, the fellows at KIT have been working with our Willis Re catastrophe analytics team in Australia to provide relative severe thunderstorm risk maps for the Willis Re Severe Thunderstorm (STS) hazard model.


This model incorporates all perils associated with thunderstorms for every address across Australia. By incorporating multiple datasets that can represent thunderstorm related risks in different ways, including a novel methodology involving satellite image processing (via a collaboration between KIT and NASA) and analysis of Australian radar data, the team in Australia have developed relative risk maps for the whole of Australia at 5km spatial resolution that can be used to advice clients of risks in different regions of the country.  



Profiling Corporate Risk

As the world becomes increasingly interconnected there is an ever-growing need for companies to demonstrate effective management of their corporate risk.  To do this, an holistic view is needed that combines traditional company-specific risk registers with a far more comprehensive view of the external threat landscape.  Quantitative tools are needed to help support trade-off decision making as companies look to put in a place a wide range of strategies to improve their resilience to severe shocks. 


Work at the University of Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies provides frameworks for recognising, assessing and managing the impacts of systemic threats on the Global Economy. The research underway models 22 threat types, with thousands of shock scenarios  and a focus on translating event scenarios to business impacts.  The challenges to corporations of changing global strategies and evolving risk management plans help identify the most effective ways of improving risk resilience.


As part of their wider program of work, the Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies will bring together leaders and decision makers for their 9th Risk Summit: Risks Beyond Boundaries, exploring risks that go to the heart of the diverse global networks and systems we have today.  Cambridge will also feature in our Spring Seminar series on May 24th.


Other Items of Interest 


Willis Towers Watson Aims to Enhance Ecosystem Resilience

Insurance Business UK


2017 was the Costliest and the Warmest Year on Record for U.S. Climate Risk

Reinsurance News




Allianz Risk Barometer 2018



Insurance Matters

Willis Towers Watson




Constructing short-duration IDF curves using coupled dynamical–statistical approach to assess climate change impacts

International Journal of Climatology


Technical Advisory Bulletin: Managing Winter Flood Risk

Willis towers Watson




Constructing short-duration IDF curves using coupled dynamical–statistical approach to assess climate change impacts

International Journal of Climatology


Technical Advisory Bulletin: Managing Winter Flood Risk

Willis towers Watson


For more information on any of the research mentioned above or other WRN projects, please get in touch with our team.


Rosa Sobradelo – WRN Senior Research Manager: For seismic and volcanic risks.


Geoffrey Saville – WRN Senior Research Manager: For weather and climate related risks.


Stuart Calam – WRN Programme Manager: For general enquiries and getting involved.


Or you can contact the whole team through



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Spring Seminar Series

The Willis Research Network Spring Seminar Series, London, UK


18th April 2018 - Hail Hazard Modelling


2nd May 2018 - Sequential Hazard Vulnerability


9th May 2018 - Is There a Correlation Between Wind and Flood in UK?


24th May 2018 - Corporate Risk Profiling: Managing Your Risks


Other Upcoming Events


European Geophysical Union Conference

8th to 13th April 2018, Vienna, Austria.


33rd Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology

16th to 20th April 2018, Ponte Vedra, Florida, U.S.


Ocean Risk Summit

8th to 10th May 2018, Bermuda.


Understanding Risk Forum

14th to 18th May 2018, Mexico City, Mexico.

Latest Blogs and Vlogs

Understanding weather events and climates by analysing the extent, severity and origins of hailstorms and thunderstorms


Exploring catastrophic events from both behavioural and risk management perspectives


2018 Marketplace Realities: Property Market Update


Understanding the physical processes behind catastrophic weather


Building statistic models for extreme events


Willis Re Summary of Natural Catastrophe Events 2017

Recent Events

The 3rd Northern European Conference on Emergency and Disaster

21st to 23rd March 2018, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


The 2nd Geo-Risk Insurance Seminar

13th March 2018, London, U.K.


The 5th World Ocean Summit 2018

7th to 9th March 2018, Riviera Maya, Mexico.


CAT Risk Management & Modelling Europe

7th to 8th March 2018, London, U.K.