30 years after its establishment, CRESTA has become a recognised name with a broadly accepted industry standard. By Christina Bayerl and Peter Hausmann
The need for standardised accumulation figures in natural catastrophe business, and for proportional treaties in particular, became apparent in the aftermath of two large natural catastrophes - the earthquakes in Nicaragua in 1972, and in Guatemala in 1976. Both earthquakes had a major impact on lives and material assets, as well on the international insurance and reinsurance industry.
For insurers, the main issue was that the probable maximum loss estimates available at that time did not match their actual loss figures due to the absence or insufficient availability of key loss assessment data, such as information on insured earthquake values, building quality and geographic portfolio distribution. CRESTA was formed to address this issue in a structured approach.
One of CRESTA's goals is to establish a uniform and global system to process and electronically transfer accumulation risk control data for natural hazards - particularly earthquakes, storms and floods - among insurers and reinsurers. Today, its standards are generally accepted and applied throughout the insurance industry worldwide. They comprise country specific zones for unified and detailed reporting of accumulation risk data, corresponding zonal maps and standardised accumulation risk reporting forms for the relevant countries.
Current activities of CRESTA
CRESTA is the name both for a standard and for the organisation behind it. The two leading reinsurers, Swiss Re and Munich Re, primarily handle the administration and manage the CRESTA secretariat on a five year rotation. At present, the secretariat is with Swiss Re. Meetings are held at irregular intervals to discuss current and future needs regarding CRESTA information.
In recent years, CRESTA has concentrated on zoning standards, revising existing zones and defining new zones for additional countries. While the information is available to the public on www.cresta.org, it is aimed primarily at insurance and reinsurance companies, brokers and risk managers.
The CRESTA website offers the following information:
1 Country specific zoning information and maps; accumulation assessment forms
2 General information on natural perils, specifically for earthquake, flood and windstorm
3 Information regarding the control of natural hazard covers
4 Limitations of natural hazard covers in proportional reinsurance
5 Contact information for questions, suggestions and comments
CRESTA makes no recommendations on the insurance and reinsurance of natural hazards, but merely seeks to provide information on existing standards and regulations.
As the data granularity of natural catastrophe pricing models increases and use of the tools becomes more widespread, CRESTA is focusing on developing more detailed information for existing zones and on providing CRESTA zone information for additional countries. The new zones will reflect market requirements and data availability, and require less maintenance.
Several data granularity levels still need to be discussed for various natural hazards and country specific needs. The rapid development of geographic information system (GIS) technology is opening up the opportunity to develop new features, such as street level encoding and interactive maps.
Another aspect currently being examined concerns natural catastrophe pricing, which is often conducted using more than one model. This tends to encumber data input, as most tools use proprietary input formats for exposure data. This issue and other shortcomings to do with data standards will be addressed and hopefully solved in the near future.
A suitable occasion to discuss these issues will be the CRESTA anniversary meeting in autumn 2007 at Swiss Re's Centre for Global Dialogue in Rueschlikon, near Zurich. The long term goal is to establish a single global data standard with detailed modelling and exposure control information by location.
Christina Bayerl, a geographer GIS specialist with Swiss Re, is responsible for the CRESTA secretariat. Peter Hausmann is head of research and development, catastrophe perils, Swiss Re.