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What To Expect From This Week’s Belt and Road Summit

On Wednesday, Hong Kong will host a two-day Belt and Road Summit. We asked Alicia Garcia-Herrero, a regular BRINK contributor on the Chinese economy, what to expect:

“This summit comes at an interesting time for China, Hong Kong and the world. Hong Kong is embroiled in a huge identity crisis, which has generated social unrest and weakened its economy. In addition, the global image of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been worsening quite rapidly, including in Hong Kong, at the same time in which China has had to confront an increasingly aggressive US administration on import tariffs and beyond.

The Chinese leadership is increasingly aware of the high cost of China’s deteriorating global image. This has prompted them to change gears in their strategy. At the BRI summit in Beijing in April, China turned to the rest of the world for help to improve infrastructure and connectivity at a global scale. While embryonic, the call for a more multilateral model for BRI is good news for this summit.”

The Countries Where the Pandemic Has Lowered the Cost of Living

Note: Index shows estimated average expenses for a four-person family. The Rent Index estimates for renting one- and three-bedroom apartments in and outside of the city center.

Turkey, Colombia and Costa Rica are the top OECD countries that saw the biggest drops in cost of living between 2019 to 2021, according to BRINK analysis of numbers provided by online quality-of-life database Numbeo. 

While this may seem like a good thing, all three countries have struggling economies, which may explain the lower cost of living. Turkey is battling inflation and a weak currency, Colombia has crime and oil crises and Costa Rica is struggling with an impact on tourism.

Among the top 10 countries with higher index scores, South Korea, Germany and the United States have seen their rankings fall throughout the past 18 months. These are examples of countries that have done well economically throughout the pandemic. South Korea has seen exports rise 16.7% in 2021; Germany’s economy is forecasted to grow 3.1% this year; and the United States’ economy has shown relative resilience throughout the pandemic.

Insurer Premiums Are Aligning to Net-Zero Targets

Several major insurers and reinsurers are committing to transitioning their underwriting portfolios to net-zero by 2050, as part of the newly formed Net-Zero Insurance Alliance (NZIA). 

Launched in July 2021, NZIA includes eight institutions with over $400 billion in gross written insurance premiums and $130 billion in gross written reinsurance premiums. These figures account for 22% and 59% of global gross written insurance and reinsurance premiums among listed carriers, respectively. 

The reinsurance sector is highly concentrated. Consequently, net-zero commitments among a small number of the largest reinsurers place the reinsurance sector some way ahead of the insurance sector. In turn, this is expected to increase pressure on insurers to align their underwriting portfolios with net-zero. Over time, those that do not may find it harder to cede risks to net-zero-aligned reinsurers. 

How the Pandemic Affected the Non-Insured Population

Rates for those without health insurance in the U.S. remained relatively stable in 2020, according to data from the Census Bureau, analyzed by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Results show that 10.2%, or 27.4 million nonelderly people, were uninsured throughout 2020, a 400,000 increase from 2018.

The uninsured rate among nonelderly non-Hispanic Black people increased from 10.5% in 2018 to 11.7% in 2020, while the rate for Asian people decreased from 7.7% in 2018 to 6.4% in 2020. Although a majority of those insured were covered by their employer’s insurance, the 41.3% that weren’t shows a need for personalized health care plans.

Eugene Sayan, founder of Softheon, a cloud-based health insurance exchange and service provider, predicts a sea change in health care. “There’s a great opportunity to break down this macroeconomy around health care under the pillars of Medicaid, Medicare, the marketplace and commercial,” says Sayan. “What we’re going to start to see is consumers, individuals, empowerment taking so many different shapes.”

What Are the Biggest Upcoming Risks for Organizations?

Changes in consumer demand and cyberattacks are the two biggest risks organizations expect to face in the next two years, according to polls undertaken by Marsh McLennan. Other notable risks include workforce and industry disruptions, as well as challenges associated with international trade.

The poll results also show that the risk outlook of businesses is heavily influenced by their sector. For example, financial sector companies highlighted digital risks — stemming from new technology adoption and cyberattacks — while industrial sector firms were most concerned about international trade.

Today’s dynamic global risk environment necessitates that organizations proactively navigate upcoming risks. Those that manage to do so will emerge more resilient and agile in the face of future disruptions.

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