With the arrival of senior underwriter Eric Pani, Aviabel now has a top in-house specialist in the area of product liability insurance. Aviabel will be seeking to build an even stronger profile in this area in the next few years. We asked Eric how that will work. “Aviabel is a specialist insurer in the aviation sector. In that capacity our company already covers product liability risks. Now the aim is to update our wording and focus more intensively on this segment”, begins Eric Pani.
You already have a lot of experience in the insurance business, and more specifically in product liability.
Eric Pani: That is true. I have been working in insurance for a long time now. I was involved with product liability insurance both at Royale Belge (now Axa) and Chubb. Later on I also worked at AIG and Allianz, and at one point I also held a post as a risk manager for a multinational company. So I can say that I have acquired a lot of experience in this field already. Nevertheless, this is my first time working in aviation insurance, and it is a new field, which makes it an attractive challenge for me.
Where are Aviabel’s ambitions in the area of product liability?
Eric Pani: These days we cover a lot of risks both in Belgium and abroad as a co-insurer. Until now our ambitions have been quite modest. In future we want to act more often as lead or even sole insurer for risks in the area of product liability. We are
a specialist player, with a lot of in-house knowledge available. I am therefore convinced that we will be able to strengthen our position in this market.
Which target group are you aiming for?
Eric Pani: A very wide target group of potential customers: airlines, airport operators, manufacturers of aircraft parts, maintenance companies and others. Initially we are hoping to raise our profile in the middle market. Let me give an example:
regional airlines are a central part of our target group, but top global players like British Airways are not.
What are the challenges confronting airlines in the area of product liability?
Eric Pani: There are many challenges. Not least, the increasingly strict regulations. Companies working in the aviation sector have to comply with a lot of rules. These companies also need extensive liability cover: an accident involving an aircraft, for
example, will automatically give rise to very large claims.
I can imagine that you make a distinction between critical and non-critical risks?
Eric Pani: Exactly. An aircraft engine manufacturer is of course exposed to a higher liability risk than the company making the seats. In the end it is up to the customer to choose the limit of his liability cover. We do of course provide the advice that he
needs. Do not forget that product liability claims are only called upon in a second line process. If there is an incident involving an aircraft and there are victims, the relatives will always be compensated by the airline’s liability insurer. This is done on the basis of official criteria, without even trying to ascertain which party is liable. The investigation into the cause of the incident and the search to ascertain who is liable happens afterwards. If it subsequently turns out that the incident was due to a technical defect in the engine, for example, the airline’s liability insurer will make a claim against the engine manufacturer. The manufacturer will in turn be able to submit a claim to his Product Liability insurer.
What is the state of the liability insurance market in relation to aviation risks?
Eric Pani: It is quite a competitive market, with low rates and high capacity. Our know-how can be an important factor and make a real difference.
Do you offer reinsurance solutions too?
Eric Pani: Yes, absolutely. Aviabel can offer a quality solution for reinsurance of risks relating to product liability. This may involve
either treaties or optional cover.
Thank you for this conversation.