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In the wake of the devastating WannaCry cyber attack which demanded money from large organisations around the world, severely disrupting the NHS, a new survey reports that businesses have been spooked enough to stockpile currency and would genuinely consider paying cyber ransom demands.

The survey, by secure connectivity firm Citrix, found more than two-fifths of UK businesses are stockpiling bitcoin – the encrypted internet currency which cyber criminals often demand due to its untraceable nature.

UK firms are stockpiling around £46,000 of this cryptocurrency on average, in case of a ransomware attack. One third have put aside bitcoins worth more than £50,000.

Large firms are prepared to pay out more than £136,000 ($175,481) on average to cyber criminals. Smaller firms are more likely to keep a supply of cryptocurrency on hand than large businesses, perhaps feeling they could not afford to recover from an attack.

Only 22% of businesses polled said they would be unwilling to pay anything. One year ago in 2016, 20% of companies with 250-500 employees did not have any contingency measures in place, but this has fallen to just 7%.

Businesses appear to feel they would have little choice but to pay out in the event of an attack.

However, preparation can take many forms, and some are still missing simple preventative measures which could limit the impact of an attack. For example, over half of large UK firms (55%) do not back up their data every day.

Although tempting as an easy fix, it is not advised to pay ransoms if cyber criminals request money in exchange for returned access. There is no guarantee you will get your data back successfully, and you could be funding further criminal activity. It is also unlikely the money you sent would count as ‘stolen’ to your insurers, unless you have a dedicated cyber liability policy which explicitly covers ransoms.

Instead, you should report the attack to relevant authorities, and take steps to limit damage. If your data is regularly backed up, there will be no need to pay the ransom.

To discuss Cyber Cover options available please contact Opus Risk Solutions on 01202-759725 or e mail enquiries@opusrisksolutions.co.uk

The new rate was announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond in his Autumn Statement. Amid reports that car insurance premiums have seen an 8% increase in six months, the new rate of insurance premium tax is only a week away from coming into force. Taking effect from the 1st June, the new figure of 12% is estimated to add £51 to the average household’s bills, with an increase on car insurance of £15 a year, according to research from Mirror Money. However, the government insists that when offset with a crackdown on whiplash claims and a freeze in fuel duty, drivers may see a decrease in their motoring outgoings, despite the change in IPT.   IPT – when it will affect you   Policies arranged after 1st June  Unlike previous increases – of which there have already been two in recent times – there will be no concessionary period, meaning new policies and renewals arranged after the 1st June will automatically come with the higher 12% rate. The rate will also apply to any midterm adjustments, which may be pertinent to businesses which have seen a change in circumstances, such as an expansion or relocation.   Policies arranged after 1st June  It won’t apply, however, to policies arranged or renewed before the 1st June. Any mid-term adjustments or cancellations will also follow the same rate as that which the policy was arranged with – so 10% if it was purchased before 1st June. If you’re unsure as to what level of IPT will apply to your policy and how much this will amount to, speak to us at Opus Risk Solutions and we will be happy to help.
CYBER CRIME INSURANCE AMONG MANUFACTURERS UP 89% FROM 2015   Manufacturers paid $36.9 million in premiums for cyber insurance in 2016, according to figures from Advisen Ltd, an insurance consulting firm reported in the Wall Street Journal. Those figures are up a staggering 89% from 2015. Why the sudden surge in manufacturers taking out these policies? With cyber attacks on big business never far from the headlines, it is not hard to imagine how a data security breach could shut down a factory. Manufacturing environments are increasingly computerised, automated and digitally integrated with other parts of a company. A hack or breach in any part of a manufacturing business could easily threaten the security of the whole company; potentially stopping production and trading until the source is discovered, the damage limited and the incident investigated. 40% of manufacturing companies experienced cyber crime in a 12 month period, according to a 2016 study conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI). 38% of those impacted suffered damages upwards of $1 million. Consumer-facing businesses such as retailers and hospitals have been the most likely to purchase cyber insurance over the past few years, as they hold large amounts of customer data which could not only cause business interruption if hacked but could also be seriously detrimental to reputation and even patient health. But manufacturers now realise the impact a hack could have on their business, causing business interruption and loss of profits, as well as the costs of recovering stolen data or funds and overhauling digital security. ‘‘There is not a risk manager out there who wants to walk into a board meeting to explain why he didn’t think to get a cyber insurance quote, especially since it’s so cheap,” Michael Blake at US insurer Alliant Insurance Services told Reuters. To get a Cyber Liability Insurance quote for your manufacturing business, give us a call on 01202-759725 or e mail us at enquiries@opusrisksolutions.co.uk.
From dangerous levels of bacteria in a well-known facial cleansing product to exploding smartphones, the reasons behind a product recall have almost no boundaries. What’s more, because of constantly changing regulation both at home and abroad, manufacturers are having to pull back more products to the drawing board than ever. Insurance that works to protect against losses associated with a protect recall is, for this reason, a sensible addition to any manufacturing policy, as Mark Hutton, head of product recall for the UK and Ireland at XL Catlin explains, “The impact of a recall on brand reputation can be severe, and we know from experience that having the right help on hand is crucial to minimising the damage,” He said. So what’s the best way to manage such as scenario, beyond have in the right insurance?   Communicate to your consumers As a professor of mass communication, Dirk Gibson has thoroughly researched product recall practices extensively. ‘Oftentimes manufacturers, retailers, and trade associations are reticent for fear of product liability issues,’ he says. ‘But research tells us the public likes the impression that they are being dealt with honestly.” If you know that you’re going to have to recall a product, be prepared to handle the confusion and frustrations of customers through communication which puts their mind at ease, gives instructions on how to return the product, and makes them aware of the hazards and the reasons for the recall. If you only have a couple of people on the customer service desk, you might want to consider hiring temporary staff to manage phone calls and social media messages.  A live web chat feature will also provide another channel of communication. The more questions you can answer in an open and honest way, the quicker your customers will get over the inconvenience. Take ownership of the situation Timing is critical for two reasons:
  1. The longer the time elapses between discovering a problem and informing those affected allows more time for your customers to, at the very least, be inconvenienced and at worst, come into harm’s way.
  2. If the media get hold of your news before you have a chance to break it, you have no way to control how your business is portrayed.
Being ready to manage the situation also means ensure consistency by briefing all employees on the key messages to address any concerns. Cooperate with regulators If a mistake has been made, accept it, and do everything you can to help regulatory investigations go as smoothly as possible. Depending on the level of the problem and whether or not any harm has come to consumers, regulators may simply want reassurance that necessary steps are being taken to mitigate against consumer dissatisfaction, injury or illness. If you’ve already conducted an internal investigation into the recall, and then reported it to the associated regulator, it shows professional responsibility which is reassuring both to the consumer and the agency. Make sure you’re covered There a many manufacturing policies and it’s wise to make sure that the one you have in place includes product recall cover. If you’re not sure, speak to our team at Howard Insurance to get more insight on how this can work for you and where it’s available, either as an add-on or as part of a complete package. Get in touch with is at Opus Risk Solutions to discuss your cover
Dream-home building conveniently summarised in an hour long TV programme is great for spurring inspiration, as well as potentially misguiding those who want to maximise the resale value of their home. Opus Risk Solutions look at which alterations boost, and which can hinder your property’s “sell-appeal”.  WINNERS Loft conversion Loft conversions are a popular way of adding a much needed extra bedroom for those fighting for space, and adding value onto the sale price. According to Legal & General, a loft conversation or extension can add 21% to the value of your home. But outlay and ceiling price of your street shouldn’t be overlooked. If you spend £30,000 on your £200,000 home but the top price for a property on your street is £215,000, you’re not going to see a return. New kitchen The heart and soul of most homes, a new kitchen is a move-in ready sign for potential buyers and can add 4.6% onto the value of your home. The whistles and bells of high-tech kitchens may be a step too far both in alienating those with alternate tastes and tipping you over from profit to loss. Additional bathroom The battle of the bathroom is a mainstay in plenty of one-bathroom households – probably why an extra one is so appealing. One way to restore early-morning co-habitation harmony is to have an en-suite put into any new bedrooms you have planned for an extension or loft conversion. Sprucing up your bathroom could add 2.8%, while adding another could give you a 5% return on your property value. Be warned, turning an existing bedroom into a bathroom will have a negative impact on the price of your home. Parking Conjuring a parking space may not be achievable for some, but if you have a property with both a front and a back garden, transforming the front plot into off-road parking could notch up your home value by 2.2%.   AND LOSERS An “acquired” taste It’s important that you’re happy with your home and its décor when living there, but prepping it for sale is another story. Using up valuable space for a cinematic screen and speaker system isn’t going to win the house brownie points if you’re potential buyer doesn’t even have Netflix, and a hot tub screams “legionnaires disease” to some. Think about broadening the appeal of your property by toning down gaudy wallpaper and showing off the best use of redundant space without reaching out to only the film or miniseries buffs. Taking out old features Original tiling, fire mantles, cornices and slate roofs enhance a property’s characteristics as well as adding to its value. If you don’t want to detract from either, leave them well alone
Picture a weighing scale. On the one side is fear of financial loss, on the other hope of financial gain. Let’s say you have £50,000 which can be invested with equal likelihood of a return of £0 or £100,000 in one year’s time. The amount you stand to lose or gain is equal, so do the two sides of the scale balance? For most people, the answer is no. According to a recent McKinsey article based on research by Daniel Kahneman, the prospect of losing £50,000 influences behaviour much more strongly than the prospect of gaining £50,000. In fact, researchers have found that a manager with an average level of risk aversion would need the potential gain to rise to £170,000 (70% more) before making the investment. This is risk aversion, and understanding it is crucial to business growth.

Fear of carrying the can

Risk aversion comes into play when individual managers have to make individual decisions for which they will be held accountable. The personal incentive to take a risk might be very small if the manager can achieve their targets with safer options. If they take the risk and it pays off, their reward will not increase much, but if the gamble fails then they stand to lose credibility. When businesses view their decisions as part of a portfolio, perception of risk is generally balanced much more evenly. If there are twenty investment decisions to make, then a proportion of them are likely to produce returns; if there is only one or two then the risk looks like an all-or-nothing wager. Risk aversion is also increased when an organisation fails to recognise that some outcomes are due to controllable events, and some result from uncontrollable events. If people believe they might be held accountable for events they cannot influence, they make more conservative decisions.

Why risk aversion is a threat to business growth

If a business employs many people who are making risk-averse decisions because they fear a negative outcome would reflect badly on them, there is a significant net loss in the potential gains which the organisation could have made. Quite simply, unless risk is handled correctly, growth will be limited. On the flip side, decision-making can also become problematic when the rewards for risk become disproportionate. This was a feature of the financial crash, when bankers were incentivised to take significant risks, even if these were not in their clients’ best interests. It is important for businesses to distinguish between calculated and reckless risk in their reward and promotion strategies.

What should businesses do to tackle risk aversion?

A detailed approach to risk should be developed by businesses in order to support sustainable growth. This should include focusing on  the upsides and downsides of a given proposal, so benefits and losses can be fully considered. Investments are rarely about money alone, so businesses should take into account more strategic elements as well as the financial aspects. For example, a proposal might boost market penetration or brand recognition even if the returns are disappointing. This might tip the balance in favour of taking the risk. Finally, incentives for employees should be designed to reduce risk aversion. This means: judging performance based on a portfolio of projects, not one single factor; making a distinction between controllable and uncontrollable outcomes, and ensuring remuneration does not hinder sensible risk-taking. Is your approach to risk-taking out of balance?
No sooner had we gotten used to the increased IPT rate of 9.5%, up from the 6% introduced in 2011, do we find that it’s going up again, albeit by less than the 3% predicted.
Welcome to the new Opus Risk Solutions website! We've had a bit of a makeover but we're still the same dedicated team of brokers, committed to solving the problems of our diverse client base.
Whatever type of insurance you’re looking for, arranging your cover through an independent insurance broker such as Opus Risk Solutions is your best bet when it comes to finding the right level of cover at the right price. On the face of it, price comparison sites offer great deals, especially when cost is the main consideration. But dig a bit deeper, and there are lots of reasons why using a broker can prove a very wise choice. The main benefits include:
  • you’ll get truly independent advice from the professionals
  • they’ll work hard on your behalf and shop around to get you the best deal
  • experienced staff with specialist knowledge of their chosen insurance sector
  • a broker knows the insurance market and recognises when you’re getting value for money and can negotiate on your behalf
  • you get personal advice and support, and have an insurance expert “in your corner” with your best interests in mind
  • you can ask questions, air concerns and get advice and recommendations - but still have the final say
  • you learn about the pros and cons of each option in a way you can understand
  • unlike an agent, an insurance broker deals with many companies, not just one, so they can find you the best value
  • insurance brokers are extremely well qualified, and must meet very high professional standards
  • in-house claims support is available if the worst happens

The personal touch

There’s nothing quite like dealing with someone who takes the time to get to know you and your circumstances. The independent insurance brokers at Opus provide that personal touch. At the same time, customers still benefit from competitive rates and some of the best deals that we can negotiate because of our established relationships with the UK’s leading insurers.

Here’s our guide to staying afloat

More than 5,000 homes and businesses are estimated to have been flooded since the start of December 2013. With the poor weather we have witnessed over recent winter months it is important that business owners are aware of the measures they can take to prepare for future storms, and the actions they should take if affected. Here are a few simple and cost effective steps that may just help your business to stay afloat:

Prepare for the worst

The Environment Agency estimates that by taking action to prepare in advance for flooding, most businesses can save between 20% and 90% on the cost of lost stock and movable equipment, as well as some of the trouble and stress that goes with such an event. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest weather forecasts and warnings. You can call Floodline on 0845 988 1188 to see if your business can sign up for free flood warnings. You can also create a flood plan for your business, as recommended by the Environment Agency. This written plan will help you decide what practical actions are needed to reduce the damage caused by rising water levels. Visit http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/business/topics/flooding/32362.aspx for details and a flood plan template.

Talk to us about your current insurance cover

If you are hit by flooding and your commercial property is damaged, the right type and level of insurance will compensate damage costs and ensure that you aren’t left out of pocket. More often than not, this type of cover is the difference between a business staying afloat or going under, given that even small businesses can expect to make a claim of £40,000-£80,000 for flood damage. Flood insurance is available in all shapes and sizes, so it’s important to check your current cover and discuss your options with the professional brokers at Opus to ensure you have the right level of protection tailored to your business. Our team can provide guidance and work with you to carry out a full assessment of your business, including its location, to establish which areas are most vulnerable. If your business is close to riverbanks, estuaries or sewers, it will be susceptible to high groundwater levels and may require a specific type of flood insurance. If you have been affected in the past, business interruption insurance may be the best option for you. Talk to us sooner rather than later to ensure you’re covered.

Act quickly if the worst happens

There are, of course, certain circumstances when it’s impossible to prevent flooding no matter what precautions you take, as homes and businesses in the Somerset Levels can testify. If you are affected, it’s vital to act quickly to ensure you get a full and fair settlement of your claim. Make sure you:
  • Contact Opus as soon as possible so we can notify your insurer. It is important that serious damage is inspected as soon as possible.
  • Keep hold of any damaged items (unless they are a danger to your health) as your insurer may wish to inspect them.
  • If repair work needs to be done to stop further damage occurring, get the work done but make sure you keep receipts and take photographs if possible.