Socio-demographic change is one of the key risks facing the Benelux countries

Bas van Mullem

Socio-demographic change is one of the key risks facing the Benelux countries, as it is for many other regions. It is a problem not only for risk managers, but also for human resources and, while not insurable, it remains an issue that must be dealt with on many levels. Even the
government needs to play an important role.

For example, with an ageing population you find that many older workers keep their business knowledge to themselves because they do not get the time or opportunityto transfer their knowledge, and when they leave that information goes with them.

Another issue is the way people of different ages think and behave. One example of how this manifests itself is the vastly different way that young people purchase things compared to older people. Young people predominantly use the internet and sometimes it is hard for businesses to engage with them, so something that is hot today might be completely unfashionable tomorrow.

Companies often complain that young people are not being educated in subjects that are relevant to the workplace. But if you invest in young people you can change this quite easily. What you cannot change so easily is how to stop those same people leaving to work elsewhere once you have helped them develop the right skills.

Of the other risks that affect customer businesses, cyber is predominant and takes on many forms. Hacking, social media and cyber attacks are on the increase, and the reputational damage that can be caused by being hit is immense.

Meanwhile, supply chains are getting more complex: we aim to drive out costs, but in doing so we also drive in risk.

The legal and regulatory environment is also changing. Huge claims being made against businesses highlight the massive risks companies are now taking.

Environmental and impairment liability represents a major risk for the future. The issue is not so much that the risk of an environmental spillage is increasing, it is the attitude to claims that is changing, the way in which the problem is dealt with, and the associated charges for cleaning up the mess.

At Zurich we try to help our customers through all of these complex problems by having specialists available and also providing access to other experts through our extensive network that we have developed over many years. If something goes wrong despite all the good work from all parties involved, we are there to help our customers out, servicing them with our claims handling, and delivering to them when it really matters. SR