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How the Average Clause affects your business insurance coverage

Meta description: Amid rising inflation, the Average Clause in business insurance policies can pose severe financial consequences for companies. Find out why.
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Rising inflation poses multiple financial risks for companies across all industries. One key risk is the lack of understanding of how the Average Clause in Property Damage and Business Interruption (PD/BI) policies work.. This can result in a company failing to take action as inflation impacts their asset valuations and BI declared values — ultimately leading to a major shortfall in claims payout in the event of a loss.

This article explains in detail how the Average Clause can affect your company amidst rising inflation, and what you can do about it.

What is the Average Clause in a Property Damage and Business Interruption policy?

The Average Clause is a policy term that restricts the total payout based on the proportion of the value covered.

For instance, if a company insures a building asset for less than the full cost of rebuilding it (e.g. $6 million out of $10 million, or 60%), the Average Clause, which states that the insurer will pay in proportion to the amount of underinsurance, will apply in the event of a claim. This is illustrated in the table below:

Average Clause shortfall illustration

Although the scenario illustrated above shows the importance of obtaining full coverage of an asset at the outset, businesses must also bear in mind that the Average Clause dictates that the sum insured is always adjusted to reflect the present total value at risk.

How inflation ‘activates’ the Average Clause

Inflation changes the total value at risk of an asset, which means that a fully insured asset at the start of the policy period can become partially insured after a period of time and hence subject to the Average Clause.

In an inflationary environment, while companies may feel that having a lower sum insured/partially insuring an asset can help them save costs, the potential financial consequences arising from the Average Clause can far outweigh any initial benefits.

Take Korea for instance, where the cost for chemical manufacturing machinery and parts increased by 27% in the span of a year (see chart below) while the cost of semiconductor manufacturing machinery increased by 2% in the same period: 

Manufacturing equipment costs in Korea

Without reviewing insurance coverage, a company’s fully insured chemical manufacturing facility, for example, may become significantly underinsured over a relatively short period of time. The company would then face a sizeable claims payout shortfall due to the Average Clause, posing a severe financial risk on its balance sheet.

And because price increases in each sector may differ (like in the example above), partnering with insurance broker with specific industry knowledge and expertise is vital to obtaining accurate and updated property and BI values that are necessary for the timely adjustment of your policy coverages and ensuring they remain sufficient and fit-for-purpose for your business.

Next: Assess your existing insurance coverage

The next step is to diagnose any underinsurance and protection gaps in the  PD/BI insurance coverage for your organisation with Marsh’s free, 7-minute Corporate Insurance Survey self-assessment. Marsh’s industry-focus and data capabilities has helped 15,000+ SMEs in Asia diagnose their protection gaps, adjust coverage to the appropriate levels, and take the right steps to improve resilience against the effects of Average Clause and other potential pitfalls.

Act now and reinforce your organisation’s resilience

To strengthen your organisation’s business resilience for the risks and unexpected events that lay ahead, take the free Marsh Corporate Insurance Survey today.