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Marsh Warns of Link Between Oil Price Reduction and Increase in Major Incidents

Dubai   |   March 22, 2016

Despite falling revenues, energy firms should maintain their investment in risk management to reduce the potential for future major incidents and insurance claims, according to Marsh, a leading global insurance broker and risk adviser, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (NYSE:MMC).

In a research report, Can Energy Firms Break the Historical Nexus Between Oil Price Falls and Large Losses?, launched today at the firm’s bi-annual National Oil Companies (NOC) conference in Dubai, Marsh analyzes the historical sequential correlation between oil price reductions, which led to energy firms cutting costs, including safety training and education, which in turn led to an occurrence of significantly larger insured losses in the following period.

According to Marsh’s report, insured losses in the global upstream energy sector reached a peak in the 1980s, shortly after the price of Brent crude oil fell from US$35 to US$15 per barrel. In the late 1990s, this cycle occurred again when the price fell below US$10 per barrel and again in the years following the 2008 slump, when the price fell from more than US$100 to US$32 per barrel.

“Historically, falling oil prices have prompted cuts in infrastructure and maintenance spending, and less investment in health and safety measures and employee training,” said Andrew George, Chairman of Marsh’s Global Energy Practice. “Analysis of past cycles indicates that cost-cutting decisions were followed by an increased frequency of major incidents or large losses.”

Marsh’s analysis follows a period of significant investment in risk engineering by energy firms in the Middle East. Marsh’s report, Benchmarking the Middle Eastern Energy Industry: Strengths & Opportunities of an Energy Superpower, highlights the marked increase in the adoption rate and quality of risk management methodologies at Middle Eastern energy facilities between 2013 and 2015, compared to their global peers.

“Thanks to continued investment and boardroom support, energy firms in the Middle East have made major improvements in their risk management protocols over the past two years and many are now ranked among the world’s elite in their approach to risk and emergency response,” added Mr. George. “Firms that have invested in risk management have seen real benefits. Energy companies should exercise caution when implementing cost-cutting measures in response to this latest downturn to avoid a repetition of the major losses that occurred in the past.”

About Marsh

Marsh is the world’s leading insurance broker and risk advisor. With around 40,000 colleagues operating in more than 130 countries, Marsh serves commercial and individual clients with data-driven risk solutions and advisory services. Marsh is a business of Marsh McLennan (NYSE: MMC), the world’s leading professional services firm in the areas of risk, strategy and people. With annual revenue over $17 billion, Marsh McLennan helps clients navigate an increasingly dynamic and complex environment through four market-leading businesses: Marsh, Guy Carpenter, Mercer and Oliver Wyman. Follow Marsh on Twitter @MarshGlobal; LinkedIn; Facebook; and YouTube, or subscribe to BRINK.