When the Swiss think of summer and warm temperatures, thoughts turn to barbecues, hiking in the great outdoors and perfect beach weather. When insurance companies think of summer and warm temperatures, there’s one thing they can’t help but think of: hailstorms. Indeed, hail and the fear associated with it are as old as mankind itself. These days – thankfully – people and companies can insure themselves against hail damage. Hail season is a claims-intensive period for insurance companies because of this. In fact, the Baloise Group recorded more than 10,000,000 hail-related dents in cars and other moveable items over the past 25 years.
Hazelnuts, billiard balls or tennis balls?
Benchmarks help to measure the potential damage using the size of the hailstones as a basis. Hailstones can vary in diameter, measuring anything from the size of a lentil or a pea right through to that of an apple or even a hand ball. Hailstorms with hailstones of 7.5 cm or more in diameter are classed as an historic event. The last time an event of this scale was recorded in Switzerland was on 11 July 2012 in the Mendrisio region in Ticino; in this case the hailstones reached the size of an apple. Thankfully, storms with a hail intensity of this magnitude only happen once every 300 years in the Italian part of Switzerland.
The most dangerous place to live
In Switzerland, hailstorms are primarily a regional phenomenon, caused, among other things, by its topography. As a result, certain areas are more heavily impacted than others. In fact, certain trends can be identified at a regional level; according to new research findings the probability of hail damage is highest in the Napf, Jura and southern Ticino regions. These findings correspond with the hail damage claim notifications received by Baloise over the past 19 years. Nonetheless, hailstorms remain unpredictable from one year to the next.
The “Böögg” predicts
It’s difficult to make short-term annual forecasts for hail, that is, unless you resort to somewhat more unconventional – and less serious – methods of damage forecasting. The Böögg snowman, for example, which is burnt at the Zurich Sächseleuten festival, is emerging as an ever more reliable indicator. The time is takes for it to burn in seconds (measured up to the point where the head explodes) correlates negatively with the number of claims notifications received. So, the shorter the burning time, the more hailstorm-related claims Baloise will receive. This seems plausible in so far as the time taken for the Böögg to burn predicts the summer weather. The faster the head explodes, the nicer and warmer the summer will be. A summer with high temperatures is a good indicator of storms – and therefore hailstorms too. So, in 2019, the Böögg predicts roughly 5,000 claims notifications for Baloise.
Baloise and hail
“With the Baloise hail study and various different initiatives in the areas of claims prevention and handling, we want to take a holistic approach to tackling the issue of storms and hail”, explains Mathias Zingg, Head of the Claims Department and member of the Executive Committee. With a view to ideally preventing damage, Baloise has been focusing heavily on the subject of prevention, launching the Baloise cloud seeder in 2018. This aircraft injects targeted storm clouds in order to prevent the formation of giant hailstones. The cloud-seeding aircraft is used across the German-speaking part of Switzerland from May to September each year. The method used is harmless to humans and wildlife. The pilot project is set for a three-year period and is scientifically monitored by ETH Zurich. Baloise has also adopted a proactive support approach, sending a text message or an email to customers living in any of the regions affected within the given timeframe to ask whether they have sustained any damage. If this is indeed the case, they can submit a claim directly via the link supplied. And, in the event of major incidents, “hail drive-ins” are set up in affected regions. Customers can have their vehicles inspected and consult with a vehicle expert about repair and payout options. This helps to ensure quick and straightforward claims handling, especially where major incidents are concerned.
The Baloise Group is more than just a traditional insurance company. The changing security, safety and service needs of society in the digital age lie at the heart of its business activities. The 7,200 or so employees of Baloise therefore focus on the wishes of their customers. The best possible customer service, combined with innovative products and services, makes Baloise the first choice for people who want to feel ‘simply safe’. Located at the heart of Europe, with its head office in Basel, the Baloise Group is a provider of prevention, pension, assistance and insurance solutions. Its core markets are Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg. In Switzerland, with Baloise Bank SoBa, the Group also operates as a specialised financial services provider, offering a combination of insurance and banking services. The Group offers innovative pension products to retail customers throughout Europe from its competence centre in Luxembourg. Bâloise Holding Ltd shares are listed in the main segment of the SIX Swiss Exchange.