The Baloise cloud seeder, a Cessna light aircraft specifically equipped for hail prevention, has been in use during the hailstorm season since August 2018. The method used to ‘seed’ hailstorm clouds causes no harm to human health or the natural environment. For the planned pilot phase, the area of deployment is initially limited to the German-speaking parts of Switzerland. Every year from early May until the end of September, the plane takes to the air and specifically targets hailstorm clouds to ‘seed’ them, which prevents the formation of large hailstones. According to an internal analysis of claims, there are already initial signs that this method is having a positive impact. The analysis is based on internal hail damage claims data from the past twenty years.
One of the segments most affected by hailstorms is motor vehicle insurance. The internal analysis of the number of claims in the motor vehicle segment shows that compared with the period from 2000 to 2017, the level of hail-related claims incurred has remained at a consistently low level since the targeted cloud seeding project was launched. It currently comes to a total in the mid single-digit millions.
All in all, the cloud seeder was deployed during four loss events (days with more than 50 claims) in 2020. The average claim volume on these days was around 10 per cent lower than the annual average, which suggests a reduction in intensity. The number of claims per year has been relatively low overall since the launch of the cloud seeder programme in 2018.
Alongside the internal analysis of claims data, Baloise is also collaborating closely with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), which is carrying out research into the impact of targeted cloud seeding. In addition, a ‘hail committee’ has been formed – a panel of experts that serves as a sounding board for approaches to the shared objective of preventing hail damage. The committee members include representatives from cantonal building insurance providers, the farmers’ association, the Swiss Insurance Association (SVV) and specialist insurance provider Schweizerische Hagel-Versicherungs-Gesellschaft. “While the downward trend in the severity of hailstorm events is very encouraging, it is still too early to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the cloud seeder. Together with the ETH and our partners from the hail committee, we will analyse the data for the last few years at the end of the pilot phase and discuss the best way forward,” says Thomas Schöb, Head of Claims and a member of the Executive Committee of Baloise Switzerland.
In recent years, Baloise has taken a holistic approach to the subject of thunderstorms and hailstorms by using a variety of innovations in the field of claims prevention and claims processing. After major hailstorms, Baloise sends a text message or email to all customers based in the affected area at the time to ask them if they have suffered any damage. This is part of the company’s proactive customer support. If a customer has suffered damage, they can simply click on a link included in the message from Baloise to submit a claim straight away. In addition, Baloise sets up temporary ‘drive-in hail checkpoints’ in areas that have been affected by a major event. Customers can take their vehicle there and have it inspected by an expert who can advise them on the repair and insurance payout options available to them. This ensures that claims can be processed in a quick and straightforward manner, especially after a major event.