Launch of the Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management (ICRM)

Published on : 21-Jan-2010

Speech by



Thursday, 21 January 2010, 9.10 am
Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel


Guest of Honour, Mr Heng Swee Keat,
Managing Director, Monetary Authority of Singapore,

Distinguished Guests,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good morning to everyone!

Welcome to the launch of Nanyang Technological University’s Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management and our inaugural international symposium on catastrophe risk management.

As we meet, against the sobering backdrop of the Haiti earthquake, we have a tragic reminder of what ‘catastrophe’ means in real life.  The shocking images of a blighted populace have stunned the world.  It is instructive that the lack of preparedness and organisation has led to the complete collapse of order and government.  Devoid of the basic capabilities and structures to conduct post-disaster rescue, recovery and rebuilding, the helpless nation can only stand by and wait for the international community to step in and take over relief operations, public security, and order.

In recent years, we have seen an increase in human and economic losses due to catastrophic events, both natural and man-made.  The scale of these losses has been magnified by a combination of factors: globalisation, urbanisation, environmental neglect and climate change, among them.  In particular, the inter-linking of global economic activities and resulting complex economic relationships among nations has created new, unique and non-traditional risk management issues.

World-class research
The Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management will focus on catastrophe-triggered insurance and reinsurance risks, sovereign risk, societal risk and some non-traditional risks.  In working with professionals from the finance, insurance and reinsurance industry, as well as other leading research institutions worldwide, the Institute will stimulate ideas, develop strategies, investigate policy implications and create informed perspectives.

With more than 70 research centres spread throughout our campus, NTU is proud to establish the ICRM to lead Asia’s efforts to understand and tackle catastrophe risk.  At NTU, research is carried out within and across colleges and institutes, often through strategic partnerships.  University-wide, there is a focus on developing peaks of excellence that are integrated, multidisciplinary and inclusive.  The Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management will be the first multidisciplinary risk management research institute of its kind in Asia, and among a handful of such centres in the world.

We are proud to have an outstanding group of researchers at our University working in the general field of catastrophe risk, with special focus on the areas of flood risk and earthquake engineering. NTU professors are pioneers in investigating the sequence of ruptures along the Sumatran megathrust and the expected return periods of large earthquakes in the subduction zone there.  This area of research has been further strengthened by the establishment of the Earth Observatory of Singapore at NTU, which opened its doors in February 2009.  The Observatory, a S$150 million Research Centre of Excellence, is jointly funded by Singapore’s National Research Foundation and Ministry of Education.  Besides earthquakes, the Earth Observatory will investigate tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, sea-level rise, tropical storms and other natural hazards.

We see the work of the Observatory and the new Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management as being highly complementary and synergistic, covering a spectrum of fields, from basic earth sciences and engineering to the socio-economic realms of government and finance.  Our research will help the community to better understand the fundamental characteristics of risks related to natural and non-traditional disasters or threats, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and non-traditional hazards, such as infectious diseases. 

With the establishment of the Institute, our professors will be working on integrated risk assessment and management of natural and man-made hazards and catastrophes.  The plan is for such work to be conducted in collaboration with risk insurers and modellers from the finance, insurance and reinsurance industries, as well as related associations.  Through this research, NTU aims to develop Asian catastrophe risk models and build up industry benchmarks and indices to reflect uniquely Asian catastrophe risks.

Public-private partnership
Back in February 2008, NTU colleagues and I met Mr Heng, Managing Director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore and his staff, to discuss research collaboration and a framework for catastrophe risk management.  I am delighted that our plan has now come to fruition, with the establishment of the Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management, with strong support from MAS.  I am also pleased to note that NTU, together with the insurance and reinsurance industry, are in the process of finalising details of two major research projects on catastrophe risk.

The Institute’s risk research agenda is driven by the principle that catastrophic risk impacts the basic functions and effectiveness of the whole fabric of society and enterprise.  Developing strategies for mitigating these risks will require robust public-private partnerships among academia, government agencies, financial institutions and social organisations.  Collaboration across industries and sectors is crucial in the search for comprehensive methodologies and solutions to tackle the growing threat of global catastrophe risk.

I am pleased to see among the audience leading researchers and area experts, senior executives of finance and insurance companies, as well as representatives of government agencies and policy think tanks from around the world.  The topics to be presented and discussed at this symposium are designed to promote public-private partnership in understanding, communicating and managing catastrophe risk.  I trust you will all be able to get something out of today’s conference.

NTU has pledged long-term support for the Institute, with a view to developing it as Asia’s leading research institute in the field of catastrophe risk management.  It will be a key institute within NTU, providing vital solutions for its sponsors and all stakeholders, through research and education.  With your support, and the backing of our stakeholders, I am confident the Institute of Catastrophe Risk Management will evolve into a globally recognised centre of excellence for conducting research, evaluating risk, and developing policies and catastrophe mitigation solutions to prevent the recurrence of another Haitian tragedy.

We have put in place strong leadership to ensure the success of the Institute.  Please join me in welcoming Professor Pan Tso-Chien, Dean of the College of Engineering at NTU, as the Institute’s Founding Director.  It also gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of Stanford Emeritus Professor Haresh Shah, member of the NTU Board of Trustees and founder of Risk Management Solutions Inc, as Chairman of the Institute’s Advisory Board.

I would like to thank the Organising Committee and the College of Engineering for their hard work and effort in coordinating this event. Support from the Nanyang Business School, the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, the Earth Observatory of Singapore and the School of Civil & Environmental Engineering has made this possible.

Now, I invite you to immerse yourself in interesting and fruitful discussions over the two days of this symposium.

Thank you.

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