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Nathan Golia
Nathan Golia
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Badass Diamond Heist Boosts Case for Loss Control Tech

Thieves found holes in the heavy surveilled diamond supply chain and made off with $50 million in gems.

How did you spend your morning? I spent mine reading about an amazing ripped-from-the-movies diamond robbery in Belgium the other day: According to the AP, a group of eight thieves discovered that the only place between Antwerp and Zurich that wasn't overrun with surveillance cameras, police and identity controls was the tarmac at the Brussels airport. There, they cut through a fence, drove onto the tarmac, and loaded up their van with safes full of $50 million in uncut diamonds while holding security personnel at gunpoint.

Once I picked my jaw up off the floor after attempting to process the cojones of these thieves, my next reaction was, "How does this happen in 2013, to one of the richest industries on Earth?" Certainly, I thought, the global diamond supply chain would be an early adopter of loss-control technologies. Banks have used ink packs forever -- how much could a chip in each safe cost?

(Well, perhaps it's more accurate to say that there's no indication either way about whether or not the diamond industry is using this kind of technology. Maybe they don't want the robbers to know it's there -- though I'm sure the kind of minds that can identify one of the few weaknesses in the industry's surveillance network know whether or not there's loss control devices associated with safes.)

An industry that uses myriad other cutting-edge technologies to guard its central business district can't ignore such an easy option for theft deterrence for too much longer. And, if there's any party that's definitely interested in making sure that loss control is a standard going forward, it's the insurers for Brink's, the armored car company that was transporting the diamonds. In a statement, Brink's said that it "has a longstanding insurance program in place to cover its losses. The total loss exposure has not been verified, and the loss exposure for Brink's has not been disclosed. Brink's has notified all of its customers affected by the robbery, who will be reimbursed promptly for all confirmed losses."

[The 'Internet of Things' and Insurance]

Surely the administrator of that insurance program will want to ensure not only that the weakness in the surveillance network is closed in the future, but also that some local technology is associated with diamond shipments so they can be tracked and recovered in the event another weakness opens up. Specialty insurers like RLI Marine have gone so far as paying to install and activate these technologies on items they cover. And as Anthony O'Donnell reports today, loss control technology is becoming so inexpensive and ubiquitous that even personal lines auto insurers are finding ways to offer it to their customers.

And while that may be a boon for precious stones companies, it will be bittersweet for those of us who love a good caper story. In the same way that mobility has obsoleted classic television shows like Seinfeld, so also could better technology take the edge off global diamond intrigue.

Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio

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Greg MacSweeney
Greg MacSweeney,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/22/2013 | 4:36:41 PM
re: Badass Diamond Heist Boosts Case for Loss Control Tech
Yeh, but online fraud is boring. I can't see Hollywood making a movie about a bunch of cyber criminals sitting in an office stealing money. This diamond-heist movie will do much better at the box office. I joke, but it's kinda true, don't you think?
User Rank: Apprentice
2/20/2013 | 6:51:28 PM
re: Badass Diamond Heist Boosts Case for Loss Control Tech
Good points, but I can't help thinking that a big part of the appeal of the heist story is nostalgia. Not that physical theft isn't still a problem, but technical advances have done much to control it. The new frontier is digital theft. According to a Bank Systems & Technology article ("Identity Fraud at a Three-Year High") published today, since 2009 ID theft has resulted in losses of over $21 billion. And that's not the only kind of digital theft by far. The very retro diamond heist still has lessons for loss control, but new technology is enabling many other kinds of loss control/risk mitigation features that will help commercial operations, such as Brinks, but will also result in new types of engagement and collaboration between insurers and their retail/personal lines customers.
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