The rapid spread of electronic commerce has opened a window of opportunity for insurance companies to offer financial protection against a new range of electronic-related problems. United States-based insurer St Paul Re recently started a e-commerce unit in an effort to encompass business opportunities from this field. 'We are now just focusing on developing e-business.' chairman and chief executive Douglas Leatherdale said. Mr Leatherdale said the emergence of e-business, or the creation of an electronic economy, would expose corporates to higher risks - computer system fraud, personal injury and the ever-present danger of a computer virus - for which they might expect insurers to deliver protection and security. Besides the e-business area, St Paul Re will also focus on alternative risk transfer (Art) products. Art products can help companies transfer risks arising from volatility in the financial market and commercial operations away from their balance sheets. 'For example my company has an expense level of 40 per cent [of gross revenue] and a commercial loss level of 70 per cent. So I have a total loss ratio of 110 per cent,' Mr Leatherdale said. 'I don't want to report losses because the stock market is going to penalise me for having loss ratios of over 110 per cent. So I resort to the re-insurance market. The markets says: 'Yes we can limit your loss ratio to 110 per cent'. So the volatility is taken out of the business.'