Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Solvency II, Omnibus II and Trilogue - two steps forward, two steps back?

Headline results from an Economist Intelligence Unit survey have been published this week, apparently suggesting that most global insurers continue to see Solvency II as their biggest regulatory challenge. Despite its prominence in the agendas of insurers' committees, boards and control functions, the legislation appeared to have taken a back seat in the decision-making fora of the European Union since the publication of EIOPA's LTGA in June.

So while the EU Parliamentarians go off for their hard earned 5 weeks in the sun (and by association Omnibus II/Solvency II will temporarily sit untouched like a pair of pink booties in Buckingham Palace), we can try and work out what the crack is with the dossier!

So with the Trilogue process itself necessarily one of closed doors, secret handshakes and unpublished shady deals, at least we formally know that they reconvened before the summer holidays thanks to Sharon Bowles' diary handler! Other than InsuranceERM's piece on a "muted start" to the negotiations (subscription only), the well is pretty dry on comment, suggesting that they got off to an inauspicious (re)start.

As far as the latest ITER listings go (p1), ECON will not be considering the dossier again until 18th November 2013. From what I can read of the Parliamentary calendar, that is too close to supply the November Plenary with anything to vote on, and the December one is scheduled early in the month. Fair to say that, as indicated by Burkhard Balz last month, the Parliament won't vote on Omnibus II before 2014?

Bed made - but covers stolen...
So the Lithuanian presidency is in town, and apparently sees the Omnibus II dossier as having "high importance" (p3) within their recently published work programme. ECOFIN have a state of play meeting provisionally scheduled for 15th October 2013.

That said, when pressed for comment when attending ECON before the summer holidays, they seems to have learned from the Paula Abdul school of making progress: for the two steps forward indicated by the Lithuanian Finance Minister's comment that the Presidency is committed to resolving, amongst other dossiers, Omnibus II (p12), he immediately takes two steps back by noting one of the key tactics will be "...focusing on uncontroversial technical issues to facilitate progress" (p13) - might be OK for some of the multitude of delayed dossiers, but not this one!

EIOPA naturally consider their work largely done for Omnibus II, and consider the report a "reliable basis" for making decisions on LTGs, and ultimately Omnibus II itself. Sr. Bernadino did however admit at the ABI conference a week back that, for 2016 to remain a viable "Go Live" date, political agreement on Omnibus II would be needed by the end of this year. Judging by Parliament's position above, I guess 2016 is out then!

European Commission
While Commissioner Barnier had lavished praise on EIOPA's, errr, "very good [LTGA] report", the Commission has lost its Solvency II specialist to retirement during this year, which might lead some observers to believe the Commission will be less effective as a negotiator while the new boy learns the ropes. However, Gideon managed to get some words from Karel van Hulle's replacement a couple of weeks back, and his modus operandi doesn't sound like one which will lead to a swift decision at the expense of one or two angry outliers in any case.

Specifically his comment that "We need to find a solution that works for almost all Member States. That is our ambition. So we don’t like to get the project through, just about ", suggests that anyone at the table with a gripe will get some airtime. With the LTGA outcome causing more gripe than at a constipated nursery, I suspect that the delays caused by the current 5 week vacance soleil will be a mere drop in the ocean...

Friday, 19 July 2013

PRA's take on EIOPA Guidance - no truck with dual reporting?

One of the Barnett Waddingham crew was kind enough to make a few notes about the PRA's current position, presented in an industry briefing back in early June (slides seemingly unavailable). While it didn't touch on pre-application for internal models, it did publicly tease out a few more details on ORSA and System of Governance from those already available, for example;

  • The concept of a "Glide Path" towards ultimate Solvency II compliance, which is being agreed between firms and the PRA, to make up for the lack of certainty around both EIOPA's requirements from 2014 and of course the ultimate 'Go Live' date itself - gives both parties plenty of wriggle room in their preparations
  • PRA are currently doing an "EIOPA vs PRA" comparison, but are not looking to change the PRA Handbook (which would neccesitate a consultation period, and therefore wouldn't be ready for 2014)
  • That the PRA are not especially enamoured with their reporting requirements up to EIOPA!
  • That the PRA believe that the trilogue discussions will be concluded before EIOPA's guidelines come into force. That seems less likely with every passing day
  • That the PRA do not have the resources to feedback on any of the firms' efforts in the Solvency II reporting space
I guess the slightly odd thing is that the PRA have just announced a radically reduced Special Purpose Fee for Solvency II preparation (only £3.1m for IMAP, and a rebate for non-IMAP due to underspend last year - compare that to previous years!). Could they perhaps have just hung on to a bit more cash to provide a more substantial service in the next 18 months, or have they also given up the ghost on anything of substance happening in the foreseeable future?

Monday, 15 July 2013

ABI and PRA on 'Meeting the Challenges of a Changing World' - Solvency II in particular...

Low Yield issue - not just for insurers
While I disposed of my son for the summer last week for an extensive potty training course in Bordeaux (PS you might want to avoid the 2013 whites!), the ABI gathered the great and good for their biennial conference, themed Meeting the Challenges of a Changing World.

A corresponding publication from the ABI which the event hung its hat off to a certain extent is particularly useful for anyone in the emerging risk/ORSA/reverse stress testing space, touching on 7 specific 'challenge' themes, which are themself further broken into sub-categories. With the ABI providing a mouthpiece for the interests of the UK insurance industry (and being currently Chaired by an avid opponent of Solvency II), it was worth picking up on this document's take on Solvency II, specifically;

  • That it could be a future constraint on the nascent equity release market
  • Its well documented "...potential effects on infrastructure financing"
  • That British insurers should "...[continue] being proactive and engaged in trying to shape vital regulation such as Solvency II rather than simply criticising it from the sidelines". Not sure if the implication is that the UK is drifting from the box-seat in this regard, but certainly in the context of the next decade, a slated in/out referendum on EU membership may make proactivity on Solvency II a moot point!
The regulatory meat in this lobbyist event sandwich came from a keynote speech by the PRA's Andrew Bailey which, in the process of publicly revealing a few nuggets of truth, still left me safe in the knowledge that insurance is still the banking industry's boring cousin - that he needed to "...make clear at outset that insurance supervision matters as much as banking supervision" and stress that " supervision is a skill on its own" while supporting most prevailing regulatory techniques with the prefix 'what we learned from Banking is...' tells its own story.

That aside, the following comments are worthy of highlighting;
  • The PRA's current trend of using "business model analysis" in their supervisory work - surprised that this was not already par for the course frankly (what else other than the types of analyses referenced at the bottom of p4 would you be doing?), but one would expect that the advent of ORSA will enhance everyone's activity in this field soon.
  • Taking that into account, it is "...logical for us to make early adjustments to our existing regime to incorporate the ORSA under ICAS+"
  • The suggestion that management "...take responsibility for understanding and mitigating the risks in their business" - 'managing', rather than 'mitigating' surely, we'll tolerate anything within appetite!
  • That the truly woeful "Solvency II/Crossrail" costing analogy used by Mr Bailey to a parliamentary select committee was the PRA "...making a point on behalf of firms".
  • That "PRA have not withdrawn from involvement in Solvency II, far from it", though recognises that the result around the classic matching adjustment is not what UK plc would wish for - goes on to comment that we "...still have a good way to go to make the Solvency II regime manageable in its use and implementation"
  • That, as far as Sol II's legislative progress is concerned, negotiations "...continue over summer, with a conclusion expected in the autumn", and that the official implementation date discussed recently on this blog is "clearly unrealistic".
In a week where a wall of silence has descended upon the co-legislators and the Commission, it is reassuring to see at least one NSA body with a solid-ish implementation plan, regardless of the immediate lack of things to implement - however judging by the words captured by Gideon of Dr. Wiedner, the lightly briefed (and from what I could read, lightly fed) replacement of Karel van Hulle, I suspect that Solvency II on the whole remains "Klaus but no cigar"...

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors - final guidance on Effective Internal Audit for financial services

The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors have followed up on their consultation earlier this year on Effective Internal Audit in the Financial Sector with this final set of recommendations.

Doesn't appear to have been any seismic changes as a result of the consultation, though the "need for proportionality" has been recognised, and clarification has been added that the content itself has not been mandated by the profession as best practice.

Interestingly, huge emphasis has been put on clarifying the primary role of Internal Audit as being the "protection" of a firms's assets, reputation and sustainability - does the profession feel well resourced and equipped to handle reputational defence? - while a few other elements sprung out at me;

  • A focus remains on IA challenging the "tone at the top", as if the expression now carries so much weight and definition that professional guidance can be hung from it.
  • "Risk Appetite" is again not defined, however IA are on the hook for assessing that it has been established and reviewed by senior management
  • Emphatically declares that "...the assurance map cannot be carved up between the Risk, Compliance and Internal Audit functions", stressing that IA will be expected to include the challenge of the work of other control functions in their audit plans
  • Built in some leeway around their earlier suggestion of compulsory attendance of IA function heads at Executive Committee meetings (ostensibly in order to understand strategy) - for insurers, one could anticipate that the advent of ORSA may take care of that knowledge gap 

Certainly the PRA/FCA have been fast to come out with support for the final version, so I guess all control functions had better make their peace with the content and prepare appropriately.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

EU Commission and Quick Fix 2 - Silence is golden (delicious)...

We are a good week down the line since Solvency II technically became a rolling ball, at least from a 'transcription into national law' perspective, and the party has barely stopped around the EU...

Man from Del Monte
- he says 'Non-Compliant'
Joking aside, the wonderfully obscure lobbying miscreants at ICODA released findings (expanded on here) of a straw poll they had issued to all member states around their preparedness to implement both Solvency II and EIOPA's interim measures. Not even half of those polled responded, and only 6 responded in full, so the sample isn't ideal. That said, there are enough seeds of doubt sown by the responses to grow a Del Monte-style orchard of non-compliance by next year.

As one would have anticipated off the back of the last-ditch attempt to secure a second 'quick fix' Directive, there would appear to be major concerns around NSAs meeting the requirements as at 1st Jan 2014, for example;

  • All respondees are in favour of 'Quick Fix 2'
  • 40% don't feel adequately prepared for ORSA obligations
  • Half are not prepared for internal model pre-application obligations
  • A quarter are not prepared for submission of information obligations

Is 'Quick Fix 2' simply being seen by some of the straggling NSAs as an opportunity to postpone the inevitable rather than to actually prepare for it, thus avoiding the decadent yet ultimately unnecessary project spend of the early adopters? Indeed, is 'Quick Fix 2' even legally possible now that the date for transcription into national law has passed?

I took the opportunity on Monday 1st July to contact representatives of note to ask where the legislation currently stands, specifically around the potential for retrospective 'Quick FIx 2', and received the following cavalcade of replies in the last 7 days;

  • EU Commission - nothing
  • An EU Parliamentarian heavily involved in Solvency II - nothing
  • EIOPA - a holding e-mail thanking me for my question

I hope that world exclusive information helps you all with your preparations!

Late post-script - I didn't bother checking in with the Council, but they have surprisingly made public comment today due to the changeover in presidencies to the Lithuanian delegation. Knowing the guys in Vilnius are big fans of the whole Solvency II shooting match (?), it was interesting to see they only have "...continued negotiations on the Omnibus II insurance dossier" scheduled over the next 6 months, as opposed to something more positive. We'll certainly be seeing Santa before the Parliamentary Plenary vote then, big question is will we also see the 2014 Easter Bunny?

Actuarial profession and the Risk Function - from 'land grab' to 'colonisation'?

Back in the early days of this Blog I used to post frequently on the Solvency II-sponsored creep towards Risk functions in insurers being 'Chiefed' by members of the actuarial profession as a matter of course rather than choice (here, here and here for a start). It was even a thread in a presentation I delivered to ILAG in late 2012 around areas of control function crossover, in particular that the actuarial profession was acknowledging that there were professional deficiencies in their ability to address the basics of an actuarial function under Solvency II, yet preferred the ambition of conquering a newer (less arduous?) space ahead of remedying them.

Whilst a quant is no doubt a decent fit for such a task, it was an evident snub to the nascent Risk Management 'profession', who took umbridge at the implication of such compulsion from the UK regulator in April 2011, though with seemingly little impact. However, limits to the amount of time and money bodies such as the IRM and FERMA can throw at developing a one-size-fits-all Risk Management qualification package that can appeal to quants and non-quants alike, plus some furious inter-squabbling in the ISO 31000 world, are certainly not lending any credence to "Risk Management" as a profession in its own right as we stand.

Risk and Actuarial professions - 'Poles' apart?
Over in Ireland, the opportunity for the Actuarial profession to secure an additional control function has been pursued so rabidly that the SAI incoming and outgoing presidents were recently able to congratulate themselves on having busted into "the new frontier" of Risk, and are now moving on into "colonisation mode" (p2)! In the UK, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries already seem to consider that area of influence secured judging by the new president's remarks recently, indicating a desire to influence more mainstream debates than those around risk management systems and corporate governance.

The UK and Ireland don't appear to be the only ones afflicted by the perception of compulsory quants in Risk functions. Munich Re's excellent Knowledge Series delivers a Germanic take that there is "no doubt" that professional mathematicians will be needed for tomorrow's Risk functions.

When considering the history of the Actuarial profession (beautifully summarised here), there should be no reason why Risk Management cannot achieve a similar position given time, regardless of the disparity in existing approaches from representative bodies. A modular qualification which can prepare a 'risk professional' for their favoured activity (insurance buying/continuity management/financial risk/op risk/ERM) is surely an ambition which those bodies can harbour in concert? My concern would naturally be that I probably don't have another 50-100 years to wait for the that convergence to happen and enhance my own career prospects!

Or maybe I do - does anyone know an expert in longevity?