Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Standard and Poors on European ERM - momentum lost after Solvency II delays?

S&P released these pearls of wisdom regarding ERM within European insurers, specifically whether the additional breathing space offered to Solvency II may put the brakes on developments.

There's certainly no sitting on the fence with them - they start with the following as a statement of fact;
...the delayed start date of Solvency II has prompted some insurers in the region to reduce their efforts in developing ERM
Unsupported, but probably fair! They are also overwhelmingly positive on Solvency II on the whole, for example;
Solvency II remains a major driver of ERM improvements in Europe
the Directive has firmed up insurers' approaches to risk appetite, risk governance, and risk reporting
The introduction of the Own Risk and Solvency Assessment (ORSA) process...has helped to embed risk appetite in insurers' operations
Solvency II has brought risk management to the fore in insurers' strategic planning 
Easy to take any of those comments to task in the UK and Ireland, where national corporate governance code revisions, listing requirements, IAIS considerations and developments in both the actuarial and  nascent Risk professions are all taken very seriously by the respective industries, all the while cognisant of the shadow cast by Solvency II. In addition, the disciplines espoused by S&P's ERM assessments are practiced to a decent extent in existing ICA/FCR processes/reports, regardless of how 'ORSA-fied' they have become over the last couple of years.

This potential slight to the Western world is remedied on p7 however, where the research acknowledges that Western Europe effectively leads the way on ERM, and in the appendix (p8-12) where the league tables sit Germany and the UK firmly at the top of the ratings class.

They ultimately get to the real crux of their fears with this;
We would view negatively any evidence of a reduced role for economic capital in insurers' capital management arising from the delay
They are also gunning for insurers who continue to sell uneconomical products in the face of sustained low interest rates (p4), and validation standards in internal modelling (p5).

One would hope that, certainly in the UK with ICA, ICA+, and a supervisor who is continuing to staff pre-application for internal models adequately, that momentum around using economic capital in decision making will not be lost during 2014, particularly now that the PRA have as good as said that they accept EIOPA's preparatory guidance.

So give this a read if you want to know where your firm lies in the S&P ERM rating table, and if their opinion matters to your bottom line, be sure to quote this material when your Programme sponsors try to take the pace of 2014 Solvency II activity!


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The PRA Consultation on EIOPA's Preparatory Guidance - priorities for 2014 and 2015

After 10 years, it's finally getting interesting - the PRA today have dropped out a consultation paper on applying EIOPA's preparatory guidelines to PRA-authorised firms (CP 9/13). You can get at the EIOPA materials through this post for convenience.

The content will, subject to any intense lobbying by industry, be adopted as a supervisory statement (section 233) to cover the 2014 and 2015 calendar years, with the expectation remaining that 2016 is our "go-live" date. It covers the following aspects of the preparatory phase;
  • The PRA's expectations of firms as they prepare for Solvency II;
  • The PRA's approach to implementing the guidelines; and
  • The PRA's interpretation of aspects of the guidelines.
They are at pains to highlight that these are "preparatory" guidelines, and provide the traditional spiel on "nature, scale and complexity", so incremental progress is to be expected during the period in question. What that means in practice is perhaps another thing - can you show measurable 'incremental progress' for materials which are only on an annual review cycle, for example? - but that aside, it's worth picking the bones out for your respective programmes, and perhaps most importantly, getting your feedback in by November 15th if you don't like it!

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of this CP is that in no way is it suggestive of the PRA rejecting any of EIOPA's guidance (remember, they have until the end of November to voice any protest). That of course makes preparatory work much easier to plan for, as the UK will seemingly be doing it all!

My thoughts on the specifics were as follows;

System of Governance (SOG)
  • Emphasise that the SFCR requirements around SOG are also catered for in EIOPA's work (3.7), so a smart move would be to factor that into your drafting plans during 2014
  • General governance requirements "largely consistent with SYSC", though individuals holding key functions might expect a personal visit in the next two years (3.10)
  • Similar position for Risk Management Systems (3.12), stressing the commonality of requirements with existing PRA obligations, but stressing in particular that firms should be "...including suitable mechanisms and methodology for connecting to their ORSAs and for carrying out regular stress and scenario tests" during the preparatory phase.
  • That Prudent Person Principle is not a new concept to the PRA, but firms would be expected to review investment strategies in line with PPP over the next couple of years. A concession is seemingly made regarding the provision and review of third-party data by investment functions for smaller firms. 
  • On the (new) requirement for a Capital Management Policy/Medium Term Capital Plan (3.16), they are not moving, despite the howls of protestation - "The PRA regards the development and implementation of such policies and plans as an integral part of sound risk and capital management for all firms, especially as their management and Boards assess the implications of the forthcoming Solvency II own funds and capital requirements"
  • On internal controls, they appear to be fishing for firms to analyse whether their existing framework is Solvency-II ready, and then piggy-back of that self-assessment (3.17)
  • Same for Internal Audit function readiness! (3.18)
  • Actuarial function get a more bespoke treatment (3.19), with all firms asked to "carefully consider" the functional structure to avoid conflicts of interest. They also reserve the right to " firms’ analysis of the areas required for improvement, and understand the actions the firm is taking to resolve these".
  • Outsourcing similarly gets additional treatment by the PRA (3.22), who are "particularly interested" in changes made specifically with Solvency II readiness in mind
Useful quotes
...the PRA articulates its expectations of firms in the preparatory period, including that firms should read, assess and implement the substantive provisions of the guidelines in order to achieve the intended outcomes (2.5)
The guidelines and this statement are designed to work towards a consistent and convergent approach in preparations for Solvency II and not its early implementation (2.6)
 The PRA expects firms, when asked, to be able to explain what governance changes they need to make to satisfy the guidelines, how they plan to make those changes, what progress there has been to date and any particular difficulties they face (3.4)
The PRA expects firms to be able to document their overall approach to outsourcing, including contingency plans in the event of a service provider failure, to ensure that the efficiency of the service remains unimpaired and uninterrupted. (3.22)
During the preparatory period, the work of the actuarial function will now focus on co-ordinating the calculation of technical provisions, providing an opinion on the underwriting policy and reinsurance arrangements and contributing to the development and performance of the internal model in the pre-application stage where relevant (3.19)
During the preparatory period, the PRA encourages firms to consider how to manage the transition to the new regime and to assess the impact on existing asset portfolios of Solvency II requirements. This need not necessarily mean that changes have to be made to firms’ investment strategies or portfolios but firms are encouraged to work on an incremental basis towards demonstrating that they meet the requirements of the PPP (3.14)
During the preparatory period firms should review their existing policy for assessing fitness and propriety and whether it needs updating in advance of Solvency II (3.11)

  • PRA only planning to review assessments "...on a proportionate basis" during preparatory phase - they elaborate further by stating "Due to the high number of ORSAs which will be submitted, the PRA expects that it may have to stagger its review of these during the preparatory period in a way that is risk based and proportionate". Does that mean "Top Ten & Lloyds & IMAP" get the works, with everyone else getting a lite-touch?
  • Expectation that improvements are identifiable between the 2014 and 2015 FLAORs - the PRA will contact firms individually if they are within the threshold limits which enact guidelines 14-16.
  • On ORSA documentation, "...firms should recognise the need for effective documentation and record keeping", for both Policy and Report (4.7)
  • Note that the Board's involvement in ORSA is "...far more extensive than setting risk appetites and tolerances", and leave an open threat to go through Board packs/agendas to ensure this is the case (4.8)
  • Smaller firms get permission to use their internal ORSA Report as the ORSA Supervisory Report, provided it has enough detail. Larger/riskier firms may conversely be asked to supplement whatever they submit. (4.10)
  • PRA actually considering issuing a "summary sheet" to firms in order to help gather information consistently (4.11). Here comes the ORSA Template!
  • Expectation that 2014 projection work is done on existing basis, and 2015 (ideally) on Solvency II basis (4.15)
Useful quotes
The preparatory period is a time of development for firms in designing, compiling and trialling these assessments (4.3)
To help capture [ORSA] data and information in a consistent way from firms and facilitate review the PRA is considering whether it may be beneficial to provide a summary sheet to firms (4.11)
The PRA does not intend to prescribe when firms should submit their ORSA...Firms should inform the PRA when their ORSA will be submitted well in advance of the submission date (4.19)
The PRA expects the Board to play an active part at various stages, providing initial steering on how the ORSA should be designed and documented, challenging on risk identification and mitigation along the way and culminating in the Board approving and communicating the finished product. (4.8)
The PRA expects all firms to develop a qualitative process to develop an ORSA which can be documented and reviewed by the PRA in line with its overall proportionate approach.(4.6)

Submission of Information
  • Confirms that XBRL is required prior to 2016 as submission format for QRTs (5.7)
  • Suggest that policies and procedures around reporting in firms may need "potentially significant revision" in light of Solvency II. (5.15)
  • Rather obscurely, they write, "The PRA does not expect that preparatory reporting will be subject to a requirement for external audit but it may draw upon audited inputs" - as I recall the participation of external auditors in QRT-type reporting has been a massive bone of contention in Brussels (indicated within these IRSG comments from last year, but I'm sure there's a more recent story), but potentially not a welcome development.

Internal Model Pre-Application
  • They isolate the Model Change policy as an example of something which should already be tested for its appropriateness (6.5)
  • Still expect firms to come forward and brief them on "significant" changes during pre-application.
  • Surprisingly, very little else,
Useful quotes is important that where models are sufficiently stable, firms are beginning to demonstrate their use and continue to refine their models with the benefits of experience (6.5)
I may fire some feedback in, but ultimately I suspect this lady is not for changing...

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Governance Matters correspondence with the European Commission - Klaus but no cigar?

I mentioned that back in June that, as part of the EU-wide informal Solvency II shutdown, that I had fired off a couple of notes to various EU bodies to see whether or not a second "Quick Fix Directive" would be needed, or if the Commission were going to start proceedings against anyone who hadn't transposed Solvency II into national law (given that, after the 30th June, this was, on paper at least, a possibility).

We of course have had all of the information required on the matter since last week, and can now safely plan programme activity for 2014 and 2015, knowing that any forks in the road come Feb-March time may add another year to kick-off, but won't substantially change what supervisory authorities will expect from the industry.

That said, I was surprised and delighted to receive a reply from Dr. Wiedner on the matter today (below), albeit with an "after the Lord Mayor's Show" feel about it! In it he acknowledges that the threat of proceedings is indeed a viable one, but one which of course wouldn't be pursued in light of Quick Fix 2 (we'll work on the premise that it will sail through co-decision!).

So if you want your bureaucratic doors opened gently and without haste, you know where to come!

Workplace stress, and the need for inverted commas

A quick one on the news today that Hector Sants, ex-Chief Executive of the PRA, has been signed off with exhaustion and stress 8 months after taking on the role of Chief Compliance Officer at Barclays Bank.

There is no question that the role he has taken on is a beast - along with the conventional mis-selling/malpractice stories unwinding in UK banks (PPI, Personal loans, Interest Rate Swaps, LIBOR), they are also getting the third degree over their curious ability to have avoided a bail-out back in 2007/08, when all around them failed. As far as control functions go, it is as big a job as UKplc has to offer.

The top boy over at Lloyds had experienced something similar last year (emerging as insomnia in his case), and has thankfully got his mojo back, having recognised that one can't do everything when you're driving a bus of that size. Some of the media still fancied a nibble at this, from Peston's glib headline, a full piece following the announcement on "failing the stress test", though neither plumbing the red-top depths of capitalising the word "stress" as if the very concept bent the laws of credulity.

Perhaps the unsavoury element tonight is that this kind of reporting still seems kosher (for example, some outlets seem to need to use quotation marks around "exhaustion and stress", while others don't). I have no experience with stress in the workplace, and don't propose to start campaigning on the matter - when a man is ill though, it's pretty poor form to bleat about journalist-inspired "controversy" around his pay package or knighthood. Get well soon yessir...


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

PRA and Early Warning Indicators - Knowing me, knowing EWI...

Couple of interesting bits have popped up in the last week on the PRA's Early Warning Indicator (EWI) initiative, which I had touched on earlier in the year. At that time it was a little hard to establish the lie of the land, other than the PRA approach to preventing potential 'gaming' of internal model capital requirements was markedly different to that of their European NCA counterparts, and that EIOPA fancied their chances of doing the job on the NCA's collective behalf.

Julian Adams gave a speech at the Insurance Institute of London last week where he commenced with a rather familiar lament about how, at the outset of the FSA/BoE splice, "...we knew that there was some concern in the insurance industry that the Bank didn’t understand insurance". After collecting the award for 'understatement of the year', he then waxed lyrical about the five lessons learned by the BoE from the financial crisis, and how these are being applied currently to insurance supervision in the UK;

  1. "...the need for a prudential supervisor to focus on the risks that might materialise for firms in the future"
  2. "...not enough to focus on static point-in-time assessments of firms’ solvency positions"
  3. "...for some issues it is not enough to just look at the risks within individual firms and address them at an individual firm level. Instead, we need to supplement this analysis with work across the system as a whole"
  4. "...the need for clarity about the objectives of prudential regulation"
  5. "...the need to have multiple reference points when assessing firms’ capital positions. Simple crude measures are not sufficient in themselves, but neither are complex models"
The last one is of course our context setter for comments later in the speech justifying the EWI approach, which for me reads as a laundry list of why existing model validation activity, assumption setting processes and expert judgements must be considered ineffective by default, rather than after PRA review.

One brush - two industries?
Most significantly from a strategic perspective is the confirmation that the PRA "...wouldn’t expect firms who fall beneath [the EWI limits] to release capital until we, and they, have reviewed the appropriateness of the modelled calibration".

Alongside this speech, Chris Finney has published a scathing article on the PRA's approach to EWIs, focusing on its legality at both national and EU level, its unwillingness to consult on the matter, and ultimately how the PRA's experiences with banks a few years back (well. the FSA/BoE, but let's not split hairs) have seemingly allowed the insurance industry to be smeared with the same tarry brush.

With the PRA seemingly using their "lessons learned" rationale alongside the equally informal "interest" of the IAIS and EIOPA in non-modelled capital backstops, is that really enough to fend off (current) UK statute and (pending) EU law if the industry fights back?

Friday, 4 October 2013

Solvency II, 2016 and "Quick Fix 2" - Let the music play...

So despite my best baiting at the start of the summer, it has taken until this week for the big news regarding Solvency II to emerge, namely that, via Quick Fix 2, a layer of formality is likely to be given to the year 2016 as the "go-live" date by the European Commission, provided this draft Directive gets safe passage. Apparently, assurances were given by the co-legislators (p3) that this should be enough time to get it done.

Let's have a look at what exactly has been pushed out, and by whom;

Commission - statement from Michel Barnier
- "The Commission [on 2nd Oct] at my request put forward a draft Directive postponing the application date of the Solvency II Directive to 1 January 2016"
- Current trilogues are "progressing well" and an agreement between the co-legislators is "within reach", which seems to tally with Gideon's report from last week - the Council's "state of play" meeting is still scheduled for 15th October, which being prior to that last trilogue meeting, may help all parties.
- Mr Barnier "...has always wanted rapid application of Solvency II", in case anyone thought otherwise.
- EIOPA's LTGA report is an "excellent" one, in case anyone thought otherwise.
- Postponement done "...only after obtaining assurance from the Council and the Parliament that they would not further change this new application date of Solvency II"

- Apparently KPMG reckon that the industry is breathing "...a sigh of relief", while PwC reckon the date set is indicative that Omnibus II will be settled "...ahead of the Parliamentary elections in 2014". Deloitte's finest highlights that the extended transposition period (effectively doubled) will aid NCAs in giving permission to arbitrary things such as day-one model applications, USPs etc.

- Insurance Europe don't like it! Still seen by them as an "ambitious timetable", which will lead to a "...significant increase in costs for the industry", which makes one think that the "sigh of relief" heard by KPMG was their own relief at securing two more years of advisory cash...

How much scope is there for something to go wrong now, given the benevolence/pragmatism of the Commission in granting this two year kick-on? Chris Finney covers that off here, most pointedly with the fact that a number of the co-legislator top-dogs giving their "assurances" may have gone to pastures new well before 2016.

PS Programme Managers and CFOs - Try not to laugh or cry at point 4 on the draft Directive document - "The proposal has no implication for the EU Budget".

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Reporting/Submission of information to NCAs - EIOPA's FINAL preparatory guidance for national supervisors

And last, but not least, EIOPA have produced their final preparatory guidance to NCAs regarding the submission of information by firms to their supervisors, covering both quantitative reporting templates (QRTs) and narrative reporting. The consultation paper (summarised here by the PRA) caused quite a stir due to the volume of requirements during what is purported to be the 'preparatory phase', and even EIOPA's own Insuarnce and Reinsurance Stakeholders Group (IRSG) put the boot in on a number of elements.

It was of course natural that a combination of parallel running, legacy system horror-shows and potential ambivalence from third party information vendors was going to make this consultation the most controversial, but that said, the outcome appears to be pretty fair insofar as concessions have been made by EIOPA while still keeping the pressure on over-reluctant firms to construct the required processes in a timely manner.

One attempt at quarterly reporting is therefore retained (set for Q3 2015) as well as one run at completing annual templates, based on YE 2014.

The preamble borrows from the other preparatory guidance documents without anything new, so ignoring that, the following items jumped out at me thematically;

3.54 Despite the gibberish in paragraph a), this effectively allows for some simplification in the quarterly reporting during the preparatory phase
3.55 Captives are excused for the quarterly run in Q3 2015

Parallel run costs/strains
3.58 As with other papers, EIOPA don't care!

Template changes
3.62 A change log covering amendments between the original template release and those now available has been included to help firms level any work already done in this space. A surprisingly large number of changes made, magnifying the difficulties faced by firms, NCAs and ultimately EIOPA.

Legal entities which are below the threshold
3.72 If a legal entity is below the reporting threshold in isolation, but forms part of a group which is above it, the LE will still have work to do

Annual reporting
3.76 An extra two weeks added to the submission deadline (now 22 weeks for solos, 28 for groups)

Quarterly reporting
3.81 As above, the requirement to report on Q4 2015 has been removed, a practical attempt to manage the myriad other reports expected from firms in early 2016.

3.83 Up to each NCA as to whether they demand firms use XBRL in submissions - I think some of the supervisors may already favour it or have indirect experience of handling it (UK, Ireland, France)
3.84 EIOPA will provide a tool to aid firms in doing this, should they want/need to

Internal Model applicants obliged to complete Standard Formula templates
3.94 Confirms that IM applicants will need to complete both, though their SF template work will be governed by the pre-application for internal model guidance (due to the different timescales applicable to that work)

Narrative reporting
3.102 Not negotiable - get it done!

Balance Sheet
3.106 Statutory accounts figures must be included

3.111 Unit-linked assets will not be exempted - also a clumsy reference to "contagious risk", one of many which betray mother-tongue related drafting problems

Particularly telling is that while the IRSG were obliged on some of their issues, they were not able to drive home all of their agenda - they had asked for and additional 4 weeks for completion of all templates for example.

Unquestionably a great deal of work to do for both firms and NCAs on this matter, and with existing reporting teams no doubt working to tight schedules, the sooner 2014 programmes factor in this disruption the better.

Pre-application for Internal Models - EIOPA's FINAL preparatory guidance for national supervisors

So the March consultation document for internal model pre-application brought a few eye-openers for those countries partaking in a less onerous application process than that favoured by the UK, with the detail in it suggesting that the UK very much had the whip hand in its drafting.

On the basis that there were still areas which even the most hardened IMAP-veteran may have winced at, it was interesting to see if anything got dropped in the lobbying stampede. On that basis, the final guidance for internal model pre-application covers the following in the preamble;

  • 3.10 - That it is not in the NCAs gift to conduct pre-application preparation along the lines of provisional approval or to provide "roadmaps" to compliance (which may explain the PRA's caginess with the industry). It is purely about a firm's preparedness and suitability to submit an application
  • 3.33 - On request, EIOPA have introduced a compulsion for NCAs to provide "regular feedback" to firms
  • 3.35 - Confirms that not all model changes need to be reported to NCAs during pre-application, just those considered "relevant" by firms themselves
It is fair to say that the lobbying in this space has been noticeably more successful than for ORSA or System of Governance, no doubt due to the smaller sub-set of affected stakeholders having a more concentrated relevance. That said, there were still a number of rebuffs from EIOPA, particularly where the lobbying looked more like whinging about paperwork volumes! Highlights below;

Model Change Policy
3.38 - No danger of EIOPA supporting the recommendation to "fast track" model change approvals if a "major change" is required at short notice. They instead recommend "proactivity" with NCAs. Not sure what this does for the world of opportunistic acquisitions though
3.40 - Fudged the question as to whether parameter changes are considered "major", offering an answer of 'it depends' which, for me at least, leans more towards 'yes they are'.

Use Test
3.42 - Confirms that evidencing "use" is not compelling use of model outputs over and above other techniques

Assumptions and Expert Judgement
3.46 - Documentation and validation of assumption setting and expert judgements considered "crucial" in order for undertakings to counter the lack of data and subjectivity in those processes
3.47 - A guideline has also been amended to confirm that the materiality principle applies for this topic
3.48 - Only the most material assumptions will need AMSB sign-off

Methodological Consistency/PDF/Calibration
A number of changes made to clarify guidance in these areas

Profit and Loss Attribution
3.64 - No escaping the requirements to produce P&L attribution granularity at Legal Entity level, as well as by risk driver

3.68 - EIOPA do not accept that those who build models may also validate them

3.70 - That the guidance around the documentation of the internal model should provide "...[protection] from key-person risk", which I have never seen offered as justification from the supervisory end before

Ultimately, there have been no huge concessions from the position in March, which one would think will cause a number of the more liberal EU regulators to give serious consideration to "explaining" rather than "complying" - that said, with this having been written in Union Jack ink, my British cousins should simply get their transition planning updated accordingly.