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?

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