EIOPA outlines key financial stability risks of the European insurance and pensions sector

The global and European economic outlook has deteriorated in the past months with weakening industrial production and business sentiment and ongoing uncertainties about trade disputes and Brexit. In particular, the “low for long” risk has resurfaced in the EU, as interest rates reached record lows in August 2019 and an increasing number of countries move into negative yield territory for their sovereign bonds even at longer maturities in anticipation of a further round of monetary easing by central banks and a general flight to safety. Bond yields and swap rates have since slightly recovered again, but protracted low interest rates form the key risk for both insurers and pension funds and put pressure on both the capital position and long-term profitability. Large declines in interest rates can also create further incentives for insurers and pension funds to search for yield, which could add to the build-up of vulnerabilities in the financial sector if not properly managed.

Despite the challenging environment, the European insurance sector remains overall well capitalized with a median SCR ratio of 212% as of Q2 2019. However, a slight deterioration could be observed for life insurers in the first half of 2019 and the low interest rate environment is expected to put further pressures on the capital positions of life insurers in the second half of 2019. At the same time, profitability improved in the first half of 2019, mainly due to valuation gains in the equity and bond portfolios of insurers. Nevertheless, the low yield environment is expected to put additional strains on the medium to long term profitability of insurers as higher yielding bonds will have to be replaced by lower yielding bonds, which may make it increasingly difficult for insurers to make investment returns in excess of guaranteed returns issued in the past, which are still prevalent in many countries.

THE EUROPEAN INSURANCE SECTOR

The challenging macroeconomic environment is leading insurance undertakings to further adapt their business models. In order to address the challenges associated with the low yield environment and improve profitability, life insurers are lowering guaranteed rates in traditional products and are increasingly focusing on unit-linked products. On the investment side, insurers are slowly moving towards more alternative investments and illiquid assets, such as unlisted equity, mortgages & loans, infrastructure and property. For non-life insurers, the challenge is mostly focused on managing increasing losses stemming from climate-related risks and cyber events, which may not be adequately reflected in risk models based on historical data, and continued competitive pressures.

Despite the challenging environment, the European insurance sector overall gross written premiums slightly grew by 1.6% on an annual basis in Q2 2019. This growth is particularly driven by the increase in non life GWP (3.7%), in comparison to a slightly decrease in life (-0.5%). This reduction growth rate in life GWP is associated to the slowdown in the economic growth; however this does not seem to have affected the growth of non-life GWP to the same extent. Overall GWP as a percentage of GDP slightly increased from 9% to 11% for the European insurance market, likewise total assets as a share of GDP improved from 70% to 74%. The share of unit-linked business has slightly declined notwithstanding the growth expectations. Even though insurers are increasingly trying to shift towards unit-linked business in the current low yield environment, the total share of unit-linked business in life GWP has slightly decreased from 42% in Q2 2018 to 40% in Q2 2019, likewise the share for the median insurance company declined from 34% in Q2 2018 to 31% in Q2 2019. Considerable differences remain across countries, with some countries still being plagued by low trust due to misselling issues in the past. Overall, the trend towards unit-lead business means that investment risks are increasingly transferred to policyholders with potential reputational risks to the insurance sector in case investment returns turn out lower than anticipated.

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The liquid asset ratio slightly deteriorated in the first half of 2019. The median value for liquid asset increased by 1.5% from 63.3% in 2018 Q2 to 64.8% in 2018 Q4, and after slightly decreased to 63.8% in Q2 2019. Furthermore,  the distribution moved down (10th percentile reduced in the past year by 6 p.p. to 47.9%). Liquid assets are necessary in order to meet payment obligations when they are due. Furthermore, a potential increase in interest rate yields might directly impact the liquidity needs of insurers due to a significant increase in the lapse rate as policyholders might look for more attractive alternative investments.

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Lapse rates in the life business remained stable slightly increased in the first half of 2019. The median value increased from 1.34% in Q2 2018 to 1.38% in Q2 2019. Moreover, a potential sudden reversal of risk premia and abruptly rising yields could trigger an increase in lapse rates and surrender ratios as policyholders might look  for more attractive investments. Although several contractual and fiscal implications could limit the impact of lapses and surrenders in some countries, potential lapses by policyholders could add additional strains on insurers’ financial position once yields start increasing.

The return on investment has substantially declined further over 2018. The investment returns have significantly deteriorated for the main investment classes (bonds, equity and collective instruments). The median return on investment decreased to only 0.31% in 2018, compared to 2.83% in 2016 and 1.95% in 2017. In particular the four main investment options (government and corporate bonds, equity instruments and collective investment undertakings) – which approximately account for two-thirds of insurers’ total investment portfolios – have generated considerably lower or even negative returns in 2018. As a consequence, insurers may increasingly look for alternative investments, such as unlisted equities, mortgages and infrastructure to improve investment returns. This potential search for yield behaviour might differ per country and warrants close monitoring by supervisory authorities as insurers may suffer substantial losses on these more illiquid investments when markets turn sour.

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Despite the challenging investment climate, overall insurer profitability improved in the first half of 2019. The median return on assets (ROA) increased from 0.24% in Q2 2018 to 0.32% in Q2 2019, whereas the median return on excess of assets over liabilities (used as a proxy of return on equity), increased from 2.8% in Q2 2018 to 4.9 % in Q2 2019. The improvement in overall profitability seems to stem mainly from valuation gains in the investment portolio of insurers driven by a strong rebound in equity prices and declining yields (and hence increasing values of bond holdings) throughout the first half of 2019, while profitability could be further supported by strong underwriting results and insurers’ continued focus on cost optimisation. However, decreased expected profits in future premiums (EPIFP) from 11% in Q1 2019 to 10.3% in Q2 2019 suggest expectations of deteriorating profitability looking ahead. Underwriting profitability remained stable and overall positive in the first half of 2019. The median Gross Combined Ratio for non-life business remained below 100% in the first half of 2019 across all lines of business, indicating that most EEA insurers were able to generate positive underwriting results (excluding profits from investments). However, significant outliers can still be observed across lines of business, in particular for credit and suretyship insurance, indicating that several insurers have experienced substantial underwriting losses in this line of business. Furthermore, concerns of underpricing and underreserving remain in the highly competitive motor insurance markets.

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Solvency positions slightly deteriorated in the first half of 2019 and the low interest rate environment is expected to put further pressures on the capital positions in the second half of the year, especially for life insurers. Furthermore, the number of life insurance undertakings with SCR ratios below the 100% threshold increased in comparison with the previous year from 1 in Q2 2018 to 4 in Q2 2019 mainly due to the low interest rate environment, while the number of non-life insurance undertakings with SCR ratios below 100% threshold decreased from 9 in Q2 2018 to 7 in Q2 2019. The median SCR ratio for life insurers is still the highest compared to non-life insurers and composite undertakings. However, the SCR ratio differs substantially among countries.

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The impact of the LTG and transitional measures varies considerably across insurers and countries. The long term guarantees (LTG) and transitional measures were introduced in the Solvency II Directive to ensure an appropriate treatment of insurance products that include long-term guarantees and facilitate a smooth transition of the new regime. These measures can have a significant impact on the SCR ratio by allowing insurance undertakings, among others, to apply a premium to the risk free interest rate used for discounting technical provions. The impact of applying these measures is highest in DE and the UK, where the distribution of SCR ratios is signicantly lower without LTG and transitional measures (Figure 2.16). While it is important to take the effect of LTG measures and transitional measures into account when comparing across insurers and countries, the LTG measures do provide a potential financial stability cushion by reducing overall volatility.

On October 15th 2019, EIOPA launched a public consultation on an Opinion that sets out technical advice for the 2020 review of Solvency II. The call for advice comprises 19 separate topics. Broadly speaking, these can be divided into three parts.

  1. The review of the LTG measures, where a number of different options are being consulted on, notably on extrapolation and on the volatility adjustment.
  2. The potential introduction of new regulatory tools in the Solvency II framework, notably on macro-prudential issues, recovery and resolution, and insurance guarantee schemes. These new regulatory tools are considered thoroughly in the consultation.
  3. Revisions to the existing Solvency II framework including in relation to
    • freedom of services and establishment;
    • reporting and disclosure;
    • and the solvency capital requirement.

The main specific considerations and proposals of this consultation are as follows:

  • Considerations to choose a later starting point for the extrapolation of risk-free interest rates for the euro or to change the extrapolation method to take into account market information beyond the starting point.
  • Considerations to change the calculation of the volatility adjustment to risk-free interest rates, in particular to address overshooting effects and to reflect the illiquidity of insurance liabilities.
  • The proposal to increase the calibration of the interest rate risk sub-module in line with empirical evidence, in particular the existence of negative interest rates. The proposal is consistent with the technical advice EIOPA provided on the Solvency Capital Requirement standard formula in 2018.
  • The proposal to include macro-prudential tools in the Solvency II Directive.
  • The proposal to establish a minimum harmonised and comprehensive recovery and resolution framework for insurance.

The European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) published on the 4th October 2019 a Joint Opinion on the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing affecting the European Union’s financial sector. In this Joint Opinion, the ESAs identify and analyse current and emerging money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/ TF) risks to which the EU’s financial sector is exposed. In particular, the ESAs have identified that the main cross-cutting risks arise from

  • the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the EU,
  • new technologies,
  • virtual currencies,
  • legislative divergence and divergent supervisory practices,
  • weaknesses in internal controls,
  • terrorist financing and de-risking;

in order to mitigate these risks, the ESAs have proposed a number of potential actions for the Competent Authorities.

Following its advice to the European Commission on the integration of sustainability risks in Solvency II and the Insurance Distribution Directive on April 2019, EIOPA has published on 30th September 2019 an Opinion on Sustainability within Solvency II, which addresses the integration of climate-related risks in Solvency II Pillar I requirements. EIOPA found no current evidence to support a change in the calibration of capital requirements for “green” or “brown” assets. In the opinion, EIOPA calls insurance and reinsurance undertakings to implement measures linked with climate change-related risks, especially in view of a substantial impact to their business strategy; in that respect, the importance of scenario analysis in the undertakings’ risk management is highlighted. To increase the European market and citizens’ resilience to climate change, undertakings are called to consider the impact of their underwriting practices on the environment. EIOPA also supports the development of new insurance products, adjustments in the design and pricing of the products and the engagement with public authorities, as part of the industry’s stewardship activity.

On the 15th July 2019 EIOPA submitted to the European Commission draft amendments to the Implementing technical standards (ITS) on reporting and the ITS on public disclosure. The proposed amendments are mainly intended to reflect the changes in the Solvency II Delegated Regulation by the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/981 and the Commission Delegated Regulation 2018/1221 as regards the calculation of regulatory capital requirements for securitisations and simple, transparent and standardised securitisations held by insurance and reinsurance undertakings. A more detailed review of the reporting and disclosure requirements will be part of the 2020 review of Solvency II.

On 18th June 2019 the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/981 amending the Solvency II Delegated Regulation with respect to the calculation of the SCR for standard formula users was published. The new regulation includes the majority of the changes proposed by EIOPA in its advice to the Commission in February 2018 with the exception of the proposed change regarding interest rate risk. Most of the changes are applicable since July 2019, although changes to the calculation of the loss-absorbing capacity of deferred taxes and non-life and health premium and reserve risk will apply from 1 January 2020.

RISK ASSESSMENT

QUALITATIVE RISK ASSESSMENT

EIOPA conducts twice a year a bottom-up survey among national supervisors to determine the key risks and challenges for the European insurance and pension fund sectors, based on their probability and potential impact.

The EIOPA qualitative Autumn 2019 Survey reveals that low interest rates remain the main risks for both the insurance and pension fund sectors. Equity risks also remain prevalent, ranking as the 3rd and 2nd biggest risk for the insurance and pension funds sectors respectively. The cyber risk category is now rank as the 2nd biggest risk for the insurance sector, as insurers need to adapt their business models to this new type of risk both from an operational risk perspective and an underwriting perspective. Geopolitical risks have become more significant for both markets, along with Macro risks, which continue to be present in the insurance and pension fund sectors, partially due to concerns over protectionism, trade tensions, debt sustainability, sudden increase in risk premia and uncertainty relating to the potential future post-Brexit landscape.

The survey further suggests that all the risks are expected to increase over the coming year. The increased risk of the low for long interest rate environment is in line with the observed market developments, particulary after the ECB’s announcement of renewed monetary easing in September 2019. The significant expected raise of cyber, property, equity, macro and geopolitical risks in the following year is also in line with the observed market developments, indicating increased geopolitical uncertainty, trade tensions, stretched valuations in equity and real estate markets and more frequent and sophisticated cyber attacks which could all potentially affect the financial position of insurers and pension funds. On the other hand, ALM risks and Credit risk for financials are expected to increase in the coming year, while in the last survey in Spring 2019 the expectations were following the opposite direction.

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Although cyber risk is ranking as one of the top risks and expected to increase in the following year, many jurisdictions also see cyber-related insurance activities as a growth opportunity. The rapid pace of technological innovation and digitalisation is a challenge for the insurance market and insurers need to be able to adapt their business models to this challenging environment, nonetheless from a profitability perspective, increased digitalisation may offer significant cost-saving and revenue-increasing opportunities for insurance companies. The increase of awareness of cyber-risk and higher vulnerability to cyber threats among undertakings due to the increased adoption of digital technologies could drive a growth in cyber insurance underwriting.

The survey shows the exposure of an sudden correction of the risk premia significantly differs across EU countries. In the event of a sudden correction in the risk premia, insurance undertakings and pension funds with ample exposure to bonds and real estate, could suffer significant asset value variations that could lead to forced asset sales and potentially amplify the original shock to asset prices in less liquid markets. Some juridictions, however, confirm the limited exposure to this risk due to the low holding of fixed income instruments and well diversified portfolios.

The survey further indicates that national authorities expect the increase of investments in alternative asset classes and more illiquid assets. Conversely, holdings of governement bonds are expected to decrease in favour of corporate bonds within the next 12 months. Overall this might indicate potential search for yield behaviour and a shift towards more illiquid assets continues throughout numerous EU jurisdictions. Property investments – through for instance mortgages and infrastructure investment – are also expected to increase in some jurisdictions, for both insurers and pension funds. A potential downturn of real estate markets could therefore also affect the soundness of the insurance and pension fund sectors.

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QUANTITATIVE RISK ASSESSMENT EUROPEAN INSURANCE SECTOR

This section further assesses the key risks and vulnerabilities for the European insurance sector identified in this report. A detailed breakdown of the investment portfolio and asset allocation is provided with a focus on specific country exposures and interconnectedness with the banking sector. The chapter also analyses in more detail the implications of the current low yield environment for insurers.

INVESTMENTS

Insurance companies’ investments remain broadly stable, with a slight move towards less liquid investment. Government and corporate bonds continue to make up the majority of the investment portfolio, with only a  slight movement towards more non-traditional investment instruments such as unlisted equity and mortgage and loans. Life insurers in particular rely on fixed-income assets, due to the importance of asset-liability matching of their long-term obligations. At the same time, the high shares of fixed-income investments could give rise to significant reinvestment risk in the current low yield environment, in case the maturing fixed-income securities can only be replaced by lower yielding fixed-income securities for the same credit quality.

The overall credit quality of the bond portfolio is broadly satisfactory, although slight changes are observed in 2018. The vast majority of bonds held by European insurers are investment grade, with most rated as CQS1 (AA). However, the share of CQS2 has increased in the first half of 2019, and significant differences can be observed for insurers across countries.

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INTERCONNECTEDNESS BETWEEN INSURERS AND BANKS

The overall exposures towards the banking sector remain significant for insurers in certain countries, which could be one potential transmission channel in case of a sudden reassessment of risk premia. The interconnectedness between insurers and banks could intensify contagion across the financial system through common risk exposures. A potential sudden reassessment of risk premia may not only affect insurers directly, but also indirectly through exposures to the banking sector. This is also a potential transmission channel of emerging markets distress, as banks have on average larger exposures to emerging markets when compared to insurers.

Another channel of risk transmission could be through different types of bank instruments bundled together and credited by institutional investors such as insurers and pension funds.

Insurers’ exposures towards banks are heterogeneous across the EU/EEA countries, with different levels of home bias as well. Hence, countries with primary banks exposed to emerging markets or weak banking sectors could be impacted more in case of economic distress. On average, 15.95% of the EU/EEA insurers’ assets are issued by the banking sector through different types of instruments, mostly bank bonds.

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Click here to access EIOPA’s Dec 2019 Financial Stability Report

EIOPA : Sound Regulation in an Evolving Landscape

Regulation is only effective for as long as it remains relevant. While EIOPA is evolving into a supervisory-focused organisation, it pays close attention to how regulation is applied and how effective it remains, with a view to reinforcing cross-sectoral consistency and improving fairness and transparency and with a focus on better and smart regulation.

INSURANCE

  • SOLVENCY II REVIEW

Since the successful implementation of Solvency II Directive in 2016, EIOPA played an important role in monitoring its consistent implementation and during 2018 was able to provide valuable input into preparations for its review.

EIOPA provided advice to the European Commission on the review of the Solvency Capital Requirement based on an in-depth analysis of 29 different elements of the Standard Formula. The advice focused on increasing proportionality, removing unjustified constraints to financing the economy and removing technical inconsistencies.

EIOPA proposed further simplifications and reduced the burden to insurers by:

  • Further simplifying calculations for a number of sub-modules of the Solvency Capital Requirement (SCR) such as natural, man-made and health catastrophes, in particular fire risk and mass accident;
  • Simplifying the use of external credit ratings in the calculation of the SCR (an issue especially relevant for small insurers);
  • Reducing the burden of the treatment of lookthrough to underlying investments;
  • Developing simplifications in the assessment of lapse and counterparty default risks;
  • Recommending the use of undertaking specific parameters for reinsurance stop-loss treaties.

Furthermore, one of the major technical inconsistencies found related to the calculation of interest rate risk, which did not capture very low or even negative interest rates. EIOPA recommended to adjust the methodology using a method already adopted by internal model users and, given the material impact on capital requirements, suggested to implement it gradually over three years.

EIOPA also carried out an analysis of the loss-absorbing capacity of deferred taxes practices. In face of the evidence of wide diversity, especially concerning the projection of future profits, EIOPA proposed a set of key principles that will ensure greater convergence and level playing field, while maintaining a certain degree of flexibility.

Finally, EIOPA analysed the treatment and the evidence available on unrated debt and unlisted equity and proposed criteria for a more granular treatment, namely with the use of financial ratios.

In some areas, the analysis of recent developments did not provide for sufficient reasons to change. This is, for example, the case of mortality and longevity risks and the cost of capital in the calculation of the risk margin. The evolution of financial markets does not justify a change in the cost of capital: the decrease in interest rates has not lead to a decrease in the cost of raising equity.

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  • REPORTING ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF SOLVENCY II

In 2018, EIOPA published a number of reports related to different aspects of Solvency II.

  • Report on group supervision and capital management

In response to a European Commission’s request for information, EIOPA submitted its Report on Group Supervision and Capital Management of (Re)Insurance Undertakings and specific topics related to Freedom to Provide Services (FoS) and Freedom of Establishment (FoE) under the Solvency II Directive. The report concluded that overall the Solvency II Group supervision regime was operating satisfactorily. The tools developed by EIOPA to further strengthen group supervision and supervision of cross-border issues contributed to further convergence of practices of NCAs’ supervisory practices.

The report also highlighted a number of gaps in the regulatory framework, including issues related to the application of Solvency II requirements for determining scope of insurance groups subject to Solvency II group supervision, the application of certain of these provisions governing the calculation of group solvency in particular where several methods are used, the definition and supervision of intra-group transactions, or the application of governance requirements at group level.

Further, EIOPA’s report emphasised that effective supervision of insurance groups will benefit from a harmonised approach on a number of areas, for example, early intervention, recovery and resolution and the assessment of group own funds.

  • Second annual report on the use of capital addons under Solvency II

In December 2018, EIOPA published its second annual report on the use of capital add-ons by NCAs according to Article 52 of Solvency II. The objective was to contribute to a higher degree of supervisory convergence in the use of capital add-ons between supervisory authorities and to highlight any concerns regarding the capital add-ons framework. In general, the capital add-on appears to be a good and positive measure to adjust the Solvency Capital Requirement to the risks of the undertaking, when the application of other measures, for example the development of an internal model, is not adequate.

  • Third annual report on the use of limitations and exemptions from reporting under Solvency II

This report, published in December 2018, addresses the proportionality principle on the reporting requirements, from which the limitations and exemptions on reporting – as foreseen in Article 35 of the Solvency II Directive – are just one of the existing proportionality tools. Reporting requirements also reflect a natural embedded proportionality and in addition, risk-based thresholds were included in the reporting Implementing Technical Standard (ITS).

  • Third annual report on the use and impact of long-term guarantee measures and measures on equity risk

This is a regular report published in accordance with Article 77f(1) of the Solvency II Directive. This year’s report also included an analysis on risk management aspects in view of the specific requirements for LTG measures set out in Article 44 and 45 of the Directive as well as an analysis of detailed features and types of guarantees of products with long-term guarantees.

This report shows that – as in previous years – most of the measures, in particular the volatility adjustment and the transitional measures on technical provisions are widely used. The average Solvency Capital Requirement (SCR) ratio of undertakings using the voluntary measures is 231 % and would drop to 172 % if the measures were not applied. This confirms the importance of the measures for the financial position of (re)insurance undertakings.

  • INVESTIGATING ILLIQUID LIABILITIES

The treatment of long-term insurance business remains a hotly debated issue. In particular, it has been discussed whether the risks of long-term insurance business and the associated investments backing those long-term insurance business are adequately reflected. The illiquidity characteristics of liabilities may contribute to the ability of insurers to mitigate short-term volatility by holding assets throughout the duration of the commitments, even in times of market stress.

To explore any new evidence on the features of liabilities, especially concerning their illiquidity characteristics, a dedicated EIOPA Project Group on illiquid liabilities was set up with the following main goals:

  1. To identify criteria of liquidity characteristics for the liabilities and measures for insurers’ ability to invest over the long term;
  2. To explore the link between the characteristics of liabilities and the management of insurers’ assets;
  3. To analyse whether the current treatment in the regulatory regime appropriately addresses the risks associated with the long-term nature of the insurance business.

Following a request for information from the European Commission on asset and liability management, EIOPA launched a request for feedback on illiquid liabilities in autumn and held a roundtable with interested stakeholders in December to discuss the submitted responses on illiquidity measurements and asset liability management practices.

  • ANALYSIS OF THE INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL REPORTING STANDARDS (IFRS) 17 INSURANCE CONTRACTS

Following the publication of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) 17 Insurance Contracts by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), EIOPA assessed its potential effects on financial stability and the European public good, on product design, supply and demand of insurance contracts, and the practical implementation in light of the applicable inputs and processes for Solvency II.

EIOPA concluded that the introduction of IFRS 17 can be described as positive paradigm shift compared to its predecessor IFRS 4 Insurance Contracts, bringing increased transparency, comparability and additional insights on insures’ business models. EIOPA, however, noted a few reservations regarding concepts that may affect comparability and relevance of IFRS 17 financial statements.

PENSIONS

EIOPA promotes greater transparency in the European pensions sector. In support of this aim, EIOPA is working to enhance the information available to consumers and supporting pension providers by making clear the expectations, justifications and decisions linked with the information they provide, in particular to prospective members, members and beneficiaries as laid out in Articles 38 – 44 of the EU Directive on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORP II).

  • REPORT ON THE PENSION BENEFIT STATEMENT: GUIDANCE AND PRINCIPLESBASED PRACTICES IMPLEMENTING IORP II

The report presents the outcomes of NCA exchanges of views and assessments of current practices for the implementation of the IORP II Pensions Benefit Statement (PBS) requirement. Based on this investigation, several principles have been identified that will facilitate clear understanding and comparability of statements.

Two proposals are now in further development: a basic PBS and an advanced PBS (containing more detailed information) to meet the PBS goals. These proposals will, as far as possible, take account of the behavioral approach principle be subject to further consumer testing.

  • DECISION ON THE CROSS-BORDER COLLABORATION OF NCAS WITH RESPECT TO IORP II DIRECTIVE

This Decision, published in November 2018, replaces the former Budapest Protocol which had to be revised as a result of the new IORP II Directive. The Decision introduces new rules to improve the way occupational pension funds are governed, to enhance information transparency to pension savers and to clarify the procedures for carrying out cross-border transfers and activities.

The Decision also describes different situations and possibilities for NCAs to exchange information about cross-border activities in relation to the ‘fit and proper’ assessment and the outsourcing of key functions, both new provisions of the IORP II Directive in addition to the cross-border transfer.

PRESERVING FINANCIAL STABILITY

As part of EIOPA’s mandate to safeguard financial stability, EIOPA works to identify trends, potential risks and vulnerabilities that could have a negative effect on the pension and insurance sectors across Europe.

  • 2018 INSURANCE STRESS TEST

EIOPA published the results of its stress test of the European insurance sector in December 2018. This exercise assessed the participating insurers’ resilience to the three severe but plausible scenarios: a yield curve up shock combined with lapse and provisions deficiency shocks; a yield curve down shock combined with longevity stress; and a series of natural catastrophes.

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In total, 42 European (re)insurance groups participated representing a market coverage of around 75 % based on total consolidate assets. EIOPA published for the first time the post-stress estimation of the capital position (Solvency Capital Requirement ratio) of major EU (re)insurance groups.

Overall, the stress test confirmed the significant sensitivity to market shocks combined with specific shocks relevant for the European insurance sector. On aggregate, the sector is adequately capitalised to absorb the prescribed shocks. Participating groups demonstrated a high resilience to the series of natural catastrophes tested, showing the importance of the risk transfer mechanisms, namely reinsurance, in place.

An additional objective of this exercise, stemming from recommendations from the European Court of Auditors, was to increase transparency in order to reinforce market discipline by requesting the voluntary disclosure of a list of individual stress test indicators by the participating groups. Since EIOPA does not have the power to impose the disclosure of individual results, participating groups were asked for their voluntary consent to the publication of a list of individual stress test indicators. Only four of the 42 participating groups provided such consent.

  • RISK DASHBOARD

EIOPA publishes a risk dashboard on a quarterly basis and a financial stability report twice a year. In the December 2018 report, EIOPA concluded:

  1. the persistent low yield environment remains challenging for insurers and pension funds;
  2. the risk of a sudden reassessment of risk premia has become more pronounced over recent months amid rising political and policy uncertainty;
  3. interconnectedness with banks and domestic sovereigns remains high for European insurers, making them susceptible to potential spillovers;
  4. some European insurers are significantly exposed in their investment portfolios to climate-related risks and real estate.
  • FINANCIAL STABILITY REPORT

EIOPA published two reports on the financial stability of the insurance and occupational pensions sector in 2018.

In general the persistent low yield environment remains challenging for both the insurance and pension fund sector, which continues to put pressure on profitability and solvency. However, towards the end of the year, as noted in the December report, the risk of a sudden reassessment of risk premia became more pronounced. This is largely due to rising political uncertainty and trade tensions, concerns over debt sustainability and the gradual normalisation of monetary policy. In the short run a sudden increase in yields driven by rising risk premia could significantly affect the financial and solvency position of insurers and pension funds as the investment portfolios could suffer large losses only partly offset by lower liabilities. In this regard, the high degree of interconnectedness with banks and domestic sovereigns of insurers could lead to potential spillovers in case a sudden reassessment of risk premia materialise.

While overall the insurance sector remains adequately capitalised, profitability is under increased pressure in the current low yield environment. The Solvency Capital Requirement ratio for the median company is 225 % for life and 206 % for non-life insurance sector, although significant disparities remain across undertakings and countries.

In the European occupational pension fund sector, total assets increased for the euro area and cover ratios slightly improved. However, the current macroeconomic environment and ongoing low interest rates continue to pose significant challenges to the sector, with the weighted return on assets considerably down in 2017.

  • ENHANCED INFORMATION AND STATISTICS

EIOPA continuously works to improve the availability and quality of available information and statistics on insurance and pensions.

  • Solvency II information

For the insurance sector, EIOPA publishes high-quality insurance statistics at both solo and group level. The statistics are based on Solvency II information from regulatory reporting and their regular publication demonstrates EIOPA’s commitment to transparency. Over the past year, through the increased availability of Solvency II data EIOPA has been able to increase the coverage of its statistics. In June 2018, for the first time, the Authority published further insight into the assets of solo (re)insurance undertakings at country level.

  • Decision on EIOPA’s regular information requests towards NCAs regarding provision of occupational pensions information

In April 2018, the Authority published its decision regarding the submission of occupational pension information. The decision defined a single framework for the reporting of occupational pension information that facilitates reporting processes. As a result, EIOPA will receive the information required to carry out appropriate monitoring and assessment of market developments, as well as in-depth economic analyses of the occupational pension market. The requirements were developed in close cooperation with the European Central Bank in order to minimise the burden on the industry and will apply as of 2019.

  • Pensions information taxonomy

In November 2018, EIOPA published the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) Taxonomy applicable for reporting of information on IORPs. It provides NCAs with the technical means for the submission to EIOPA of harmonised information of all pension funds in the European Economic Area. Developed in close collaboration with the European Central Bank (ECB), it allows for integrated technical templates and means to report via a single submission both the information required by EIOPA and the ECB.

CRISIS PREVENTION

In addition to regular financial stability tools, EIOPA undertooka number of additional activities in 2018 related to crisis prevention.

  • Development of a macroprudential framework for insurance

With the aim of contributing to the overall debate on systemic risk and macroprudential policy, over the last year, EIOPA has published a series of reports that extend the debate to the insurance sector and, more specifically, the characteristics of that sector. These reports cover the following:

  1. Systemic risk and macroprudential policy in insurance;
  2. Solvency II tools with macroprudential impact; and
  3. Other potential macroprudential tools and measures to enhance the current framework.

As a next step, EIOPA will consult on concrete proposals to include macroprudential elements in the upcoming review of Solvency II.

  • Analysis of the causes and early identification of failures and near misses in insurance

In July 2018, EIOPA published ‘Failures and near misses in insurance: Overview of the causes and early identification’ as the first in a series aimed at enhancing supervisory knowledge of the prevention and management of insurance failures. The report’s findings are based on information contained in EIOPA’s database of failures and near misses, covering the period from 1999 to 2016, including sample data of 180 affected insurance undertakings in 31 European countries.

The report focuses on an examination of the causes of failure in insurance, as well as the assessment of the reported early identification signals. It also examines the underlying concepts ‘failure’ and ‘near miss’ as well as providing further information on EIOPA’s database, established in 2014.

Click here to access EIOPA’s 2018 Annual Report

EIOPA’s Supervisory Statement Solvency II: Application of the proportionality principle in the supervision of the Solvency Capital Requirement

EIOPA identified potential divergences in the supervisory practices concerning the supervision of the SCR calculation of immaterial sub-modules.

EIOPA agrees that in case of immaterial SCR sub-modules the principle of proportionality applies regarding the supervisory review process, but considers it is important to guarantee supervisory convergence as divergent approaches could lead to supervisory arbitrage.

EIOPA is of the view that the consistent implementation of the proportionality principle is a key element to ensure supervisory convergence for the supervision of the SCR. For this purpose the following key areas should be considered:

Proportionate approach

Supervisory authorities may allow undertakings, when calculating the SCR at the individual undertaking level, to adopt a proportionate approach towards immaterial SCR sub-modules, provided that the undertaking concerned is able to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the supervisory authorities that:

  1. the amount of the SCR sub-module is immaterial when compared with the total basic SCR (BSCR);
  2. applying a proportionate approach is justifiable taking into account the nature and complexity of the risk;
  3. the pattern of the SCR sub-module is stable over the last three years;
  4. such amount/pattern is consistent with the business model and the business strategy for the following years; and
  5. undertakings have in place a risk management system and processes to monitor any evolution of the risk, either triggered by internal sources or by an external source that could affect the materiality of a certain submodule.

This approach should not be used when calculating SCR at group level.

An SCR sub-module should be considered immaterial for the purposes of the SCR calculation when its amount is not relevant for the decision-making process or the judgement of the undertaking itself or the supervisory authorities. Following this principle, even if materiality needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, EIOPA recommends that materiality is assessed considering the weight of the sub-modules in the total BSCR and

  • that each sub-module subject to this approach should not represent more than 5% of the BSCR
  • or all sub-modules should not represent more than 10% of the BSCR.

For immaterial SCR sub-modules supervisory authorities may allow undertakings not to perform a full recalculation of such a sub-module on a yearly basis taking into consideration the complexity and burden that such a calculation would represent when compared to the result of the calculation.

Prudent calculation

For the sub-modules identified as immaterial, a calculation of the SCR submodule using inputs prudently estimated and leading to prudent outcomes should be performed at the time of the decision to adopt a proportionate approach. Such calculation should be subject to the consent of the supervisory authority.

The result of such a calculation may then be used in principle for the next three years, after which a full calculation using inputs prudently estimated is required so that the immateriality of the sub-module and the risk-based and proportionate approach is re-assessed.

During the three-year period the key function holder of the actuarial function should express an opinion to the administrative, management or supervisory body of the undertaking on the outcome of immaterial sub-module used for calculating SCR.

Risk management system and ORSA

Such a system should be proportionate to the risks at stake while ensuring a proper monitoring of any evolution of the risk, either triggered by internal sources such as a change in the business model or business strategy or by an external source such as an exceptional event that could affect the materiality of a certain sub-module.

Such a monitoring should include the setting of qualitative and quantitative early warning indicators (EWI), to be defined by the undertaking and embedded in the ORSA processes.

Supervisory reporting and public disclosure

Undertakings should include information on the risk management system in the ORSA Report. Undertakings should include structured information on the sub-modules for which a proportionate approach is applied in the Regular Supervisory Reporting and in the Solvency and Financial Condition Report (SFCR), under the section “E.2 Capital Management – Solvency Capital Requirement and Minimum Capital Requirement”.

Supervisory review process

The approach should be implemented in the context of on-going supervisory dialogue, meaning that the supervisory authority should be satisfied and agree with the approach taken and be kept informed in case of any material change. Supervisory authorities should inform the undertakings in case there is any concern with the approach. In case the supervisory authority has any concern the approach should not be implemented or might be implemented with additional safeguards as agreed between the supervisory authority and the undertaking.

In some situations supervisory authorities may require a full calculation following the requirements of the Delegated Regulation and using inputs prudently estimated.

Example : Supervisory reporting and public disclosure

Undertakings should include information on the risk management system referred to in the previous paragraphs in the ORSA Report.

Undertakings should include structured information on the sub-modules for which a proportionate approach is applied in the Regular Supervisory Reporting, under the section “E.2 Capital Management – Solvency Capital Requirement and Minimum Capital Requirement” (RSR), including at least the following information:

  1. identification of the sub-module(s) for which a proportionate approach was applied;
  2. amount of the SCR for such a sub-module in the last three years before the application of proportionate approach, including the current year;
  3. the date of the last calculation performed following the requirements of the Delegated Regulation using inputs prudently estimated; and
  4. early warning indicators identified and triggers for a calculation following the requirements of the Delegated Regulation and using inputs prudently estimated.

Undertakings should also include structured information on the sub-modules for which a proportionate approach is applied in the Solvency and Financial Condition Report, under the section “E.2 Capital Management – Solvency Capital Requirement and Minimum Capital Requirement” (SFCR), including at least the identification of the submodule(s) for which a proportionate calculation was applied.

An example of structured information to be included in the regular supervisory report in line with Article 311(6) of the Delegated Regulation is as follows:

Proportionality EIOPA

This proportionate approach should also be reflected in the quantitative reporting templates to be submitted. In this case the templates would reflect the amounts used for the last full calculation performed.

Click here to access EIOPA’s Supervisory Statement

2018 EIOPA Insurance Stress Test report

Executive Summary

  1. The 2018 insurance stress test is the fourth European-wide exercise initiated and coordinated by EIOPA. As in previous exercises, the main objective is to assess the resilience of the European insurance sector to specific adverse scenarios with potential negative implications for the stability of the European financial markets and the real economy. Hence, it cannot be considered as a pass-or-fail or capital exercise for the participating groups. In total 42 (re)insurance groups, representing a market coverage of around 75% based on total consolidated assets, participated. As this exercise is based on group level information, no country results are provided in the report.
  2. The exercise tests the impact of a prolonged low yield environment (Yield Curve Down – YCD – scenario) as well as of a sudden reversal of risk premia (Yield Curve Up – YCU – scenario), which are currently identified as key risks across financial sectors. In the YCD scenario, market shocks are complemented by a longevity shock. In the YCU scenario, market shocks are combined with an instantaneous shock to lapse rates and claims inflation. The market shocks prescribed in the YCD and YCU scenarios are severe but plausible and were developed in cooperation with the ESRB, based on past market observations. Additionally, a natural catastrophe (NC) scenario tests the resilience of insurers to a potential materialisation of a set of catastrophe losses over Europe.
  3. Groups were requested to calculate their post-stress financial position by applying the same models used for their regular Solvency II reporting. The use of LTG and transitional measures was taken into account and the impact of these measures had to be reported separately. Restrictions were prescribed in order to accommodate for the instantaneous nature of the shocks and the static balance sheet approach. In particular, the impact of the transitional measure on technical provisions was held constant in the post-stress situation and potential management actions to mitigate the impact of the scenarios were not allowed.
  4. The novelty of this year’s exercise is the assessment of the post-stress capital position of the participants, with an estimate of the post-stress Solvency Capital Requirement (SCR). Given the operational and methodological challenges related to the recalculation of the group SCR, participating groups were allowed to use approximations and simplifications as long as a fair reflection of the direction and magnitude of the impact was warranted.
  5. In the pre-stress (baseline) situation, participating groups have an aggregate assets over liabilities (AoL) ratio of 109.5% (the ratio ranges from 103.0% to 139.5% for participating groups). Overall, the participating groups are adequately capitalised with an aggregate baseline SCR ratio of 202.4%, indicating that they hold approximately twice as much capital than what is required by regulation.
  6. In the YCU scenario, the aggregate AoL ratio drops from 109.5% to 107.6%, corresponding to a drop of 32.2% in the excess of assets over liabilities (eAoL). Without the use of LTG and transitional measures the impact would be more severe, corresponding to a drop in AoL ratio to 105.1% (53.1% in the eAoL) with 3 groups reporting an AoL ratio below 100% (accounting for approximately 10% of total assets in the sample). The impact of the YCU scenario is driven by a significant drop in the value of assets (-12.8% for government bonds, -13.0% for corporate bonds and -38.5 % for equity holdings). Overall, the losses on the asset side outweigh the gains on the liability side. Technical Provisions (TP) decrease by 17.0%, attributed mainly to a decrease in life TP (-14.5%) due to the reduced portfolio (instantaneous lapse shock) and the increased discounting curve (upwards shock to the swap curves). However, an increase in TP was observed for those groups focusing mainly on non-life business. In this case, the impact of the claims inflation shock on the non-life portfolio leads to an increase in the TP, outweighing the beneficial effect of the increased discounting curve due to shorter-term liabilities.
  7. The capital position is materially affected in the YCU scenario, but the poststress aggregate SCR ratio remains at satisfactory levels of 145.2% corresponding to a drop of 57.2 percentage points. However, 6 groups report a post-stress SCR ratio below 100%. This is mainly driven by a significant decrease (-29.9%) in eligible own funds (EOF) following the shocks to the asset portfolio that are not fully compensated by the reduction of the TP, while the SCR decreases only slightly (-2.3%). LTG and transitional measures play a significant role in the post-stress capital position. Without the application of the transitional measures the aggregate SCR ratio drops by an additional 14.3 percentage points to 130.9%, while in case both LTG and transitional measures are removed, the SCR ratio drops to 86.6%, with 21 groups reporting a ratio below 100%. This finding confirms the importance of the aforementioned measures for limiting the impact of short-term market movements on the financial position of insurers, as expected by their design.
  8. In the YCD scenario, the aggregate AoL ratio decreases from 109.5% to 106.7%, corresponding to a drop in eAoL of 27.6%. Again, the impact is more severe without the use of LTG and transitional measures. The aggregate AoL ratio would drop to 104.8% in that case, corresponding to a decrease of 47.7% in eAoL, with 3 groups reporting an AoL ratio below 100% (accounting for approximately 10% of total assets in the sample). The impact of the YCD scenario can be mainly attributed to an increase in the TP on the liability side (+2.1%), driven by the increase of the life TP (+6.1%) due to the reduction of the discounting curve and the longevity shock. Total assets show a decrease (-0.8%) due to the drop in value of assets held for unit-linked contracts and equity holdings (-14.7%) which is partly offset by the increase in value of the fixed income assets (+3.1% government bonds and +2.3% corporate bonds). This scenario confirms that the European insurance industry is vulnerable to a prolonged low yield environment, also at group level.
  9. The aggregate SCR ratio in the YCD scenario drops by 64.9 percentage points, but remains at 137.4% after shock, although 7 participating groups report a ratio below 100%. The decrease in SCR ratio is driven by a material decrease in EOF (-23.5%) and a significant increase in SCR (+12.7%), both mainly due to higher technical provisions. The LTG and transitional measures partly absorb the negative impact of the prescribed shocks. Without the application of the transitional measures the SCR ratio drops to 124.1%, while excluding both LTG and transitional measures leads to an aggregate SCR ratio of 85.4%, with 20 participating groups reporting a ratio below 100%.
  10. In the NC scenario, participating groups report a drop of only 0.3 percentage points in the aggregate AoL ratio. The limited impact of the NC scenario on the participating groups is mainly due to the reinsurance treaties in place, with 55% of the losses transferred to reinsurers. The most affected participants are therefore reinsurers and those direct insurers largely involved in reinsurance activities. Furthermore, it should be noted that the losses are ceded to a limited number of counterparties, highlighting a potential concentration of risk. The high resilience of the groups to the series of natural catastrophes is confirmed by the limited decrease in aggregate eAoL (-2.7%). Without the LTG and transitional measures, the eAoL would decrease by 15.1% compared to the baseline.
  11. Overall, the stress test exercise confirms the significant sensitivity to market shocks for the European insurance sector. The groups seem to be vulnerable to not only low yields and longevity risk, but also to a sudden and abrupt reversal of risk premia combined with an instantaneous shock to lapse rates and claims inflation. The exercise further reveals potential transmission channels of the tested shocks to insurers’ balance sheets. For instance, in the YCU scenario the assumed inflation shock leads to a net increase in the liabilities of those groups more exposed to non-life business through claims inflation. Finally, both the YCD and YCU scenario have similar negative impact on post-stress SCR ratios.
  12. Further analysis of the results will be undertaken by EIOPA and by the National Competent Authorities (NCAs) to obtain a deeper understanding of the risks and vulnerabilities of the sector. Subsequently, EIOPA will issue recommendations on relevant aspects where appropriate. The responses received on the cyber risk questionnaire that are not part of this report, will be evaluated and discussed in future EIOPA publications.
  13. This exercise marks an important step in the reassessment of capital requirements under adverse scenarios and provides a valuable basis for continuous dialogue between group supervisors and the participating groups on the identified vulnerabilities. EIOPA is planning to further work on refining its stress test methodology in order to fully capture the complexity of the reassessment of capital requirements under adverse scenarios. EIOPA expects that participants use the acquired experience to foster their abilities to produce high quality data and to enhance their corresponding risk management capabilities. NCAs are expected to oversee and promote these improvements.

AoL without LTG Transition

SCR With and without LTC Transition

NC Reinsurance

Click here to access the EIOPA 2018 Insurance Stress Test Report

 

EIOPA: Potential macroprudential tools and measures to enhance the current insurance regulatory framework

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) initiated in 2017 the publication of a series of papers on systemic risk and macroprudential policy in insurance. So far, most of the discussions concerning macroprudential policy have focused on the banking sector. The aim of EIOPA is to contribute to the debate, whilst taking into consideration the specific nature of the insurance business.

With this purpose, EIOPA has followed a step-by-step approach, seeking to address the following questions:

  • Does insurance create or amplify systemic risk?
  • If yes, what are the tools already existing in the current framework, and how do they contribute to mitigate the sources of systemic risk?
  • Are other tools needed and, if yes, which ones could be promoted?

While the two first questions were addressed in previous papers, the purpose of the present paper is to identify, classify and provide a preliminary assessment of potential additional tools and measures to enhance the current framework in the EU from a macroprudential perspective.

EIOPA carried out an analysis focusing on four categories of tools:

  1. Capital and reserving-based tools;
  2. Liquidity-based tools;
  3. Exposure-based tools; and
  4. Pre-emptive planning.

EIOPA also considers whether the tools should be used for enhanced reporting and monitoring or as intervention power. Following this preliminary analysis, EIOPA concludes the following (Table 1):

Table 1 Macro

It is important to stress that the paper essentially focuses on whether a specific instrument should or should not be further considered. This is an important aspect in light of future work in the context of the Solvency II review. As such, this work should be understood as a first step of the process and not as a formal proposal yet. Furthermore, EIOPA is aware that the implementation of tools also has important challenges. In this respect this report provides an overview of tools, main conclusions and observations, stressing also the main challenges.

Table 2 puts together the findings of all three papers published by EIOPA by linking

  1. sources of systemic risk and operational objectives (first paper),
  2. tools already available in the current framework (second paper)
  3. and other potential tools and measures to be further considered (current paper).

Table 2 Papers

The first paper, ‘Systemic risk and macroprudential policy in insurance’ aimed at identifying and analysing the sources of systemic risk in insurance from a conceptual point of view and at developing a macroprudential framework specifically designed for the insurance sector.

The second paper, ‘Solvency II tools with macroprudential impact’, identified, classified and provided a preliminary assessment of the tools or measures already existing within the Solvency II framework, which could mitigate any of the sources of systemic risk.

This third paper carries out an initial assessment of potential tools or measures to be included in a macroprudential framework designed for insurers, in order to mitigate the sources of systemic risk and contribute to the achievement of the operational objectives.

It covers six main issues:

  1. Identification of potential new instruments/measures. The tools will be grouped according to the following blocks:
    • Capital and reserving-based tools
    • Liquidity-based tools
    • Exposure-based tools
    • Pre-emptive planning
  2. Way in which the tools in each block contribute to achieving one or more of the operational objectives identified in previous papers.
  3. Interaction with Solvency II.
  4. Individual description of all the tools identified for each of the blocks. The following classification will be considered:
    • Enhanced reporting and monitoring tools and measures. They provide supervisors and other authorities with additional relevant information about potential risks and vulnerabilities that are or could be building up in the system. Authorities could then implement an array of measures to address them both at micro and macroprudential level (see annex for an inventory of powers potentially available to national supervisory authorities (NSAs)).
    • Intervention powers. These powers are currently not available as macroprudential tools. They are more intrusive and intervene more severely in the management of the companies. Examples could be additional buffers, limits or restrictions. They are only justified where the existing measures may not suffice to address the sources of systemic risk identified.
  5. Preliminary analysis per tool.
  6. Preliminary conclusion.

Four initial remarks should be made.

  1. First, although in several instances the measures and instruments are originally microprudential in nature, they could also be implemented as macroprudential instruments, if a systemically important institution or set of institutions or the whole market are targeted.
  2. Secondly, analysing potential changes on the long-term guarantees (LTG) measures and measures on equity risk that were introduced in the Solvency II directive, although out of the scope of this paper, could contribute to further enhance the framework from a macroprudential perspective. The focus of this paper is essentially on new tools, leaving aside the analysis of potential changes in the current LTG measures and measures on equity risk, which will be carried out in the context of the Solvency II review by 1 January 2021.
  3. Thirdly, when used as a macroprudential tool, the decision process may differ, given that there are different institutional models for the implementation of macroprudential policies across EU countries, in some cases involving different parties (e.g. ministries, supervisors, etc.). This paper seeks to adopt a neutral approach by referring to the concept of the ‘relevant authority in charge of the macroprudential authority’, which should encompass the different institutional models existing across jurisdictions.
  4. Fourthly, there seems to be no single solution when it comes to the level of application of each tool (single vs. group level).

Concerning the different proposed monitoring tools, in the follow-up work, the structure and content of the additional data requirements should be defined. This should then be followed by an assessment of the potential burden of collecting this information from undertakings.

It is important to stress that this paper essentially focuses on whether a specific instrument should or should not be further considered. This is an important aspect in light of future work in the context of the Solvency II review. As such, this work should be understood as a first step of the process and not as a formal proposal yet.

Figure ORSA

Click here to access EIOPA’s detailed discussion paper

EIOPA Risk Dashboard January 2018

Risks originating from the macroeconomic environment remained stable and high. Improvements have been observed across most indicators, but were not sufficient to change the overall risk picture. The improving prospects for economic growth still contrast with the persistence of structural imbalances, such as fiscal deficit. The accommodative stance of monetary policy has been reduced only very gradually, with low interest rates continuing to put a strain on the insurance sector.

Credit risks remained constant at a medium level whereas observed spreads continued to decline. The average rating of investments has seen some marginal improvements. Concerns on the pricing of the risk premia remain.

Market risks remained stable at a medium level despite a reduction of the volatility on prices was observed. Only price to book value of European stocks moved in the direction of risk increase.

Liquidity and funding risks were constant at a medium level in 2017 Q3 and remained a minor issue for insurers. Catastrophe bond issuance significantly decreased when compared to the record high registered during the previous quarter. The low volume of issued bonds made the indicator less relevant.

Profitability and solvency risks remained stable at a medium level. A deterioration of the net combined ratio was observed in the tail (90 percentile) of the distribution mainly populated by reinsurers in this quarter. SCR ratios have improved across all types of insurers mainly due to an increase of the Eligible Own Funds. This has been especially marked for life solo companies.

Interlinkages & imbalances: Risks in this category remained constant at a medium level. Investment exposures to banks and other insurers increased slightly from the previous quarter.

Insurance risks increased when compared to 2017 Q2 and are now at a medium level. This was essentially driven by the significant increase in the catastrophe loss ratio resulting from the impact of the catastrophic events observed in Q3 mainly on reinsurers’ technical results. This is also reflected in the loss ratio. Other indicators in this risk category still point to a stable risk exposure.

Market perceptions remained constant, with the improvement in external rating outlooks outweighing the observed increase in price to earnings ratios. Insurance stocks slightly outperformed the market, especially for life insurance, and CDS spreads reduced.

Riskdashboard 12018

Click here to access EIOPA’s Risk Dashboard January 2018

Solvency II : First experiences with SFCR reporting – Germany, UK, Ireland

In May 2017, all German solo insurance companies were required for the first time to publish selected reporting forms as part of Solvency and Financial Condition Reporting (SFCR) – insurance groups followed at the end of June. These reports did not only include a huge amount of data on specific Solvency II risk figures but also comprehensive information about

  • general business development,
  • qualitative explanations on the presented figures and on the financial, solvency and business situation.

Aside from the obligation to publish own Solvency II results, insurance companies now for the first time have the opportunity to compare their Solvency II results with direct competitors.

The publication of SFCR reports also gives stakeholders access to Solvency II reports who did not have insight into these results before, for instance

  • rating agencies,
  • sales partners,
  • customers,
  • media
  • and creditors.

The extension of the target group has two main consequences for insurance companies:

  1. Firstly, Solvency II results need to be explained to an audience that has little experience with Solvency II – unlike insurance supervisors who had exclusive access to Solvency II results until now.
  2. Secondly, the solvency ratio becomes increasingly important as a material piece of information from SFC reports.

Due to the flood of information available in the SFC reports and the lack of experience of many market participants, it can be expected that processing Solvency II results will be mainly restricted to the evaluation of the solvency ratio as the core result of Solvency II. In particular, it was revealed that individual insurance companies are already actively using the solvency ratio in sales.

The attention given to the solvency ratio by the public will increase even further in the future if ratios approach the critical 100% threshold due to reduced interim measures.

Due to its increasing importance, the solvency ratio is no longer regarded as a pure reporting figure but as a value that requires active management. A variety of degrees of freedom and options in the calculation of Solvency II results allow insurance companies both to adjust their business policies and to influence SII results through suitable calculation methods. Due to the short history of Solvency II, there is little understanding of the impact mechanisms “behind” the solvency ratio at the moment, which is why not all optimization potentials are currently leveraged and insurers are still actively searching for solvency ratio levers.

In light of the extended information basis, decisions about

  • the use of interest rate measures,
  • an internal model (instead of the standard model),
  • simplified calculation methods
  • and the use of company-specific parameters

can be reassessed.

SFCR Germany

Click here to access Zeb Control’s detailed report

In a survey of the Solvency and Financial Condition Reports (SFCRs) and public Quantitative Reporting Templates (QRTs) for 100 of the top non-life insurers in the UK and Ireland the aim of the review was twofold – to analyse the numbers disclosed by firms for the first time and to consider how well firms have dealt with the narrative reporting required of them under Solvency II.

The survey team has also drawn upon our Pillar 3 roundtables with insurers and reinsurers across the market to understand how the first year of submissions has worked in practice.

Their key conclusions are:

  • Insurers are generally sufficiently capitalised, but the buffers firms have in place to protect against balance sheet volatility may not be enough to prevent them from having to recapitalise over the short term.
  • Motor insurers typically have the least financial headroom, compared with other insurers.
  • Brexit is on the agenda for many insurers, with some firms setting up internal steering groups to ensure they are well placed to access the European Market after the UK leaves the EU.
  • Uncertainty around the Ogden discount rate used to calculate personal injury compensation payments poses a material risk to some insurers, with two firms disclosing that the recent change required them to recapitalise significantly.
  • Firms must work harder to publish better quality QRTs, with over a quarter of the firms we reviewed disclosing QRTs containing obvious errors.
  • Some firms’ SFCRs are not fully compliant with the Solvency II regulations, with particular areas of weakness including disclosure around sensitivity testing of the SCR and uncertainty within technical provisions.

SFCR UK IRL

Click here to access LCP’s detailed survey analysis