House hearing should bring U.S. approach to ICS into sharper focus

The NAIC meeting is kicking up a lot of talk on international capital standards, and position or positions of TEAM USA may come more into focus during a hearing of the House Financial Services Committee Nov. 18 as Federal Reserve Board insurance policy czar Tom Sullivan, Federal Insurance Office Director Michael McRaith and NAIC Vice President and International Committee Chair Michael Consedine are called upon to testify.
So far, all we have on paper regarding the U.S. ICS approach is the NAIC working group discussion draft of two potential group capital methodologies: RBC Plus and Cash Flow. A hybrid of the two is also under discussion and generating buzz, although no one has endorsed it yet.
“RBC Plus” utilizes selected design features from the existing legal entity RBC framework. The accounting basis for this methodology is the insurance group’s U.S. GAAP accounts, says the NAIC’s ComFrame Development and Analysis Working Group, which people lovingly call C-Dog, aka CDAWG.
The “Cash Flow” concept follows the general methodology of asset adequacy testing for insurers. This methodology is being proposed partly in response to the sentiment that an ideal global insurance group capital standard should be accounting independent and thus would be able to perform its function in any accounting environment, according to the CDAWG group.
Property casualty insurers have expressed concern about the Cash Flow method, which would require significant use of internal models and scenarios would have to be updated periodically, and, as CDAWG has written, may not be easily understood or compared to a factor-based or RBC approach.
NAIC staff states CDAWG has not completed sufficient research to develop a potential hybrid approach, but it is possible that a combination of both the above methodologies could be developed that would reflect a factor-based approach (RBC Plus) as the minimum group capital requirement,coupled with a cash flow/stress testing approach as a complement to the minimum group capital requirement.
So far, any agreement among U.S. agencies is focused on avoiding market valuation for the assets underpinning the capital used for any standard. The International Association o Insurance Supervisors will put out its draft on the ICS by the end of December. No one seems certain if the U.S. or its various supervisory component will be submitting their work on an alternate U.S. approach by early December.
SNL Financial will be covering the capital standard proposals as they move forward and the hearing, so stay tuned. I will try and provide a link here later from our coverage.
Here’s our SNL Financial Coverage: https://www.snl.com/interactivex/article.aspx?id=29916991&KPLT=6

‘Team’ USA trying to fashion own capital standard for global stage

The development of group capital standards or the global insurance capital standard (ICS) has reached U.S. shores and the sector is working together–or listening together–to develop possible approaches.
To that end, U.S. regulators and stewards of domestic insurance policy met with the insurance industry Friday to discuss possible approaches to a U.S.specific group capital framework that would satisfy the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS).
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) hosted its ComFrame Development and Analysis Working Group in Washington with members of the insurance industry, and representatives from the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Insurance Office (FIO) and the Federal Reserve Board to discuss a U.S. group capital proposal that respects jurisdictional accounting requirements and perhaps also incorporates the U.S. risk based capital (RBC) approach.
Many in the U.S. favor jurisdictional-based approach rather than a standard imposed globally, leading to proposed solutions for crafting a domestic capital standard that would be okay’ed by global supervisory forums .
Any standard would be adopted by the Fed for its stable of insurers–thrifts and systemically important insurers–and the states, via the NAIC for all other insurance groups.
The Fed and Treasury are influential members of the G-20’s Financial Stability Board (FSB) and have a great role in capital standard development for financial institutions worldwide.
The meeting was led by Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, past NAIC president, Pennsylvania Commissioner Michael Consedine, head of the NAIC’s International Insurance Relations (G) Committee and NAIC president-elect, Tennessee Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak and New Jersey Commissioner Ken Kobylowski.
The NAIC staunchly adheres to a position that any capital objective be the protection of policyholders.

Staircase at National Fire Group, Hartford, Dec. 10, 1941, courtesy Library of Congress archives via Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc.,  photographer

Staircase at National Fire Group, Hartford Stair, Dec. 10, 1941, courtesy Library of Congress archives via Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer

Various companies suggested as possible approaches and alternatives as “work to date on these standards has revealed numerous issues and difficulties calibrating a global capital standard for such a diverse industry,” as Liberty Mutual wrote in a presentation submitted to the NAIC.
Suggested capital development approaches, based on materials submitted to the NAIC, include use of an insurance group’s own capital mode, more use of supervisory colleges, developing a group RBC formula which considers banking and non-insurance entities operating within the group (CNA), valuing cash flows, calibration with potential disaster scenarios and risks, replacing insurance reserves with best estimate liabilities to remove the major source of inconsistency across companies and regimes (Prudential Financial) while maintaining consistency between he valuation of assets and liabilities (a life insurance sector approach), and mutual recognition of local solvency regimes for international groups (Aegon/Transamerica) and use of U.S. statutory reporting measurement framework as a way to assess capital adequacy (Allstate.)
“It is more important to focus on the total asset requirement than the level of required reserves or capital on a separate basis. The focus should be on holding adequate total assets to meet obligations as they come due,” stated the American Academy of Actuaries.
New York Life put forth that “the new standards should require insurers to stress test cash flows under a set of prescribed stress scenarios. We believe that a cash flow stress testing approach offers the best way to ensure solvency and financial stability in a globally comparable manner, while preserving appropriate incentives for U.S. life insurers to continue offering sound, long-duration products that provide security to consumers.”
Or, as one person summarized. “Don’t come up with a dollar amount, come up with a probability that your cash inflows over time will exceed cash outflows…”
Non-life, property casualty companies were not so interested in matching long-term liabilities or cash flow testing because they are invested in short and medium-term municipal bonds of about seven years in duration, which need to be rolled out several times over the course of 30 years. The 30 year-notes are not as attractive anymore among low interest rate environment.
Most tossed out any mark to market accounting approach for valuations. Representatives discussed the need for a level playing field between large and small companies, the compliance costs involved for all companies in meeting these or any standards and the need for more meetings, including and in-person meeting before November.
The NAIC wants to have a recommendation for discussion and action at its Nov. 16-19 national meeting in Washington.
Some of the ideas advancing from the Sept. 19th meeting include the sentiment that domestic coordination is important if ideas are to advance internationally with a broad desire ti have all US voices say the same thing, and that p/c and life insurance need different standards, according to Dave Snyder of the Property Casualty Insurance Association Of America (PCI).
Other points include a skepticism about comparability between countries, a standard that recognizes the US model as one of the standards for compliance and an appreciation, he said, for NAIC’s transparent process.
However, Snyder said, there is “no guarantee at this point that the IAIS will accept an RBC-based system as one option for compliance…However, there are regulators outside the US that might share similar views and their systems ought to be recognized as being compliant with an ICS.”
The IAIS May 2014 ICS Conceptual Memorandum introduced jurisdictional group capital methods (the oft-cited paragraph 30) that could be accepted instead of the ICS as-is.
Although there is general NAIC and industry acceptance, if not enthusiasm here, that there will be an ICS of some sort, a byproduct–or product–of the IAIS ComFrame project which has been re-imagined by the FSB since ComFrame’s 2010 inception, not many in the U.S. are true believers.
“It is interesting to note that the effort to converge insurer accounting standards has failed after a ten year effort. Many times during the last decade it was asserted that the ‘train has left the station,’ regarding that effort. Apparently, U.S. accounting standard setters discovered “reverse” gear,” stated Marty Carus, former AIG compliance executive and a former long-time New York insurance regulator.

Renewed FACI to meet Thursday, group now weighted with industry execs

The Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance (FACI) meets today, Aug. 7, in Washington, with a slate of new members. For the first time, industry participants outnumber state regulators.
The agenda is broad, including the first time the committee will meet to discuss the FIO report, How to Modernize and Improve the System of Insurance Regulation in the United States, issued in December.
There are nine high-level insurance or broker industry members, including two from non-U.S.-domiciled holding companies, two academics, the addition of a state legislator with insurance interests, one consumer advocate and eight state insurance regulators. State regulators number eight for a total of 21 members.
FIO Director Michael McRaith oversees the committee, which will again be chaired by the CEO of Marsh & McLennan Cos., this time in the person of Dan Glaser rather than the retired Brian Duperreault.
Originally, half the slots were for state regulators.
Seven are original members of the 15 named almost three years ago, when industry members numbered six participants, state regulators seven, with the addition of one each of an academic representative and a consumer advocate. A few represent the same firms or entities as their predecessors.
The FACI is also scheduled to review of the renewed charter of the FACI and give a status report on international developments. McRaith is a member of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors, and Pennsylvania insurance Commissioner Michael Consedine chairs the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) International Committee (G) as well as NAIC vice president. The G Committee is scheduled to have a conference call to discuss, among other things, technical issues with the IAIS’ Basic Capital Requirements (BCR) consultation paper at about the same time as the FACI meeting.
There will also probably be an update on the The EU-U.S. Insurance Project, in which other FACI members are involved. By end 2014, the steering committee of the project has proposed to evaluate the use of a covered agreement to achieve the group supervision stated objectives such as working towards achieving greater comparability between groups in relation to an overall group solvency assessment.
One original and continuing member, Benjamin Lawsky, New York’s Superintendent of Financial Services, recently wrote to members of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which include McRaith as a nonvoting member, asking for careful consideration in the Council’s review of MetLife as a potential systemically important financial institution and noting that MetLife’s life insurance businesses already are “closely and carefully regulated” by the state of New York and other regulators.

The domestic  insurers named as SIFIs so far by the FSOC,  Prudential Financial and AIG, now have executives on the FACI, as does Allianz, deemed a  global systemically important insurer, as designated by the IAIS/Financial Stability Board (FSB.) Prudential and AIG are also G-SIIs, as is MetLife. Only MetLife, expected to be named a potential SIFI by FSOC soon, is not represented on FACI. Prudential Financial is now overseen on a consolidated basis by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank and AIG by the New York Fed.
The original FACI charter called for the FACI to consist of not more than 15 members. The duties of the FACI are “solely advisory and shall extend only to the submission of advice and recommendations to the FlO, which shall be non-binding,” to the original charter. No determination of fact or policy shall be made by the Committee, according to this 2011 charter, which was renewed in August 2013 for another two years.
FACI has met in person, in public meetings, about half a dozen times since its first meeting in March 2012, and weighed in heavily on the topics of availability and affordability of insurance and the use of captive arrangements by insurers, in open discussions which sometimes turned tense as when former FACI member Thomas Leonardi sparred with McRaith on whether the investigation of captives was even necessary by FACI and FIO. There were also forays into catastrophes, the national flood program and Superstorm Sandy, and an overall broad commitment to look into the retirement and aging of the world’s insurance-buying public.
However,the FACI has seemingly been dormant for at least half a year, although phone calls are not made public.
The 21 individuals (Asterisk denotes original member)appointed today to the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance include:

· Gary Bhojwani, Chairman of Allianz of America

* Birny Birnbaum, Executive Director, Center for Economic Justice

· Elizabeth Brown, Professor, Georgia State University

* Michael Consedine, Commissioner, Pennsylvania Insurance Department

· Brenda Cude, Professor, University of Georgia

* Jacqueline Cunningham, Commissioner, Virginia Bureau of Insurance

· John Franchini, Superintendent, New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance

* Loretta Fuller, CEO & CFO, Insurance Solutions Associates

· Nicholas Gerhart, Commissioner, Iowa Insurance Division

· Daniel Glaser, President & CEO, Marsh & McLennan Companies (Chair of the Committee–was Brian Duperreault, retired CEO of Marsh)

· Mark Grier, Vice Chairman, Prudential Financial, Inc.

· David Herzog, EVP & CFO, American International Group, Inc.

· George Keiser, Representative, North Dakota House of Representatives

· James Kelleher, EVP & Chief Legal Officer, Liberty Mutual Insurance

* Scott Kipper, Commissioner, Nevada Division of Insurance

* Benjamin Lawsky, Superintendent, New York Department of Financial Services

· Theodore Mathas, Chairman, President & CEO, New York Life Insurance Company (was Michael Sproule from NY Life)

* Sean McGovern, Chief Risk Officer & General Counsel, Lloyd’s of London

· Julie McPeak, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance

· Franklin (Tad) Montross, Chairman, President & CEO, General Re Corporation

· Theodore Nickel, Commissioner, Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance

Consultant to examine NAIC governance procedures, external and internal relationships

UPDATED 7/16 10:30 am with NAIC education initiative news:

Seven months after Connecticut Insurance Commissioner Tom Leonardi recommended hiring outside consultants to conduct a thorough evaluation of the governance structure of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), its Executive Committee has finally decided to go forward with the move.

The NAIC Executive Committee recently voted unanimously to accept the recommendation from its Governance Review Task Force to hire a consultant to assist in a comprehensive review of NAIC governance, the organization announced July 15.

The Governance Review task Force stated in its draft that the consultant should “compare NAIC’s organizational and governance model with best practices of associations, business or nonprofits that are comparable to NAIC, where practicable.”
The draft scope of work, dated June 13, contemplates a broad review of the NAIC’s organizational structure, committee processes and external engagements with with international bodies, including the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), and interactions with federal bodies, including Congress, the Federal Reserve, the Department of Treasury, its Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and the Federal Insurance Office (FIO), including how NAIC strategy and message are developed.
The hiring committee is made up of some of the NAIC officers such as Pennsylvania COmmissioner Micahel Consedine even as one of the organizational reviews includes analysis of the role and authority of the Executive Committee, NAIC officers, the NAIC CEO and the organization’s management.
Back on Dec. 11, 2013, in a startling passionate letter that went as “viral” as anything the NAIC as an organization had ever been involved in to date, Leonardi blasted the organization for cronyism, acceptance of weaknesses and “so-called leadership.”
Anyone keen to revisit that letter and its colorfully-rendered revelations of NAIC discord and fissures within the ranks from the former CEO and business executive, who is as familiar in Washington and international insurance regulatory circles as he is in Connecticut can read about here and here.  It doesn’t lose its flavor months later.
“We cannot choose our fellow commissioners or always compensate for each other’s weaknesses, but we can make sure that our organization is structured and governed in a way to minimize the negative consequences of those realities,” Leonardi stated in the letter to his fellow state regulators, after detailing a variety of shortcomings and allegedly unprofessional behavior in the NAIC ranks.
The NAIC and Leonardi both have acknowledged in various ways that state insurance regulation is on the line, challenged by contemplated and real federal oversight moves and international pressures.

The 2010 Dodd Frank Act measures are slowly being enacted despite attempts to abridge or curtail them, and international efforts for global  insurance capital  standards have been embraced in a bear hug of the world’s top banking regulators,  threatening to squeeze the state out of state regulation of insurance, according to some insurance sector participants.

The NAIC said it anticipates issuing a request for proposals this week to help selection of a consultant and is targeting early September for the work to begin.
Leonardi, who was shut down in the December NAIC national meeting with his corporate governance proposal by the leadership and others, who decided to table a decision until after the current storm of outrage from Leonardi had subsided, is not part of the selection team.
In 2014 an Executive Task Force was formed and charged with making a recommendation to Executive Committee on whether to retain a consultant.

“I look forward to working with fellow regulators on a fair and open process that will ultimately strengthen the effectiveness of the NAIC and enhance our common mission of consumer protection and state-based industry oversight. Good governance is extremely important to the constituents we serve. It is my hope that the consultant vetted and eventually recommended by President (Adam) Hamm’s subcommittee is one who will deliver world-class expertise to this task and who will be afforded unfettered access to our organization in order to conduct an independent and unbiased review.”

Hamm’s statement acknowledged Missouri Insurance Director John Huff for his leadership on the Governance Review Task Force.
“As in past reviews of NAIC governance, we hope the consultant can assist us in facilitating a thorough evaluation and identifying best practices for us to consider,” stated Hamm, also North Dakota insurance commissioner.
The RFP will be posted on the NAIC website upon issuance, with actual contract with the consultant expected in late August.
Word on the cost or budget for the consultant was not disclosed.
The NAIC makes use of consultants in many areas from technology systems to legal and actuarial support human resources to accounting policies that accepted in 2011 a target operating reserve of 80% to 91%.
To help educate domestic and international policymakers about the actual workings and effectiveness of the U.S. regulatory system, the NAIC proposed, for example, in the 2014 budget, to retain the services of one or more consultants to help generate an educational outreach program intended to raise the awareness of the state-based system of insurance regulation in the U.S.

Interestingly, the nAIC announced a day later, July 16, that it had just launched this educational initiative, called  ‘Protecting the Future…’

Calling it unprecedented, the nAIC is deploying it in  Washington,  Brussels, the capital of the European Union; and in Basel, Switzerland, the seat of the Financial Stability Board (FSB) for the G-20.

“It is a critical time for state regulators as some federal officials and global regulators are seeking unprecedented authority over American insurance markets, including the imposition of bank-centric regulation on insurance companies,” the NAIC stated, claiming state regulation  has  a nearly 150 year history, even during the 2008 financial crisis, of protecting policyholders and helping to prevent an even deeper economic downturn.

With this  education initiative in mind, the 2014 budget projected about $12.220 million for outside consultants, down from $15.69 million in 2012 and about even with 2013 budget number amount. The budget did not appear to include the corporate governance consultant in its projections.