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

NAIC decries the member vote to end IAIS ‘observer’ status

Oct. 27, 2014, Washington — The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) expressed strong opposition to the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) vote to end observer membership status for non-members. The vote, which took place in closed session at the annual general meeting on Oct. 25 in Amsterdam, amended IAIS bylaws to end this observer status, which included participation in some IAIS meetings.
The IAIS is creating new stakeholder consultation procedures which have not at all been embraced by the once and former observers.
Ahthough the vote occurred in a closed session, the NAIC delegation voted against the measure, while the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) voted for it and the Federal Reserve Board representative allegedly left the room.
After attempts to work together, the schism on international supervisory issues among U.S. representatives is still defined by issues such as this.
“I am extremely disappointed in the outcome of Saturday’s vote to end observer status at the IAIS,” said Adam Hamm, NAIC President and North Dakota insurance commissioner and IAIS member. “Observers run the range of consumer advocates, insurance experts, and industry representatives – all of whom have critical input to share on the real-world consequences of decisions made by regulators. Shutting them out of the official process in favor of ‘invite only’ participation deprives IAIS members and stakeholders alike and could diminish the credibility of decisions made at the IAIS,” said Hamm, who also sits on the US Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC.)
ALthough the FSOC role does not assure one of membership, the fact that the NAIC members are state regulators does.
Observers, from insurance groups and lobbyists to consumer advocates to the insurance expert on the FSOC have previously spoken out against the change, criticizing the long-anticipated move for lack of access and lack of time to effect any important and long supervisory process of crafting rules — rules that would be eventually applied to insurance companies, and effect regulations, markets and consumers.
“Relegating systemic risk policymakers to only those opportunities afforded to the general public would reduce the likelihood of effective attainment of the IAIS goal of providing a meaningful contribution towards global financial stability,” FSOC Independent Insurance Expert Woodall stated in a comment letter to the IAIS in early September.
Said consumer advocate Peter Kochenburger, executive director of the Law School’s Insurance Law Center,”I would say that the IAIS annual conference in Amsterdam further confirmed the value of stakeholder participation: (1) without any consumer (policyholder) participation the dialogue is either regulators talking only to themselves, or to the industry, with the crucial second party to any insurance transaction, the policyholder, not having a voice (2) as the industry points out, they will be responsible for ultimately following and implementing changes in national (or state) insurance laws and have a knowledge base and stake in participating in its making.”
The new consultation procedures being developed will likely outline how certain stakeholders may participate in portions of some meetings by invitation only as well as the creation of open hearings with stakeholders separate from IAIS meetings.
The Center for Economic Justice (CEJ), run by IAIS observer consumer advocate Birny Birnbaum, said also in a comment letter Sept. 2, the IAIS new, proposed policy for consultation of stakeholders is not a good solution because it “will not ensure all relevant stakeholders are properly consulted because there is no formal consumer participation program or assistance, because the implementation is left to the discretion of the Chair and because there is no formal training for members or committee leadership in implementing public participation policies and procedures.”
Besides being “clearly not transparent,” the proposed ‘standardized framework’ is too short on the required interactions and too long on the options to ensure consistent stakeholder interaction across committees and projects,” Birnbaum wrote.
The IAIS is in part funded by Observer fees and some anticipate that the G-20’s Financial Stability Board (FSB), which is directing many of the IAIS work on international capital standards, may pay the funds now.
“Over the years, the IAIS has benefitted from the input and ideas provided by our observers which not only result in quality end products, but also provide our stakeholders with a better understanding of our work and our development processes,” said Kevin McCarty, Florida insurance commissioner and past NAIC president, who has served in IAIS roles for some years and who serves on the IAIS Executive Committee.
“…we are concerned about changes which will result in less transparency and openness by closing all meetings to stakeholders going forward,” he continued, contrasting the NAIC’s policy of transparency with the IAIS’ plan.
U.S. state regulators are not alone in their concern with the new process. Congress has introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for openness and transparency by the IAIS, the NAIC pointed out in a release.
Dave Snyder of the Property Casualty Insurance Association (PCI), who recently returned from Amsterdam, remarked that”the NAIC vote upholds the views of our federal and state lawmakers and our traditions of openness to all interested parties. On the other hand, the IAIS action is a serious mistake as it will make it more difficult to meaningfully consider the views of all stakeholders. It will also potentially result in flawed standards and guidance that will run into preventable opposition and thereby fail to be implemented.”

IAIS develops BCR; U.S. weighs whether they are evolutionary or revolutionary

The International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) completed its first step in process to develop group-wide global insurance capital standards during its conference in Amsterdam. This week it announced that it had concluded development of the first-ever global insurance capital standard – Basic Capital Requirements (BCR) for global systemically important insurers (G-SIIs).
The BCR has also been endorsed by the G-20’s own Financial Stability Board (FSB).
“With design of the BCR now complete the IAIS has concluded the first of several steps in its process to develop group-wide global insurance capital standards,” said Peter Braumüller, chair of the IAIS Executive Committee, which also includes Federal Insurance Office (FIO) Director Michael McRaith, a Treasury official, and two U.S. state regulators.
Treasury and the Federal reserve Board as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission sit on the international FSB.
This comes as expected–now it is up to the countries to absorb it or otherwise fit it into their regulatory methodologies.
In the U.S., that means the primary regulator, whether the states or the Fed, depending on whether the insurer owns a thrift/savings & loan has been deemed a systemically important financial institution subject to enhanced prudential regulation.
The adoption in whole or part should be interesting as not all U.S. attendees appear to be on the same page, although some would wish it so.
McRaith, according to those live-tweeting the event at #iais2014 (let’s be clear; this blogger could not attend and turned to social media and attendee feedback) apparently said on a panel on capital standards that there was “a great desire” to move forward with them as long as “no one has to change.”
McRaith also called the BCR development a significant milestone as it is the first ever group capital standard, according to Tweets from attendees. He also focused on the importance of the globalized insurance markets and also noted, according to Tweets, that he was not worried about a monoculture developing with this capital standard.
The IAIS is developing no less than three separate capital standards for SIFIs: the BCR and the higher loss absorption (HLA) for G-SIIs, and the Insurance Capital Standard (ICS) for Internationally Active Insurance Groups (IAIGs.)
The BCR will serve as the comparable foundation for the HLA. Together, BCR and HLA will provide a consolidated group-wide capital requirement that will apply to G-SIIs only. When the ICS is finalized, it will replace the BCR in its role as the foundation for HLA. Got it?
The ICS is expected to be adopted in late 2018 and the HLA from 2019 onward, initially based on BCR as a foundation, moving later to ICS.
From 2019, G-SIIs will be required to hold capital no lower than the BCR plus HLA.
Missouri Insurance Director John M. Huff, in his keynote address,speaking on behalf of the NAIC, notably wavered from the perceived absolutism of a capital principle. He called upon global regulators to “acknowledge that our approaches to capital can be very different.”
Huff called upon the global community to give jurisdictions time needed to “develop standards appropriate to the insurance industry, and resist the pressure to homogenize regulation to treat all products and all investments the same.”
“In the U.S. as an example, with the exception of SIFIs, … the goal of the insurance capital requirements is not to prevent failure of a firm but to ensure the impact to policyholders is minimized. In other words, firms are allowed to fail but policyholders still need to be protected,” Huff stated.
He cautioned that if regulators require too much capital, then prices for consumers go up.
“A delicate balance needs to be achieved, and we must leverage other supervisory powers to complement capital such that we do not become over reliant on it,” Huff stated.
McRaith did acknowledge that a wide variety of views must be taken into account in development of global standards, according to a Tweet from an IAIS official.
Huff partially echoed that sentiment in his remarks: “When it comes to core principles, let’s truly make them principles where there is broad agreement they are critical to policyholder protection …true international norms that individual members can implement in a way appropriate for their home jurisdiction.”
“When it comes to the capital requirements, …we need to recognize that given the timelines, we need to work with present supervisory systems rather than thinking such standards could be used to dramatically reshape those established under existing law. As we move forward on these issues, practical and implementable change will be evolutionary, not revolutionary,” Huff stated.
Based on end-2013 data received during field testing, the average level of the BCR is 75% of the reported jurisdictional group-wide Prescribed Capital Requirement for G-SIIs, and 67% for all 2014 field testing volunteers, the IAIS stated.
Beginning in 2015, the BCR will be reported on a confidential basis to group-wide supervisors and be shared with the IAIS for purposes of refining the BCR.
The development of HLA requirements to apply to G-SIIs is due to be completed by the end of 2015. The final step is the development of a risk-based group-wide global ICS, due t by the end of 2016 and applied to IAIGs from 2019.
BCR is calculated on a consolidated group-wide basis for all financial and material non-financial activities. It is determined using a “factor-based” approach with 15 factors applying to defined segments and their specified exposure measures within the main categories of a G-SII’s activity – traditional life insurance, traditional non-life insurance, non-traditional insurance, assets and non-insurance.
All holding companies, insurance legal entities, banking legal entities and any other companies in the group will be included in the consolidation.
For more information, see PDFs on the iAIS website here.

NYU prof. sees possible life insurer failure from risky behavior Industry, NAIC, say nonsense

The C.V.Starr Professor of Economics at the New York University Stern School of Business said he sees systemic risk in the life insurance sector as companies deploy more regulatory arbitrage to reduce needed capital, push off liabilities and pursue riskier strategies that banks used to pursue.

Specifically, the professor, Viral V. Acharya, focused on recent research on captive reinsurance, which he termed off balance sheet shadow insurance, search for yields in the corporate bond market and a reduction in capital requirements for mortgage-backed securities. He said insurers seem to be filling the void left by banks who started exiting risky behavior after the crisis.
He specifically raised MetLife, especially, and Prudential Financial as life insurers that can fail if there is a housing market correction and an equity market collapse.

Speaking a part of a panel on global insurance regulation at the Brookings Institution on Oct. 14, he said he was “stunned” at the capital reduction requirements for residential (R) MBS since a 2009 reform by the NAIC reducing RMBS capital required by 67%. This capital relief for large and perhaps distressed – in 2009 insurers amounts to over $15 billion relative to the earlier risk-based system, he charged.
For his suggested failure scenario, Acharya faulted capital calculations based on expected losses.
“What about unexpected losses,?” he asked. A crisis is about unexpected losses not expected losses, he added.
Acharya said he doesn’t expect a run-on-the-bank scenario so much as a collapse in market values which will cause contagion “stop” the intermediation in the market by insurers, who will not be buying RMBS or any MBS and withdraw from bonds.
Later, Acharya explained in an email that raised an audience member’s question about insurance industry surplus (about $672 billion estimated) as a buffer that these surplus calculations “do not account for unexpected losses, I think, and ignore off balance sheet liabilities at captives. It also would be odd to give the firms capital relief for RMBS on one hand and tighten through surplus elsewhere,” he stated.
“The plan was to give capital relief to undercapitalized insurers and allow them to get into the space banks were withdrawing from, by earning fat yields on subIG (investment grade securities) …But even if justified in 2009, why should the relief be permanent?” he said in the email.
Acharya, who covered a chapter of a book he is writing (Chapter 9) with Matt Richardson, entitled Modernizing Insurance Regulation, (Wiley and Sons, Inc.) said it was worrisome that there seems to be insurance risk-taking across an investment grade classes, and fall at the edges of each investment class to the extent they can, and noted insurers have become the buyer of last resort for sub-investment fade RMBS at a time when banks are pulling back.
“There s a huge killing to be made here,” he said, guessing at insurers’ motivation, and there will be a housing crisis in the next 20 years and companies like MetLife could fail, he said.
He wanted to know why the NAIC has made permanent the capital relief it is giving insurers’ investments.
In the preface to the upcoming book, Acharya and Richardson write: “The insurance sector may be a source for systemic risk. In brief, we argue that the insurance industry is no longer traditional in the above sense and instead (i) offers products with non-diversifiable risk, (ii) is more prone to “runs” (iii) insures against macro-wide events and (iv) has expanded its role in financial markets. This can lead to the insurance sector performing particularly poorly in systemic states, that is, when other parts of the financial sector are struggling. We provide evidence using publicly available data on equities and credit default swaps. As an important source for products to the economy (i.e., insurance) and a source for financing (i.e., corporate bonds and commercial mortgages), disintermediation of the insurance sector can have dire consequences.”
In remarks to audience members gathered afterward, Acharya alleged that the company Google, for example, was safe, a certain pharmaceutical company was safe, but MetLife was not “safe.”
Earlier, in his presentation, Acharya, who has been an academic advisor to the Federal Reserve Banks of Cleveland, New York and Philadelphia and teaches credit risk, noted that MetLife owns an affiliated firm that reinsurers MetLife and that the AM Best rating ignores the captives. Its failure would costs state guarantees funds more the $15 billion, he said.
“Regulatory arbitrage” has allowed the insurance sector to free up reserves and increase its size, something over which various federal government offices are also noting.
He suggested insurers put pressure on state regulators to have the investment grade requirements for RMBS be almost the same as the sub-investment grade RMBS.
MetLife and Prudential were not in attendance and did not have a comment.
Acharya’s charts show high capital shortfalls for MetLife and Prudential in the case of a 40% market correction, above that of Bank of American and JP Morgan.
Insurance representatives and others weren’t buying it. Most have heard the warning bells about captive reinsurance before, but did not accept the scenario where the large insurers would fail in a housing crisis. The insurers would continue to buy in the market and people would continue to buy life insurance, one insurance representative noted.
Marty Carus, an industry consultant and former AIG and New York state insurance department official noted that RMBS performance from 2008 to 2010 in terms of cash flow was healthy. During this period, the industry lost minimal cash flows and cash flows are what was important as opposed to unrealized losses due market price decreases that caused write-downs, according to Carus. There is almost “no likelihood” of Prudential or MetLife failing with industry surplus,the long-time insurance regulatory official said.
Even if MetLife’s and Pru’s “RBC hit mandatory control level, they are eminently solvent (that is more assets than liabilities). Moreover, point estimates of required capital levels make little sense. If there is a temporary decline in asset values but no real loss of cash flows, companies can flow in and out of solvency. That is why during the Great Depression, valuations of debt securities (i.e., bonds) went to amortized values. Market values had decreased so markedly during 1930 that industry would be broke nominally but not actually,” Carus said in an email.
Acharya disagreed with arguemtns about this in general. “I think MetLife can fail,” Acharya said, charging that CDS fluctuated a great deal in 2008 and now almost 50% of RMBS are sub investment grade.
NAIC CEO Ben Nelson said on the panel in response to the myriad accusations that the “NAIC is on it,” and noted the NAIC work on principles-based reserving (PBR). Because of NAIC’s implementation of PBR, on will see “less use of the captives,” Nelson said. He reiterated the stance that the state system has worked and that the last crisis was not an insurance failure but an AIG failure.
But the professor warned that, “If we don’t harmonize insurance principles,” there will be problems and said this was a problem for the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) housed at Treasury. FSOC members and staff were among those in the audience. MetLife filed an appeal early this month to fight its proposed systemically risky financial institution (SIFI) designation by the FSOC. MetLife’s appeal will take place this fall, and if it fails, it could take the matter to court.
Failure would impact policyholders too, he said in a follow-up email.
“The insurance firms have been buying sub-IG tranches….So if losses exceed expected losses, for which they have not reserved and increasingly kept low equity cushion, policyholders and more likely federal taxpayers, will be on the hook,” Acharya said.

Feeling flush, NAIC is reducing some fees, costs in 2015 budget

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is cutting back costs to insurers and others by reducing fees in assessments and database filing fees, areas where it has historically gotten much of its revenue.
According to its proposed budget, the NAIC is pretty comfortable–at least for now–with its liquid operating reserve ratio and is even revisiting the target number.
In its budget proposal unveiled this week, it proposed reducing the filing fee structure for database filings by five percent and the filing fee caps by five percent, among other service reductions in a total of four areas.
In other areas, travel and salaries continue to rise. Salaries, taxes and benefits comprise the largest share of the 2015 budget at almost 60% of the total operating expense.
Salaries, taxes and expenses are projected to total $57,563.4 million for 2015 compared with $53.679 million projected for 2014. Salaries alone will total $44.872 million for 2015, a 4.6% increase over 2014, for the NAIC, which has about 470 full-time employees, reflecting pay increases and overtime, among other factors, according to the NAIC budget spreadsheet.
And the projected 2014 net revenues is $5.5 million over expected amounts, in part due to investment income and database fees as well as valuation services revenue due to revenue from structured securities project revenue including third party dataset sales.
Database filing fees are part of the NAIC’s bread and butter revenue, used to support the NAIC’s financial solvency program in-house and via state insurance departments.
In 2014, a total of 4,817 companies, including 29 groups, were assessed a total of $26,823,629, up $500,00 from 2013.
But for 2015, the NAIC budget plans an overall decrease of 2.32% to $25.744 million for database fee revenue.
Database fees have always been a key component of NAIC’s total revenue, and once were contested by some in the industry back in the 1990s. They are 29.5% of the 2014 budget composite mix, and were 27.2% in 2013. N One of the reasons the 2014 spending is expected to exceed the budget is because database fees were $467,000 higher than budgeted due to higher than budgeted insurance premium growth.
Now, they are projected to go down to 28.4% in 2015 because of the NAIC’s newly proposed reduction for industry.
Publications and valuation services are other sizable components of the budget which the NAIC is proposing to rein in a bit.
The NAIC is funded in a number of different ways including member assessments; database filing fees; the sale of publications; the provision of security designations; evaluation of some mortgage-backed securities owned by insurers; education and training registration fees; transaction filing fees; meeting registration fees; and a number of other services.
The NAIC is projected to generate service revenues of $91.6 million in 2014 with projected costs of just over $92.7 million.
The NAIC’s proposed 2015 budget includes total revenues (including investment income) of $94.3 million and total expenses of $96.1 million, a 1.1% and 3.4% increase, respectively, from the 2014 budget.
In addition, the NAIC is projected to generate a healthy investment income of nearly $6.9 million which could be more, or less, depending on the financial returns from the association’s long-term investment portfolio during the second half of 2014.
The long-term portfolio of investment income is one of the key factors in the NAIC being able to maintain its financial position The NAIC says it will continue to exercise close oversight of this portfolio and invest in a prudent manner but it is impossible to predict outcomes. Returns generated by the long term investment portfolio, garnered the NAIC net assets of almost $115.4 million at the end of 2013.
Thus, the NAIC leadership is choosing now, when the association is apparently flush and healthy, apparently, as the time to pass on some reductions to its stakeholders.
Given the NAIC’s financial results for the first half of 2014, “it is an appropriate time to review the association’s revenue streams and make a recommendation to modify the current structure,” the NAIC stated in the proposed budget summary.
The main objective of the proposed modification is to take into consideration all
funding sources and develop an approach that is “fair, equitable and viable in the future,” the NAIC stated.
Back in 2001, projected revenue was a little less than $47 million and database feels were continuing their rise based on premium volumes for insurers.
The 2012 NAIC proposed budget was for about $79 million.
The Liquid Operating Reserve
The NAIC has long been concerned about maintaining a healthy liquid operating reserve even as insurers have complained about excess funds in the NAIC’s coffers over the years.
The NAIC-retained consultant, Grant Thornton recommended back in 2011 that the NAIC’s operating reserve target from a flat 80% to a target range of 80% to 91%.This targeted ratio was based on current and future identified risks and was benchmarked to “comparable organizations.”
The NAIC leadership wrote at the time, “…the complexity of insurance regulation is increasing, resulting in a higher level of uncertainty and increased business risk, thereby, warranting a higher operating reserve target.”
This ratio is calculated by subtracting net fixed assets from total net assets and then dividing by projected expenses for the next year.
The NAIC uses this ratio as a gauge in determining the level of funding available to an association in times of financial distress.
As of Dec. 31, 2010, the NAIC maintained a liquid operating reserve ratio of 79.3%. By the at the end of 2013 was 106%.
The NAIC said this week in its proposal that a new review will be undertaken in the latter part of 2014 to recommend a new reserve target ratio for the association. The report should be completed in the latter part of 2014 or early part of 2015.
Other areas seeing reductions
The other areas for reductions as part of this initiative are:
2) to remove Securities Valuation Office (SVO) assessment instituted in 2004 when the SVO restructured product pricing. An assessment of $1,580,000 was implemented to ensure theNAIC had adequate financial resources to provide services. This assessment is allocated to insurance companies with total investments in nongovernment securities and preferred stock of $1 billion or more. Although the NAIC budget included the assessment from 2005 through 2011, insurance companies were only billed half of this amount. In the 2012 and subsequent budget, the assessment was reduced to $790,000. The entire amount has been billed in July of each year.
3) Eliminate fees for consumer guides and all publications
provided in an on demand electronic format, except for the top 10 publications
reducing 2015 budgeted revenues by $953,264
and
4) Lower the member assessment by 5% and institute a cap of $125,000. The current assessment structure was implemented in 2001 and is based on each member’s share of total insurance premium volume within their jurisdiction.
This would result in a reduction of $194,024 in 2015 projected revenue.

The continuation of these reductions in future years is contingent upon the NAIC being able to maintain a solid financial foundation to be able to
support to state insurance regulators, the NAIC said in its budget proposal.
Many had not reviewed the document yet.
A public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 12. Once the conference call time has been finalized (by mid-October), the details will be posted on the NAIC website.

FIO wants national approach in key areas, is watchful in others

Washington-Sept. 24, 2014
In the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Federal Insurance Office (FIO) newly-released second Annual Report on the Insurance Industry, there are a few glimpses into further action FIO might be considering beyond its standard “monitor and report on” response to state-by state variations and issues of concern.
For example, the FIO is concerned with consumers’ retirement needs in the form of insurance products like life insurance and annuities and the availability of products and access to them in a safe manner.
In light of the decrease in life insurance agents and policies sold to individuals while needs remains high, FIO is looking into ways to promote access to what it deems “essential insurance products.”
The report discusses going beyond efforts in addition to the already preemptive pending legislation known as the National Association of Registered Agents and Brokers Reform Act of 2013 (NARAB II.)
Additionally, the report also says that questions concerning reinsurance collateral should be uniformly addressed on the national level.
FIO has been monitoring measures state-by-state to reform the requirements relating to collateral for reinsurance for almost three couple years now (the NAIC model law passed November 2011) but has found that in the 23 states that have adopted some measures of reform, authorization to accept less than 100% collateral has not been uniform in structure or implementation.
Thus, FIO suggests in its report, it is time for it to step in perhaps or at least make sure the issue is tackled at the national level.
FIO also voices its continued concern with the use of captive reinsurance as a source of risk in the life sector. The report acknowledges state regulatory attempts to address the issue but follows up with continuing concern from various sectors. However, FIO is still at the “monitor and report” stage here.
Also, the approach to ensuring availability and affordability of personal auto insurance remains open, as FIO is till monitoring the issue after receiving requested comments this spring and summer from stakeholders on how to define affordable personal auto insurance, including possible metrics.
The FIO is also appears to be getting involved with the Death Master File data to help make sure beneficiaries receive death benefit payments on policies. FIO said in the report is working to support stakeholder efforts to identify suitable alternative data sources, while working with stakeholders (including the National Technical Information Service, which supervises public access to the DMF) to support appropriate access to the DMF.

The report is largely positive on market performance. It stated that bottom-line numbers in the insurance marketplace in 2013 were encouraging and that at U.S. insurers have continued to show resilience in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Gains in net income drove reported surplus of both the P/C and L/H sectors to record levels.
At year-end 2013, the L/H sector reported approximately $335 billion in capital and surplus, and the P/C sector reported approximately $665 billion in capital and surplus, although net written premiums for the L/H sector were down slightly, from records set in 2012.
FIO has pointed out before, and does so here again, that while the United States remains the world’s largest insurance market by premium volume, its share has declined both as a percentage of domestic GDP and as a percentage of worldwide market share. Emerging economies have seen dramatic increases in premium volume, the report graphs.
This segues into updates on international supervisory activities and progress, the Federal Reserve supervision of insurers and matters examined in the watershed FIO Modernization report, released last December.
FIO’s support of international prudential standard-setting activities spearheaded through the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), and implementation of such standards by the “appropriate national authorities” is clear in the new report, which sites financial stability, enhanced understanding and consistency as guiding principles in global insurance supervisory efforts.
FIO, which was established within Treasury as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, has a statutory duty to monitor all aspects of the insurance sector, including identifying issues that could contribute to systemic risk in the insurance industry or the U.S. financial system, which is where captive reinsurance concerns could play out. FIO also is supposed to assess the availability and affordability of insurance to traditionally underserved populations, advise the Secretary of the Treasury on major domestic insurance policy issues, and represent the United States on prudential aspects of international insurance matters, a role which FIO Director Michael McRaith has, by all accounts, heartily undertaken.

‘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.

NAIC changing of the guard at FSOC: Hamm in, Huff out

Sept. 18, 2014 — Adam Hamm, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and North Dakota insurance commissioner since 2007, has been appointed to a two-year term as the state insurance commissioner representative on the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC).
As a state insurance commissioner, Hamm is one of five non-voting members on the FSOC, which is composed of 10 voting members led by the Treasury secretary.
Hamm, a Republican, replaces Missouri Insurance Director John Huff, a Democrat, on the FSOC at a critical time for insurance stability oversight. Huff had served his two terms.

NAIC President Adam Hamm, courtesy NAIC website

NAIC President and ND Commissioner Adam Hamm, courtesy NAIC


FSOC is awaiting a response from MetLife on whether it will accept or appeal its proposed designation as a systemically important financial institution (SIFI.) FSOC proposed the designation Sept. 4 without disclosing the name of the company.
FSOC is also reviewing what appears to be another insurer or reinsurer, now in the Stage 2 process of SIFIhood. Stage 3 is the final analysis before the books are closed on a company.)
There is also partisan legislation pending in Congress seeking to forestall more proposed designations for a period of time, and to force the FSOC to be more forthcoming with information as well as to allow in to its closed meetings certain members of Congress.
Huff marked his tenure at FSOC publicly with his dissent in the FSOC’s designation of Prudential Financial as a SIFI and an open statement at an NAIC meeting that members of FSOC did not understand insurance.
Huff and the NAIC have been critical of FSOC In the past but it is unknown how Hamm will play the cards given to him as a non-voting member of the Council.
The NAIC in 2011 wrote to then-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner that Huff was being stymied by the FSOC and Treasury in his attempts to tap the NAIC and the state insurance departments for additional staff support and that Huff had been prohibited from discussing or seeking guidance from relevant state regulators even on a confidential basis. The NAIC also complained that FSOC was limiting Huff’s role on the FSOC. See: http://www.naic.org/documents/testimony_letter_110209_fsoc_geithner.pdf

Huff argued a year ago this month that the basis for the Prudential decision lacked evidence, analysis and was speculative, and based on unlikely events. He said what the FSOC did do was merely show that Prudential was a large and complex institution, but that was all it showed. See: http://www.naic.org/documents/index_fsoc_130920_huff_dissent_prudential.pdf
Huff also criticized some of the statements and arguments in the majority or “basis” opinion as suggesting “a lack of appreciation of the operation of the state-based regulatory framework, particularly its resolution processes”
For instance, he demonstrated alarm that the FSOC majority reasoned that the authority of an insurance regulator to ring-fence the insurance legal entity could complicate resolution and could pose a threat to financial stability.
Huff argued that Ring-fencing is a powerful regulatory tool utilized by insurance regulators to protect policyholders and prevents the transfer of assets without regulatory approval.
It has been a great honor to serve on behalf of my fellow state insurance regulators on FSOC,” said Huff in a statement today. 
Hamm stated that he will assume his new role “with great respect for the work of Director Huff and I look forward to working with the other financial regulators as we take the next steps to promote a stable insurance marketplace and protect the broader financial sector.”

The FSOC was created by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010 to monitor the safety and stability of the nation’s financial system, identify risks to the system, and coordinate a response to any threats.
Companies designated as SIFIs are subject to oversight on a consolidated basis by the Federal Reserve Board. For example, Prudential Financial is being regulated as an entity by the Boston Fed, although accompanying capital rules have yet to be developed and imposed. Home state regulator New Jersey still oversees the various insurance components and market conduct elements of Prudential, but must confer with the Fed.
Huff was appointed to FSOC in August 2010 by NAIC. His term began Sept, 15, 2010 and he was reappointed in 2012 for a second term which expired on Sept. 15, 2014.

Thank you,

FSOC’s Woodall troubled by IAIS’s proposal to limit involvement; others weigh in

The ability for international authorities to confer with policymakers with authority for financial stability in the insurance sector would be greatly hindered under an International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) proposal to basically cease “Observer” status Jan. 1. argues a member of the US Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC.)

FSOC Independent insurance member Roy Woodall says that the proposal detailed in the IAIS Notice of Request for Comment of Aug. 4, 2014, would render null and void  the purpose for joining as an “Observer” earlier this year, (see http://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2014/02/18/320673.htm) and could dampen oversight of global financial stability.

“Relegating systemic risk policymakers to only those opportunities afforded to the general public would reduce the likelihood of effective attainment of the IAIS goal of providing a meaningful contribution towards global financial stability,” Woodall stated in a comment letter to the IAIS late last week.
The IAIS is and must remain a critically important resource to systemic risk policymakers throughout the world.  To achieve its objective of contributing to global financial stability, the IAIS should consider how best to ensure that it continues to have the strongest possible ties with systemic risk policymakers so that they will benefit from and be able to act upon the informed and knowledgeable efforts of the IAIS in the area of global financial stability,” Woodall wrote.

Comments on the proposal are due Sept. 2.

The Notice of Request for Comment announced  two agreements by the  IAIS Executive Committee: an agreement that non-members would no longer generally participate in meetings but rather be invited when necessary to provide targeted, technical input; and that IAIS engagement with outside stakeholders would increase through special sessions, more dissemination of   documents and the use of conference calls as opposed to the in-person high-level meetings the IAIS has been holding  thus far.

But the IAIS proposal could have the unintended effect of excluding policymakers with legal authorities for financial stability regarding the insurance sector and who may not themselves be supervisors–like himself, Woodall argues.

For global financial stability to be most effective it needs experts on the insurance sector, and to include those with legal authority, he points out.

Woodall suggests that the IAIS could provide for participation by systemic risk policymakers as non-voting members, a suggestion that has been thorny in the past.

The IAIS could reconsider revising its bylaws so that  the IAIS could include “national organizations” and their members, which would  include systemic risk policymakers who serve on the FSOC — and members of other similar national bodies elsewhere, Woodall suggests.

For instance, the IAIS has similarly recognized the need for engagement by critical participants in other areas and has welcomed the participation of organizations like the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and others as non-voting members, he notes.

Woodall acted to join as an “Observer” after a proposed IAIS bylaw amendment that would have permitted systemic risk policymakers to join as non-voting members was tabled by the IAIS Executive Committee at the annual meeting in Washington, D.C. in 2012.  U.S. members of the IAIS Executive Committee at the time  were divided on the motion, with reports of concern about the wording and  the inclusion of too many non-specific insurance entities with too broad a view of a jurisdiction’s financial  stability officials.

The NAIC and the U.S.  are already heavyweight members because of their numbers and agencies represented, which include the Federal Insurance Office and the Federal Reserve Board now, too.

Woodall noted that as an “Observer” he benefits from perspective of other Observers, who also would fall off the IAIS rosters under the proposal. Woodall says the other groups help give a by better understanding the implications for industry and consumers of matters under IAIS consideration.

As such, he says he is sympathetic to the goal of ensuring that the IAIS not become wholly detached from those who may be able to provide such important perspectives.

Consumer advocates who recently also were granted Observer status, including those in the U.S. funded through the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) are also slamming the proposal by the IAIS.

Center for Economic Justice (CEJ)’s Birny Birnbaum, a seasoned consumer advocate and also a member of FIO’s advisory committee, criticized the unequal access some parties have had  and its potential effects on all stakeholders, including his constituency, consumers, in his Sept. 2 comments.

“We applaud the IAIS proposal to stop ‘pay-to-play’ and allow any interested party to follow and participate in the activities of the IAIS. However, meaningful participation by consumers of insurance in IAIS processes requires the establishment of a formal IAIS consumer participation program reflecting a commitment to obtain consumer input….”

“We note the irony of a request for comment on public participation procedures with a note on page 1 limiting the information to Members and Observers,” Birnbaum added.

Peter Kochenburger, one of the internationally-focused NAIC consumer advocates, and an insurance law professor at University of Connecticut where he  is executive director of the Law School’s Insurance Law Center, said he agrees with the serious concerns state regulators, insurers and trade associations that the IAIS draft procedures would greatly limit stakeholder involvement.  

“Closing most meetings to outside observers reverses the presumption of openness and transparency, and doesn’t speed up any processes – allowing stakeholders to observe proceedings does not mean IAIS working groups must have public comment periods, or even interact with stakeholders at these sessions,” Kochenburger said.  “If the IAIS was considered a public deliberative body, its draft procedures would violate many state open meeting laws,” he added.  

Consumer observers are further disadvantaged, though, he said.

“We don’t come with the power and resources of insurers and other stakeholders; if we are listened to it is not because of our market share in a country, but the quality of ideas, and commitment and experience in consumer (policyholder) protection.  Our credibility and therefore our effectiveness often depends on speaking publicly at hearings and committees and being able to communicate directly with supervisors.  Much of this will be lost, along with the opportunity to meet consumer observers from other countries, who will now have equally minimal opportunities to meet in person,” Kochenburger said.

The proposed procedures will reduce the opportunity for contributions by closing meetings that once were open, says Property Casualty Insurers Association (PCI)  of America’s Dave Snyder, a long-time Observer.

The general rule in the proposal is that meetings will be closed but guests may be invited in at the discretion of the IAIS.

“This is the most fundamental of all flaws in the new procedures. The reverse should be the case, especially when the role of IAIS, as noted by the paper, has significantly increased,” stated Snyder, who says PCI strongly agrees with the remarks of the NAIC (comments here), which trumpets transparency and stakeholder participation for their own sake and as a means to increase the likelihood of acceptance and overall efficiency.

Snyder welcomed open Executive Committee sessions  but said these would not  compensate for closing other meetings and closing meetings combined with inviting “guests” into them.

Observers have decried  the proposed policy not only because it will change the dynamics  of interaction but because it comes at a critical time–the IAIS is not a sleepy organization leased a few desks by a banking oversight body in Basel, anymore.

A global insurance capital standard by 2016 for globally active insurance groups is under development, with expected  implementation by 2019, alongside the development of capital standards for global systemically important insurers (G-SIIs) and possibly for global reinsurers.

The IAIS is also developing basic capital requirements (BCRs), which are planned to be finalized this year for implementation by global systemically important insurers (G-SIIs.) BCRs will serve as the foundation for higher loss absorbency (HLA) requirements for G-SIIs, and it is anticipated that their development and testing will also inform development of the ICS, the IAIS stated last year.

IAIS observers include in the United States as of 2013:  ACE, INA Holdings Inc .,  ACORD
AFLAC, AM Best, American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI,) American Insurance Association(AIA), AIG, Assured Guaranty Municipal Corp., Barnert Global Ltd., Cigna International Corp. CNA Insurance, Deloitte LLP, DLA Piper, LLP, Duane Morris LLP, Examination Resources LLC, Genworth Financial, Liberty Mutual Group, MassMutual Financial Group, MetLife, New York Life International, Northwestern Mutual, Promontory Financial Group, LLC, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), Prudential Financial Inc, Reinsurance Association of America USA, Starr International USA Inc., The Chubb Corp., Transatlantic Reinsurance Co., Travelers Companies, Inc., Treliant Risk Advisers, United Health Group and XL Group.

International organizations such as the International Actuarial Association, the World Federation of Insurance Intermediaries and Insurance Europe are also Observers.

Right now, all eyes are on 21st Annual Conference of the IAIS in Amsterdam, October 23- 24, 2014. The theme of IAIS 2014 will be: ’Enhancing policyholder protection and financial stability through governance and risk management’. The group will decide then how to proceed. See: http://www.iais2014.org/
However, the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI) warns, “that the IAIS should refuse to become an ivory tower bureaucratic elite,” by instead continuing inclusive interaction with diverse stakeholder groups with… those who may not agree on approach but who have the same objectives. “This is how you will be prepared for the next crisis and not the last one,” stated the ACLI comments, written by Robert Neill, formerly of FIO.

NAIC does its housework, ponders internat’l stance amid concerns

Reports from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) summer meeting in Louisville, Ky., demonstrate a desire for the United States to take a uniform national position in international insurance capital regime debates, work on a better way to achieve sound corporate governance and make progress on the reinsurance framework for captives.
On the domestic front, the Executive Committee of the NAIC adopted the XXX/AXXX Triple X/ Actuarial Guideline 38) Reinsurance Framework, which carries with it an action plan to develop proposed changes to the insurer/captive regulations and model laws dealing with ceding reserves in these transactions.
The framework would require the ceding company to disclose the assets and securities used to support the reserves and hold an risk-based capital cushion if the captive does not file RBC. It would not change the statutory reserve requirements. 

The NAIC agreed to move forward to develop a comprehensive framework proposal while numerous groups will develop the details to create the framework, to be approved later by NAIC membership.

The XXX/AG 38 issue propelled itself to the regulatory spotlight more than three years ago in the life actuarial task force meetings, and in the ensuing months and  years, caught the interest of the  Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) and the Federal Reserve. The pressure to find solutions has been ongoing, with the NAIC using its resources and an outside actuarial consultant to create the semblance of a national system  to deal with what some in the life insurance industry say are redundant reserves that choke their books ad others claim is regulatory arbitrage.

The NAIC also  adopted a Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Model Act and supporting Model Regulation Monday, Aug.. 18. Under it, U.S. insurers will be required to provide a detailed narrative describing governance practices to their lead state or domestic regulator by June 1st of each year. This narrative will be protected by strict confidentiality measures,  which was vastly important to insurers as they would be baring their governance practices to regulators. 

The new corporate governance disclosure requirements are expected to start in 2016, according to the NAIC.

An international capital standards forum featured insurers and regulators, both from the states and the Federal Reserve Board’s insurance policy shop pushing for a U.S.-centric approach or position, with both life insurance and non-life insurance standards, according to one attendee.
The International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) is creating insurance capital standards under the auspices of the Financial Stability Board (FSB.)
Insurers are concerned that standards are appropriate to the life insurance industry, which offers long duration products and requires a different valuation principle to capture market swings over a generational period of policy obligations. Otherwise, insurers argue, these market swings could create capital standard costs that would be passed on to consumers making products such as long term care and annuities, essential retirement products, unattractive to consumers.
Even the consumer advocates, who may or may not have a role in the  IAIS going forward, if the IAIS drops its observer status, pointed out that the focus on capital is misplaced, according to attendees. It doesn’t address defective, systemically risky products, it was argued.
Pennsylvania Commissioner Michael Consedine noted that when the U.S. speaks with one voice, it is hard to ignore. Consedine is NAIC vice president and chair of the International Insurance Relations (G) Committee (NAIC) but it is hard to fathom what that will be with the FIO  reflecting the Treasury position and maintaining an essential role at the IAIS, along with the NAIC and now the Federal Reserve.

The NAIC, according to a source recap of the meeting, would like to see any model adequately tested, and generally embraces its approach, which protects consumers and not allow capital to flow outside the policyholder protection net.
Consedine has a big year ahead of him as NAIC president-elect and international leader on state insurance regulatory matters–if his governor, Tom Corbett, a Republican, survives a challenge from Democratic opponent, Tom Wolf. Recent polls show Corbett, who was drastically down in the polls, starting to gain some points back.

Another veteran on the international state regulatory scene, the previous head of the G Committee and a member of the IAIS executive committee, Tom Leonardi, is also appointed by a governor facing a tough reelection campaign in Connecticut, where the Republican contender, Tom Foley is polling ahead of Gov. Dannell Malloy.

Leonardi said that although there are potential benefits to adoption of a uniform global capital standard, he still questions the need for a global capital standard. Capital is not fungible, particularly when a company is in financial distress, he noted at the meeting. Implementation with another capital standard that has little in common with existing regulatory standards and industry practices make it a very expensive process to implement, he told attendees at the event.  There is a need to look at a jurisdiction’s entire solvency regulatory regime, which is not standard around the world, Leonardi noted.  

A concern we have, stated Montana Insurance Commissioner and current NAIC president-elect  Monica Lindeen in  an International Insurance Society address June 23,  “is that the last crisis was a banking crisis, not an insurance crisis, yet much of the international discussion and some of the prescriptions proposed for insurers seem very similar to banking solutions developed by banking regulators.”

“In the U.S., we regulate insurance on a legal-entity basis…. If the liabilities are in the U.S., then we expect the assets and capital that support the U.S. business to be there as well. In fact, the strongest protection to the financial system and policyholders might well be that each legal entity, including the holding company, holds capital commensurate with its risks,” Lindeen told the international audience.