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Global Insurance CRO Survey 2016

Risk functions have evolved from “check-the-box” compliance to being a key enabler for business decision-making. This change has provided chief risk officers (CROs) with a seat at the table in the highest levels of the organization.

2016 has been a year of black swans, characterized by prolonged low interest rates, political uncertainty in key markets and increasing competitive forces challenging insurers’ business models. Together with the rise of risk-based capital regimes across the globe, these factors are tending to align the CRO and CFO agendas, establishing a tighter link between risk, capital and value.

The CRO role will always have a strong regulatory-driven rationale. But as the role evolves, we see an opportunity in ERM to take stock of teams, toolkits and processes — and use them to achieve greater effectiveness.

See also: The Myth About Contractors and Risk  

This shift is occurring at different rates in different regions, but the direction is clear. Our survey explores five key themes around the risk function and CRO role:

1. There has been a high degree of operationalization in prudential regulation around the globe:

  • In Europe, in response to Solvency II demands
  • In the U.S., as a consequence of the NAIC’s ORSA requirement and for the larger insurers, SIFI demands from the Federal Reserve Board
  • In Asia-Pacific, with the implementation of risk-based capital regimes (e.g. C-ROSS in China, LAGIC in Australia, ORSA requirements in Singapore and ICAAP in Malaysia)

2. We are seeing a sharper focus on consumer-conduct regulation:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor is shaking up focus on the advice model.
  • The European Parliament is debating significant advances in policyholder communications, and various European home regulators are demanding redress for past failings in sales process, transparency of charges and continuing product suitability.
  • Depending on the region, it is more or less common for CROs to have compliance report through to them.

3. Governance models are now largely converging to reflect the three lines of defense principles.

Although differences exist across geographies, CROs are consistently seeking to strengthen risk accountability and understanding across the workforce. In particular, while we are seeing an increased awareness that risk ownership starts with the first line, there still are opportunities to strengthen risk accountability and improve communication to help everyone understand risk appetite and consequences.

4. Risk functions are becoming more involved in producing and monitoring risk metrics.

Larger insurers subject to Solvency II and now required to obtain approval of their internal economic capital models are partly behind this shift in risk functions.

Beyond Europe, other jurisdictions have a variety of approaches. For example, U.S. insurers subject to Federal Reserve regulation are required to use more extensive stress and scenario testing in their internal capital management processes (with the eventual requirement to publicly disclose the results).

See also: Minority-Contracting Compliance — Three Risks  

In general, even where there is no regulatory mandate, CROs and their risk teams are increasingly involved with stress testing and more advanced financial models to quantify risk.

5. CROs are aware of the potential for improvement in operational risk management.

While businesses generally understand the “known knowns,” risk plays an important role in emphasizing the need for a systematic approach to the full spectrum of exposures. Cyber risk in particular is one of the biggest areas of concern for most CROs, who consider it a key focus area of operational risk.

Download the full North American report here.

Download the full EMEIA report here.

Key Regulatory Issues in 2016 (Part 1)

The complexities of the current regulatory environment undoubtedly pose significant challenges for the broad spectrum of financial services companies, as regulators continue to expect management to demonstrate robust oversight, compliance and risk management standards. These challenges are generated at multiple (and sometimes competing) levels of regulatory authority, including local, state, federal and international, as well as, in some cases, by regulatory entities that are new or have been given expanded authority. Their demands are particularly pressing for the largest, most globally active firms, though smaller institutions are also struggling to optimize business models and infrastructures to better address the growing regulatory scrutiny and new expectations.

Across the industry, attentions are focused on improving overall financial strength and stability, guided by the recommendations of international standards-setting bodies and U.S. regulatory mandates that encompass governance, culture, risk management, capital and liquidity. Though historically under the purview of individual states, the insurance sector in the U.S. has been responding to influences at both the international and federal levels. The efforts of the International Association of Insurance Supervisors (IAIS) to develop insurance core principles (ICPs), a common framework for the supervision of internationally active insurance groups (IAIGs) and capital standards, have all laid the foundation for global regulatory change. These efforts have been further supported by new authorities given to the Federal Reserve Board, the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Federal Insurance Office and by the designation of certain nonbank insurance companies as systemically important financial institutions (SIFIs). Following are some of the key regulatory issues we anticipate will have an impact on insurance companies this year:

1. Strengthening Governance and Culture

Despite heightened attention from regulators and organizations to strengthen governance structures and risk controls frameworks, instances of misconduct (i.e., professional misbehavior, ethical lapses and compliance failures) continue to be reported across
the financial services industry, including the insurance sector,
with troubling frequency. Boards and senior management are
now expected to define and champion the desired culture within their organizations; establish values, goals, expectations and incentives for employee behavior consistent with that culture; demonstrate that employees understand and abide by the risk management framework; and set a “tone from the top” through their own words and actions.

Line and middle managers, who are frequently responsible for implementing organizational changes and strategic initiatives, are expected to be similarly committed, ensuring the “mood in the middle” reflects the tone from the top. Regulators are also assessing an organization’s culture by looking at how organizations implement their business strategies, expecting firms to place the interests of all customers and the integrity of the markets ahead of profit maximization. They will consider business practices and associated customer costs relative to the perceived and demonstrable benefit of an individual product or service to the customer, giving attention to sales incentives and product complexities.

State and federal insurance regulators have joined the global push for enhanced governance, and, in 2016, insurers can expect heightened attention in this area through the Federal Reserve Board’s (Federal Reserve) supervision framework and its enhanced prudential standards (EPS) rule; the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) targeted review of culture among broker-dealers; and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIC) Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Model Act, which became effective Jan. 1, 2016, and requires annual reporting following adoption by the individual states. Given the regulatory focus on conduct, insurers might experience some pressures to put in place governance and controls frameworks that specifically recognize and protect the interests of policy holders.

2. Improving Data Quality for Risk Data Aggregation and Risk Reporting

Financial institutions continue to struggle with improving their risk-data aggregation, systems and reporting capabilities, which means insurers, in particular, will be challenged to handle any coming changes in regulatory reporting, new accounting pronouncements, enhanced market opportunities and increasing sources of competition because of legacy actuarial and financial reporting systems. These data concerns are augmented by information demands related to emerging issues, such as regulatory interest in affiliated captives. In addition, there are expected requirements of anticipated rulemakings, such as the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, which necessitates a new methodology or perspective regarding product disclosure requirements and estimations of the viability and benefits of individual products. There is also the Federal Reserve’s single counterparty credit limit (SCCL) rule, which requires organizations, including nonbank SIFIs, to track and evaluate exposure to a single counterparty across the consolidated firm on a daily basis. Quality remains a challenge, with data integrity continually compromised by outmoded technologies, inadequate or poorly documented manual solutions, inconsistent taxonomies, inaccuracies and incompleteness.

Going forward, management will need to consider both strategic- level initiatives that facilitate better reporting, such as a regulatory change management strategic framework, and more tactical solutions, such as conducting model validation work, tightening data governance and increasing employee training. By implementing a comprehensive framework that improves governance and emphasizes higher data-quality standards, financial institutions and insurance companies should realize more robust aggregation and reporting capabilities, which, in turn, can enhance managerial decision making and ultimately improve regulatory confidence in the industry’s ability to respond in the event of a crisis.

See Also: FinTech: Epicenter of Disruption (Part 1)

3. Harmonizing Approaches to Cybersecurity and Consumer Data Privacy

Cybersecurity has become a very real regulatory risk that is distinguished by increasing volume and sophistication. Industries that house significant amounts of personal data (such as financial institutions, insurance companies, healthcare enrollees, higher education organizations and retail companies) are at great risk of large-scale data attacks that could result in serious reputational and financial damage. Financial institutions and insurance companies
in the U.S. and around the world, as well as their third- party service providers, are on alert to identify, assess and mitigate cyber risks. Failures in cybersecurity have the potential to have an impact on operations, core processes and reputations but, in the extreme, can undermine the public’s confidence in the financial services industry as a whole. Financial entities are increasingly dependent on information technology and telecommunications to deliver services to their customers (both individuals and businesses), which, as evidenced by recently publicized cyber hacking incidences, can place customer-specific information at risk of exposure.

Some firms are responding to this link between cybersecurity and privacy by harmonizing the approach to incidence response, and most have made protecting the security and confidentiality of customer information and records a business and supervisory priority this year. State insurance regulators have a significant role in monitoring insurers’ efforts to protect the data they receive from policyholders and claimants. In addition, they must monitor insurers’ sales of cybersecurity policies and risk management services, which are expected to grow dramatically in the next few years. Insurers are challenged to match capacity demands, which may lead to solvency issues, with buyers’ needs and expectations for these new and complex product offerings. The NAIC, acting through its cybersecurity task force, is collecting data to analyze the growth of cyber-liability coverage and to identify areas of concern in the marketplace. The NAIC has also adopted Principles for Effective Cybersecurity: Insurance Regulatory Guidance for insurers and regulators as well as the Cybersecurity Consumer Bill of Rights for insurance policyholders, beneficiaries and claimants. Insurance regulatory examinations regularly integrate cybersecurity reviews, and regulatory concerns remain focused on consumer protection, insurer solvency and the ability of the insurer to pay claims.

4. Recognizing the Focus on Consumer Protection

In the past few years, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have pursued financial services firms (including nonbanks) to address instances of consumer financial harm resulting from unfair, deceptive or abusive acts or practices. The DOL Fiduciary Rule redefines a “fiduciary” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act to include persons — brokers, registered investment advisers, insurance agents or other types of advisers — that receive compensation for providing retirement investment advice. Under the rule, such advisers are required to provide impartial advice that is in the best interest of the customer and must address conflicts of interest in providing that advice. Though intended to strengthen consumer protection for retirement investment advice, the rule is also expected to pose wide-ranging strategic, business, product, operational, technology and compliance challenges for advisers.

In addition, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has announced it will issue a rule to establish a fiduciary duty for brokers and dealers that is consistent with the standard of conduct applicable to an investment adviser under the Investment Advisers Act (Uniform Fiduciary Rule). The consistent theme between these two rules is the focus on customer/investor protection, and the rules lay out the regulators’ concern that customers are treated fairly; that they receive investment advice appropriate to their investment profile; that they are not harmed or disadvantaged by complexities in the investments markets; and that they are provided with clear descriptions of the benefits, risks and costs of recommended investments. In anticipation of these changes, advisers are encouraged to review their current practices, including product offerings, commissions structures, policies and procedures to assess compliance with the current guidance (including “suitability standards” for broker/dealers and fiduciary standards for investment advisers, as appropriate) as well as to conduct impact assessments to identify adjustments necessary to comply with the DOL Fiduciary Rule. Such a review should consider a reassessment of business line offerings, product and service strategies and adviser compensation plans.

5. Addressing Pressures From Innovators and New Market Entrants

The financial services industry, including the insurance sector, is experiencing increased activity stemming, in large part, from the availability of products and services being introduced to meet the growing demand for efficiency, access and speed. Broadly captioned as financial technology, or FinTech, innovations such as Internet-only financial service companies, virtual currencies, mobile payments, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending are changing traditional banking and investment management roles and practices, as well as risk exposures. The fact that many of these innovations are being brought to market outside of the regulated financial services industry — by companies unconstrained by legacy systems, brick-and- mortar infrastructures or regulatory capital and liquidity requirements — places pressures on financial institutions to compete for customers and profitability and raises regulatory concerns around the potential for heightened risk associated with consumer protection, risk management and financial stability.

For insurance companies, the DOL Fiduciary Rule will affect the composition of the retirement investment products and advice they currently offer and, as such, creates opportunity for product and service innovation as well as new market entrants. Insurers will want to pursue a reassessment of their business line offerings, product and service strategies, and technology investments to identify possible adjustments that will enhance compliance and responsiveness to market changes. Regulators will be monitoring key drivers of profit and consumer treatment in the sale of new and innovative products developed within and outside of the regulated financial services industry.

This piece was co-written by Amy Matsuo, Tracey Whille, David White and Deborah Bailey. 

Is the Fed Going Soft on Big Banks?

In a Senate Banking Committee hearing earlier this summer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen played their parts brilliantly. They acted out a time-tried political science convention, that legislators and journalists are judged on results while bureaucrats and professors are judged on rules.

At issue is Federal Reserve Board enforcement of its statutory obligations under Section 165 of the Dodd-Frank Act, to see to it that JP Morgan has orderly resolution plans in the event of failure. Broadly stated, that section of the Dodd-Frank Act empowered the Fed to impose “prudential standards” on bank holding companies with assets of at least $50 billion if an institution’s failure could affect “the financial stability of the United States.” The section also required the Fed to report its determinations annually to Congress.

The hearing demonstrated the limits of our current system and the need for interactive finance, by which I mean rewarding institutions and individuals with financial or strategic advantage for revealing information that details risk. Interactive finance will provide indispensable liquidity to crucial markets that currently see little trading. More importantly, interactive finance addresses the core challenges of concentrated market power in banking and of sclerotic market administration — of which Fed efforts to manage orderly resolution of JP Morgan are but a single, frightening circumstance.

The issues are crucial not just for our economy as a whole but for insurers, in particular, because they are such large investors in securities offered by major financial institutions. The investments generate a high percentage of the insurance industry’s operating profits but expose it to catastrophic losses. For instance, in mortgage-backed securities, insurers hold more than $900 billion in commercial and multifamily real estate mortgages, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s Q4 2013 report. (That’s $343 billion in commercial and multifamily mortgage debt plus $567 billion in commercial mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt obligations and asset-backed securities.) The Federal Reserve tallies life insurance companies’ holdings of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) at $365 billion as of the end of the first quarter, 2014.

In that wonderfully well-acted hearing, Sen. Warren asked Chairwoman Yellen if JPMorgan could sell its assets without disrupting the economy and impelling a taxpayer bailout. Warren also asked: Where are those reports the Fed is to provide annually?

Warren was raising a key question: Is the Fed forbearing, being lenient on JPMorgan and other huge financial institutions?

Congress enacted Dodd-Frank in July 2010, and this March the Federal Reserve Board published 100 pages of rules and regulations implementing Section 165. That is a gap of 33 months. Congress has yet to see any Federal Reserve reports, but for a wholly lacking 35-page document, Warren asserts.

It’s possible that market administration is so complicated that it simply takes inordinately long to articulate and implement regulation and to report outcomes to Congress and the public. But the Warren-Yellen exchange revealed vastly more, specifically what appears to be a Federal Reserve policy to forbear on implementing its statutory obligations under Dodd Frank 165 in connection with JP Morgan and orderly resolution.

In the hearing, Sen. Warren expressly asked Chairman Yellen, “Can you honestly say that JPMorgan can be resolved in a rapid and orderly fashion…with no threats to the economy and no need for a taxpayer bailout?” And, “Are you saying the plans [for resolution] are not credible, and you’re asking them to change their plans?”

Yellen never really indicated that JPMorgan has any credible plan in place for its orderly resolution or has submitted any since 2012. Instead, she articulated process, iteration and feedback. Dodging Warren’s direct questions, Yellen essentially said that complexity drives inconclusiveness and explains the lack of annual reports to Congress. Yellen used the word, “feedback,” five times in her replies.

Both Yellen’s circumlocution on JPMorgan resolution and its outsized concentration are but symptoms of market and market administration sclerosis, which Warren is trying desperately to treat.

Absolutely brilliant performances by each woman. No question about it. As a legislator, Warren underscored that she wants results. As a regulator, Yellen adhered to processes and rules and the Federal Reserve Board’s traditional discretion in so weighty and complex a matter.

Requests for clarification from the Federal Reserve Board for this article elicited no further information about the important question: Is the Federal Reserve forbearing on implementation of Dodd-Frank 165 bank resolution?

End of story?

No. Two problems remain.

First, what of the JPMorgan resolution elephant in the room?
Why couldn’t Yellen assert simply to Sen. Warren that JPMorgan — with its $2.5 trillion in assets and 3,391 subsidiaries — has credible plans in place for rapid, orderly resolution without triggering a systemic threat or taxpayer bailout?

Could it be “the economy, stupid,” in James Carville’s bald turn of phrase? Monetary policy regulators repeatedly assert they have a very small palette of choices. At a conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole on Aug. 22, Yellen acknowledged that monetary policy makers are grappling with how to determine the best mechanisms to foster growth and to maintain price stability. “While these assessments have always been imprecise and subject to revision, the task has become especially challenging in the aftermath of the Great Recession, which brought nearly unprecedented cyclical dislocations and may have been associated with similarly unprecedented structural changes in the labor market — changes that have yet to be fully understood,” she said. Eleven days earlier, in a speech to a finance conference in Sweden, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer cautioned of protracted economic slowdown well over a dozen times as he articulated policy-making constraints. “In the United States, three major aggregate demand headwinds appear to have kept a more vigorous recovery from taking hold: the unusual weakness of the housing sector during the recovery period; the significant drag — now waning — from fiscal policy; and the negative impact from the growth slowdown abroad — particularly in Europe,” he said.

In such weak economies, the last thing Yellen or any senior regulator with any sense of self-preservation would do is to acknowledge that JPMorgan cannot credibly assert that it can resolve itself. Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz’s analysis (1963) that regulators — and not a spending crisis — triggered the Great Depression through monetary policy yet resounds in economic thinking. Hence all of Yellen’s process talk, for it would be incautious to respond negatively to Sen. Warren’s unambiguous questions whether JPMorgan can resolve itself without wreckage or bailout.

In the pantheon of Federal Reserve Board chairs, if one thinks of Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin (1951-1970) for probity, Arthur Burns (1970-1978) for concision, G. William Miller for brevity (1978-1979), Paul Volcker for decency (1979-1987), Alan Greenspan for obscurity (1987-2006) and Ben Bernanke (2006-2014) for agility, Yellen may be laying claim as the Fed’s Rocky Balboa. In winter and early spring, she said weather was the economy’s problem. In mid-summer, she gamely parried Warren’s Ted Kennedy, who was insisting government can do better.

Screenshot-2014-09-23-17.51.33Screenshot-2014-09-23-17.51.04

Second, what of sclerotic market administration? This represents the graver challenge. Warren got no answers or reports. Yellen advertised she cannot or will not enforce Fed rules. All they achieved is good video. Both came up empty.

Citizens voted for change six years and again two years ago. Certainly, voluminous regulation — the rules and regulations on Section 165 fill 100 pages with single-spaced, eight-point type — is a change in a very narrow sense from Bush-Cheney deregulation, outsourcing and selling of public resources and lands. However, such extensive regulation raises regulatory costs and seems to mainly benefit practitioners of crafting and evading the regulations rather than providing broader economic benefits.

Interactive Finance

Technology now affords near-real-time or even real-time market administration, providing the kind of protection that the Fed can’t and removing the JPMorgans of the world as existential threats to the economy. Interactive finance animates the next step to create wealth with the data and meta data. There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Prudential valuation based on credit ratings has had its run. In terms of evaluating securities, the system is so laden with conflicts of interest between the rating agencies and the offering firms that it is amazing it has persisted after having such catastrophic effects in the 2008 asset crisis.

An International Accounting Standards Board/International Finance Reporting Standards draft report is exploring new approaches to risk management generally. And confidence accounting is receiving more traction for its greater transparency and accuracy than traditional, prudential valuation. Its robust explanatory powers support greater prospective certainty and exactness determining value and risk.

But the most promising possibility is interactive finance, which administers markets more efficiently than the incumbent regulatory system, so frustrating to Warren and Yellen alike, and more effectively than the compromised prudential valuation system.

Let’s begin with a shared orientation that information and data are the crucial wealth generation engines of the 21st century. Large search firms like Google and online retailers like Amazon or news and information content providers like Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters necessarily seek to exploit first-mover advantages and deep domain competencies by controlling as much of the data associated with their online businesses as possible. The new wealth in information is no less hoarded than pre-Internet wealth in fiat currencies, art, precious metals, insurance and real estate.
But remember: The markets are liberalized. Better mousetraps beat the world to innovators’ enterprises.

Airbnb is using an overlay of information to disintermediate hospitality and accommodations incumbents, and Uber is throwing hackney licensing for a loop. New entrants Datacoup and Meeco are enabling users to sell their data, even challenging the largest Internet firms in the world. And, because of liberalized markets, more and more innovation and individual and institutional wealth creation with data and meta data will take place.

Marketcore, a firm I advise, is pioneering interactive finance to generate liquidity by rewarding individuals and institutions for sharing information with financial or strategic advantage for revealing information that details risks.

Think of it this way: Interactive finance crowd-sources market participation by rewarding individuals, organizations and institutions seeking loans, lines of credit or mortgages or negotiating contracts with monetary or strategic incentives and rewards. Whether risk takers are a bank, insurance company or counter party, granters define rewards. A reward can constitute a financial advantage — say, a discount on the next interval of a policy for individuals purchasing retail products. The reward can express a strategic advantage — say, foreknowledge of risk exposure for institutions dealing in structured risks like residential mortgage-backed securities or bonds, contracts, insurance policies, lines of credit, loans or securities.

As crucially, transaction credits empower any and all market participants to act as granters of rewards. Individuals, organizations and institutions grant strategic or monetary incentives to counter parties seeking to acquire risks, too.

All this transpires on currently existing broadband, multimedia, mobile and interactive information networks and grids. Interactive finance realizes a neutral risk identification and mitigation system with a system architecture that scans and values risks, even down to individual risk elements and their aggregations. As parties and counter parties crowd markets, each revealing specific risk information in return for equally precise and narrowly tailored rewards and incentives, their trading generates fresh data and meta data on risk tolerances in real time and near real time. This data and meta data can then be deployed to provide real-time confidence scoring of risk in dynamic markets. Every element is dynamic, like so many Internet activities and transactions.

Talk about efficiency!

Crucially, interactive finance constantly authenticates risks with constantly refreshing feedback loops. Risk determination permits insureds, brokers and carriers to update risks through “a transparency index. . . based. . . on the quality and quantity of the risk data records.” Component analysis of pooled securities facilitates drilling down in structured risk vehicles so risk takers, including insurers and reinsurers, can address complex contracts and special pool arrangements with foreknowledge of risk. Real-time revaluation of contracts clarifies “the risk factors and valuation of [an] instrument” and, in so doing, “increases liquidity and tracks risks’ associated values even as derivative instruments are created.”

Through these capabilities, Marketcore technologies connect the specific, individual risk vehicle with macro market data to present the current monetary value of the risk instrument, a transparency index documenting all the risk information about it and information on the comparative financial instruments. Anyone participating receives a complete, comprehensive depiction of certainty, risk, disclosures and value.

Think how readily Chairwoman Yellen could respond to Sen. Warren with information replenished constantly and willingly by market participants and verified by constantly updating feedback loops.
Think how much Sen. Warren could ask regarding transparency. She’d receive a verifiable response, with great confidence.

Interactive finance allows for transparent markets capable of clearing and self-correcting. With interactive finance, legislator and regulator can get results and adhere to rules. Sen. Warren could administer vibrant, efficient, self-stimulating and self-correcting markets powered by information and data-verifying risks and clarifying confidence. Chairwoman Yellen could enforce Fed rules.
Both could get well beyond JPMorgan’s compliance issues to apply their appreciable talents administering information economies, the wellsprings of 21st century commerce and economic growth.