* Twin approach to higher capital requirements by 2019
* All big insurers must hold "backstop" capital buffer
* Tailored "top quality capital" to cover risky activities
By Huw Jones
LONDON, July 18 Top insurers will have to hold
more capital from 2019 to cover risks they pose to the financial
system should they go bust, global regulators said on Thursday.
Regulators also released an initial list of nine insurers,
including AIG and Allianz SE, that have been
deemed globally significant and will likely have to meet those
The announcement is a setback for a sector which argues that
it, unlike banks, did not cause the financial crisis and should
therefore not be tarred with the same regulatory brush.
Yet the reform was called for by world leaders in the Group
of 20 top economies (G20) that have already approved a similar
regime for 28 of the world's top banks, also by 2019.
The G20 contends the insurance sector poses just the same
sort of potential systemic risks as do the banks. Problems at
AIG in 2008 illustrated the threat, after the U.S.-based insurer
had to be bailed out by the taxpayer in one of the biggest
rescues following the credit crunch.
Under the plans set out by the International Association of
Insurance Supervisors (IAIS), insurers will be subject to
tougher supervision and will have to show by 2015 how they can
be wound up smoothly in a crisis, without relying on taxpayer
bailouts, the body said in a statement.
Peter Braumueller, chairman of the IAIS executive committee,
said the reforms had been tailored for insurers. Determining how
much extra capital must be held will be done over two stages and
will take several factors into account.
The Financial Stability Board (FSB), the G20's regulatory
task force, on Thursday published a list of insurers coming
under the scope of the new rules. Reinsurers won't be named
until July 2014 as more time is needed to analyse them.
The firms named on Thursday were:
* Allianz SE
* American International Group Inc
* Assicurazioni Generali S.p.A.
* Aviva plc
* Axa S.A.
* MetLife Inc
* Ping An Insurance (Group) Company of China Ltd
* Prudential Financial Inc
* Prudential plc
The IAIS will develop by the end of 2014 a basic "backstop"
capital requirement for insurers deemed to be globally
systemically important insurers (GSIIs).
A second stage will calculate a bespoke capital requirement
based mainly on how much a company is plugged into the financial
sector and if it has "non traditional" operations.
This refers to complex derivatives, extensive "repo"
activities and securities lending, or whether a company offers
some types of annuities, mortgage insurance and credit
Size alone and apparent global reach will only represent a
small part of the capital calculation, the IAIS said.
Furthermore, insurers whose traditional lower-risk
activities are clearly separated from riskier operations may not
have to hold as much extra capital.
This will act as an incentive for some insurers to
restructure themselves, seeking to apply lessons from the $85
billion rescue of AIG.
AIG's credit default swaps business, more traditionally a
banking or hedge fund activity, turned sour in the financial
crisis in 2008, leaving it open to huge liabilities.
The IAIS will come up with bespoke capital requirements for
each GSII by the end of 2015, to be complied with from 2019.
The list of GSIIs will be updated by the FSB every November.
Insurers named in November 2017 will have to comply with the
2019 deadline for holding extra capital.
FSB Chairman Mark Carney has said that some insurers may not
have to find extra capital as they will already hold enough to
meet their GSII requirement.
The IAIS will also work on a "quantitative capital standard"
for the insurance sector more broadly.