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Risk Transformation Regulations 2017

Volume 785: debated on Tuesday 7 November 2017

Motion to Approve

Moved by

My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, will be in an equally benign mood when he addresses the regulations in my name.

The Risk Transformation Regulations 2017 introduce a bespoke regulatory framework for insurance-linked securities business in the UK, announced at Budget 2015. The regulations comprise three main elements. First, they provide for UK regulators to apply a new authorisation and supervisory regime for insurance-linked securities vehicles in the UK. Secondly, they introduce a new type of company to enable multiple insurance-linked securities deals to be managed in a single company. Finally, they set out the rules for the issuance of insurance-linked securities investments so that the interests of protection buyers and investors are protected.

In an insurance-linked securities transaction, risk is transferred from an insurer or reinsurer to the capital markets. An insurer contracts with an entity specifically established to take on insurance risk. These entities are often known as insurance special purpose vehicles, and are called “transformer vehicles” in the regulations. The insurer transfers a specified risk to the transformer vehicle, paying reinsurance premiums for the risk transferred, and the vehicle then raises collateral to cover that risk by issuing securities to capital market investors. Investors earn income on their securities from the premiums paid by the insurer. Should the insured event take place, the collateral is released to the insurer to compensate them for their loss. If the insured event does not take place, the collateral is returned to investors. Investors are attracted to insurance-linked securities transactions as they offer a return that is uncorrelated to the performance of traditional financial markets.

Insurance-linked securities are now an important and growing part of the global specialist reinsurance market. As of 2017, more than $90 billion-worth of insurance-linked securities have been issued. By enabling insurers to access alternative sources of capital from the capital markets, this business has brought much-needed additional capacity to parts of the reinsurance market. However, despite the importance of London as a global insurance hub, the rapid growth of the insurance-linked securities market has taken place elsewhere.

The March 2015 Budget therefore announced that the Treasury, PRA and FCA would work closely with the London market to develop a more effective framework for insurance-linked securities business. The London market established an industry group, the insurance-linked securities task force, and over the past three years, the Treasury, PRA, FCA and insurance-linked securities task force have worked together to design the fit-for-purpose regulations that are before the House today. At its heart, therefore, the insurance-linked securities project aims to ensure that London and the UK maintain their position as a global insurance hub—and I am sure that noble Lords will agree that any attempt to increase the competitiveness of the UK’s financial services offer is welcome.

The regulations are split into four parts, and they achieve three broad aims. Part 2 implements a new authorisation and supervision regime for insurance-linked securities vehicles, which will be overseen by both the Prudential Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority. The PRA will be the lead regulator. By providing a robust and efficient framework for the supervision of insurance-linked securities, consistent with requirements set out in EU law, investors and protection buyers that use UK vehicles will benefit from the world-class financial regulation that the UK provides.

Part 3 ensures that only sophisticated or institutional investors can be offered insurance-linked securities in the UK. As I explained a moment ago, in an insurance-linked securities deal, when an insured event occurs, investors are liable to lose some or all of their capital. These are complicated financial instruments, and it would be wrong for public retail investors to be able to purchase these investments. That is why the regulations restrict the types of investors who can purchase insurance-linked securities; these investors will often hold investments in a number of different insurance-linked securities vehicles to both diversify their holdings and minimise the risk of losses.

Part 4 introduces a new form of corporate body called a protected cell company. A protected cell company allows multiple insurance-linked securities deals to be managed in a single company. Each new deal is held in a cell, and the structure of a protected cell company ensures that each deal’s assets and liabilities are ring-fenced from one another. This type of structure is already common in the insurance-linked securities market and allows for a more efficient management of risk than a new vehicle being set up for each individual deal. Protected cell companies will be carefully regulated by the PRA and FCA, with the PRA ensuring that each cell is fully capitalised.

Unlike conventional reinsurance, insurance-linked securities transactions do not pool risk. Indeed, the regulations require risk to be segregated: the transferred risk of one insurance or reinsurance entity cannot be combined with the risk of any other entity. Nor do these transactions lead to the leveraging or undercapitalisation of risk. They are not a way for insurers or reinsurers to avoid their responsibility of carefully ensuring that their risk is suitably capitalised.

In insurance-linked securities transactions, the transformer vehicle takes on a specific risk and must hold collateral that is at least equal to the risk that has been transferred to that vehicle. The Bank of England and Financial Services Act 2016, which amended the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 to provide the enabling powers for the risk transformation regulations, defines risk transformation as the activity of assuming risk from an entity and fully funding exposure to that risk by issuing investments.

Regulations therefore ensure that each and every insurance-linked securities deal in the UK will hold capital that is at least equal to the risk that it has assumed. There can be no leveraging, pooling or undercapitalisation of risk in these transactions. This will ensure that insurers can rely on the protection they arrange through insurance-linked securities deals. That is an important point to bear in mind, considering the terrible impact of Hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma in the US and the Caribbean recently. These hurricanes represent some of the largest loss events that the insurance industry has seen and have tested the insurance-linked securities market’s capacity to respond and pay out on claims.

To summarise, the regulations before the House today are aimed at improving the competitive position of the UK insurance market by giving insurers and reinsurers a fit-for-purpose regulatory regime for insurance-linked securities.

We have heard that insurance-linked securities are a growing market—indeed, 2017 has seen a record issuance of insurance-linked securities, with more than $11 billion issued this year alone. EY has estimated that the market could grow to $224 billion by 2021, and the CEO of Securis, a UK-based insurance-linked securities fund has said that,

“the opportunity set for ILS has never been better”.

It is therefore the right time for the UK to improve its offer in this market. These regulations will be accompanied by new tax regulations that provide for a more competitive and straightforward tax treatment for authorised insurance-linked securities vehicles in the UK. The moves have been welcomed by the industry. I am pleased to say that the London Market Group, which represents London’s insurers and reinsurers, has welcomed this new framework for insurance-linked securities business. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the Minister very much for his clear explanation of something which I suspect was not his home ground. It is, however, my home ground in some ways. This is an important statutory instrument, and I declare my interests as set out in the register of the House, in particular those in respect of the non-life insurance industry. I very much welcome the instrument, as it will allow London to take a full part in this extremely interesting new reinsurance market. I say a full part because London has been part of issuing and buying insurance-linked securities for some time, we just have not had the apparatus of protected cell companies, an apparatus which exists conveniently in Guernsey and very conveniently, in a market-leading sense, in Bermuda. I should also say that the first issuer in London of such a thing was my company in 2002, so since then, from a standing start, the market has got to the size that the Minister mentioned.

I very much congratulate the Treasury, which has slaved away for two years with a whole team of people, but I know that the London Market Group has been a particular part of that, and has shown considerable flexibility in changing a mindset, because protected cell companies are a very different structure to those we are used to in this country. It is a big market. I found some notes from when I was sitting on a panel discussing insurance-linked securities in New York in 2011. Then, the worldwide issuance was US$30 billion, and the London Market Group tells me that it is $89 billion—I am pleased to hear that it has grown by $1 billion overnight to $90 billion. The average maturity of the securities is under three years, which means that market issuance is about $30 billion a year, so it is a very big market for those who are going to run PCCs to have a go at.

There are one or two other benefits for London which were not mentioned in the introduction. First, these securities are listed—obviously, we have two very convenient stock exchanges here, which I hope are hungry for business. Secondly, the money in these structures has to be managed, and we have plenty of fund managers who are happy to do that. Also, being here in the London market will be of benefit because one is very close to innovation. There is a lot of innovation in London. The Caribbean wind storms that have gone through recently need a lot of innovation, because those islands do not have the wherewithal to buy traditional reinsurance—it is too expensive—and this may provide a route. I know that people are working on that. I know that a number of people who are working are assuming that we will approve the regulations, and their great hope is that the first transaction will be done before year end.

If I had any concerns, and purely to ask the Minister something—I do not really, because I think that we have taken the best of breed from all the PCC structural developments around the world—it would be that I note that the PRA is left with a couple of powers which if incorrectly exercised could lead it to deal damage to the market. The first is the cost of each cell and the costs of regulation. Of course, when you are deciding on the jurisdiction of your special purpose vehicle, cost is key. I hope that the PRA will think about that. Secondly, paragraph 63 enables the PRA to ask for information about each new cell when it arrives. Obviously, it could ask for a tremendous laundry list of stuff. I hope that it will be proportionate in what it does. Can the Minister confirm that the PRA intends to be pragmatic and proportionate in its approach to this new market in the UK?

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the order so thoroughly. As he outlined, the Risk Transformation (Tax) Regulations 2017 create the regulatory and supervisory framework for insurance-linked securities. ILSs allow companies to obtain reinsurance protection from a new pool of capital separate from traditional reinsurance, meaning the direct transfer of reinsurance risk to the capital market. The proposed framework is composed of three elements: the corporate structure for insurance special purpose vehicles or ISPVs, called protected cell companies or PCCs; an authorisation procedure for the PRA and the FCA; and the specific tax arrangements for ILSs.

Before I turn to some specific questions which arose from my reading of the regulations, impact assessment and consultations, I will say something about ILSs in general. The assumption—I use that word deliberately—is that they ought to have little or no correlation with the wider financial markets as their value is linked to non-financial risks such as natural disasters, and therein lies my concern. The Government have made no attempt to conceal the fact that the UK will be venturing into the unknown. Indeed, on the first page of the impact assessment the Treasury states:

“London would be the first major financial centre to offer ILS solutions and we think that a major and well trusted financial centre can help grow the global ILS market”.

This is not a statement of certainty. Given the admission that the UK is breaking new ground, I would have expected the Government to have been keen to assess the impact that the introduction of more risk to the market could have on the financial sector as a whole. An IMF working paper puts it well, stating:

“The growth in recent years of Insurance-Linked Securities has widened the exposure of investors (mostly hedge funds and specialist investment vehicles) to insurance risks originated and managed by insurance companies ... But the effect is that catastrophic insurance losses can now be transmitted directly to investors without the cushion of the insurance company's balance sheet”.

There seems to be an untested assumption, throughout the Government’s proceedings, that there is no correlation between ILSs and economic stability. Am I wrong? Have the Government carried out such risk assessments? If they have, I would be grateful if the Minister could publish them. If not, will he go back to his department and urge it to produce them? It is this lack of inquiry which makes me doubly concerned about the lack of a requirement for a formal review to take place.

The Government have stated that there are a number of issues they intend to review periodically, including whether protected cell companies could be used for other purposes and the untested authorisation and supervision of ISPVs and MISPVs. How did they arrive at the view that a formal review, perhaps within a year of these regulations coming into force, was not necessary? I suggest that there are plenty of measures which would merit review: the extent to which ILS shares are traded on a secondary market, the usage and impact of PCC gateways and the tax treatment. The noble Lord knows that conventions dictate that we do not test the opinion of the House on such matters, but let that not undermine the importance that I place on these questions.

I have a few specific points. The first relates to the tax measures. This third component is in separate regulations —the Risk Transformation (Tax) Regulations 2017 — which are not being debated today. Surely it would have made more sense for the two instruments to be debated alongside each other? Can the framework come into force without the tax elements in place? When does the Minister expect this House to debate the tax treatment for ILSs?

Moving to the insurance mechanisms, a PCC will comprise a core— which is the legal entity—and a number of cells. Will there be a limit to the number of cells each ISPV will be authorised to have? Has the department carried out any analysis on the estimated number of cells each company will run? I ask with particular concerns that an unlimited number of cells would increase the risk of instability in the market, especially if cells are grouped. I understand that this grouping of cells will be allowed in limited circumstances. The Government consulted on how the PRA may impose limitations on how PCCs use these gateways, so as to ensure that cells are used with care and are consistent with the EU Solvency II directive. Will the Minister outline the circumstances in which the PRA would enforce such restrictions?

My final point is about the Government’s decision, as a result of listening to consultation feedback, to change from a pre to a post-transaction notification period to the PRA for new multi-arrangement insurance special purpose vehicle cells, or any assumption of new risk. Why the change? What objections were raised to what sounds like a perfectly reasonable suggestion? As a result of this shift in approach, the Government have stated that the necessary safeguards are in place. Will the Minister outline what these are? The consultation response goes on to say that,

“it will be proportionate for the PRA to give permission to mISPVs to enter into specified kinds of risk transfer deals in the future without the need for further authorisation, provided that those future deals are in accordance with the limitations as set out in the mISPVs permission”.

Is it the PRA’s responsibility to monitor whether deals are in line with expectations or is the onus on the company to report it?

As I have made clear, although we will not vote against this order, I am deeply concerned that the Government are inviting further risk into an already unstable and uncertain market without fully considering the consequences. I hope that the noble Lord can relieve some of my worries in his response.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, and the noble Lord, Tunnicliffe, for their comments on these regulations, the light they have shed on them and the perceptive questions they have raised. I am grateful to the noble Earl for identifying that his company—clearly in the forefront of developing this market—has been dealing with these securities for some time. He made the point that the infrastructure needs improving if we are to capitalise on our strengths, and that developing these vehicles in London means that they can then utilise some of the other strengths of the London capital market, such as fund management. He raised issues about the costs. I understand that the PRA and FCA have both set out the costs of authorising ILS vehicles. The proposed costs are already known to the market and so far the industry has not expressed any concern about them. Indeed, the fact that we are developing a fit-for-purpose regulatory structure has been welcomed.

The PRA is aware of the concerns about timing and has said that it aims to improve straightforward ILSs within a six to eight-week timeframe. Given that this is a new activity for it, I expect there will be a learning curve. As time progresses, this may be less steep and it may be able to turn applications round more quickly. However, once the initial authorisation of a vehicle has taken place—this is the protected cell company—each ILS deal can then be added, without having to be approved by the PRA, so long as it complies, as the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, has just said, with the vehicle’s overall business plan. This will allow ILS deals to be conducted at speed within an authorised vehicle.

On the question of these instruments being listed on the stock exchange, the regulations do not prevent the trading of these instruments on a secondary market. However, as I said when I introduced the regulations, if trading of these instruments is to occur, the secondary marketplace should be accessible only to sophisticated or institutional investors, and this will be regulated by the FCA. We do not want retail investors to be able to purchase these securities as they are clearly unsuitable for retail investment.

On the important issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, the Government’s view is not that we are entering into the unknown by seeking to attract this business to the UK because, as we heard from the noble Earl, ILS is now a well-established and well-understood industry that has been part of the global reinsurance market for some 25 years. Therefore, the ILS business model and the contribution it makes to increasing capacity is well understood and it is clear that ILS has made a positive contribution to global reinsurance capacity. The ability to conduct ILS business in the UK, or indeed across the EU, is not new. Indeed, under the EU’s Solvency II Directive, the UK is obligated to permit and regulate this business. What is new is the regulatory fit-for-purpose framework we are introducing through these regulations, which will ensure not only that we remain a competitive market but that ILS business is conducted to high prudential standards.

The noble Lord referred to impact assessments. As he will know, government departments are required to produce impact assessments for any new regulations they seek to introduce. One such assessment was submitted for the Risk Transformation Regulations and cleared by the Regulatory Policy Committee. As ILS is already possible in the UK, the purpose of that impact assessment was to determine whether the new framework would increase costs for business or the regulators. The conclusion, consistent with the objective to make the UK a competitive environment, is that it would not. What is difficult to estimate is how much ILS might be attracted to the UK.

The noble Lord also raised the important issue of the impact that developing this market might have on overall financial stability. This will not be the case. Unlike conventional reinsurers, ILS transactions do not pool risk, as I explained. Deals must be fully collateralised—the transformer vehicle must raise and hold collateral which is sufficient to meet its reinsurance obligations. These deals are not a way for insurance companies to leverage or hedge their risk or avoid the proper capitalisation of risk that is required under the Solvency II directive, so each risk is in a sense insulated within its own cell. Indeed, I would argue that if these transactions are arranged prudently, they can contribute to financial stability because of the way they are composed. The noble Lord may be interested to know that Hiscox carried out an insurance sector stress test in January of this year which underlined the importance of ILS in providing an alternative source of capital for insurers to draw on in times of crisis.

The noble Lord addressed the point that I made that this market was not correlated with general financial markets. A range of publicly available studies has looked at this issue, so again, we are not dealing with the unknown. For example, one report published in 2016 by the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute concluded that:

“ILS products allocate capital efficiently while providing positive returns for investors—returns that offer true diversification because they are not correlated with returns of the traditional asset classes”.

The clearest evidence of this view being reliable is the performance of ILS investments during the financial crisis. While financial markets in general were hit by the crisis, ILS instruments continued to perform well.

The noble Lord asked about the tax regulations. The Risk Transformation (Tax) Regulations, which set out the tax treatment for these vehicles, are made under the Finance Act 2016 and will be considered in another place. I will write to the noble Lord on the question he raised about the timing and why they are not being introduced simultaneously.

The noble Lord asked about the number of cells that a protected cell company will be able to use. This is not limited by legislation but will be a matter of interest to the PRA, the regulatory body. The PRA will judge what scale of business, including the number of deals, is prudent if individual transformer vehicle applications go down this route. Protected cell companies are designed so that the number of deals should have no impact on the stability of the market as a whole because each cell, as I said, is self-financed.

The noble Lord may have raised other issues and I apologise if I have not addressed them. He asked if we would keep the regulations under review: I think he put that in a slightly more direct way. The Government will, of course, keep these regulations under review to ensure that they are working for both the consumer and the industry.

In conclusion, I am grateful to the noble Earl and the noble Lord for their contributions. I will write to pick up the points that I have not dealt with. I commend these regulations to the House.

Motion agreed.