NAIC’s Urias on Finalization of International Capital Standards: ‘What Is the Urgency?’
March 30, 2015 by Thomas Harman, associate editor, BestWeek: Tom.Harman@ambest.com
PHOENIX – Christina Urias, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ international insurance regulatory affairs managing director, said the time lines for international capital standards for internationally active insurance groups are very ambitious and said the NAIC will move forward with its approach to evaluate the proposal while it awaits a response on the standards from the Federal Reserve and the Federal Insurance Office.
Urias, who spoke to Best’s News Service on March 29 during the NAIC’s Spring National Meeting, was hired to the position in January (Best’s News Service, Jan. 21, 2015). She views the job as an ambassador in terms of articulating to the insurance industry, global regulators and the Federal Insurance Office among others, positions developed by the NAIC on the global capital standard and other international issues.
She defended the state-based regulatory system and said the NAIC’s goal is to protect consumers and the financial stability of the industry. “The message that we want to send is that the steps we want to take will be a complement to our legal entity regulation,” she said.
The NAIC is closely monitoring events surrounding the International Association of Insurance Supervisors’ capital standards plan the group released in December (Best’s News Service, Dec. 17, 2014). She said her own role in the discussions is that she provides staff support to commissioners who represent the NAIC in international talks. But she also said she would be “talking with regulators from other jurisdictions about taking position on various aspects of the ICS.”
Urias said the time lines set for implementation of the ICS – finalization of the standards in 2016 and implementation in 2018 – are very ambitious. “My question is ‘What is the urgency?'” she said. “The insurers did well and stood fast in the financial crisis. We’re always looking to improve the system. We’re not going to upend our system with another complement of regulatory requirements, but we’re going to work with our counterparts at the IAIS and the other jurisdictions. If it fits with our system, if it works, we’re certainly open to that.”
She said that in recent days there have been indications that the IAIS may back off from the ICS time line. “There may be a recognition that it’s going too fast, but that remains to be seen,” she said.
Urias also addressed NAIC concerns about the need to present a unified front with the Federal Reserve and the Federal Insurance Office when discussing matters with the IAIS. Urias said the NAIC is fully engaged with both, but to date, the FIO and the Federal Reserve have been silent on the ICS. She said the NAIC is committed to use its ComFrame Development and Analysis Working Group process in evaluating pieces of the ICS formula. “Where we can agree with the Fed and the FIO, of course, that speaks a loud message,” she said. “But there haven’t been any position statements out from the FIO and the Fed at this point.”
She said a response will certainly come at some point. “But for right now, the regulators are doing what they do best and maintaining the state-based regulation, the legal entity regulation and looking at the ICS to see what pieces and parts will best complement, will best add to the tools that we already use,” she said.
Urias said that in the future, the increasingly global nature of insurance markets must allow for comparable outcomes in analysis. “If they use a certain methodology and we use a certain methodology and it results in a finding that this global insurer is in trouble or this one is super-strong and just fine, I think we’re on the same page,” she said.