Newsletter – October 2019

Insurance Update – Includes our Takeaways from the Annual SIFM Conference

We attended the Annual Conference of the Society of Insurance Financial Management held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on September 15-18, 2019.  This excellent and well-attended Conference brought together finance professionals from insurance companies and professional service providers to discuss topics of current interest.  This update incorporates a few of the themes introduced by speakers at the Conference.
Financial leaders in insurance will continue to be challenged by our rapidly changing industry and the real need to more quickly deliver meaningful financial information.  Many financial executives are wrestling with support of innovative new products, how to best leverage new technology, accounting and tax changes, and the need to maintain a quality high workforce.
Meeting Evolving Customer Needs:
The needs of the industry’s customers continue to change, and finance teams need to be able to support their business partners in meeting those needs.  This will require speed, agility and affordable cost.  One potential enabler is automation, but the base finance and accounting processes themselves need to be evaluated to make sure they are optimized for existing technology and to avoid “paving the cow path” when new technology is implemented.
Where there is a lack of comfort with a source of management and financial information, for any reason, multiple sources tend to proliferate, which creates a need for a single source of the truth.  Until that single source is achieved, the multiple sources need to be reconciled each and every reporting cycle. That effort, which can be considerable, should achieve the obvious control objectives as well as underscore the need to eliminate the multiple sources.
Implementing New GAAP for Credit Losses:
This new accounting standard has more applicability to insurers than some may realize.  First, an outline of the effective dates for calendar year-end entities, incorporating the FASB’s tentative decision in October to defer certain dates:
      1. Public business entities that meet the definition of an SEC filer, excluding “smaller reporting companies” (as defined by the SEC) – January 2020
      2. All other entities – January 2023
Most insurers will expect the new GAAP (ASU 2016-13) to apply to held to maturity investments and commercial mortgage loans, BUT it also applies to reinsurance receivables!  The new GAAP model, Current Expected Credit Losses (CECL), requires reserving expected future losses at the time the asset is initially recorded (there is no “probable” trigger anymore).
Reinsurance receivables therefore are required to be viewed as having a probability of default, which requires estimating both that probability and the amount of loss that would occur in the event of a default.  There are several practical considerations to keep in mind in making these estimates:
  • For probability of default, where the insurer has no history of having experienced defaults in its reinsurance arrangements, it may be necessary to use industry statistics;
  • For amount of loss in the event of default, the required reserve may not be very sensitive to this estimate if the probability of loss is low.
For statutory accounting purposes, the rules on credit losses have not changed yet, but we can reasonably expect those rules to follow suit after the GAAP world has developed some experience applying the new standard.
Tips for Insurance Company CFO’s & CEO’s:
Merger & Acquisition-
  • As brokers perform due diligence on acquisition opportunities, client agreements should be reviewed to ensure that these agreements allow for transfer of the contract to the acquiring company.  Otherwise the acquiring company could experience more rapid client attrition than anticipated.
  • With the reduction in tax rates, as companies model acquisition opportunities, companies should be sure to incorporate these lower rates in the net operating loss forward calculations
Supplemental Compensation-
  • Brokers need to thoroughly understand the terms of their Carriers’ Supplemental Compensation Agreements. A worthwhile exercise is to read each agreement and recompute the amount that should have been received for each of the last few prior payment periods.  Then compare these calculations to the computations provided by the Carrier.
Product and Business Unit Performance-
  • Some companies are using expedient methodologies to allocate corporate overhead across business units or products – i.e., the allocation of overhead as a percent of revenue.  In other cases, when business drivers are utilized to allocate these costs, expenditures needed to support the rapid future growth of one product are inappropriately distributed across all products.  This occurs because current period business drivers are used to compute the current period cost allocations.  As a result of these two allocation approaches, Product and Business Unit internal reports could be inaccurate.
  • Business intelligence tools and complex spreadsheets are often used to provide additional analysis.  Financial information on these additional profit segments is used to make key decisions for business in a particular geography, industry, sub-product, or marketing channel. Control and review processes must be established in order to prevent the same revenue from being counted twice or partial capturing of certain costs.
The Insurance Industry team at CFO Consulting Partners are senior level professionals with CFO, Controller and Rating Agency experience.  We have helped Carriers and Brokers manage credit ratings, implement strategic planning and business analysis functions, improve financial reporting and accounting processes, and strengthen internal controls.
by Michael Sheahan, Director, CFO Consulting Partners
and Paul Karr, Director, CFO Consulting Partners