The 5th Annual Conference of EIOPA on "Managing Change" took place on 18 November 2015. More than 370 representatives of the financial services industry, consumers, academia, media, EU and national institutions as well as supervisory authorities attended.
Throughout the conference, the speakers, panelists and audience discussed ongoing and upcoming changes in the (re)insurance and pensions sector and possible ways of managing these changes.
In his welcome speech Gabriel Bernardino, Chairman of EIOPA, indicated the three key priorities of EIOPA going forward: supervisory convergence; reinforcing preventive consumer protection; and preserving financial stability. He also addressed the challenge of preparing for the future review of Solvency II, and of ensuring safe and sustainable pensions for EU citizens. Looking back at the past five years of EIOPA's existence, he underlined the knowledge, experience and dedication of EIOPA staff and experts from the NCAs, the fruitful dialogue with the Stakeholder Groups, and finally the continuous commitment to EIOPA and trust placed in EIOPA demonstrated by the members of EIOPA's Board of Supervisors and Management Board. He expressed his pride in having been able to fulfill the tasks given to EIOPA by the EU legislators, meeting their rightly high expectations.
When delivering his keynote speech Olivier Guersent, Director General for Financial Stability, Financial Services and Capital Markets Union of the European Commission (EC), thanked EIOPA, national supervisors and the industry for a "huge amount of work" done with regard to consumer protection and preparation for Solvency II. He also emphasized that EIOPA has a key role in ensuring the smooth and successful implementation of the new risk-based framework.
Session I: Countdown to Solvency II
Participants agreed that the implementation of the new regime is a learning curve and EIOPA needs to have a strong role in ensuring convergence in the interpretation of different Solvency II principles and consistency in supervisory practices. Good co-operation between EIOPA and the national competent authorities (NCAs) is key.
The important role of the companies' Boards was highlighted. As a risk culture needs to be embedded from the top of a company, Board members need to have a common understanding of the business structure and its associated risks, while risk officers should help Boards to correctly understand and interpret these risks.
Participants pointed out the need to thoroughly inform the public, consumers but in particular investors and analysts, to enable them to better understand and interpret correctly the Solvency II disclosure figures companies are required to publish from 2017. It is natural that with the transition into a new regime, stakeholders need to get used to the new figures that it produces.
Finally, EIOPA emphasized how, using the evidence to be gathered during Solvency II ex-post evaluations, it would aim to achieve simplifications where- and when-ever possible.
In a nutshell, it was concluded that implementation had to be more than a pure exercise in regulatory compliance. The sound implementation of Solvency II requires continuing dialogue within companies and with supervisors on companies' actual business and associated risks. This should result in an increasingly disciplined risk management and be based on a convergence of supervisory expectations across Europe.
Session II: Retirement savings in the 21st century
The panel focused on two topics: First on the revision of the EU Directive on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORP II) and second, the creation of a private pension regime at the EU level.
The panelists agreed that pension systems across the EU are very different because Member States have diverse mechanisms of interaction between pension laws and national tax, labor and social laws. It was argued that the emergence of a common EU-wide pension system could take a long time and would require a constructive approach from all parties. But the challenges that lie ahead across the EU are common, and the solutions might also be common or have common elements, driving real economies of scale.
The importance of the transparency of pension information for pension scheme members and beneficiaries and their protection was emphasised. During an interactive survey the audience was asked what pension communications should be focused on. Many participants highlighted that it would be important to know on a monthly basis the expenditures a scheme member has to bear as well as the future net monthly benefits.
Raising the awareness of beneficiaries about the choices they can face was also underlined, including for instance the choice, where relevant, between different investment strategies.
Session III: Evolving insurance business models
The third panel discussed how businesses can adapt to the changing economic environment in order to best serve their customers. It was noted that in order to restore trust in the financial sector companies need to make a shift from a product-focus to a consumer-focus. Financial strength and the quality of the balance sheet were key requirements for building a reliable brand.
The "digital revolution" was addressed, which is triggering changes in product design, for instance as companies increasingly make products accessible through mobile devices. Digital distribution is aiding consumers when comparing products, but with the risk of a sole focus on price rather than quality. Industry speakers noted the importance of active dialogue between the industry and consumers so as to increase trust, and the need to build this also through digital means of communication. Industry would need to become more attuned to social media.
Increased transparency on performance and fees was emphasised as crucial for rebuilding confidence. During the discussion it was highlighted that while products needed to be simpler and more transparent, improvements in financial education are also important.
The programme can be downloaded here
The short biographies can be downloaded here.
If you have any queries regarding the EIOPA Conference, please contact the EIOPA Training & Events Team at