One rule to bind them all

LIKE banks, insurers need a cushion of capital to ensure that they can meet customers’ claims in the event of unexpectedly big payouts or poor investment performance. As at banks, these cushions have at times proved woefully thin. In theory, all that changes on January 1st—in the European Union, at least—when a new set of regulations known as Solvency 2 comes into force. After more than ten years of negotiation, all European insurers will have to follow uniform rules on capital that are designed to make the firms more robust and allow investors and customers to assess their strength much more easily.

Not everyone is thrilled at this prospect. Mention “upcoming regulatory changes” to an insurance executive and a tirade inevitably follows about ambiguities and inconsistencies within the new rules, discrepancies in enforcement and the mountains of paperwork involved. Some firms have had to bolster capital in anticipation: Delta Lloyd, a Dutch insurer, announced in November that it would raise €1 billion ($1.1 billion). The rules favour diversified firms, so those that offer just one form of insurance are under pressure to merge. That impetus...

via The Economist: Finance and economics Business Feeds

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