ECON exchange of views with EFRAG dominated by IFRS 17 issues

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17 May 2018

The Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON) of the European Parliament welcomed representatives of the European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) today for a hearing, which took place while EFRAG is working on its draft endorsement advice on IFRS 17 'Insurance Contracts' and ECON is working on a draft motion for a resolution.

After a short introduction by EFRAG President Jean-Paul Gauzès who highlighted EFRAG's current efforts in connection with developing the draft endorsement advice (expected in September 2018, with a final endorsement advice expected in December 2018) and mentioned case studies, structured interviews, independent research, and briefing papers, the Parliamentarians raised a number of questions.

  • Content of the standard. The standard itself was generally agreed to bring significant improvements to the accounting for insurance contracts; questions on the content were more related to detailed aspects. One question was for example on the level of aggregation and whether a high level of aggregation would lead to a loss of information, another one whether bank insurers have a problem with the compatibility of IFRS 9 and IFRS 17. The level of aggregation was acknowledged to be an issue where a trade-off has to be achieved; bank insurers were reported to be satisfied with deferring the application of IFRS 9 until 2021.
  • Complexity and costs. There was also general agreement that the standard is complex (one Parliamentarian claimed that IFRS 17 is more complex for insurers than IFRS 9 was for banks) and that the costs for implementing it will be significant. In that context the question came up whether implementing the standard by 2021 was feasible. As regards the complexity and resulting costs, the EFRAG representatives shared the concern and stated that they would look in depth into the issue and the balance between the costs (mostly to the insurers) and the benefits (mostly to the investors). They warned that this might lead to having to compare quantitative information with qualitative information. The 2021 implementation date was acknowledged to become a topic of increasing discussion even though 3.5 years was considered to be generous and even though many insurers are signaling that they will be ready in time.
  • Impact. It was asked whether the introduction of IFRS 17 would lead to changes in insurance products and prices. It was also noted that the United States do not apply IFRSs and would therefore not adopt IFRS 17 - would this pose a problem? The EFRAG representatives replied that insurers had so far signaled that products and prices would not change as a result of the application of IFRS 17. They also noted that while the United States are not on IFRSs they are working on an insurance project that "points in the same direction" regarding some important aspects. EFRAG would look closely into competition consequences.
  • General. The EFRAG representatives were asked how many insurers had chosen to defer the application of IFRS 9 until 2021. The EFRAG President noted that he did not have any numbers yet but was expecting more information "in the coming weeks". It was also asked which jurisdictions saw the most resistance against IFRS 17. Again, the EFRAG President did not give a direct answer but treated the Parliamentarians to some private thoughts on national characteristics making out three groups of countries: those who are happy with general rules, those who are "word obsessed", and those who grumble first but then simply apply what has been decided.

A recording of the meeting is available on the ECON website. Please note that the recording covers the whole morning, which also saw the discussion of other topics. The exchange of views with EFRAG begins 1 hour and 50 minutes into the recording.

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