Many insurers originally took a “minimum compliance” approach to IFRS 17, but as their programs have progressed, some have realized that the scale of the change and investment required to reach this standard is much more significant than expected.
In response, organizations are now looking for opportunities to not only comply but also to use their investment as a way to improve and transform their finance functions, and deliver real and tangible business benefits.
Implementation programs and progress
With the final standard still to be released, insurers are still progressing their implementation projects based on an assumption of a 1 January 2022 effective date.
A small number of global firms lead the pack. These leaders have already implemented their solutions to a large extent and are typically in their second or third dry run cycle. These firms will be well placed to use the remaining time to optimize processes and start adapting their investor story and business steering metrics to IFRS 17. Leveraging the change to drive enhanced insight and business performance.
More generally across the sector, the majority of insurers are currently working through the financial impact assessment, detailed planning and design stage of their IFRS 17 program.
However, across a sample covering 70 insurers globally where we have data on IFRS 17 implementation progress at Q3 2019, we observe that more than half have not yet decided on their target IFRS 17 system landscape. IFRS 17 vendor solutions are available and are growing in maturity with each new release, however, very rarely do solutions cover all the IFRS 17 needs “out of the box”. Many firms that are already in the system implementation phase are finding that more work is needed than they originally expected, to prepare data at the right granularity, align data models and customize the tools and reports.
As a result of this, we foresee a challenging time ahead for many firms, and in some cases underestimation of the effort required.
It’s therefore, no surprise that for many insurers, spend on IFRS 17 is likely to be much higher than originally estimated, and that’s adding to the pressure - not only to get the program right but also to maximize the benefits from this investment..
Key drivers in the implementation challenge
Data and systems are at the forefront of insurers’ minds as they plot their IFRS 17 response. Perhaps surprisingly though, it is usually not the calculation tools that are the biggest issue. Most firms have some form of actuarial modeling capability which they can build on, and a number of vendor solutions exist for calculating CSM. The bigger technology challenge comes from correctly managing this highly complex and interconnected systems landscape and increasing volume of data. Key challenges that companies are facing are aligning data models, managing the flow of between all the different systems, implementing new accounting rules engines or subledgers and deriving the right external and internal reporting.
It’s already clear that not all insurers will have in place the systems and processes required by the deadline, and there are some good reasons for this. Deciding on the right IFRS 17 solution is certainly key, and it makes sense that insurers invest time to understand their specific needs in terms of CSM calculations and accounting rules engines in particular. They then need to decide whether to build this solution in-house, or whether they should appoint a vendor, and then start the process to implement and test.
This all takes time, is complex and as with any technical implementation program, there will be a shortage of available skilled resources. Therefore it is essential organizations plan appropriately either through upskilling their current workforce or looking to external suppliers. At EY, we leverage our knowledge from multiple implementation programs to help clients at the start of this journey to accelerate their thinking.
What is sometimes also underestimated is the talent challenge that companies will face when IFRS 17 becomes the business as usual standard. Actuaries and accountants will play different roles than they currently do in the closing process and the need for training and upskilling is acute.