An executive perspective
By Dale Vile and Jon Collins
The emergence of new regulation always presents a dilemma, particularly when considered against
the background of other, often-conflicting priorities for resources and investment. On the one hand
you can respond to the immediate need, absorb the cost of compliance, and have done with it. This
often translates to finance and operations staff simply implementing tactical changes to the way
business activities are recorded and reported, minimising the impact on core systems and processes.
The alternative approach is to take a more strategic view, and address new compliance requirements
in a more fundamental manner that leads to incremental refinement of core policies, systems and
processes. While this may initially cost more, responding in this way is more likely to have a
cumulative positive effect on efficiency and effectiveness, while avoiding the need to continually
reinvent the wheel when it comes to new regulation.
Whichever way you have leaned in the past when faced with such choices, there is an event on the
horizon that is likely to force your hand. In 2012, insurance firms in the European Union (EU) will be
expected to demonstrate compliance with Solvency II. This new set of regulations changes the game
by demanding a more fundamental approach. Transparency of how the company is directed and
managed at the highest level is mandated, with a need for executives to demonstrate that certain
principles of risk and capital adequacy have been worked into the review and decision-making fabric
of the business from top to bottom.
Some might take this as a huge imposition, but the move is not surprising given that so many high
profile issues in the financial services industry as a whole have been tracked back to board level
behaviour and decisions. And while Solvency II was conceived before the most recent global
economic crisis, the broad media coverage of risk related issues that underpinned the 2008 crash has
put even more of a spotlight on industry regulation.
On a more positive note, however, while board members in some organisations may have mixed
feelings about being forced into the root-and-branch treatment advocated by Solvency II, it is possible
to view it as an opportunity to benefit from an overdue shake-up of business practices.
But how much have executives thought through all this, and how prepared are they and their
management teams to deal with implementing Solvency II in the most efficient and effective manner?
These are the questions we are concerned with in the remainder of this paper, with reference to a
recent research study which provides a flavour of the kinds of sentiment and activity that